Magic in Blood
Normally, white hair stands for age and perhaps wisdom, and reminds us of our mortality. But for residents of Orisha, a magical land created by novelist Tomi Adeyemi, borrowing bits and bobs from Nigeria, white hair is dangerous.
It means you have magical blood, that you’re a “maggot” that King Saran decreed must be wiped from the land. But can man really keep magic in chains? Especially when magic has on its side the white-haired and freespirited Zelie?
Adeyemi’s Children of
Blood and Bone is the first part of an Afrofuturist fantasy. Inspired by Hunger Games and already heading towards a film adaptation, this is a book aimed at a young adult readership (which means adults can read it with zero guilt). It ticks some important boxes of political correctness—a cast of characters who are all black, dynamic women, men who are allies. But Adeyemi makes sure they come together into an absorbing coming-of-age story.
Years after King Saran has ‘cleansed’ Orisha of magic, two objects surface that can reawaken the powers of “maggots”. Despite the king’s best efforts, the objects find their way to Zelie, a humble commoner who is haunted by the memory of her magician mother being tortured and killed by Saran’s soldiers. So begins Zelie’s quest to bring magic back to the land, with the help of her brother and the king’s estranged daughter, Amari.
For a young-adult fantasy novel, it is dark and unflinchingly cruel in parts. Violence is everywhere and Adeyemi makes it a point to include brutality that harks back to the suffering that slaves were put through. Children of Blood and Bone isn’t without flaws, but the characters are powerful enough to hold your attention till the end.
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE (LEGACY OF ORISHA) by Tomi Adeyemi MACMILLAN `399; 600 pages