After reading some of the five-star reviews for this book, I'm reevaluating how much I trust some of my friends. This was a terrible book. I don't think I've been this disappointed since picking up FLAME IN THE MIST or THRONE OF GLASS. What the hell were you guys reading? Is there a "good" version and a "shitty" version? What happened?
I specifically chose to read CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE after AMERICANAH because I thought they would complement each other well and lead to some interesting parallels that I could discuss in my review. AMERICANAH is a book that discusses the racial and cultural issues of real-life Nigeria, and CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE is a book that discusses racial and cultural issues of a fantasy-inspired country based on Nigeria. I loved AMERICANAH and I was so sure that I would love CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE because it's exactly what so many readers have been asking for: Diverse Fantasy!
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE is a fantasy novel inspired by Nigerian mythology, specifically focusing on the Orisha. In this world, magic is forbidden and those who are descended from the maji are called "maggots" and systematically oppressed, if not killed outright. It's narrated by three characters, Zelie, who is a maji and a target of these genocidal tactics employed by their ruler, and also Inan and his sister, whose name I can't remember, who are the children of the evil king, but also maji, so uh-oh, nobody better find out or anything because that would be awkward.
Zelie runs away, accompanied by that sister, and Inan hunts them down while fighting his unwanted (of course) attraction to her. Because he can see her in dreams. *eye roll* All the people saying this book is action-packed must either never read good fantasy, are reading a completely different edition from mine, or are lying outright, because this was the LONGEST 500-something pages I've ever read BECAUSE IT'S SO SLOW-PACED, OMG. I didn't care about any of the characters. When the climax happens, we're supposed to be so worried for poor Zelie, but I didn't care because her voice is completely interchangeable with the other two. Characters appear whenever it's convenient for the plot, and there's a romance thrown in haphazardly because what's a YA without mediocre romance?
Because that's what this is. Just another generic fantasy story with cardboard cut-out characters and a tepid romance that lacks chemistry. The only thing that sets it apart is the setting and mythology.
I want to close with these thoughts. I get why so many people are excited about this book. It's thrilling to read books about people who are like you and have a narrative that you identify with. I emphasized that (more nicely) in my review of TYLER JOHNSON WAS HERE. Even if I thought it was a bad book, I can appreciate the meaning and importance it has for people who are seeking out those stories. Fantasy novels are notorious for having bad rep, and when you do see characters of color, they often fit neatly under the cringe-worthy Magical Negro umbrella, which is not cool. That's a huge reason behind why I was so ready to embrace this book: I want those diverse stories too. Stories that give a new perspective and delve into territories that aren't explored nearly enough.
However, I have seen people on Tumblr and Goodreads posting status updates about how they don't think people should be allowed to write negative reviews for diverse books because the intentions of the author supersede the quality of the writing itself. I am 100% NOT OKAY with that, and here's why: if you do that, you're going to create a culture of mediocrity, where people will feel comfortable churning out poor-quality books while using diversity the way you might use a checklist. I'm not saying that TYLER JOHNSON and CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE fall into that category, but by shutting down valid criticism and enabling poor story-telling, this is going to be a problem.
Part of me kind of wondered if the publication of CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE may have been rushed so the release date coincided with that of Black Panther. That could explain some of the problems. I wondered the same thing about CARVE THE MARK (a book that was seemingly inspired by Star Wars) and the closeness of its release date to Rogue One. For reference, CARVE THE MARK was published January 17, 2017 and Rogue One was released on December 10, 2016. Likewise, Black Panther came out on February 16, 2018 and CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE was published on March 6, 2018. From a marketing perspective, it's a brilliant move, but a rushed release date could explain some of the pacing issues and the not-so-great writing.
I apologize if this seems harsh, but I am a book blogger who has always tried to be 100% honest even if that opinion is not popular. I have had people tell me that they will or won't buy books based on my reviews because they know I won't deceive them or sugar-coat. I rate on a purely entertainment-based rubric and don't take things like literary merit or the author's intentions into account. CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE had wonderful intentions... but I thought it was a really sloppy, generic fantasy novel, and I am rating it as such. Maybe you'll get the "good" version everyone's raving about. ;-)
1 out of 5 stars