WELCOME BACK to YA Book Club. This month, Mary and Emily discuss Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a YA fantasy novel with a huge scope—and maybe even a movie in the works. Read on for our chat-style conversation!
Mary: HERE I AM
Emily: ROCK YOU LIKE A HURRICANE
Mary: Today we're covering Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This book got tons of buzzzzzz in the young adult community and I've wanted to read it after hearing all the hype. It has been called an African fantasy, as well as the African Harry Potter--which it is NOT. To be clear, this is my pick. I don't know why, but I'm drawn to massive fantasy texts and then get overwhelmed by how long they are. Oops.
Emily: Yeah... I think I can go ahead and spoil this by saying, Mary really liked this book and I did not
Mary: And you know, that is ok!
Emily: And it's my fault it's taken us so long to get to this review because it was a STRUGGLE for me to get through this.
Yes, so this will be a fun take because usually we agree on the books we review for YA Book Club
Mary: What do you think made it so hard to get through? I agree that it took me a while to finish it too.
Emily: For me, the pacing was really slow. I didn't feel like it needed to be that long. And also I didn't really get invested in any of the characters, so I didn't care about what was happening to them.
Which is too bad because I feel like this was a really interesting world, and I wanted to like it.
Mary: Definitely--I had whole sections of the book where I thought, let's move this along. I didn't think it was perfect at all, but I still enjoyed it.
Emily: It's weird because sometimes, yes, a first novel in a series is slow because there's a lot of world building to establish.
But I don't think that's what was going on here.
Mary: Mostly because of that interesting world you mention. The world is completely new, with African influences. The countries have fictional names, there are animals that are hybrids of animals we have in our world. There's magic! It's all interesting and fleshed out, but at the same time I kind of just wanted a history of the world more than what was happening to the characters.
Definitely, the novel sort of just jumps into the plot. It's not slow at the beginning and world builds as it goes.
Emily: So okay here's what I think it is.
The world itself was cool.
The characters, however, to ME, read like shitty YA fantasy characters.
Who BTW had shitty YA characters names.
I HATE THE NAME TZAIN.
Mary: Right Right. They all fill a trope of some kind it seems, and I found their relationships predictable.
Emily: Is this the time where I say how the little chats between Inan and Zelie felt reminiscent of the little psychic phone calls between Kylo Ren and Rey in Star Wars?
Or was that just me? lol
I thought that too.
Emily: Haha insert shirtless Kylo gif here
Mary: They would often meet in Inan's...brain? A dreamscape?
Emily: Yes... which I guess is Inan's special magic power.
Mary: and it felt very much like Kylo Ren and Rey. Inan didn't want it, then he felt like he could use it.
Emily: I feel like we're doing a bad job of explaining this book.
We should explain who these people are.
Mary: Yes, It's a lot.
Emily: So we start with Zelie (aka Rey)
Mary: OK! So the book is set in a world where magic has, essentially, died in a violent war where lots of magi--the people who could do magic--where killed. That's important I think.
Emily: Yes, Zelie is the daughter of one of these Magi.
She's like, training to be a Jedi, but there is no Jedi magic.
I'm sorry should I stop with the Star Wars stuff.
Mary: It's a good analogy.
Emily: Also magical people are treated like second citizens and often called "maggots."
Mary: It's derogatory obvi.
And also just a weird choice IMO.
Maggots are important to an ecosystem.
But Zelie is just trying to survive with her brother Tzain, who wants to be a sports star.
She has magical ability and Tzain doesn't, notably.
But then...they have a run in with...A PRINCESS.
Emily: Right so Zelie kind of feels like she's a burden on her family because they have to pay taxes because she has latent magic ability (marked by her white hair).
And then they meet DA PRINCESS.
Giving me real Princess Jasmine vibes escaping the castle and pretending to be a commoner for five seconds.
Mary: Oh, me too.
Each chapter is from a different POV, so we're learning what's up with da princess at the same time we're learning about Zelie and Tzain, essentially.
Emily: I'm glad we're on the same pop culture wavelength here.
I love how her pretending to be a commoner works for all of like five seconds and then Zelie is like, "nah, I know what you are."
Mary: YES hahahaha
Emily: But anyway Amari is her name.
And she basically flees the castle because she suddenly realizes hey maybe killing magic people is bad.
Because it happens to her friend (servant).
Mary: The princess, Amari, goes on the run with Zelie and Tzain and they embark on a quest to restore magic. They kind of start running for different reasons, but they very quickly fall into a Plot to Save the World.
And throughout the novel, Inan--Amari's brother--is tracking them down while also dealing with his own burgeoning powers.
Emily: Right and Zelie's all like "Idk about this rich bitch" and Tzain's all like "aw man Zelie stop being mean."
Right and OF COURSE Inan has powers.
Mary: It's very clear, I'll say, who's going to pair up with who in this YA universe.
That's been the biggest criticism I've read about the book, the shoehorned love story stuff.
Because why do we need it?
Mary: Yeaaaah--it felt added in.
We didn't need a romance at all and for a while I thought maybe we weren't going to get one.
Emily: I think we need to trust that readers can be invested in characters without a love story.
Not that a love story is always a bad thing.
I love a good love story.
But this is not that.
Mary: But it doesn't always have to be there. We don't NEED a love story.
Mary: It felt like Inan and Zelie were forced together in the dreamscape, and finally they were like ok let's touch each other.
Emily: Well, I mean, I think entering someone's brain has got to feel like some level of intimacy. I GET that.
Mary: That's true, but I think there's not really a full reason why Zelie kept ending up in his brain other than FAAATE.
Mary: So it felt a little forced to me, and I didn't like that.
Now I want someone to do a Harry Potter fanfic where Voldemort and Harry fall in love while brain-melding
I'm sure it exists already.
Mary:I think in us talking about it just now I'm realizing that what I really appreciate is the world building of the book, how it pays particular attention to culture and builds on things from our world in interesting ways. The characters were just like, the vehicle I was forced to use to find out about the world.
Mary: I think the government structure--the oppressive monarchy that is scared of its own lurking magical ability--is very compelling to me.
Emily: I think that was 100% my problem with the book.
Mary: That's valid.
Emily:I still really can't tell you much about who these characters are.
Mary: I'm wondering how it's going to be a series.
Emily: I can tell you what they can DO.
Mary: I can't either, and honestly I had problems remembering their names because I finished the book a month ago and it has left me.
That's not really a good sign.
Emily: I think I would have been more willing to get into the story too if I had thought this was going to be it.
But like, I knew it wasn't going to end in a satisfying way
Mary: Yes, definitely. I have issues with long series. (She says as she’s reading The Wheel of Time series)
Emily: And I knew I'd likely not be back for round 2
I don't see myself picking up the next book in this series because I don't care about these characters
Do you think you'll read the next one? I know it comes out soon.
Mary: I'm not sure, honestly. I may, depending on reviews, just to see how it continues and learn more about the world.
But it's not high on my list, even though I enjoyed this one.
For the same reasons you outline, I enjoyed this one, but don't feel super invested.
Emily: What other plot stuff do we want to talk about?
Before I talk about the movie
Mary: There's a movie?! Let's go to the movie! I honestly feel like it's hard to talk about the plot specifically--the book is about trying to restore magic and they do, but like, at what cost? And that's what the next book will be about I guess.
Emily: Right. Okay, so here is what we know about the movie so far
Fox 2000 has optioned the movie rights
And Temple Hill Productions, which I guess is responsible for Love Simon and The Hate U Give
Looking at their list, it looks like adapting YA novels is kind of their niche
Mary: Not a bad niche
Emiliy: They also did Maze Runner, Twilight, Paper Towns...
Mary:Oh gosh that's so many
Emily: The Fault in Our Stars
And so many that are not really like Children of Blood and Bone.
Emily: Yeah there's not a lot more info about the movie yet but the author has said that her dream casting would be Idris Elba as Saran.
That makes sense to me, honestly.
Emily: She mentioned that on Twitter. I was trying to find the tweet but I can't now.
Do you have any casting thoughts for this movie? It would be cool to get some unknown/lesser known African actors maybe.
Mary: I would LOVE to see some unknown African actors propelled to stardom by this film.
I wonder how many movies the studio will try to make this. Will it be like Harry Potter and they'll start splitting the books up?
Emily: It's supposed to be three books
So... maybe 4 movies idk
Emily: But also is there a place for Michael B Jordan in this cast somewhere? lol
Mary: Yes, I think so. There's always room for Michael B Jordan
Emily: That's true
Mary: I think this book is perfectly set up for a movie. It's very visual. And has lots of good potential for action.
Emily: I might like it better as a movie honestly. Because it will have to be faster paced
Mary: I'd like to SEE this world, as well, not just see it in my brain.
Emily: And I might like the characters more.
Yeah, I mean, I would absolutely be excited to see this movie
I think the story has potential.
I just didn't enjoy the way it played out on the page.
But you know, I also hated the Hunger Games as a book and I thought the movies were fun
SORRY IF THAT'S BLASPHEMY
The books are not good, people.
Mary: Nah, that's ok. I don't think it's blasphemy and feel the same way TBH. I didn't really love the movies either, though.
I think it's safe to state we both felt mixed on the book, and ultimately I liked it better than you did but time has made me realize some hard truths about its pacing.
Emily: Also this book made me realize that I don't really love YA series or YA fantasy all that much
Unless it's Harry Potter
Which... give me all the Harry Potter books.
But like, talk about being INVESTED in characters. I think that's one thing Harry Potter is really great at. I care about all of those characters so much, even like the minor characters. Like, sometimes I just wonder, what's Lee Jordan up to these days?
Mary: There are a lot of factors into why people like books, I think, and I similarly feel invested in HP in a way I don't in a lot of other books--partially because of when I read it and how old I was, but also because it just makes you care about the characters AND the world.
Emily: Right. Excellent world building and great characters. Yes, there are those tropes you get in most fantasy, BUT it doesn't matter because the characters seem real
So you believe these things are happening to them
I just found myself thinking, "Sounds fake, but ok" so many times when reading Children of Blood and Bone.
Mary: I get that, totally.
I think I would lightly suggest this book to anyone who likes fantasy.
Emily: Yes. I don't think I am the target audience for this book, and clearly a lot of people love it.
Mary: It's not bad, it's not the best ever. I enjoyed reading it but don't think I'll revisit it.
Emily: Oh yeah no, never
Are we doing Pride next?
Do you want to talk about that a little?
Emily: Yeah so Pride is yet ANOTHER Pride and Prejudice adaptation
But it's written by Ibi Zoboi, who wrote American Street, which I hear is really good
And I've heard really good things about this adaptation, which is, yes, YA, and set in Brooklyn
weaving in issues of gentrification and race
Also we need to take pictures of our cute books next to each other because mine is pink and Mary's is blue
Emily: It's a really pretty book cover
Mary: So tune in next time for that.
Emily: Yes! ALSO IT'S SHORT
Mary: It isssss
Thanks for reading this long book I picked
Emily: We know our last two books were monsters
I think Plain Jane was technically longer?
But it took me 1/3 of the time to read
It didn't feel as long somehow.
Join us next time for our discussion of Pride by Ibi Zoboi!
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