I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is an important story that brilliantly shows the effects or fear and prejudice in a very accessible way.
On the other: I wanted to love this book, but instead I only found it to be a mildly okay read.
So let’s focus on it as a story.
Children of Blood and Bone (CBB… CoBaB?) is a fantasy with a straightforward hero’s journey at its core and Shakespearean levels of family drama. It’s brutal and unforgiving with its violence, but predictable with its plot. At one point a mentor figure appears and my immediate thought was, “Well, you won’t survive this chapter.”
CoBaB’s strong point is its characters. They fluctuate between interesting, heartbreakingly empathizable* and irritating. I had these feelings for all the character at one point or another. Except for the king, who’s a rather two dimensional villain, and Commander Kaea. I don’t think I have ever come across a more annoying character than Kaea.
Zelie is a good heroine and she carries the story well, but I don’t have much more to say about her or her protective brother Tzain. Their stories follow the beats and no real surprises popped up.
Amari and Inan personal journey is where most of the unexpected elements of the story takes place. In the beginning I found Inan to be the most intriguing character of the lot, but his indecisiveness became tiresome near the end. As a counterpoint, Amari started out dull, but became a much stronger character.
Quick side mention of the Twilight-like uncomfortable insta-love. Mention done.
The world building is nothing revolutionary. Most of the animals gets a ‘–naires’ at the end of their name and are bigger with horns. Something that bothered me was the Royals preferred mascot animal, the Snow Leoponaires. This is a magical version of West Africa. Why not use an animal suited to the environment? One that can actually be found in Africa. You know, like a regular Leopard.
As noted it’s a fictional Nigeria. Real world city names are used. This made things confusing to how many steps we are removed from the “real world.” And I hate to say this, but I never felt Africa in the environment. Neither did it have a unique identity of its own. It just blended in my mind as a default fantasy world. The types where you get a desert in one scene, a lush forest in the next and snow after that. That makes the use of actual place names even more bizarre. It did have one of the most surprising naval battles. Impractical, but unexpected. The timeline is also a bit wonky, especially near the end.
The magic system was fine. The rules were kept a little vague, but it allowed for some beautiful imagery.
So, considering that this is from a debut Author, I’ll say it’s a very commendable book, but it is flawed.
*Empathizable is technically not a real word, but you know what I mean.