Genre : YA, Fantasy
Book Cover : 4****
Rating : 3 ***
The Children of Blood and Bone is another book that has been on my reading list for quite some time now, what with all the publicity and the glowing recommendations. And as always I was apprehensive about picking up another YA novel with so much baggage and with expectations running sky high. But when one of the Young adults around me received a copy as a gift, I just couldn’t let it pass. So I appropriated her copy, convinced her to stick to her studies and vamosed out of there as fast as I could.
The cover of this book is extremely intriguing and very very chic. It was in fact a surprise that such a smart-looking cover came from the house of MacMillan. It conveys the main bone of contention of the novel, the white-haired diviners, beautifully. However, I must point out that the hair in the cover is straight and not curled – a point that will be clarified to those who read the book. A truly eye-catching and beautiful cover.
This is the story of Zelie and Amari, two unlikely allies, who come together in the quest of restoring magic to their world. Zelie has been born with white hair, which in the old days was the sign of a diviner who were capable of doing magic when they turned 13. However, since there is no more magic and all adults who could do magic were slaughtered 11 years ago, none of the still alive diviners are capable of magic or even know of its secret ways.
First, I found the central character of Zelie extremely annoying. It appears that half the time she stays alive is only because others around her are willing to make sacrifices for her. It is only in the later half of the book that she begins to mature a little bit and think about consequences of her actions and those of everyone around her. And her choice of love interest is equally bewildering. For a strong-minded female she manages to choose a man whose take on ideologies is diametrically opposite to hers. And not just politely opposite but violently opposite.
The only person with an iota of sense seems to be Amari, who, although brow-beaten for most of her life, finds in herself the courage to stand up for someone who was very dear to her. Her father also happens to be the king and a cruel one at that. He is the one who ordered all the practicing diviners killed a decade ago. Yet, there is a point in the book where Zelie emulates his temperament almost exactly when she has a defenseless prisoner in her hands and the life of her sibling is in danger. I was left to wonder what she may have done if she had wielded power to cut off heads!
The author reiterates many times over that this book is about racism, the black-haired mortals against the white haired diviners that is. A little bit maybe, but mostly it is about the age – old battle between those who have money and power versus those who do not. The police atrocities against African Americans are reflected by the general attitude of the soldiers towards all diviners. There is even a reference to the police shootings of the innocent in one incident.
The book is fast paced and deals with a lot of magic and fantasy that fulfills most criterion for fantasy enthusiasts, but it cannot in any way be considered a seminal work on racism. Even the theme of disappeared magic has been done fairly recently in the Sarah J. Maas ‘Shadow’ series if I remember correctly.
This is what happens when something is built up to such heights of perfection and is unable to live up to those expectations. I had to actually take a turn down Goodreads reviews to find out whether I was the only one who ever thought this book was okay. There I found a Nigerian guy’s wonderful review who pointed out that the language that the author was quoting is actually a true ancient language of Africa. The island is supposed to represent Africa too and fails to be accurate in both respects. While I agree about artistic liberties I can safely say that I never for once imagined that the author was talking about the real Africa at all. Because of all the reviews and the hype about the racism theme, I thought of the author as completely American and never for a moment thought she had taken the novel back to Africa. Of course, her characters were black and set on an island but that was it, or so it seemed to me. Was I the only one who had missed this?
I did however wonder whether she was taking things from Indian Mythology when I saw the name Orisha; Orisha – Odisha anyone? I also thought that some of the names of the villages and towns seemed familiar but blame my lamentable geography that I was never able to connect the dots.
The book is a good read certainly, but not something from which one may be expected to take away something life-changing. I am looking forward to the movie though, which I think will somehow (dare I say it) be better than the book in conveying its intended message.