TOMI ADEYEMI | PANMACMILLAN | Pages 404 | Soft cover | Rs 450
By Ganesh Saili
For those who live in a post-Potterised world, it comes as no surprise that Tomi Adeyemi’s first book Children of Blood and Bone sees a young author make it to The New York Times bestseller list. And that’s where the book has been for over a year and a half. If you were to look at any ‘best book’ list, you find it popping up. And while we are at it, its worth mentioning that Disney has optioned it for a movie.
Very rarely do you come across a twenty-six-year-old Nigerian-American author who happens to be a creative writing coach, takes the plunge. Children of Virtue and Vengeance is her second book, part of Adeyemi’s fantasy trilogy, which was part of a reported seven-figure deal that the Harvard graduate signed in 2017. The film rights for her first book, Children of Blood and Bone were acquired by Fox 2000 before the book’s was released.
She speaks of how the past three years have changed her life irrevocably. She has drawn up a list of what would be her dream cast for the forthcoming movie and what she hopes her young readers come to understand about the world through her books.
In the new American order, minorities with a different (read darker) skin tone feel threatened and isolated. Writing becomes self-therapy when ordinary folks are being shot, being assaulted, being harassed or being lynched.
Somehow, her second novel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance was pushed back from its release date of March 2019 to June 2019, and then on to December 2019. Apparently, her publisher offered her two choices: June 2019 or December 2019, but she chose the former so that readers would not have to wait. Maybe the workload was too much. You find that the author, editors, and publisher agreed to give the second book more time. And extra time seems to have done the trick.
In this young adult fantasy, a girl fights to bring back to her people the world of magic. So, Children of Virtue and Vengeance comes as a sequel where the heroine, Zélie, finds success in her quest to bring magic back to her people, the Maji, in the land of Orïsha. But the nobility and the military now have powerful magic, too. And as Time goes by, one realizes that one tends to underestimate the power of institutions. But the establishment is old and powerful because it was set up a long time ago by very rich and powerful people, who seem to have set their minds to is to neuter you, sort of take your right to expression away, to cut you off at the roots. In such murky waters, strife looms large.
After battling the impossible, Zélie and her ally Amari — a runaway princess, join the rebellion, and finally succeeded in bringing back magic. But the ritual was more powerful than they could have ever imagined. It sets aflame not only the Maji, but the nobles with their ancestry of magic too. As Zelie unites the Maji, she reaches breaking point. Can she? Or can’t she? While the question becomes: Now what? And how will their personal traumas play out in a world where the entire system is loaded against you. There’s the Maji Clans: Iku Clan holds the Maji of Life and Death; the Emi Clan knows the Maji of Mind and Spirit and Dreams; Afefe Clan worships Ayao for the Maji of Air and the Imole Clan know the Maji of Darkness and Light.
And the wrestling is not always external. The fight is centripetal; the fight is always within as you try to figure out who you really are? What are you struggling with? What is it you seek? Is what you’ve got, what you really want? And after the battle royal, are you still on the same page? It’s about how complicated the thing is — especially when you dip into star-crossed love. You can focus on getting magic, but then you’ll see that magic was never the problem.
Oftener than not, it’s the rainbows of the mind that lend colour to life.