Review: Children of Blood and Bone
Genre: YA fantasy
Published: Pan MacMillan, march 2018 My rating: 3.5 stars
They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Children of Blood and Bone caused quite the stirr in the bookish community, even before it came out. It was on most people's "anticipated list", including mine, and has been called "Thé YA book of 2018". I read it, I thought about it, and now I would like to talk about it. I have a lot of thoughts about this novel, probably to many to cram them into a single review. As this is such a well loved book, I will do my best to explain as best as I can why I didn't quite enjoy my time with this book, so this might be a longer one. Let me start off with a little background of how this opinion came to be. In my years of reading fantasy, I have noticed that I tend to judge (fantasy) books based on roughly 4 major aspects:
1. World and atmosphere. 2. Plot 3. Characters 4. Writing style
This is not something I do consciously, but it makes sense in my mind I guess. In general; I tend to like a book if at least 2 to 3 of these are good to great. These great aspects can then compensate for an okay-aspect of the book. To give you a concrete example: Shadow and Bone (first book in the Grisha trilogy), had a very mediocre plot. However, I loved the world and Leigh Bardugo’s writing style. This was enough to make it a 4 star read for me. Obviously I am generalizing, and there are other factors at play in my enjoyment, but keep these four in mind as I go over them in regards to Children of Blood and Bone.
1. World I can be brief about that one: it was great. I’m all for fantasy-settings that are inspired by something other than medieval/castle-kingdom/European settings. I loved to see the West African influences and in fact it had me looking up some more background information about West African countries and culture. (Thanks book, that’s another country on my endless bucketlist of “places I want to visit but can’t afford”). The magic system was okay. It’s not bad, but we have definitely seen this done before. Still: I am giving it +1 for world.
2. Plot To be horribly, crudely honest: I think the plot was bad. Girl with “Special power”, motivated by loss of mentor/parent, goes off to find 3 magical artifacts to save the world. It’s the oldest quest-narrative in the book, and probably the first any new fantasy author comes up with in creative writing class. Speaking off creative writing: Tomi Adeyemi gives these classes herself, and I could tell. She adheres closely to the classic plotbeats and does not deviate from them. This isn’t bad, but does make the story extremely predictable. -1 for plot, but like I said: mediocre plot + great world can still be a great novel, so let’s continue.
3. Characters First reaction: meh… I liked Amari a lot. I enjoyed reading from her perspective and felt like she was the only character with a satisfying development-arc. Zelie was okay, Inan annoyed me a little. On the subject of characters however, I can’t not mention the romance, because it had me close to DNF-ing. The romance between (view spoiler) is one of the worst and most cringy examples of instalove I have recently read. There was so little build up that I actually went back in the book, because I thought I maybe had missed it. I didn’t: it just wasn’t there. I rarely really enjoy romance in YA, but it doesn’t often bug me to the point where it pisses me off. Here it did.
4. Writing style The writing style was fine: nothing special, but not bad. Some great lines, some cringy ones (like the “the breath I did not realize I was holding rushes out”-thing I mentioned), but nothing that really swayed me either way. A little pet peeve of mine was the repetition; any important events/character motivators etc. are repeated multiple times in consecutive chapters, as if to make sure the reader has gotten it. Inan is the biggest culprit to the point where I just wanted to yell at him: “I know dude, you have said this before. Shut up and go do it!”.
You can probably see where I am going with this, but to sum it up: there was 1 aspect I really enjoyed, and 3 that were okay to bad. I just said I needed about 2 to 3 to be good to enjoy a book, so there you go.
As a final note, and my reasoning for giving it 3 star despite not really enjoying it: the authors passion. Children of Blood and Bone is based of themes of racial oppression and genocide that have, and still do, unfortunately happen in the real world as we speak. While reading this book you can feel Tomi Adeyemi’s passion for this subject and I could tell how important and empowering this book was for her and many others. I was genuinely moved while reading her dedications in the back and I could not be happier that this novel addresses such themes to young readers. For that alone it deserves an extra star in my opinion. Even though I personally did not this novel as it is, I truly respect and commend the author for all she is doing.