Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
Author: Tomi Adeyemi | Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
“On earth, Sky Mother created humans, her children of blood and bone. In the heavens she gave birth to the gods and goddesses. Each would come to embody a different fragment of her soul.”
Wow. Wowowow. This is exactly the kind of exciting, beautiful, diverse, badass fantasy novel I want in my life. It kept me humming and hawing about what was going to happen, and the ending was so well done — the perfect amount of excitement, heartbreak, answers, and new mysteries.
Zélie is a devîner, aka someone who has the genetics to become a magi. The magi are people who can wield one of the gods’ powers — things like fire, water, healing, and (in Zélie’s mother’s case), death.
“Courage does not always roar. Valor does not always shine.”
When Zélie was a child, the king severed the magis’ connection to the gods, stopped magic, and executed every single one. He left their children (the devîners) alive. They’re marked by their white hair and treated pretty much like vermin by the rest of the population.
One day Zélie is in the capital attempting to sell a valuable fish to pay her family’s bills when Amari, the princess, crashes into her. Amari had stolen a magical scroll from the king — a scroll that has the power to bring back magic. They flee and, joined by Zélie’s brother, begin a journey to restore magic permanently. All the while, they’re being chased by Amari’s brother, Inan. He’s the prince, the captain of the guard … and a new devîner?
If you liked Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor, you’ll love this book. (And if you loved this book, you’ll love Who Fears Death.) So much strength, beauty, and power flow through the women at the center of both books.
The story really dives into the themes of oppression and discrimination, of course. But I loved the way Adeyemi made the central characters polar opposites in terms of their place in society — devîner vs royal children of the oppressor. It opened up a lot of opportunities to examine the extent to which we can have empathy for one another’s experiences. That worked both ways: Amari and Inan could never understand Zélie and her struggles, but Zélie couldn’t understand them and their struggles, either. This tension was really, really well done.
I can’t wait for the next one of these books to come out in a few months.