Audio Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Read by Bahni Turpin

May Contain Spoilers

Oh wow, was this a great book.  It’s been on my radar for a while, so when I was offered an audio copy for review, I was over the moon. I’m trying to up my audio reading game, and BOOM, this showed up. It’s a great story, told by a talented reader, and I found myself listening to it while puttering around the house over the weekend, so I puttered a lot more than usual. It was very timely, as I fell on the ice and twisted my knee, so I had a great excuse to do nothing but stay home and listen to an entertaining story, with a stunningly breathtaking setting.

Zelie is a diviner, the daughter of a murdered maji. When King Saran ordered the Raid, he had all of the maji killed. During that horrible night, magic died. And suddenly Zelie was a maggot, hated because of her white hair. With no magic, the diviners are easy prey for the guards. Taxed to the breaking point, they are despised and marginalized, trying to scrape out a meager existence for their families. When an act of fate throws Zelie and Saran’s daughter, Amari, together, they both are forced to confront their own fears and prejudices if they want to survive and bring the magic back.

I loved the relationship that developed between Zelie and Amari. They couldn’t have been more different, with Amari the daughter of the king, and Zelie a lowly diviner. But Amari’s life wasn’t all rosy, and she’s terrified of her father and his violent mood swings. When she witnesses him murder her best friend, Binta, she steals a scroll that gives diviners their magic back and flees from the palace. While trying to escape the city, she runs in to Zelie and begs her to help her.

Zelie can’t believe she put herself and her family at risk helping Amari, but what’s done is done. At first she feels nothing but contempt for the pampered princess, but when she learns that Amari has a ancient scroll that could return magic to the world, she reluctantly continues to help her, at great cost to herself. And once Amari’s brother, Prince Inan, is on the hunt for them, there is no turning back. Zelie has to see this quest to return magic through to the end, or die in the attempt.

While Zelie views Amari as a spoiled princess at first, as they escape one life-threatening adventure after another, she begins to feel respect for her. Amari, who can’t forgive herself for just watching as her father cut Binta down, is determined to help the diviners get their magic back. Guilt pushes her forward, and she begins to find her own confidence and strength. With Zelie by her side, there is nothing she can’t do.

As Zelie rushes to restore magic, she begins to wonder if she should restore magic. It can be a terrible thing. Even she almost lost control of her powers, and she fears what would happen if someone like Saran had a burner loyal to him, willing to turn the world to flames in an instant. She continues to be conflicted, until she realizes that without magic, the diviners have no power and will always fall prey to people like Saran and Inan.

I don’t want to give much of the plot away. For me, The Children of Blood and Bone had a Star Wars vibe (I know I will get flak for saying that). Like the  Jedi, the maji grew too powerful and too complacent. Their god-like powers were feared, and that led to them being slaughtered. Now Zelie, whose magic has been awakened by the scroll, has opened the floodgates of a rebellion. I loved her struggle to be what she was meant to be, and her fight to overthrow the oppressive king who took so much from her.

Grade: 4.5 stars

Review copy provided by publisher

About the book:

Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Sabaa Tahir.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Narrated by acclaimed reader Bahni Turpin, whose past work includes The Hate U Give and the 2017 Audie award-winning Sister of Mine.