Before talking about the text, can we just acknowledge how beautiful this cover is ? The artwork is just stunning. Now, the book itself : wow. I’ve read a lot of fantasy in my life and this is one of the best so far. Tomi Adeyemi did a wonderful job at world building and character development.
It all start with Zélie, a teenager who lives in Orïsha, a kingdom situated where Lagos is (roughly). Zélie is a divîner, that is, someone with the potential to have magic powers and become a maji. Sadly, the world she lives in as been ripped from its magic by a vengeful and hateful king. She is sent on a quest by unexpected forces. Although Zélie is central to the narrative, she is not the only one who has a voice in the novel. Three main characters share their narrative point of view : Zélie, Inan the king’s son, and Amari, the king’s daughter. Between the three of them, the readers has access to most of the kingdom and its realities, which is very helpful to better understand the politics at play in Orïsha.
Through Zélie, we get the side of the maji. Her powers are coming back slowly, and with it, the burden of saving a people from extinction. She has a lifetime of pain with her, something that fuels her, but also nourishes her fear. She makes for an interesting and most importantly, powerful heroine. Through Amari, we get the reformed oppressor. She is the princess who left everything behind after discovering that her father, the King, is more a monster than the maji ever were. She is kind but fierce, loving and smart. She sees the evil and refuses to bow to it for one more second. (One of my favourite character if you ask me). And finally, through Inan, we get the submissive prince who want to please his father. Full of inherited hatred, Inan wants to eradicate magic at all cost. He hates Zélie more than anything.
(Spoiler) If you love an enemies-to-lovers arc, you’ll enjoy this novel. Love and hate, trust and betrayals are all intertwined and coexist in a way that shapes the narrative. It fuels the characters development, and puts a strong emphasis on the power of feelings and their value.
I don’t want to spoil any more of the story, this is why I’ll stop talking specifics here. Overall, the novel is well-written, well-paced, and the world building is truly remarkable. You enter the book and its universe and everything makes sense, even the magic. That’s how well it is done.
But what really really really pushed me to buy this book when it first came out (ok, it took me a long time to finally crack the spine of this one from lack of time), is its social commentary. The novel is clearly reminiscent of our reality. The divîners are oppressed not unlike Black people are even today. The novel is both a rehumanization (or should I say a plea to see something that is already true and has always been) and a call to action. It’s powerful and empowering and forces one to ask oneself: what can I do to make the world better ?
Definitely one of the best books out there!
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