Ojo's Reviews > Children of Blood and Bone

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
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it was ok

Mixed feelings, this one.

While it's a good book (for most YA fans), I found it far too typical, too clichéd, too predictable.

The book has spawned a lot of awesome reviews. For a debut novel, Tomi Adeyemi has actually done quite well. The writing style is especially good. But then, most of the good reviews garnered by this book are from Americans and Europeans, not Africans (especially Nigerians). She has the right idea, blending Yoruba mythology with regular YA. It's a great idea, but I must say (from a Nigerian POV), it's poorly, poorly done.

I was surprised to see that the book came with a map. Being a lover of maps, I was quite excited to see how the world-building would go. Alas, it turned out terribly sub-par. She tried uswd actual places in Nigeria as setting. While it's not a totally bad idea, the way she depicted the entire thing was thoroughly unsatisfying. A walled Lagos? Snow-capped mountains in Ibadan? A floating Ilorin? Really???

And then there's the naming system. While you white folks are probably raving about the story and all, it's us Yoruba people that'll shake our heads at how our dear language was properly murdered. I felt the names were totally inappropriate. Yoruba is unlike the shallow English Language. It is a language with a lot of empahasis on semantics. Everything has a meaning. Every meaning, every name is significant. Funmilayo Forest??? Really??? How is a forest supposed to give you joy??? Forests in Yoruba mythology are dark, forbidden places, typically evil in nature. We don't use 'wood' or 'jungle' to describe them in Nigeria. It's just not appropriate. They're called 'forest' because that's the closest word in the English Language that indicate a bit of their mytho-religious significance. Adetunji Sea? Really? In short, I felt the names didn't reflect the soul of what they were meant to represent. Mines of Calabrar? That's straight from Legend of the Seeker. She could've simply said Calabar. When Calabar is discussed, what comes to mind is the beautiful women and the delicious food. I don't think there are any mines in Calabar. Perhaps, a floating Calabar would've been more appropriate instead of a floating Ilorin.

The summary is that I felt Tomi tried to compress African setting and mytho-religion into the narrow confines of American YA. While the writing and the storyline are quite good, it's the world-building that's the problem. I'd score it a big zero and I'm sure any Nigerian who comes across this will definitely feel the same.

The book appeals to white folk because it's written to resemble American YA. The gods and goddesses of Yoruba traditional religion are not as nice, not as approachable and certainly darker.

The use of the Yoruba language in the books is pretty much unsatisfactory. Incantations are certainly not that literal. Real incantations are composed of a complex kind of poetry in mostly archaic Yoruba, a lot of figurative meanings, allusions and other indirect literary devices.

It's not a bad book altogether though. But it's not 100% African. It's a supposedly African book that closely mirrors American YA. Maybe 5% African. The soul of the entire thing is certainly not African, and definitely not Yoruba.

If you're looking for an enjoyable YA read with sweet characters, then this book is for you. But if you're Nigerian and you're hoping to find something of our culture in this, chances are you'd be disappointed.

I'm focusing on the poorer side of this read because I'm Yoruba, and I was excited to see some proper employment of Yoruba mythology in fantasy writing. Hopefully the next book in the series will come with big improvements in the world-building because I'm certainly going to read it.

Thumbs up to the author nonetheless.

3/1/20
Below is the GR link to my review of book 2. Be interested in reading thoughts on that as well https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
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Reading Progress

February 23, 2018 – Shelved
February 23, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
March 12, 2018 – Started Reading
March 13, 2018 –
17.0% "Funmilayo forest??? Really???"
March 20, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 93 (93 new)


message 1: by Bibi (new) - rated it 1 star

Bibi LOL


Janice Nawal LOL


message 3: by Uju (new) - added it

Uju wow


message 4: by Tessy (new) - added it

Tessy Ijachi *Standing ovation*


Deborah Obida Amazing review! Am not Yoruba so won't know the meaning of the names, but I know I'll have the same issues you have with the book.


message 6: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah (A French Girl) Well, to be fair, this a YA book -- so the author wrote a YA book. No matter the culture in which the story takes place I think it's a bit too much to expect such sophistication from YA. Besides, nowadays, we have a bit more diversity than before, but if you notice you will see the same elements being used, imo.


message 7: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah (A French Girl) What Im trying to say is that it's not necessarily an American vs Nigeria sort of thing, in my opinion anyway.


Gerchia HA HA! The rating doesn't surprise me at all.


message 9: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo Well, Sarah, if you were Yoruba, you'd feel the same. It matters to me because Yoruba mythology is rich. Of Rick Riordan made a fortune out of Greek and Roman mytho, I think Yoruba mythology has even more potential. It's why I'm a bit disappointed with the world-building. It's a good read otherwise.


Jennifer I'm really glad this review popped up in my timeline- thank you for this perspective! If you don't mind my asking, are there any books you feel do Yoruba mythology justice? I would very much like to read them.


Almney King I agree that this book lacked African soul. To me, why write it if you’re not going to dedicate to it. It’s true. If you Red her author’s note, she talks about the story reflecting police brutality against African Americans (which really didn’t come across to me) but I can see how the author wanted to perhaps appeal to both sides of her background, the American and the Nigeria side perhaps. But, I think if you’re going to tackle a story with culture as its center piece, then one must do their homework and do it well. I still appreciate her passion though. It takes guts alone to try.


message 12: by Helena (new) - added it

Helena Wow, I'm so sorry you didn't like it! I'll definitely take your opinion into account when I read it. As they've already asked you: do you know any books that actually do a good portrayal of Yoruba mythology (and are any of them YA by any chance)? I'd be interested in reading about it!


message 13: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo I don't think there are any more YA books in Yoruba mythology, unfortunately. It's why I was so interested in this one. I don't think any writer has tried it out on as large a scale as this. Maybe now we'll see more. Who knows 🤔


Timendu Now waiting for your review of Freshwater.


message 15: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo Timendu wrote: "Now waiting for your review of Freshwater."

Which Freshwater would that be?


message 16: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo Deborah wrote: "Amazing review! Am not Yoruba so won't know the meaning of the names, but I know I'll have the same issues you have with the book."

Maybe, maybe not. If you're not big on world-building, you'll probably like it.


Lenna the Unicorn Cat You made some amazing points and I’m glad your review popped into my feed! I love hearing others perspectives on books, especially when they’re from the culture! Thank you so much for this review! 😊


Deborah Obida Ojo wrote: "Deborah wrote: "Amazing review! Am not Yoruba so won't know the meaning of the names, but I know I'll have the same issues you have with the book."

Maybe, maybe not. If you're not big on world-bui..."


How dare you, of course am big on world building, what is fantasy with a good world building.


Emily May Really appreciated your thoughts on this, Ojo. I enjoyed the book, but as a white European reader I definitely have limited perspective. Sorry to hear that this book doesn't do your culture justice. I hope this is improved upon as the series progresses or, at least, the success of this book encourages more Nigerian writers to dive deeper into the mythology.


message 20: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo Deborah wrote: "Ojo wrote: "Deborah wrote: "Amazing review! Am not Yoruba so won't know the meaning of the names, but I know I'll have the same issues you have with the book."

Maybe, maybe not. If you're not big ..."


Well... Most YA is either plot or character based. There aren't many YA books with really solid world-building


Deborah Obida Ojo wrote: "Deborah wrote: "Ojo wrote: "Deborah wrote: "Amazing review! Am not Yoruba so won't know the meaning of the names, but I know I'll have the same issues you have with the book."

Maybe, maybe not. If..."


True, only few YA authors are good at that.


message 22: by Hiba (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hiba Great review Ojo! My knowledge of Nigerian mythology is non existant, but I also felt the world building was very poorly done. I'm glad I read your review.


message 23: by Mo Oduwole (new) - added it

Mo Oduwole I'm Nigerian and Yoruba and I completely disagree, I loved reading this book.


message 24: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo Mo Oduwole wrote: "I'm Nigerian and Yoruba and I completely disagree, I loved reading this book."

Well, you might have enjoyed the book. It's not a bad read after all. But you can't argue that the world-building is poorly done, yes?


Crowei You could have been nice and given her 3 stars my guy


Crowei You could have given her 3 stars my guy


message 27: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo I know right. My rating is based on the world-building. On the whole, it's rather good YA.


Florentine Lily My feelings exactly, Ojo. Reading about her, it seems she was influenced from a Brazilian perspective. There’s potential, yes, but input from other Nigerians could only help improve it. The incantations were especially grating. (And yes, I know her parents are Nigerians but ones who are far removed).


Swati I was so happy to see your 2 star review because I felt I was the only one to feel that's what the book deserves. I have taken the liberty of quoting your review on my blog to show that there are more like me :D Although, my review is based more on the plot. But it was very interesting to see your Nigerian perspective!


Megan ☾ Michaels Thanks for the honest review. As a white, european reader I would have read this and not have picked up on anything you've pointed out - which sucks. I feel like if someone is writing a book based on a particular culture they should at least try to make it accurate? That you for your perspective, I think this is super important tbh.

(very tired so can't write in sentences ugh sorry!)


message 31: by Gbolahan (new)

Gbolahan "Yoruba is unlike the shallow English language" .

Lol. Racist much? 😊


message 32: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo 😂😂😂😂 it's the truth na


message 33: by Maki (new)

Maki I’m halfway through the book and I honestly don’t understand your criticisms. You went in expecting a book about Yoruba mythology, but that’s not what this is. It’s simply a fantasy novel which borrows certain elements of Yoruba mythology. That’s like getting mad at Marvel’s Thor for not being accurate to Norse mythology. It’s fantasy! The writer(s) will take liberties! I’m also surprised that you have a problem with descriptions like snow-capped mountains in Ibadan and a floating Ilorin. Why is that? What gave you the impression that she was describing Nigeria’s topography? The story is set in a fictional Orisha, not the real Nigeria we’re familiar with. So I don’t see anything wrong with her creating her own world. As for the incantations, I don’t see why it’s necessary for her to employ complex Yoruba literary devices, what’s more important is the actions conveyed.

It’s fine if you find the story predictable, but it’s weird that you went in expecting a story about Yoruba mythology set in Nigeria and you are disappointed because she didn’t write the story you want. Again, it’s fantasy and fiction and if you’re unable to suspend your disbelief for a few pages then maybe this isn’t the genre for you.

P.S.: I’m also Nigerian, and half-Yoruba.


message 34: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo Maki wrote: "I’m halfway through the book and I honestly don’t understand your criticisms. You went in expecting a book about Yoruba mythology, but that’s not what this is. It’s simply a fantasy novel which bor..."

My review of this book is from a particular POV. That is the POV of someone who's very interested in world-building. Whatever you think this book is, I'm pretty sure the author had certain Nigerian traditions and mythologies in mind when she started out. I'm a fan of the popular fantasies Wheel of Time and Malazan, so I have a bit of experience with expertly done world-building and I can tell you I was somewhat let down by this one.
I think the reason why I was disappointed was that I expected different. African mythology has a lot of untapped potential as it is vastly rich. I was expecting a fantasy that tapped directly into said vast reserves but it turned out different, hence the disappointment.
As YA, the book is alright. But as mytho-fantasy, it's sub-par. Despite the YA feel, I felt the author intended this to be more mytho-fantasy. But the world-building let her down.
Anyways, it's just my opinion, nothing more. The book still has a lot of rave reviews.


message 35: by Jumoke (new)

Jumoke I only 1/4way through the book and I am alternating between cringing and yawning.
I am listening to the audible version and the narrator has this accent that is not Nigerian. it sounds like the East African accent spoken by a tortured American 😂. And the Yoruba words are not pronounced correctly. Besides the cities which I could figure out most of the words I had to look at the text to figure out which Yoruba words she was saying.
Not done yet but it so far seems like a mediocre American YA book except the characters have Yoruba names and it is set around Nigeria. If the names were all American and it was set in America I wonder if it would get all the accolades it is getting.


Tamiko Rembert I LOVED this review; it's raw and real. I appreciate the honesty from one who knows better than I ever could. Having said that, I adored the book and can't wait for book two. It especially impressed me that, even through your obvious disappointment, you still anticipate--and have hope for--Children of Virtue and Vengeance.


message 37: by Benjamin (new) - added it

Benjamin Fontaine Thanks for this, as an American I'm always curious how accurate novels set in other countries/cultures are. I just started this and I'll definitely keep these things in mind as I read it.


message 38: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo Tamiko wrote: "I LOVED this review; it's raw and real. I appreciate the honesty from one who knows better than I ever could. Having said that, I adored the book and can't wait for book two. It especially impresse..."

Jumoke wrote: "I only 1/4way through the book and I am alternating between cringing and yawning.
I am listening to the audible version and the narrator has this accent that is not Nigerian. it sounds like the Ea..."


Sure! I think it's a series with an awful lot of potential. Hopefully the author beefs up the world-building in the second book. I'm a big fan of her, interact with her social media space and all. So, waiting for book 2 it is.


Melissa Stacy Hello, Ojo. Thank you very much for this review! It was very informative! :)

I first read your review a few weeks ago, and reread it today. I have also seen your review start to be linked into other reviews here on Goodreads.

I had to read this novel twice before I could understand it well enough to write a review. I struggled pretty hard to understand the magic system, and some places I had to reread 4 or 5 times before I felt like I had a grasp of how things worked.

I finally finished editing my review for this book today. I could only rate this book with one star. My review focuses on the religious ableism in the book, the main character's immoral behavior, and the problematic allegorical messaging. Because I am not an own voices reviewer, I linked your review into mine as an example of an own voices review (in this case, someone familiar with Yoruba and Nigerian mythology), and I just wanted to let you know that.

My review ended up being so long, I had to publish it on my website and just put my link here on Goodreads. If you want to know where to find that, it is here --
https://melissastacy-thoughtcandy.com...

Thank you again for your review! I hope your next reads have been more enjoyable! :)

Sincerely,
Melissa


Georgia I don't get all the praise.
I'm fed up to the ears with european pseudomedieval fantasy, so I'm looking for works that can bring more than that. But this one is just the same tired old thing, with a thin african veil on top. I found reading it very frustrating. Thank you for this review, I couldn't put what I was thinking into words but ''this story has no african soul'' is fine.
Well, goes to show that changing the names and settings is not enough and I guess I should thank the author for teaching me that.


Cendaquenta Thank you very much for this review. I just read the book and thought it was pretty good (for a YA fantasy), but, well, I'm white as heck. Greatly appreciate the insight from someone who can knowledgeably critique the representation.


message 42: by Andi (new) - added it

Andi Really appreciated seeing this review as an anthropologist who has read an ethnography over an American branch of Orisha voodoo in South Carolina. I haven't read the book yet, but I was confused about the focus on magical elements. Does traditional Yoruba religion feature elemental magic manipulation and if so, how does it function? It seems in the offshoots in America the focus is more on divination and not on elemental magic, but I could be wrong.


message 43: by Ojo (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ojo Andi wrote: "Really appreciated seeing this review as an anthropologist who has read an ethnography over an American branch of Orisha voodoo in South Carolina. I haven't read the book yet, but I was confused ab..."

Hey! I'm an anthropologist too! I have a B.A in Archaeology, so I understand your POV. Traditional Yoruba religion is highly aspected. There's deities for various elements and even themes and ideologies. And yes, there's a lot of elemental manipulation. There are the divine beings and their adherents. The most powerful of these adherents are able to summon the powers of their god or goddess at a moment's notice via the aid of magical objects such as staffs and amulets and also via incantations. Incantations are a sort of complex poetry that's composed of even more complex language. The incantation is supposed to sort of bestir the powers that be, literally summoning lightning from the sky for example. There's also a lot of rituals involved, especially for the workings of the larger magics. Depending on the deity, there are sacrifices of blood and food items.

There's a lot more involved, but that's just the basic thing.


message 44: by Andi (new) - added it

Andi Thank you for the explanation! And I'm glad to see another anthropologist! I just completed my MA at The University of Chicago and I'm looking forward to going on for a PhD. I must admit that my main specialty is the Middle East (Israel/Palestine) and a bit of Northern Europe (BA in German and background in Norse paganism), but I have familiarity in systems of sorcery and witchcraft. That said, I wonder if a part of the reason for why the novel is lacking in certain areas is because the author did hands on research in South America possibly with a diasporic Yoruba community instead of going to the source in Nigeria. I must admit I was scratching my head when I saw where she conducted her research and wondered why she was trying to sell it as Yoruba/Nigerian. It reminds me of Comaroff and Comaroff's identity business, which Oyotunji Village in South Carolina engages in. I feel the author is capitalizing on her parents' identities as Nigerian and has turned her background into something to be consumed and sold while also removing some of the complexities associated with it for wider consumption. In the village, roots readings are sold to African American clients who are looking to reclaim a heritage that was ripped from them by the slave trade. These readings are very vague and seek to give the client a tribal name, chief deity, and a reason for their family being coopted into the slave trade. Spoiler alert: it's almost always the women being prideful or doing something they're not supposed to. I haven't read the book, but I sense some of this going on. Check out Kamari Maxine Clarke's "Mapping Yoruba Networks" for more info. I highly recommend it.


message 45: by Melissa (last edited Jun 11, 2018 08:42AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Melissa Stacy Andi wrote: "I wonder if a part of the reason for why the novel is lacking in certain areas is because the author did hands on research in South America possibly with a diasporic Yoruba community instead of going to the source in Nigeria. I must admit I was scratching my head when I saw where she conducted her research and wondered why she was trying to sell it as Yoruba/Nigerian. It reminds me of Comaroff and Comaroff's identity business, which Oyotunji Village in South Carolina engages in. I feel the author is capitalizing on her parents' identities as Nigerian and has turned her background into something to be consumed and sold while also removing some of the complexities associated with it for wider consumption."

Andi, thank you very much for articulating these thoughts so eloquently. I have enjoyed reading your exchange with Ojo a great deal, and I'm so very glad you took the time to converse about this book. I didn't feel like I learned anything about Yoruba religion from this novel, but given the knowledge you both have on this subject, I find myself fascinated and wishing I knew more. I am acutely aware of how little I know of Nigerian culture and the complexities of all the different tribal diasporas. Reading comment threads like this thrills me. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge.

Ojo, thank you again for this review and the additional information you shared with Andi. I did not enjoy reading this novel, but I have certainly enjoyed reading this anthropological data. ^.^


Favour Borokini I completely agree. I'm not done yet but I started and couldn't finish because the whole thing was so unfamiliar. I always wondered when I would read African mythology or fantasy in fiction on a scale as grand as say Malazan book of the fallen or Lord of the Rings but ehn the chapters I've read aren't encouraging at all. Like you said it sounds American strangely and some other comments have said she perhaps did more research with Brazilian orisa which I understand to be an offshoot of the slave trade. I had the same problem with Binti. I think the two authors have the same thing in common. They're more American than Yoruba. I don't really know how much of the Yoruba pantheon was incorporated. But if I'm to continue I'd love to see Sango, Oya, Ogun and all the others. Anyway hopefully the book will get better. Honestly I feel the witches of New Orleans in The Originals are closer to what I have in mind though contemporary


Favour Borokini And the names. Mama Agba would be better off as Iyá Àgbà.


Malvika Jaswal I am just thankful that I am not the only one who did not fall head over heels in love with this book. I had no idea about the true African part of it, because I seriously never felt it was about Africa at all. I thought it was an ordinary novel, good debut certainly, but with ununderstandable hullabaloo around it. It is certainly no seminal work on racism.


message 49: by Mo (last edited Jul 25, 2018 04:22AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mo I am Yoruba and you literally wrote everything I felt was wrong with this book. Everthing about this book is unoriginal. I had to run here for reviews to see if I was alone in my disappointment. From the first chapter I knew I was going to struggle all through it. Still haven't finished it and a lot of things gave me a cringe fest. I feel like the African mythology and setting was just a sprinkle to show a nuance that just wasnt properly researched. A gated lagos, a snowing Ibadan, a floating Ilorin (Ilorin doesn't even have a river) colour me white washed.


Rebecca Gomez The fact that it resembles typical American YA is one of the most disappointing things about this book.


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