Review: Children of Virtue and Vengeance

*** 3.5 out of 5 stars!

WHY I CHOSE IT: I read the first installment in Tomi Adeyemi’s trilogy about a year ago so this sequel was highly anticipated. Although I didn’t love the first book, the world Adeyemi created was interesting and I was keen to find out what happened to the characters after a dramatic ending…

THE PLOT: The trilogy is set in the land of Orisha, where magic has been suppressed since King Saran’s raid. The King hates magic and the Magi who wield these special powers are hunted and killed. However, the Magi’s children, Diviners, live on as second class citizens in the kingdom. The trilogy follows young diviner, Zelie, and her attempts to bring magic back to Orisha with the help of her brother Tzain and King Saran’s children Amari and Inan. The first book ended with the Magi’s powers restored, but everything did not go to plan. Now, some of the normal citizens, Koisidan (think muggles), have powers too. Nicknamed Titan’s, they don’t know how to wield these strange powers and can’t control their magic. Nevertheless, this doesn’t stop the monarchy enlisting Titans in their fight against the Magi. As wars rage for control of the kingdom, the Magi clans come together and realise the King and monarchy never really hated magic – they hated the Magi for who they are, and the threat they represent.

MY RATING: My score of 3.5 might seem harsh because I enjoyed this novel. However, given that I’ve read a lot of great books lately, I didn’t think it was good enough to warrant a 4. The plot hangs together well enough but there are some moments which don’t seem to fit into the landscape and time scales, such as Zelie and Roen’s weird trip to swim in the sea and the distance between Orisha and Lagos. These small details didn’t seem to fit together and took me out of the world that Adeyemi created. I also wished the battle tactics had been more strategic, which would have made more sense leading up to some of the dramatic face-off’s between the Magi and the Monarchy.

My main criticism is about the character development of Amari and Inan. This sequel doesn’t seem to stay true to the characters in the first book as they go backwards in their ideas of right and wrong. Amari’s love interest, Tzain, could have been a stronger pull for her to explore any lingering conflicting feelings but he barely gets any “screentime” in the book. I also don’t understand why Inan can’t use his powers, as he is ostensibly the first Titan I would’ve expected him to be in control of his dreamscapes and develop his powers further. And, while writing about characters, I was a bit confused by the Zelie – Roen love story subplot. Was this in the first book? Is it just convenient? I didn’t buy it and I won’t ship it. Sorry, Zelie and Inan all the way!

Finally, I found it difficult to keep up with the leaders of each of the Magi clans. I wish there had been more information and backstory about each of them, so we could fall in love with these secondary characters. I feel like we never truly got to know them, so we didn’t care as much about their entanglements and fate as the novel progressed. I feel like Adeyemi could’ve used the techniques from Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, both of which get us interested in Houses by giving rich details of their founders and additional characteristics of each house. This could’ve been skillfully applied to the Magi clans to add more detail about not just their leaders, but their predecessors. I also think this would have helped with the world-building.

Overall, a solid YA fantasy building on some key tropes with an original setting. However, I feel like there’s so much potential in Orisha and this story, so it could’ve been richer with backstories, complex characters and well thought through rules about the magical world (and how long it takes to travel by cheetanaire vs boats etc.!).