Review: Not Your Villain

Not Your VillainTitle: Not Your Villain
Author:  C.B. Lee
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Superhero
Pages: 307
Publisher: Duet Books
Availability: Available now!

Summary: Bells Broussard thought he had it made when his superpowers manifested early. Being a shapeshifter is awesome. He can change his hair whenever he wants, and if putting on a binder for the day is too much, he’s got it covered. But that was before he became the country’s most-wanted villain.

After discovering a massive cover-up by the Heroes’ League of Heroes, Bells and his friends Jess, Emma, and Abby set off on a secret mission to find the Resistance. Meanwhile, power-hungry former hero Captain Orion is on the loose with a dangerous serum that renders meta-humans powerless, and a new militarized robotic threat emerges. Everyone is in danger. Between college applications and crushing on his best friend, will Bells have time to take down a corrupt government? Sometimes, to do a hero’s job, you need to be a villain. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I’ve been looking forward to this book since the secod I finished the first book in the Sidekick Squad series, Not Your Sidekick (review here). As I’m sure you can tell, I loved Not Your Sidekick — Asian rep! Queer rep and romance! Adorable friendship! Wonderful superhero worldbuilding! It had everything. Not Your Villain builds on that and is a wonderful addition to the series.

Not Your Villain centers around another member of Jessica Tran’s friend group — Bells Broussard. The book starts a while before Not Your Sidekick does, with Bells going to superhero training in Aerial City. Training is challenging for a number of reason: He’s afraid of heights, for one thing, and he must keep his identity secret because of who he is and who his family is. But Bells has more potential than anyone, including himself, realizes. The story eventually catches up to the events of Not Your Sidekick, and when he’s framed as one of the most wanted villains around, his relationships and superhero abilities are tested.

The chronology of events in Not Your Villain definitely wasn’t what I expected, but I enjoyed the chance to learn more about the world and Bells through the flashbacks and flash-forwards. Bells is such a wonderful hero: He’s good-hearted and determined, his hair is ever-changing, and he comes from a family of activist farmers. That’s pretty darn cool.

There’s so much to love in Not Your Villain. If you haven’t read Not Your Sidekick, definitely go read that, and then move on to Not Your Villain. I can’t wait to read Not Your Backup, and I know it’ll be just as amazing as the first two books in this series. If you love superhero YA, this is absolutely a must-read.

Recommendation: Get it soon!

Black Panther Discussion Post

Marvel’s Black Panther was a highly anticipated movie and since it was released a little over a month ago has broke all sorts of box office records. Of course all of us saw the movie (some of us more than once) and like many others, we had to share our thoughts with each other. Check out our thoughts of Black Panther below. #WakandaForever

K. Imani: Favorite character? I know I’m struggling with choosing one because this beautiful ensemble cast just worked well with each other. All had their awesome moments and their strengths balanced each other out. But, if I had to choose I’d have to go with Shuri. I loved her smarts, I loved her enthusiasm, and I loved her relationship with her brother. She was just so cute and had one of the best lines in the film. My 10 year old niece loved her, so I’m hoping that young Black girls like my little niece can see how amazingly smart Shuri is and think about going into STEM fields.

Jessica: Who doesn’t love Shuri? But just to mix things up a little, I’m going to say Okoye. She delivers some of the funniest and badass lines of the movie. I mean, her introduction is her snarking on T’Challa for freezing in a fight. Her loyalty to Wakanda is clear-eyed and courageous, which I love. I’d want her on my side in any fight.

Crystal: I totally adored Shuri. She’s brilliant and hilarious. She is also someone who loves strongly and lifts others up. She’s an encourager, but also pokes at people too. They know she’s got their back, but she’s also cozy enough with people to tease them a bit. It’s hard to choose just one though. There were so many amazing characters.

Audrey: Definitely Shuri (for all the reasons you guys mentioned), but I also really loved Nakia. I was thrilled that her introduction was about saving other women (and a child soldier) because  I always love it in fiction when women get to rescue other women. (More of this, please!) She also was keenly aware of the fact that even though Wakanda had survived and prospered, there were so many others who hadn’t, and she wanted to use her privilege (and Wakanda’s) to help others.

Jessica: I think a lot of people online have made this observation already — Erik/Killmonger’s motives were legit, but Nakia truly had it all figured out. She set the tone for the movie and T’Challa’s growth. Like, T’Challa, pro-tip for life: Always listen to Nakia.

K. Imani: Glad that you should bring up Killmonger, Jessica because the question is #TeamKillmonger or no? Because he’s such a complicated antagonist. I can’t really call him a villain because I empathize with him so much. His comment to the museum worker that all those artifacts were stolen was so on point. I also like that he challenged T’Challa on Wakanda’s isolation and the fact that they have the power to help out the oppressed around the world. His methods, however, not so much. Also, his last line was a total stab to the heart for me.

K. Imani: To me this felt like the first feminist movie from Marvel. All the women in this movie had agency and we saw all of them using their strengths in different ways. They were fierce and feminine at the same time, and T’Challa really depended upon all of them. He listened to what they had to say and treated them as equals. Not to cross streams, but I felt Black Panther did a better job of being a feminist film than Wonder Woman because all the women owned their power and it didn’t come from the love from a man. What do you all think?

Jessica: I haven’t watched Wonder Woman (eep!), but I love how present, varied, and interesting all the women were in Black Panther. You’ve got Shuri, the meme-savvy, tech-savvy younger sister. Nakia, an activist, warrior, and hero in her own right who knows better than T’Challa what the future of Wakanda is. And then you have Okoye, who portrays strength and tradition, and isn’t afraid to take some know-it-all white guy down a peg. Plus, you can’t forget the regal and awesome Queen Ramonda. And I think it’s pretty safe to say that T’Challa is the great hero that he is because he spends time with all these incredible women who lead the way.

Crystal: I agree. The women were powerful and varied. The men were there, but they couldn’t have accomplished anything without the women at their sides. There were so many different women involved too. The power came from the panther goddess to begin with and of course there were the women warriors (Dora Milaje), but there was also Shuri, Nakia and even an elder tribe leader. These women had power and they were not afraid to use it.

Audrey: As much as I loved Wonder Woman, I am incredibly tired of the “one elite woman on a team of men” trope, even if she is the most powerful of all the men by far. There simply wasn’t enough time in that movie to give the Amazons any meaningful depth because Diana left the island so quickly and then got swallowed up by the World of Men (and 95% Men All The Time).

In contrast, Black Panther was populated with so many women with significant screen time that they weren’t reduced just to The One Woman on the Team. They held different and respected roles, had individual personalities and strengths, and made significant contributions to the plot in different ways.


Audrey: One of the other things I loved about the film was the costume design by Ruth E. Carter.So much thought and detail went into it, that even though I know very little about the traditional clothing the designs were based on, it was obvious to me that there were distinct tribes in Wakanda. And! The Dora Milaje wore armor that actually looked like it could function as armor. (And is gorgeous to boot.) What worldbuilding elements were your favorite?

Jessica: It’s so hard to choose. I’ll go with all the advanced tech integrated into society. That moment when whatever-his-face woke up after being patched up and wanders over to the window to see all of Wakanda in its high-tech, futuristic glory was pretty cool, visually speaking. Speaking of Wakanda being this incredible society — and now I’m going off on a tangent — but I do wonder about what Wakanda does about crime and punishment. Erik’s final line was so, so important and profound. But I did wonder if things could have been different. I like to imagine that Wakanda has managed to abolish prison/incarceration.

K. Imani: Oh the world-building! Aside for the storytelling, I think that might be what I love most about the movie. It was clear that BP team did their homework in their integration of the different tribes into creating Wakanda. I loved seeing how the diversity of Africa was represented in the tribes of Wakanda and how it truly felt like what an African country that wasn’t touched by colonialism would look like. For me, seeing African culture celebrated on screen made my heart explode with pride.

That’s just some of what we’ve had to say. What about you? Share your thoughts on Black Panther in the comments below.

Women’s History Month Spotlight: Tanuja Desai Hidier











Today we welcome Tanuja Desai Hidier to the blog to share about her writing and music.

Tell us a bit about your life as a writer. What drew you to writing and what has kept you writing?

Reading! I’ve turned to the pen since as far back as I could hold it, and savor, seep into, fall into, flip a page. I was around five when I wrote my first poems: “The Secret” (spoiler alert: it’s a feather) and “Nelly & Shelly” (the fascination with supertwins commenced early). I wrote mostly poems till my teens; I have boxloads of three-ring binders of them in my childhood home. Some of these poems had melodies too–were first songs, in a sense. As a child I also invented bands and singers: designed their album covers, wrote and recorded songs for them on my tape recorder, and had a whole index card system where I’d draw them on one side, and write their bios on the other.

Funnily, none of my singers were ever women of color (always women, though). In fact, I only realized in my 30s, maybe even 40s, that this was the same of my short story characters (and I was writing those from about six years old onwards too—a long time!).

Most likely because I’d never seen such heroes and heroines on bookshelves, TV screens, magazine pages (and street: my family was the first of our particular ‘brown’ in our town, and the first to immigrate from both sides of the family in the 60s).

Many years later—after eons of procrastination, distraction, and, mainly, self-doubt in terms of not only my ability to write a novel, but whether I even had a story to tell—one of the reasons I wrote Born Confused and protagonist Dimple Lala was to fill this hole on my childhood bookshelf with a South Asian American coming of age story. To create heroes and heroines who more closely resembled those  in my own life. My own home.

Born Confused is considered to be the first South Asian American YA novel, and recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. The sequel,  Bombay Blues, received the 2015 South Asia Book Award. Can you tell us more about them?

All those years ago, when I was writing Born Confused, I didn’t realize so consciously that it was the first South Asian American YA novel. I was just trying to tell my truth. Truths. But funny how when you do that you often stumble across the truths of others.

Born Confused is a book about a teen girl, her heart, her home, her camera, her cultures…and how they all ultimately harmonize when she stops seeing things as black and white, or even shades of grey, but rather as magnificently multidimensioned and (it’s true!)…rich in color.  Set largely in the context of New York City’s bhangra / Asian Underground club scene, the story follows Indian-American heroine Dimple Lala through a summer that turns her world on its head as she tries to bring together her cultures without falling apart in the process. The book takes its title from ABCD, or American Born Confused Desi, a term used to describe these second and third generation South Asians
who are supposedly “confused” about where their roots lie—and on one level is a journey towards clarity, turning that C for Confused into a C for Creative…which feels like it better describes the desis in my own life.

Born Confused is my exploration of ‘brown.’ And, many years after that, one of the reasons I wrote Bombay Blues—an exploration of ‘blue’—was to move beyond the skin. Set against the backdrop of Mumbai’s contemporary indie music and arts scene, this crossover/adult novel/sequel sees Dimple journey from New York to Bombay, and adolescence to adulthood, in a now globalized India…where she bumps against and blurs the boundaries between tradition and the modern, East and West, in a whole new way. It’s Dimple’s first experience of being brown among the brown, and her personal and artistic journey leads her to follow blue—the color, the mood, the music, on into the
wild blue yonder (that of her heart as well).

In the decade between novels—during which time I also became a mother to two daughters—I explored a few other book ideas. But in the end, I suppose I missed Dimple too much; I was wondering how and where she was, what she was up to… and knew the only answer to that question would be to write it. And Bombay, it became compellingly clear, was where I could find her.

Becoming a parent myself certainly crystallized my desire to learn this part of my own parents’ history better: the city of their courtship, of my mother and brother’s birth—yet a place American-born me barely knew. I longed to write my way towards this metropolis of myth and memory—and, hopefully, into it.

In the 15 years since you wrote Born Confused, have you seen change in the YA community?

Enormous changes! Some pretty wonderful happy beginnings are happening in the world today…which is heartening, given the difficulties of our time. For example, in the world of books…well, Dimple and I didn’t have a lot of on-page company back then. Today, the literary landscape is so different—wonderfully. Far more windows and mirrors (I look at my daughters’ bookshelves and—wow! On the desi front alone: Uma Krishnaswami, Marina Budhos, Mitali Perkins, Vivek Shraya, Padma Venkatraman, Nidhi Chanani. Nisha Sharma, SJ Sindu, Samira Ahmed, Sona Charaipotra, Pooja Makhijani, Sharbari Ahmed. To name a few!)

Back when I wrote Dimple, there was no #WeNeedDiverseBooks. No #OwnVoices. (No Twitter, either.) No community for this kind of amplification and fortification. (Thank gods we have access to it now.)

Until the readers. And then…FROCK! what a blessing. Thank you to the readers, the librarians, the teachers who have nurtured Dimple (and me! and us!) through all these years. For opening your own hearts and giving us a home. For letting us choose—and write— our heroes.

And, what a revelation: WE can be heroes!

And you know, during these fraught times, we also MUST be. Our diverse, universal stories are more important than ever. Stories can be such powerful peacemakers: slipping you into the shoes of another and showing you how to walk.



And: We can write things into being, too. Show the world not only as it is but how it could be. And show yourself how you can be, too.

Are you writing any YA right now or in the near future that you may talk about?

Born Confused is set in NYC and sequel Bombay Blues in Bombay/Mumbai…and I’ve often felt there should be a third part to Dimple
Lala’s story: the London book (my base for yeeears, and the beloved city from where where I wrote NYC and Bombay: a Portobello Road flat and Muswell Hill/SoHo cafs respectively). A sister city where every inch every moment you can have a multisensory experience of all the ways race, culture, art, music, diaspora, motherlands intersect. And where Asian culture is such a part of the main and sub cultures.

Funny I’ve never written about a place while in it…so maybe I’ll have to pitch home base elsewhere for that London book (and album!) to emerge…?

How are your books and music connected?

I write songs as well as fiction, and have made albums of original music connected to both my novels (‘booktracks’). When We Were Twins: songs based on Born Confused. And Bombay Spleen—songs connected to Bombay Blues. It was a natural progression for me to explore the stories in music (I was in a playing /gigging London band while writing Born Confused and had just been in one in NYC, too).

Bookwriting, songwriting: They are very much part of the same creative process for me: shining a light on the same story from different angles, and —sometimes more audibly, sometimes more visibly, sometimes in that deep humming writing silence–exploring the same questions.

And finally: What are you doing to celebrate Dimple Lala’s 15th anniversary?

Celebrating The We! Our communities, our storytellers, our culture-makers-and-shapers. With the DEEP BLUE SHE #Mutiny2Unity #MeToo #WeMix music video project—a year in the making (massive shoutout to editor Atom Fellows)—featuring 100+ artist/activists (including authors Marina Budhos; Gemma Weekes; Kat Beyer; Uma Krishnaswami; Elizabeth Acevedo; Cynthia Leitich-Smith; Paula Yoo; Sharbari Ahmed; Mitali Desai; Eliot Schrefer; Mira Kamdar; Nico Medina; Billy Merrell; Bill Konigsberg). In a way, Deep Blue She is my birthday promise to Dimple Lala: To keep celebrating the ‘skins’ we’re in, honoring our collective and individual voices. And it’s a thank you as well, to the communities I’m blessed to know and call home, for their dedication and determination to fight the good fight. To tell our stories. And be heard.

(And hopefully to offer support and concrete help so others can do so: all artist proceeds from sales of the remix at Bandcamp to charity.)

Please watch, share, and join the #MergrrrlMovement!

With thanks and love from me and Dimple.

Tanuja Desai Hidier is an author, singer-songwriter, and innovator of the ‘booktrack’ (albums of original songs to accompany her novels). Her first novel, Born Confused—considered to be the first ever South Asian American YA novel—recently turned 15. Born Confused has been hailed by Rolling Stone Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and Paste Magazine as one of the greatest YA novels of all time (on lists including such classics as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, Huckleberry Finn, and Little Women). Tanuja is the recipient of the 2015 South Asia Book Award (for her second novel, Bombay Blues), the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, and the London Writers/Waterstones Award, and her short stories have been included in numerous anthologies. Her most recent project— the DEEP BLUE SHE #Mutiny2Unity #MeToo #WeMix music video/PSA, based on a track from her second album, and featuring 100+ artist/activists (mostly women of color)—is now live. Outlook India calls it “The We Are The World of our times.” All artist proceeds from sales of the remix to charity. More info at:

Photo credit: Alicali Photo

Interview with Elsie Chapman – Along the Indigo

Everyone, please welcome Elsie Chapman to Rich in Color! Elsie’s new book, ALONG THE INDIGO, is out today, and we’re thrilled to have her here to talk about it:

The town of Glory is famous for two things: businesses that front for seedy, if not illegal, enterprises and the suicides that happen along the Indigo River. Marsden is desperate to escape the “bed-and-breakfast” where her mother works as a prostitute—and where her own fate has been decided—and she wants to give her little sister a better life. But escape means money, which leads Mars to skimming the bodies that show up along the Indigo River. It’s there that she runs into Jude, who has secrets of his own and whose brother’s suicide may be linked to Mars’s own sordid family history. As they grow closer, the two unearth secrets that could allow them to move forward . . . or chain them to the Indigo forever.

You can pick up a copy of ALONG THE INDIGO at Barnes & Noble and IndieBound. Now on to the interview!

I read an excerpt for ALONG THE INDIGO and was immediately captivated by Marsden. Tell us more about her, her family, and the skimming she does by the river.

I’m so happy to hear that! With Marsden, I wanted to portray her as this very normal teenager who happens to be surrounded by very strange circumstances. So like a lot of teens, she’s starting to think about what she wants for the future even as she’s also still figuring out who she is right now. But there’s a lot of baggage in her life that’s complicating things, with the mystery of her dad’s death still lingering, her mom being a prostitute, and how her family actually owns this tragic part of town known for being a place where people go to commit suicide.

Marsden’s also mixed—half Chinese, half white—and having to grow up in this very small, very white town where her family already has a bit of a tarnished reputation, she feels like an outcast. But of course it’s not as simple as just leaving, because she has a little sister, Wynn, and more than anything Marsden wants to keep her sheltered her from all the ugliness around them. A lot of the book is really about Marsden wanting to escape so many parts of her life—her family, her past, the town.

I’m intrigued—and a little spooked—by the Covert and its bloody history. What inspired you to create the Covert and the nearby town of Glory?

For Glory, it’s interesting to me that what some people find inviting in small towns others find inherently creepy. There are elements there can go either way and I love playing with that fine line. What if you actually don’t want every single person to know your family’s history? What if you want to go out for coffee without everyone else knowing you’re going for coffee? How hive mind thinking works is really interesting to me, too.

As for the covert, the idea for that started with this image that popped into my mind one day. It was of this teenage girl in this tree, standing there and looking down at this guy. I just knew she was protecting it from him. That image came before I had any idea for a theme or overall plot. I know it sounds super cheesy for an author to say that’s how they got an idea—“it all started with a dream”—but in this case, it’s more true than not!

Jude meets Marsden when he goes to the Covert to search for more information about his brother’s suicide. What are their first impressions of each other?

Jude and Marsden are each outcasts in their own way, but it’s also how they eventually connect with one another, and I wanted that mix of shared discomfort and recognition to come across in their first meeting. It’s almost a confrontation of sorts, the way they become friends, because they battle all the way. They hadn’t been looking to meet, but then they have to work together; they end up needing each other, when they’d meant to stay closed off.

What did you enjoy most about writing Marsden and Jude’s relationship?

I liked making them soften toward one another even as things get tougher around them and they have more and more things to fight off. Because like a lot of writers, I like putting characters through turmoil and having them change, and I like making them even hate and struggle against some of that change. There’s a satisfaction in and necessity to writing characters that go from A to B.

Did you have a central theme in mind when you were writing ALONG THE INDIGO? What do you hope readers will take away from the book?

I knew I wanted to write about a girl who felt simultaneously trapped and lost, but in the beginning, it really did feel more like a spark of an idea than the central theme that it eventually became. Ultimately I’d love for teen readers to read ALONG THE INDIGO and take away whatever they can relate to, whatever they might find a connection to and find enjoyment in. The ideas I write about might not be the same ones they gravitate to—I might be writing about Marsden trying to work out a sense of belonging and identity, but they might be drawn to Jude growing up with an abusive father.

You are an editor with Ellen Oh for the anthology A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS, which is out later this year. Can you tell us more about the anthology and your story in it?

I’m so happy about this anthology! It’s a collection of retellings of East and South Asian folktales and mythology retold by diasporic Asian authors. Coming up with this idea, Ellen and I knew right away we wanted something different, something that wasn’t in the marketplace yet in terms of YA anthologies, and also that we wanted to feature Asian authors. My retelling is “Bullet, Butterfly” which a futuristic take of the famous Chinese folktale “The Butterfly Lovers.” I wanted to explore its classic themes of fated love and family obligation in a war-torn setting, with gender-swapped characters.

What 2018 books by or about people of color or people from First/Native Nations are you looking forward to reading?

I’m going to be looking out for Sangu Mandanna’s A SPARK OF WHITE FIRE, which is described as a “multicultural YA space opera inspired by the Mahabharata.” It’s out in September and I’m excited! There’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING by Rebecca Roanhorse which was pitched as an “indigenous Mad Max: Fury Road” and I absolutely cannot wait to pick it up in June! And I’m looking forward to EVERYDAY PEOPLE: THE COLOR OF LIFE, which is an all PoC anthology of contemporary short fiction edited by Jennifer Baker. The author list is amazing, and it’s out in August!

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about ALONG THE INDIGO?

Just that I hope it finds its readers, and that there will be a lot of them! And that if even one teen can take something from it, or is uplifted or feels seen by it in some way, then I’ve done my job as an author.

Thank you so much for having me on Rich in Color!

Born and raised in western Canada and a graduate of UBC with a degree in English Literature, Elsie Chapman currently lives in Tokyo with her family. She writes books for kids and teens. Upcoming: ALONG THE INDIGO (March 20th, 2018), A THOUSAND BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS (June 26TH, 2018), ALL THE WAYS HOME (Spring 2019), HUNGRY HEARTS (Summer 2019), and more TBA!

You can reach Elsie on her website, Instagram, or Twitter.

Four books for the third Tuesday in March

We’ve got a great mix of books for you this week! Are any of them in your TBR pile? (BTW, keep your eye open for an interview with Elsie Chapman tomorrow!)

The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2) by Rin Chupeco
Sourcebooks Fire

In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she’s after revenge…

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.


Along the Indigo by Elsie Chapman
Amulet Books

The town of Glory is famous for two things: businesses that front for seedy, if not illegal, enterprises and the suicides that happen along the Indigo River. Marsden is desperate to escape the “bed-and-breakfast” where her mother works as a prostitute—and where her own fate has been decided—and she wants to give her little sister a better life. But escape means money, which leads Mars to skimming the bodies that show up along the Indigo River. It’s there that she runs into Jude, who has secrets of his own and whose brother’s suicide may be linked to Mars’s own sordid family history. As they grow closer, the two unearth secrets that could allow them to move forward . . . or chain them to the Indigo forever.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
Little, Brown Brooks for Young Readers

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone

Title: Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 525
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available Now

Summary: Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

Review: Tomi Adeyemi’s debut fantasy novel is Black Girl Magic – literally. Zélie is a beautiful Black girl who is finally able to tap into her magic and is goes on a journey to bring magic back to her country. Children of Blood and Bone is the Hero’s Journey novel with a Black protagonist, no with Black people and an Afrocentric bent, that I’ve been waiting for. This was another one of those reads where I had planned to read slowly over the course of a few days, but basically ended up staying up to the wee hours of the night, sleeping for a few hours, then finishing it before I did anything the next morning. I was so into Zélie ’s journey and that of Prince Inan that I couldn’t put the book down.

Based on the summary, I thought the novel would be told from just Zélie ’s POV, but in actuality it was from three different POV’s and I really loved it. Of course, since Zélie is the main protagonist we are with her more in the story, but we also get to be with Amari and Inan, the royal princess and prince of Orïsha. Amari and Zélie travel together while Inan chases them down. While Inan is the antagonist of the novel, I feel he is more of a foil to Zélie as he goes on a similar journey of the self as well. He and Zélie end up having a unique connection which created a wonderful connection that brought a unique tension to the story, forcing the two enemies to get to know each other. Their budding relationship was so compelling as I felt both had equal weight in the determination of whether magic would return to Orïsha based on their personal experiences with magic. The push and pull between them was more than just attraction as they also had a difference in beliefs and challenged each other. Despite Inan being a prince and Zélie being a resident of Orïsha, in their interactions they treated each other as equals, respecting each other’s agency and power. I also felt the same with Amari and Zélie ’s relationship, though their friendship did begin rocky, they eventually learn to trust and love each other and become like sisters. Zélie pushed Amari to become more than she ever thought she could be and Amari gave Zélie the support she needed as Zélie learned to harness and control her powers. Amari is the friend that every girl needs – the one that will fight for you if needed. I love their relationship and feel it’s a wonderful portrayal of the sisterhood that can be achieved between girls.

I would be a horrible reviewer if I did not point out the terrific world building Adeyemi created for Children of Blood and Bone. Adeyemi uses the Orisha gods and goddesses as the basis for the mythology and magic that is Zélie ’s world. Each of the gods and goddesses are revered by specific maji clans whose powers are a gift from the gods but also represent what each earthly element the god represents. I found this aspect of the novel fascinating and would love to know more about what life was like before all the maji were killed, but the wonderful part of the book is that I know the journey Zélie is on will be a rebuilding of that world (to a certain extent). As Zélie goes on her journey the world of Orïsha comes to life, my favorite being the temple at Chandomble, a former community of maji who were massacred by the king, but one persons survived. The way Adeyemi describes the buildings, the lifestyle of the community really bring home how cruel the king was and brings home the magnitude of the loss of the maji. I could imagine this beautiful temple that had a thriving community full of families living in buildings filled with amazing murals everywhere of the gods and goddesses. It was details such as these that transported me to Orisha that I wish I could really go there. So many beautiful descriptions of the people, the land, the culture made me feel with Zélie and her fight to have her world righted again.

Like I said earlier, I couldn’t put Children of Blood and Bone down. I was so captivated by the world Adeyemi created, captured by Zélie, Amari, and Inan’s stories & their growth, and the magic that Adeyemi created, that I was sad when I finished the book. I wasn’t quite ready to leave Zélie’s world just yet, but I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel. Go get this book, you won’t be disappointed.