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Children of Blood and Bone (COBAB) is considered to be the next big franchise book series by some magazines. While I hesitate to say its going to be comparable to Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, I do appreciate that it's a pioneer into African Fantasy, its worldbuilding filled with creativity from its unique fantastical creatures to more mundane descriptions of clothes, towns, and buildings.
One thing I noticed about COBAB is that rather than depart from standard fantasy tropes, COBAB likes to explore them. The main character, Zélie loses her mother at the beginning of the story which is what prompts her desire for revenge. Unfortunately, it has also made her father mentally ill to the point where both her and her brother are struggling to act like adults in an attempt to take care of him. There is a brief sequence in the middle of the book where she and her brother have fun playing in a stream, giving the indication that the two don't want revenge or even fantastical powers, so much as they crave a return the family normalcy that was lost when there mother died.
COBAB follows a standard plot of delivering a collected Maguffin from one place to the next. The story arc is much more episodic than many other fantasy novels I have read, the standard plot being the characters going to places, finding a problem, fixing a problem, and fleeing from the tyrannical king's forces that are chasing them as they close in on the location. These are straightforward, with more of an intent to show off the location and how the character reacts to a problem than build a credible threat. These sequences never slow the plot down and gives the main character a number of moments to show how versatile and quick-thinking she is. Unfortunately, author is never really capable of breaking out of its routine, so the final climax is rather cluttered and anti-climatic.
Zélie is an interesting portrayal of a super-empowered hero, while her powers and personality seem to work in tandem, they eventually work against each other. Her powers of death are perfect for killing, but she is also able to feel the pain anguish of the people she has killed, culminating in her developing a more varied perspective of the enemies she fights against. I liked how she is tough and strong-willed while in the real world, whereas in the dream world that she shares with Inan, she is more teasing and excitable. She has a steel mindset that shows how strong she is to overcome any threat, but her attachment to Inan comes from him inadvertently providing a world where she does not need to be invulnerable.
Unfortunately, the side characters aren't quite as developed. Inanis a decent character in his own right but his power isn't used to its potential. It serves the purpose of connecting him to Zélie, but otherwise feels undeveloped. His relationship with sister is also supposed to be some sort of contrast to Zélie and her brother's, neither pair's interactions are consistent enough to get an understanding of the contrast. Amari is the kindest of the cast, but her transformation from wallflower to badass, feels rushed, defeating a character whose description is about how powerful he is. The most notorious example is Tzain. He seems to be solely defined by how he is in constant conflict with Zélie, with any number of character traits that completely contradict each other. He's bad at negotiating, but a good leader, he is charismatic until the plot needs him to be anti-social. He is calm until Zélie makes him angry, and then suddenly starts verbally attacking and eventually slut-shaming her. The author makes him a Strawman Hypocrite in a number situations and yet the narrative tries to convince me that the siblings have a loving relationship.
COBAB is a good first installment for a fantasy series. I applaud how it is able to write a world within its first novel, but doesn't fall into the pitfall of leaving its initial storyline open to be completed in sequels. I noticed some inconsistencies with their magic system, but I've read terrible books with finely tuned magic systems almost to the point of obsession (The Magicians), so its a very small problem. I hope to see more of Zélie, perhaps in less militant setting, so she can see if her powers can be something she can appreciate, or simply be a Necessary Evil in contrast to the other powers of the setting.
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