Review of “Children of Blood and Bone” (Legacy of Orisha #1) by Tomi Adeyemi

Adeyemi, Tomi. Children of Blood and Bone. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2018. 

Hardcover | $18.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250170972 | 531 pages | YA Fantasy

4 stars

Children of Blood and Bone is a book that I swore off initially upon seeing the writing style (first person present tense from multiple perspectives). However, after returning it to the library, checking it out and returning it again, I decided it was finally time to try it again and give it a fair chance.

And I am so happy I did. One of the pluses, as is often the case with a well-written fantasy, is the world building, and I love its influences from Nigerian culture, setting it apart from much of what is out there in fantasy. And as she reveals from the author’s note, she also takes influence from modern issues affecting black people in the United States, such as police brutality, and these elements are all woven together into a wonderfully moving story.

I love how she managed to give Zelie, Amari, and Inan such distinct voices, so, along with getting their name as a chapter heading, you would always know instinctively whose head you’re in. I particularly loved Inan’s chapters and how they charted his evolution from someone who believed wholeheartedly in his father’s quest to stamp out magic (to the point of being an antagonist) to someone who would fight to defend it. And Zelie and Amari are both so well-drawn as well, with Zelie being a warrior, and Amari’s story arc following her growth through her journey.

The one thing I found a little off-putting was the romance subplot. While I am aware romance is a common feature in YA, including YA fantasy, it just seemed out of place considering the respective arcs of those two characters, not to mention the execution felt clunky and awkward. It didn’t add much in terms of emotional resonance for me, and it just seemed to be there because it’s what’s expected from the genre.

However, aside from that, this really is a great debut novel, although given all the buzz it’s received, I’m likely preaching to the choir. But I would still recommend this to those who haven’t read it yet, particularly if you’re looking for more diverse, unique fantasy.

Review of “Forbidden” (Old West #1) by Beverly Jenkins

Jenkins, Beverly. Forbidden. New York: Avon Books, 2016.

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062389008 | 370 pages | Western Romance

5 stars

Forbidden was an unexpected surprise for me, given the fact I actually DNFed it ages ago. However, it should not have surprised me, given how much more open-minded of a reader I have become in terms of genres and settings since then. That said, this is one book that is definitely worth the hype, and one I pinch myself for not seeing its worth sooner, considering its a romance I love for its substantiveness in tackling real world issues within the context of the historical period, that also still feel very relevant today.

Rhine’s story arc gripped me, in spite of not having read the book where he initially appears, because I’m so fascinated by the complex and controversial phenomenon of passing. Jenkins managed to portray his reasons for doing so in his past, while also showing that he still has compassion for the Black and African American people in his community when many of the White people he associates with still think Blacks beneath them. And through the development of his bond with Eddy, I felt like the stakes were convincing in terms of him being compelled to make a choice that might have negative consequences. And I love the strength of Eddy herself, having gone through her own difficulties in the past, showing courage in various moments of the story, like the decision to go out into the great unknown to pursue her dream to begin with, and her choice to fight off an assailant, which leads to her being stranded in the desert.

I also liked the way the secondary characters were active parts of the story without being too overwhelming. Sylvia and Doc Randolph’s romantic arc was a subtle subplot that allowed me to root for them without them stealing page time from Rhine and Eddy. I am also anxious to continue the series and see how things pan out for Portia and Regan, especially considering Portia’s observations concerning relationships with men gleaned from living with her mother.

I would recommend this to fans who love historical romances, especially those who love stories with depth and just as much history as there is romance.