That cover. That hair. That title. ALL THE HYPE! All totally worth it.
Enough is enough, and she’s not going to take it anymore! That “she” is Zélie, a girl born of dead magic that lives in poverty and fear of the King of Orïsha. Eleven years ago, on his command, the King of Orïsha destroyed her city and killed all those who had Diviner blood. The manifestation of these powers is in the early teen years, and as such, the children were spared since their powers haven’t, and won’t, develop. All Zélie remembers is not just that her mom died that day, but so did magic. Years later, Zélie’s still struggling to follow the rules even when it can get her into trouble, and boy does trouble follow her. Her instinct to do the right thing isn’t always the best, as she soon finds out when she rescues Princess Amari. Amari’s never stood up to her father, but she can’t stand to the side when her beloved servant and friend is killed by his command. She carries with her a scroll but not just any scroll, this one has the power to bring back magic. Together with Zélie’s brother, Tzain, the three set out to discover lost secrets, powers thought long dead, and most dangerous of all, magic. Amari and Zélie tell the story, with Prince Inan, Amari’s brother, lending a third and surprising voice to this rebellion. The story relies on the quest that is set upon them, the reward is immense and easily worth giving up a life. It had my heart pounding and head racing, something a book hasn’t managed to do in a while.
I am beyond simplifying this story because there is so much that happens. The action is non-stop, the world building is vivid and original (how many fantasy novels have you read set in West-Africa?), and the depth of the characters is phenomenal. I don’t think I’ve read a more conflicted character than that of Prince Inan. His surroundings shape his development and his beliefs change in such realistic responses to loyalty, family, and his personal experience, it’s hard to fault him at times. I am truly stumped as to how his role in the next book will play out. If you are wondering where Adeyemi gets her inspiration from for this epic story, look no further to her author’s notes and the parallels and struggles of Zélie and her people to those living and supporting the Black Lives Matter cause. It’s not often fantasy novels, especially YA, can show similarities between two seemingly different people, time and setting, but she does it with clarity. For those who know my addiction to audiobooks, it should be of no surprise that when I realized Bahni Turpin is the narrator, it was a no-brainer audio for me. BUT, I had a hard time with this audio, not because of Turpin, but just because. It was one of the harder audios I’ve listened to due to the similarities of names, accents, and changing POVs. I had to really, really concentrate and focus when a new one began. So much so it detracted from my overall enjoyment. That’s not to say you will have the same experience, but even for me, a seasoned audio and fantasy pro, it proved difficult. I will be reading the second one, but it will be the print version. Oh, and watching it on the big screen!