In this fast-paced, explosive tale with short chapters, Tomi Adeyemi weaves a rich tapestry of Orishan culture, fashion, magical symbols, landscapes and temples. Its multi-faceted citizens reflect Africa’s diverse human heritage. Social class, unjust hierarchy and fragile friendships play out strongly in the plot.
Nigerian-American writer Tomi Adeyemi has a new book titled Children of Virtue and Vengeance, which is a follow up of her successful debut novel Children of Blood and Bone.
Once again, Adeyemi takes us into the magical kingdom of Orisha. We begin in the aftermath of a bloody conflict that sees the emancipation of maji (people with magic) from the rule of a brutal, tyrannical king.
Zelie, the teenage warrior heroine, returns along with her older brother Tzain and Princess Amari. But people of Orisha are still suffering.
The palace maintains a tremulous hold on power, which is preventing true prosperity for all. Food is scarce, people are still grieving, and towns are trying to rise from the ashes.
Like the title description, hate and the quest for vengeance runs strong in Zelie. She has become the Soldier of Death, driven by grief over the death of her father and betrayal by her love interest. The liberation of magic has brought consequences she did not anticipate.
Queen Nehanda is the new antagonist and she wants to annihilate the maji that killed her husband. She wields her new supernatural abilities with devastating costs that confound even the most experienced magicians. Supporting her in this quest is General Okoye, the petite female leader of the royal armies who detests magic.
Zelie, Tzain, Amari and a band of fugitive magicians must find a way to overthrow Queen Nehanda, retake the throne and stop the nation from plunging into civil war. Their quest is complicated because the maji are not united. Royal siblings Inan and Amari are now on opposite sides. Magic has spread to the military and the nobility, the traditional oppressors of the people.
Like its predecessor, Children of Virtue and Vengeance is driven by adolescent characters but is still engaging for adult audiences. However, it can be both endearing and exasperating to watch the teen protagonists engage in impulsive behaviour or inadequate decision-making.
Keeping up with the broad list of characters is challenging. Personalities we thought died in the previous book reappear to play prominent roles.
Spells, incantations and surreal events fill the story and there are myriad types of magic, magical people and colours of magic which can be bewildering. But reference to real places and Nigerian folklore traditions gives the novel a sense of realism.
Following in the success of a first novel can be a tall order. I rue the diminished presence of Tzain, Zelie’s loyal and level-headed brother who tempers the angry emotions that dominate this narrative. Prince Inan, so promising before, is not rising up to the occasion quite as well this time round.
In this fast-paced, explosive tale with short chapters, Adeyemi weaves a rich tapestry of Orishan culture, fashion, magical symbols, landscapes and temples. Its multi-faceted citizens reflect Africa’s diverse human heritage. Social class, unjust hierarchy and fragile friendships play out strongly in the plot.
Born to Nigerian immigrants in the US, Adeyemi grew up in a small, mostly white town and in more recent years has been disturbed by police violence meted out on African Americans.
Once again she has boosted the genre of African teen fantasy books, which are far and few between. Though not as thrilling as the first instalment, it is still exciting to journey through a complex and cultured African realm albeit a fictional one. The story ends with strong anticipation for the follow-up book.
One can easily imagine Children of Virtue and Vengeance being translated into a film. Adeyemi’s first novel, Children of Blood and Bones released in 2018, will be made into a movie by a division of Walt Disney Studios.
Source: The East African Press