I bought this book shortly after it came out because it sounded interesting and I want to support new authors. I also liked fantasy based on West African rather than European mythology for a change of pace. Overall I thought the story was solid and I’ll definitely be picking up the next one when it comes out. I found some of the main characters to be frustrating but this may just be a side effect of not reading a ton of YA lit. I’m hoping they’ve experienced some much needed growth in the next installment.
The story takes place in Orisha which was once filled with magic. Those who could wield it were called Maji, who were powerful and respected across the land. Then a tyrannical king declared magic illegal, destroyed it and killed all Maji who’s powers had manifested. This included the mother of our main character Zelie. Since then, the surviving Maji have lived as a hated underclass. Very quickly in the story, events unfold that send Zelie on a journey that could potentially restore magic to Orisha and power to the Maji. Along with her on this journey is her brother Tzain and Amari, the rebellious daughter of the king.
The magic and mythology of Orisha were fascinating the the pacing was tense as Zelie hurries to her destination with the king’s zealous son Inan hot on her heels. The book’s use of fantasy to depict the ugliness of structural racism was well done and pulled no punches. I often found Zel infuriating and had to remind myself that she was just a teenager and teenagers are infuriating by nature. She goes through quite a bit of growth as the novel progresses. Amari as well changes and improves as she learns to trust in her own strength. Tzain didn’t seem to have much to do other than keep his sister out of trouble and I’m hoping he gets a bit of his own story moving forward. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance which comes out this December.