I liked, but did not quite love, Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone when I read it a couple of years ago. I am pleased and a little bit surprised to note that I stayed up much later than I wanted to last night to finish Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the sequel, and that in general I found it a much more satisfying read than the first book in the series. The first book suffered from what felt like (to me) too much recapping and too much YA-ness, for lack of a better word, and …
…well, this book is basically entirely about genocide, so, uh, it doesn’t feel nearly as YA as the previous book did. It follows the same characters, not all of whom are on the same side, and the general plot throughline of the book is you and all your friends and everyone like you should be dead vs no we shouldn’t vs a couple of people who think “you should all be dead” and “no we shouldn’t” are merely differences of opinion that can be sorted out through peace talks.
Hint: nah. And here’s the interesting thing, right? I read through some of the Goodreads reviews of this book, and there are some folks out there complaining about how some of the characters are occasionally not making the smartest of decisions, or sometimes they trust when they shouldn’t, or sometimes they’re inconsistent in how they handle things from one chapter to the next. And what’s weird about this is that those are strengths of the book for me.
These characters— every single POV character— are in enormously over their heads, and not a one of them has the slightest idea how to navigate the world they’ve found themselves in, and most of them are terrified through basically the entirety of the book, although they’re not always scared of the same things. And Children of Blood and Bone spent enough time setting up the relationships between the main characters that the fact that they’re reluctant to kill each other (while at the same time very much feeling like they might need to kill each other, to stop or win the war, depending on which character we’re talking about) that when they’re not always perfectly consistent from chapter to chapter it makes them feel like people, not like a list of character traits that the author didn’t bother to check before writing that particular chapter.
And if someone told me they didn’t like the book for precisely those reasons, I don’t know that I’d argue with them about it, but it definitely made the read more compelling for me. So adjust your expectations accordingly for how often my recommendations are in line with your own ideas about reading.
And then there’s the ending, which left me precisely suspended between “Oh, shit, that was awesome” and “Oh, fuck you, book” and I’m still kind of there? So we’ll see how Adeyemi pulls out of what she wrote herself into in the final book of the trilogy. I was looking forward to reading this, definitely, but my anticipation for the as-yet-untitled Book 3 is considerably higher than my anticipation for this one was. Check it out.