Children of Blood and Bone is a newly released novel that is being touted as the biggest fantasy debut of 2018. Within the story are elements of magic, royalty and the family power struggles that come with it, along with a fantastical world of wonder, all crafted by author Tomi Adeyemi.
The 24-year-old Nigerian-American’s first fiction novel is already drawing comparisons from Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones to “Black Panther but with magic.” With all the critical acclaim and rave reviews, Adeyemi has also scored the biggest book deal in history, as well as a movie deal worth seven figures.
Adeyemi’s novel follows Zélie, the daughter of a fisherman, who is sent on a quest to restore magic to her culture. Adeyemi’s love of her Nigerian roots is heavily present in the novel, as characters wear Nigerian fashion, visit Nigerian places and cities, and is saturated in Nigerian culture and folklore. On Good Morning America, she said that while teaching in Brazil, she started working on the book and learned a lot about Nigerian mythology and incorporated as a central part of her book.
Adeyemi also said she was inspired by social movements like Black Lives Matter, as well as the daily struggles of life within the Black community, describing her story as an “allegory of the modern black experience.”
“Every moment of violence in the book is based on real footage,” she told The Guardian, referencing a scene where Zélie is attacked by a guard, which was inspired by the video of a police officer pushing a 15-year-old Dajerria Becton to the ground at a pool party in Texas. However, Adeyemi wanted to show a side of black representation that the community often does not get.
Adeyemi studied literature at Harvard, then received a fellowship to study in Brazil. It was there that she was inspired to write her book, after researching and educating herself in West African mythology and culture. “I was in a gift shop there, and the African gods and goddesses were depicted in such a beautiful and sacred way …it really made me think about all the beautiful images we never see featuring black people,” she said.
Indeed, it seems that Adeyemi wants to change the narrative of a white-dominated genre to include positive and non-stereotypical characters of color and the only way to do that is to do it herself. She points to instances when fans of these genres get upset over a person of color character shows up. “That does make my blood boil — the idea that it’s totally fine to have a queen of the dragons, but you can’t possibly have a black person,” Adeyemi says.
Realizing that her story’s success relies on how and who presents it, Adeyemi insists on having a black director for the big screen adaptation. “It’s a deeply, deeply personal thing – there are parts of the book that black people get instantly because they’ve lived it,” she explains. However, she warns that Children of Blood and Bone, the first in her trilogy, is not a cure-all for race relations and should not be viewed as such.
“We can’t Obama this, where we have a black president, so suddenly racism is cured, and then eight years later, Nazis are marching and people start saying, ‘Maybe we have a race problem’. Our books aren’t there to magically fix publishing but maybe they’ll start the changes moving so that in six months we’ll have even more great stories, where we see ourselves and are heard.”
If you haven’t yet, Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone is available now at Amazon.com.