The last book that I reviewed on this blog was Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor, a YA fantasy based in West African folklore that ended up disappointing me. See my review here.
When I read that Tomi Adeyemi, the author of Children of Blood and Bone , had studied West African folklore, religion and culture in Brazil, I was intrigued. I am particularly interested in Afro-Brazilian spirituality. Then when I discovered that her magically gifted characters were divided into ten clans that were devoted to Yoruban spirits, I was completely sold on this novel. I expected this to be the fantasy novel that I've been wanting to read for years. I have learned that high expectations are rarely met, but that never stops me from hoping that they'll be fulfilled. (So far the novel dealing with Yoruban spirits that has been closest to what I'm looking for is the 2016 alternate history Everfair by Nisi Shawl which I reviewed here.)
I think that this first book in a projected series was always destined to fall short for me because it starts off with the premise that the gods are believed to have disappeared. I crave a protagonist who lives with at least one Yoruban spirit or egun (ancestor) as a constant presence. Zelie, the protagonist of Children of Blood and Bone belongs to the clan devoted to Oya. I would have been delighted to see a novel permeated with visions, dreams and consultations with Oya. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. Oya wasn't completely absent from Children of Blood and Bone, but she wasn't really a major focus of the book. Since Oya has special significance for me, Adeyemi gets lots of points for including her in the narrative even though she played a relatively small role.
The main theme of this novel is persecution. Adeyemi has an important message to deliver to readers. It's even urgent in the current social climate as she emphasizes in her Author's Note, but she isn't the only current writer to focus on this theme. If she could have fused her deep concern with crimes against minorities by authority figures with an equally deep Yoruban spirituality, she would have had a masterpiece. She may one day write it. This is only her first novel. So I continue to have high hopes for Adeyemi's future work.