Almost three years ago the world was introduced to the world of Orïsha, where divîners have been oppressed for nothing more than possessing magic. To the rulers of Orïsha, that was more than enough to treat those possessing magic like maggots. But for the rest of us, the divîners included, it was not.
Stripped of their magic for decades, the divîners had been forced to bear the brunt of much scorn from the nobles of Orïsha. But when that magic returned, they knew exactly where to strike first.
Like my other review, I’m going to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. I want you to dive in if you haven’t already. I was not crazy about having to wait this long for the book, but it was well worth the wait. Once I finished the book, I wanted more and then I realized the sad, sad truth:
There’s only one book left!
This book picks up on a different tone than that of the first book. The pages of the book seemed to be thrumming with the sound of imaginary battle drums. It’s about to go down in this book and everybody knows it. Zélie, my hero, has faced many trials and much heartbreak and loss to get where she is. This is the only spoiler I will give: She brought magic back to Orïsha.
Knowing just how much this was opposed in the first book, you already are understanding that this will be a fight to the bitter end. With the title of this book being Children of Virtue and Vengeance, it’s hard not to draw those lines. The gifted children of Orïsha want what was taken from them and they will not stop until they get it.
Zélie, normally battle ready, is struggling. Having dealt a heavy blow in order to bring back magic, she’s not sure if she should ever use it again. Over the course of the book, we see her grapple with the consequences of her journey. Not just mentally, but physically. She develops tattoos and markings over her body. Her once silky, bone straight hair becomes lush, voluminous, and kinky (yes, that is her on the cover!). Tribulation after tribulation happens and she’s trying to understand what’s happening externally and internally and, like most teens, she wants to give in to the pressure to give up.
But, I know this girl and I knew this wouldn’t be it for her and sure enough, just as Mama Agba told her many moons ago, she knows when to fight. When she is finally called to take a stand and finish what she started, she does not back down.
We do still have our main set of characters: Zélie, Inan, Tzain, and Amari. Zelie still has her trusty Lionaire, Nylah, who is low-key my favorite in the book. (What can I say, I love animals and Nylah is as loyal as they come). We also see many old supporting characters return and meet some new ones. These new characters bring life to the title and are the hands beating the imaginary drums I heard while reading this book.
This book is not as thick as the first one, so there were times that I felt its pacing was off. The story made complete sense, but sometimes I felt like it was going just a little too fast. I really wanted to savor this book the way I did the first, but, alas, I did not slake my thirst. Tomi Adeyemi merely whetted my appetite. Granted, the feeling that the book was going a little too fast could also have been because I read the book within a few days of picking it up from the store…
Just as before, the book’s story is as alluring as its cover. Having brought magic back, Zélie also get the kinks back in her hair. And that look in her eye on the cover? Oh, you know she’s coming for blood. But just as much as you see the war brewing in her eyes, you can also see the apprehension. You can see the doubt. And you can also see the pain. She is tired of the nobles and their nonsense and wants to end it all. She teams up with some unexpected allies and they get to work.
Zélie has to contend with what is wrong and what is right more often than she has ever had to before. Given the stakes, she doesn’t always have time to grieve those decisions either. Much responsibility is placed on her shoulders, much that she isn’t sure that she wants or can handle. And having the fates of all the other divîners and those she loves and cares for in the mix does not help. She faces much in the way of adversity from those she expected to be closest to her and at times it’s hard to understand who is really fighting for the best cause.
Speaking of those closest to her, they are her biggest tests. And I guess that’s the way it goes, right? You tend to assume your loved ones are unconditionally on your side, so you focus your attention on what you think you can change. As Zélie learns, that may not be the case and she has to maintain her focus on all fronts.
This book does an amazing job of mirroring our society as a whole. Yes, the book is drenched in the fantasy genre, but the underlying themes cannot be ignored. There are moments while reading this book when you think “That’s something that should change how the nobles feel and act.” While it is the right emotion to feel, the nobles go in a completely opposite direction and I couldn’t help but feel my heart surge with righteous indignation.
How can anyone be so callous and still believe they are right?
This is a question that plagues our society in our present day and it is part of the reason why this book series is so incredibly important to me. Aside from how amazingly well-written it is in terms of plot and character development (some more or less than others), it does a great job of initiating those thought-provoking moments and reflecting issues that we experience on a daily basis. Representation matters and Adeyemi does a great job of not only allowing us to experience an African-based fantasy genre, but also of recognizing the plight that many minorities and impoverished citizens experience all over the world.
The New York Times says, “Poses thought-provoking questions about race, class, and authority that hold up a warning mirror to our own society.”
The Atlantic says, “Adeyemi taps into a rich imaginative lineage as she weaves West African mythology into a bespoke world that resonates with our own.”
These are some of the best quotes to rightfully describe this series. I said it before, “There was a tug at my heartstrings every time I read about an injustice in this book and could place it within my own world.” That did not change this time around and only time will tell how this will play out in the resolution in the final book. Will it continue to be a warning, as NYT has claimed? Or will we get an answer of what can be if everyone comes together as one?
I would give this book a 5 out of 5. Sincerely! While it did seem just a tad bit rushed, I still could not get enough of the imagery, the plot, the characters, the tragedy, the wins, the emotions, the metaphorsㅡeverything! And the other thing I loved about this book? While the romance was there, the main story did not take a back seat to it, which is what tends to happen in so many sequels in the young adult fantasy genre. I was fearful that Adeyemi would fall prey to this, but she unflinchingly treads new land and shows us a side to all of the characters. She makes it more about what they’re fighting for and their own personal struggles more than any romantic subplot. This I absolutely LOVE because, realistically, these people are on the verge of war. They are scared. They are angry. There are so many more emotions that exist besides romantic ones, and I’m very pleased that Adeyemi explored those sides of the characters. Having said that, she does not neglect to highlight that people will cling to love in the face of adversity and that makes these characters all the more relatable to me.
I had more invested into this book and, for obvious reasons, I’m biased (see above), so I can see why you might not want to take my word for how utterly amazing this series is. But, I beg of you, if you have not already, go find out for yourself. This is a book that needs to be read. Its story needs to be heard. This series is easily becoming one of my favorites. I was so happy to revisit Orïsha. This book is so much more than I could have ever expected it to be. Following up a strong debut with a sequel as powerful as this is hard, but Adeyemi does it with ease and panache. The way she ended the book begs so many questions.
And I cannot wait for them to be answered.
I originally wrote this piece shortly after the release of the second book, but for many reasons (mostly COVID), it never got published, so here we are. The conclusion to the trilogy was originally slated to be released in 2021, but, again, things happen and here we are.