Review: Children of Virtue and Vengeance

If you’re a long-time follower of this blog, you’ll know that Children of Blood and Bone was one of my favourite reads of all time, so of course I could not have been more excited about the sequel. Naturally, I pre-ordered the special signed edition from Waterstones with the blue sprayed edges, because we all know I’m a sucker for a sprayed edge. Due to a backlog in my TBR, I only just got around to reading it despite its release in December. This is my review!

CAUTION: This review contains spoilers for BOTH Children of Blood and Bone and Children of Virtue and Vengeance.

I will start with a disclaimer that, in my opinion, this book is not as good as the first one. It is a good book and I enjoyed reading it, but the first one left very big shoes to fill. As the old adage goes, the sequel is never quite as good as the original.

This book starts where CBB (Children of Blood and Bone) leaves off – magic has been restored to the world, so what will that mean for our dear POV characters and the people of Orïsha?

I think the exploration of that question is my favourite part of this book. It’s fascinating to see all the new powers that we didn’t get to see in the first book, and the political (and personal) tension that arises from their restoration. The latter makes up the bulk of the plot, with the monarchy and the maji constantly at each other’s throats.

We meet a whole new host of characters in this book, as our MCs encounter a group of rebel maji known as the Iyika. Now that their magic has returned, they aim to fight back against the monarchy that has been terrorising maji and divîners for years.

I think my biggest issue with this book was that it introduced loads of these new characters all at the same time, so I found it really difficult to keep track of all their different names, powers, and personalities. This made it really difficult to connect with the characters, and as a result some emotional moments in the story didn’t have quite the impact they should have had.

I spent a lot of time wishing there was some sort of directory at the front of the book with all the new characters (like it has with the maji clans) so I could flip back and check when I forgot who someone was (which was often). All these new characters were really cool and interesting; I just wish we had gotten more time to get to know them before they were thrust into action.

As for our beloved characters from CBB, this book held a lot of changes for them. We got to see more of the flirtation between Zélie and Roën and how it blossoms into a sort-of relationship. When Zélie realises that Inan is still alive, we get some juicy love triangle conflict for a while. I am firmly on Team Roën now, largely for the fact that he doesn’t pretend to always be doing the right thing. He does bad things and he owns them, whereas Inan always tries to do the right thing and fails almost every time, but still somehow feels righteous. Do better, Inan.

Another issue I had was that a lot of the main characters from the first book started behaving in ways that did not match how they were previously characterised. In particular, Zélie and Amari’s friendship was, in my opinion, the best relationship in the first book by a mile, and they sadly spent most of this second book avoiding each other or being outright nasty to each other. I understand why this needed to happen for plot reasons but I feel like it wasn’t executed in quite the right way for it to feel justified.

Out of the main characters from book one, I think the most true-to-character arc belongs to Inan, who continues to experience a lot of inner turmoil and conflict as he did throughout book one. He is constantly trying to do the right thing, but he has people telling him drastically different versions of what that is, and he never quite figures it out for himself. He is spineless, but reliably so.

I think, as a result of the strange behaviour from some of our characters, the pacing was thrown off as well. Because it was hard to connect with some of the characters, or understand why they felt the way they did in a given moment, parts of the plot and the decisions they made didn’t make a lot of sense. It reminded me of Daenerys’ sudden descent into madness in GoT season 8. Like, the foundation for that was there, but we just suddenly went from 0 to 100 on it really fast.

We see this in Amari’s decision in Ibadan (going from trying to avoid violence at all costs to being willing to massacre an entire village including her best friend in order to win the war), and in Zélie’s very sudden allegiance to the Iyika (going from “I don’t know any of these people; I’m so disconnected from my culture” to “I would die for these people; they are my family” very quickly, with virtually no relationship building in between to explain the sudden change in mindset).

I think these issues stem from the fact that, according to the notes at the end of the book, Tomi had to cut about 200 pages from the original manuscript, and I imagine a lot of the connection we were supposed to build with the new characters, and the inner workings of our MCs minds, were in those 200 pages.

I know that ‘perfect is the enemy of done’ and all that, but Book One was pretty darn close to perfect. The release of Children of Virtue and Vengeance was already delayed but I think it could have done with an extra six months or so of tweaking to make it live up to its full potential and the standard set by Book One – and I would have been more than happy to wait that extra time.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book even if it didn’t quite live up to the hype of the first one. I am excited to see how the story ends in the as-yet untitled Book Three. Despite some issues in this second book, this series is still a favourite of mine. My biggest hope is that I can one day meet Tomi and get the whole trilogy signed – one day, maybe, at a future YALC or other book con. Keeping my fingers crossed until that day!

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