It’s all I can do not to scream. I dig my nails into the marula oak of my staff and squeeze to keep from fidgeting. Beads of sweat drip down my back but I can’t tell if it’s from dawn’s early heat or from the slamming beat of my heart against my chest.’
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.
Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy.
What I thought:
The first thing to say is the language in this book is beautiful and very emotive. On one level this can be seen as a pure epic fantasy book about trying to bring magic back which has not only been outlawed but literally disappeared overnight. But deeper than that lies a story of racism and oppression. All the magic users, or people who would have used magic had it not disappeared can be easily seen with their white hair and are 3rd class citizens.
The setting of a fictional Africa gives what could have been a ‘normal’ epic fantasy different twist. It also makes the backstory of genocide and oppression have more depth and feel even more uncomfortable as the imagery hits so close to home (which of course is the point). The magi have been constantly beaten down and have had not only their rights stripped away but also their ability to protect themselves.
Zélie starts as an angry young woman, she hates the fact that she is seen as less than everyone else due to the fact she should be able to control magic. She wants to not only bring magic back but also to punish those who took it away and see’s the royal family as the worst of the worst. Her accidental rescue of the princess (who is running away from home) puts her in an awkward position because the royals are no longer an abstract concept and the fact that Amari outwardly said that her best friend was her servant who was killed by the king because of her being a magi, even if she can’t use magic. Zélie, Tzanin (her brother) and Amari go on the run from everyone trying to hurt them and fall into the idea of bringing back magic. They are chased by Inan (Amari’s brother) who is not only struggling with the idea of magic but is also desperate to being his sister back home. Somehow a bond forms between Zélie and Inan where they can talk to each other in the their dreams which makes the opposite side even closer and more real for the pair of them as they are forced to talk to each other.
Amari is originally a very shy character who slowly comes out of her shell throughout the book as she is able to do more and has her freedom. She falls in love with the idea of magic and is desperate to bring it back. This is a direct comparison to Zélie who learns to grow scared of what will happen if they bring magic back as well as the pressure of her people’s future weighing on her. Zélie is very pessimistic at not only her chances of completing this mission from the gods but also at how the magi are going to react if they regain this power. She herself knows how much hate they have and the depth of it. The two girls balance each other out really well and are both strong characters with the same aim but are also very different people.
Why I read it:
This was one that twitter was going mad about and I knew that I was going to get at some point. I had gone into Waterstones to pick up a couple of pre-orders and the manager pretty much forced this one on me, knowing what I like and that I would love it. I was going to wait a bit longer to get it but they had a limited edition copy with red pages and that small detail made me get it there and then. I decided to read it over the Easter Readathon and to help distract me from the fact I had just lost my job.
I really enjoyed this epic YA fantasy. It finished on one hell of a cliff hanger and I can’t wait for book two. The language and the imagery used is stunning and hard hitting, Zélie remembers vividly the image of her mother’s blood all over the walls of their hut and that helps to feed her hatred of the royals. I’m really glad I read this one! It’s also in pre-production for a film and when it finally comes out I’ll be there. Imagine the excitement over Black Panther but for a YA fantasy with an all black cast!
Would I recommend: YES. If fantasy is your thing this is a book I would definitely suggest you pick up. There are parts that are difficult to read due to the subject matter but this is one book that sticks with you.
I’m aware that I was planning on writing more but I started my new job this week, so far everything going well and while we continue to have good weather I’m going to spend my lunch break sitting in the park reading.
As always please let me know what you think of my blog and of the book, if you’ve read it or if you want to. It really does mean a lot to me!
P.S The next book is Esio Trot (and I lied, there is one more Roald Dahl after this. Sorry)