Magic in Blood

India Today - - LEISURE - —Deep­an­jana Pal

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

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