Thursday, September 6, 2018

Children of Blood and Bone, Book Review


Book Review by C. M.

A few months ago I first saw this book, "Children of Blood and Bone" in a bookstore and at the time I picked it up, looked it over, was tempted to buy it, and then decided not to because I was looking for a book in which the main character / protagonist was an archer. [Note the bow rack in the background of the photo above.]

Weeks later, having already read every decent archery book I could find, and disappointed with my options to find a new book featuring an archer protagonist, I eventually decided "You know what, it doesn't have to have archery in it."

In which case, that book I saw previously... what was it called? The Afro-Fantasy book about a girl who is trying bring back magic to her kingdom... Well, if I can find it, I might as well buy that book instead.

I didn't know the book I was buying was "Young Adult Fiction". I just knew it was Afro-Fantasy and I wanted to read something that was new and different.

So I flagged down a lady who worked at the bookstore, and I tried to describe the book I was looking for... But I couldn't remember the name of the book or the name of the author. [Tomi Adeyemi, see her Twitter page at https://twitter.com/tomi_adeyemi.]

So there I am, trying to describe a book to the bookstore lady having only read the dust jacket on the book and being unable to remember any crucial details regarding its name.

I did however know that if I saw the book I would be able to recognize it, as it does have a rather striking cover.


Suffice to say the bookstore lady found it for me on the computer and I recognized the cover when she was scrolling through possible books.

Reading Children of Blood and Bone... NO SPOILERS

My immediate impressions of Children of Blood and Bone was how the book was similar to a number of other books and in particular one Japanese anime series.

Each chapter was written from a first person perspective, which reminded me of various authors who prefer that style.

Also the author writes everything in present tense, which in my experience makes things more exciting. Most authors write in the past tense, but if you want to write action, then present tense is handy to write in because it creates a more immediate feeling of tension and drama.

Next, each chapter was written from the perspectives of different characters, and would often alternate or switch between the 3 main characters. This reminded me of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones / Song of Ice and Fire book series, as he jumps from character to character frequently.

The chapters were often relatively short, but with 85 chapters it didn't matter. Still a huge book to read. The chapters also got on average shorter towards the end of the book when the action heated up and the perspectives switched more often.

The plot has some similarities to Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Japanese anime series I was referring to. Being similar to a great series is not a bad thing, just like being similar to a great movie is not a bad thing. (Saw the film "Peppermint" last night. Amazing movie. Reminds me of both "Die Hard" and "The Punisher". I was not expecting it to be an action comedy.)

It isn't just the plot that is similar to Avatar either. Three of the characters spend a lot of their time riding around on a giant lion known as a Lionaire. Shown here on the right in some fan art circulating online. I don't think the fan art does the Lionaire justice however, as they are supposed to be much bigger and able to carry 3 adults with ease. In Avatar, the main 3 characters ride around on a sky bison which is easily the size of an elephant, so in my mind Lionaires should be roughly elephant sized.

Or at very least the size of 'Battle Cat' from He-Man / "Masters of the Universe".

I even found it to be similar to some of my own books, the Lilith Bloodstone series, wherein the main protagonist is a necromancer who destroys undead instead of creating them. In Children of Blood and Bone, the primary character is Zélie, who is a Reaper (essentially a necromancer) who can use spiritual / necromancy magic. To me having the hero being a necromancer is a good juxtaposition of the reader's expectations.


Being "Young Adult Fiction" there is of course the obligatory love interest. Teenagers falling in love, that sort of thing. This is typical of franchises that cater to teens... Hunger Games, Twilight, etc. Apparently if you are going to have a book (or series of books) for young adults then it has to include some romance in there.

Thus I would be amiss in not pointing out the similarity to the Shannara Chronicles TV show, which is also a fantasy aimed at young adults and teenagers.

You could also say that the genre Afro-Fantasy is similar to Afro Science Fiction - in particular the film "Black Panther". But hey, maybe it is past time for such things to finally get recognition.

Still, being similar to such things is not a bad thing.
  • Game of Thrones
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Black Panther
  • Hunger Games
  • Masters of the Universe
After all, people get inspiration from all sorts of places. And if you are going to make something that is similar to other things, might as well be similar to some pretty amazing works of storytelling.

"Good artists copy; great artists steal." - Pablo Picasso.

The book also serves as a very strong reminder of the problems happening in the USA currently, with police killing unarmed black people for no good reason. So there is also that. Considering the violent idiot in the White House currently, the book also makes for a nice allegory of the situation in the USA.

So how was the book itself?

Honestly, pretty amazing. I give it 5 stars (out of 5 of course).

I have been telling other people to go read it. Friends, family members, my wife who is too busy to read anything that isn't work related...

On Twitter I tweeted about it multiple times, and even got a Like from Tomi Adeyemi.

So am I just fussing about it? Is it just me?

Nope.

Not just me. I have seen some of the other reviews posted on youtube and other sources. It isn't just me who is making a big fuss about Children of Blood and Bone. There is already a huge fan following for the first book, and plenty of fan art, fan fiction, and more being produced. I myself have been tempted to make my own version of the map.

Hollywood has noticed too. They bought the film rights for this book and the next two books.

Now if Tomi Adeyemi is smart she will write 5 books, and Hollywood will have no choice but to buy the rights for those 2 extra books to be made into films. ;)

Price?

$24.99 CDN + HST for the hardcover, which is what I got.

If you go on Amazon.ca you can get the softcover for $15, or the Kindle digital version for  $8.99.

I normally don't buy hardcovers, but this was a special occasion where I was in a good mood, there was only hardcovers available in the bookstore, and I really wanted to read this book.

Fantasy Writer's Note + Grumblings

As a fantasy writer myself it was interesting for me to read something that was not the standard fantasy fare. Reading Afro-Fantasy gave me a new perspective as a writer for how to write about a variety of cultures. How culture is presented through clothing, food, architecture, language, social interactions, etc gives the reader a deeper understanding of the setting they are reading about, thus creating a more "in depth story".

Earlier today I was contacted by a software company wanting to hire me to give their video game a more "in depth story" because their current story was apparently boring the heck out of the intended audience. I quoted them $30 per hour for me to rework the story and make it better / more interesting. They decided to pass and asked if I knew any other authors willing to work for less...

I do, but therein lies the problem. Creativity is worth money. And it takes time to come up with ideas, write them down, and then do a 2nd draft, edit, etc.

Regardless of who a software company hires to do their background story for their video game, it is going to cost them. I charge $30 per hour because that is what my time is worth, whether I am designing / creating something or teaching archery (technically a charge a minimum of $40 per hour for archery, as I also provide equipment). I do not work for less than $30. It isn't worth my time otherwise.

And with respect to archery, I am probably the most expensive archery instructor in Canada. If not all of North America. People come from the USA, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, France, Brazil just to learn from me. So clearly my time is valuable.


So when someone asks me to do some creative writing work for their company, and then they balk at my hourly rate... sorry. That is the minimum of what I charge for my services. For that they get quality.

And writing a quality "in depth story" is not child's play. I read the draft the software company sent me. It looked like a 12 year old wrote it. A 12 year old with no writing skills. There was no sense of character. No sense of drama. It was as dry as an old history book.

Back to Children of Blood and Bone...

Definitely not dry or boring. Every chapter had something interesting happening, whether it was action or some new development. All thanks to quality writing and an "in depth" presentation of the characters, plot and the cultural setting of Orisha (the land in which the story takes place).

I am hoping in the next book we get to see Zélie fighting a sea monster like the one on the map. Foreshadowing??? ;)


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