Children of Blood and Bone: A Review (with spoilers)

So, a couple of months ago, I did a some book reviews on Facebook live. I thought, “hey – this is a good idea that could probably take off.”

And then I realized that I would have to comb my hair and put on some lipstick.

Every time.

So, here we are.

Anyway, for the last few weeks, my free time has been devoted to Tomi Adeyemi’s first novel, Children of Blood and Bone.

This.

Children of Blood and Bone

First, let me just tell you how excited I was about this book. Ms. Tomi was getting lots of press before its release, and I was here for it. Every last bit. I mean, Ebony Magazine was calling it the “next big thing in literature and film,” and several sources were calling it THE biggest fiction book deal ever.

AND she wasn’t even 25.

Hell, I was happy for her – even while looking at my own life like,

Anyway, a good friend of mine sent me a copy (thanks, Davina!) and I got right to it.

So, what is Children of Blood and Bone? Imagine if X-Men was set in Nigeria, but replace “mutants” with “magi,” and start the book right after a major conflict which destroys all of the magic in the kingdom. So at the beginning, all people with magic are either dead or in hiding.

That’s where we are when the book opens. In fact, the first person we meet is Zélie, a young girl born with magical blood (which is evident by her silver hair), who is living a double life, so to speak. During the day she works as a seamstress, but at night she hones her fighting skills in an underground training camp run by a badass African woman named Mama Agba.

Zélie lives in Eloirin, a city in the kingdom named Orishá. She lives there with her brother and her father, Baba. But her mother, who was a powerful magi, had been dragged from their home and hanged by the king’s soldiers during the last big insurrection.

Meanwhile, in the royal palace, the King (Saran) is pissed cuz first of all, he hates the magic folk because some years back, they killed his father, the previous king. And check it, the previous king was this benevolent dude who like, held hip hop summits at the castle and gave everybody free health care or whatever (hell I don’t know…) but he was killed anyway by the “ungrateful” magi.

So anyway, King Saran has a son named Inan. He’s tall with an athletic build and has a promising career in his father’s army. He is also a card-carrying member of the “Make Eloirin Great Again” club – leading troops around the kingdom, rounding up groups of magi and harassing them and what not. So basically, dude is good on paper, but he’s an asshole. And on top of all of that, Inan is carrying a secret: he is a magi, and has been doing everything he can to hide it – keeping his head shaved to hide his silver hair ad suppressing his urges to get all magicky, because he knows that if his father ever found out, it wouldn’t matter who he was… he’d be tortured and imprisoned and maybe even worse.

And then there’s Amari, King Saran’s daughter and Inan’s sister. She’s young and sheltered, starved for attention from her parents who either ignore her (father) or constantly criticize her within an inch of life (mother). Amari is basically alone except for her one friend, Binta, an undercover silver-haired magi servant in the castle. The two of them are typical young girlfriends, giggling and talking about boys, except one of ’em has to bring the other one her tea whenever she asks anshit.

Well, Binta has been hiding her true identity from everyone except Amari, living right up under the king and his fine ass, crazy ass son and trying not to get discovered and killed while Amari’s still talmbout boys anshit.

GIRL IF YOU DON’T…

girl if you don't

So, one day some soldiers from the King’s army show up and tell the King that they had just performed a raid on some magical folks and stole an artifact  – a scroll with some ancient writing on it. Turns out that it’s magical, and that there is another item missing (a stone) and get this: if the two artifacts are brought together in a special ceremony, then all of the magi would get their powers back.

Okay, so somehow, King Saran finds out that Binta is a magi and has her dragged into his chambers, because he wants to see what happens when he puts her and the scroll together. When he does, there’s this impressive light show so for a brief moment, and the King and all his guys are like:

allflusteredelectriceel-size_restricted

and then SHANK, he stabs Binta and kills her. What he doesn’t know is that his daughter, Amari, is watching through a crack in the door. So she realizes that her father is nuts and that she has to get away from him post haste.

Now while all of this is going on, Zélie and her brother Tzain are at the market hustling for some food for the house when a ruckus breaks out. During the confusion, Zelie and a disguised Amari bump into each other, and she says, “help me”.

Now this is one of those things that happens in books and movies that almost never happens in real life. Like jacking someone’s car for “police business.”

So Amari’s all, “help me, cuz I got this magic scroll that I stole from my dad and he’s pissed and if he finds me he’s gonna destroy it and all the magic will be gone forever” type shit.

One thing leads to another, and before she knows it, Zélie and her brother are caught up with this princess and all of her problems, which is basically the last thing Zélie needs, cuz she is already trying to stay under the radar because of her power.

But this is just the beginning of all of the mayhem and foolishness. Throughout the rest of the story, Zélie, Tzain and Amari are running for their lives, with Inan and All the King’s Men hot on their tails.

Let’s also complicate that with the fact that Amari is all hot for Tzain (and the feeling is mutual), and Inan’s powers are coming out in fits and starts, not to mention his telltale silver hair keeps growing back out, no matter how much Jermaine Jackson dye and Eco gel he puts in it. And Inan can’t seem to figure out who he wants to be – a soldier or one of the Avengers. And also time is running out – they have to find a boat, get to this particular island and then perform a ceremony by the end of the summer solstice that will bring magic back.

All in all, this was a bit of a wild ride. Adeyemi has a knack of writing fast-paced scenes with lots of action so that while this was a pretty hefty book, it was a fast read for me.

And what did I absolutely love about this book? Was it the way she used Nigerian-sounding words throughout? Yes.

Was it also the fact that the female characters were strong and smart? Hell yes.

Were there things I didn’t like? Well, I can say that I would probably hold off on letting a child under the age of, say, 13 read this because of the violence and adult situations. Personally, I don’t think a child should read anything in which a parent dies violently. Hell, I’m still seeing a therapist about Mufasa, y’all.

And I could kinda do without the flirting-thing between Inan and Zélie, basically because it was just implausible. I mean, dude was just trying to kill her, so…

But yeah. If you are still trying to read it (cuz I didn’t tell you everything), I encourage you to do so. And chime in on the comments and let me know your thoughts!

 

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Stephen King’s Revival – a humble review

Here’s something that only a few people know about me:

I am a ride or die, balls to the wall fan of Stephen King.

I’m talkin’ ’bout, getting in trouble in middle school for refusing to put Cujo away and solve those math problems.

I’m talkin’ ’bout, losing my first, battered copy of The Shining, and scraping together loose change and filthy, crumpled dollar bills to go and get another one.

Yeah. Expert Stan Level 3, here. And the love is REAL, folks. How else can you explain spending an ENTIRE summer engrossed in his Gunslinger series, only to get to that soul-crushing, IMMENSELY disappointing ending? That could only be love.

Despite that. I’ve been here for Steve. Understand me? HERE. FOR. HIM. In spite of some of those film adaptations.

Oh, God. Did you see Dreamcatcher? No? Good. Because it was HORRIBLE. Trust me on this one.

Yeah, so… I’m a fan. Despite the fact that he manages to incorporate the word “nigger” in like, 95% of his work. Sometimes it belongs there; sometimes it doesn’t.

[do better, my man.]

So, usually I would be the first person to snap up a newly released King novel, and immediately after, I would clear my social calendar…

(cue laughter)

… and spend the next few days inhaling that thing. But lately, I’ve been distracted. I’d love to say that it was something really significant, something to make y’all nod seriously and say, “Well, no WONDER,” but…

Honestly, it was “The Walking Dead.”

And “Game of Thrones.”

And “Power.”

Yeah. I was distracted by TV. Me. Ms. “The Book is Always Better Than the Movie”.

Judge me. Whatever.

So, I didn’t read King’s novel, Revival, until a year after it was published. And when I did, it was like old times: I cleared my schedule, kicked either one of my roommates (cats) out of my favorite reading spot, and got started.

And I mean, it was GOOD… at first.

I was immediately pulled into the story line. Check it: a small, white, New England town (surprise, surprise) called Harlow, during a time in our history when racism was pure and free from preservatives and processed sugars.

You know. The Good Ol’ Days.

Aaaaanyway… the story follows the narrator, Jamie Morton, as he grows up in this small town. But really, Revival is about the Good Reverend Charles Jacobs – a young pastor who moves into Harlow while Jamie is still a young boy, and ultimately becomes a constant, powerful presence in his life.

We learn about the Reverend through Jamie’s account of events, starting from the first time he meets him, which is shortly after he and his wife and child move into Harlow. Right away, King paints a picture with darker colors, giving us a sense of something awful on the horizon.

And it’s beautiful, man. King is back in his own funky, twisted element. Crooking his finger at me, beckoning me to follow him down the crooked, creaky staircase into the dark. Smiling that creepy, slightly terrifying smile of his that I just… don’t trust.

And I followed. Although lately…

I mean, he’s been… different. He’s been on some nostalgic romp through his childhood, where the monsters are a little more subtle. And hey, I get it, man. I’m here for all of that. I know that there’s more to dude than clairvoyant teenagers and haunted hotels and shit. And that’s fine. No, really.

It’s just…

Sometimes I need him to remind me why I became a fan in the first place. Don’t get me wrong – if I’m a fan, it’s for LIFE, no matter what kind of experimental shit he tries.

Hell, ask Prince.

So anyway, he goes back to that nostalgia in Revival, but this time, the old Steve is back – bringing that nerve-jangling tension that he does so masterfully, and stringing me along for the nail-biting ride.

The only problem is… that ride seems to go on forever.

Y’all. I had to restrain myself from asking, “are we there yet?!”

Early in the novel, there is a violent tragedy – and if you’ve never read anything by this guy, Violent Tragedy is what he does best. I mean, he breaks readers’ hearts, and gleefully. Sure he’s no George RR Martin, but… in Revival, it’s clear that this tragedy is the catalyst for character and plot development – namely, the Reverend Charles Jacobs.

In the beginning, Jacobs is a young, charismatic man of God – but not the slick-mouthed archetype that we’re used to seeing in literature and film. Instead, Reverent Jacobs is a straight-talking preacher who avoids heavy, political topics like “civil rights, or banning the draft, or something like that” (28). On top of that, he and his wife had “sex appeal” (33), and attracted more young people to First Methodist Church of Harlow (even there was no OTHER Methodist church in Harlow).

And the people love him – most of all, Jamie. He is, in fact, in awe of Reverend Jacobs because of his unusual fascination with electricity, which he uses to heal Jamie’s brother Con from a serious, life-altering injury. It is here that King nudges the story line ever so slightly into the strange.

And let’s be honest – I like Rev. Jacobs too. He is different – while he stays away from the hot topics of the era, he believes that the Lord’s work shouldn’t stop once they leave the church, and that there’s “more to Christianity than church.” But this electricity thing, though… it’s weird, Fam. And where the Hell is this going, anyway?

Things start to become deliciously tense, as tragedy strikes Rev. Jacobs’ family, he loses faith and he delivers what Jamie refers to as the “Terrible Sermon” – which is actually the best part of the entire book. After that, I was dragged through page after page of Jamie’s fucked-up life, where he occasionally runs into Jacobs in between his attempts at being the “Most Horriblest, Raggediest Person Ever.”

Each time he runs into Jacobs, the former-preacher is on a different kind of hustle. But one thing remains constant – he manages to incorporate his experiments with electricity into whatever hustle he is currently practicing. Which, okay, is intriguing. But King is reaaallllly stringing me along now, and by the time Jamie meets Jacobs for the last time, I am WORN. THE HELL. OUT. Hear me, Children? I mean, I don’t even CARE about either one of them hoes anymore, and I’m just reading along because I’ve already gotten this far and I ain’t no punk.

Because I know you, Steverino. I’m a FAN, remember? Ride or DIE, Fam. Even overlooking the not-so-subtle racist statements you manage to sneak into EVERY SINGLE THING YOU WRITE.

I mean, I’m writing this shit even as the “Stay Woke” Folk are sitting in a dark-windowed van outside my house. The love is REAL, Sir.

And I know that all this stuff about electricity and God and religion and drug abuse is gonna culminate in one orgasmic scene of blood-spattered awesome. So, I read on.

And what I got, instead, was basically an episode of Svengoolie.

Remember this cat?

Yeah. Complete with stop-motion animation and bad makeup. I don’t wanna give the ending away – because frankly, it’s SO awful, I kinda want you guys to read it. Seriously. I’ve never seen such a hodgepodge of scary. It read like… like… dude couldn’t figure out which direction he wanted to go in, so he just went EVERYWHERE.

I was kinda hoping that this would turn into more of a psychological horror-thing… you know – pastor has something horrible happen to him, he loses faith and then his mind, becomes a psychopath, starts a prison ministry, starts experimenting on them. Or something.

But what King did was so far away from anything like that, so unexpectedly BAD, I almost admired him for it. For going above and far beyond my lowered expectations.

I was disappointed. Like a MUHFUGGAH.

Sure – I’ll continue to read his work. Because I realize that nobody is perfect, and this, cottdammit, is a RELATIONSHIP that we’ve built, King and I. And you don’t just up and leave a solid, long-lasting relationship because of a screw-up. Or two. Or nine.

I’m in this for the long haul, is what I’m saying.

So… what’s next?