This is one of those books that comes along once in a blue moon. A story so well developed, written, and executed that it makes you want to buy every copy just so you can give them out to everyone you know. This is one of those books that, when you finish, makes you sit back and digest what you just read. Then you play the entire thing over in your head just so you can commit it to long term memory so you can always remember the exact order of events. This is one of those books that makes you wonder where the author has been hiding all of these years and why she hasn’t written anything before.
Forgive the pun but everything about this story was just magical. The tale Adeyemi was able to weave was masterfully done. I could have sworn I was reading a book by a heavily seasoned writer, not her debut. It was a wonderfully complex story about family, history, staying true to oneself, following your destiny, being strong, and so much more. This is going to be another review I struggle to write because this story was just so damn good. The arc was 600 pages and slightly intimidating but once I started I found I couldn’t stop. I had to know what was going to happen.
No doubt you already know the premise of this story – a magical West-African inspired adventure sent in a land called Orisha. A small group of people are born known as Diviners. Everyone knows who they are as they are born with stark-white hair. Back in the day Diviners used to belong to one of twelve tribes of magic, but that all changed the day magic disappeared. The tide starts to turn for the Diviners and they will no longer be treated like lower class people because there is a way for them to get their magic back thanks to the Zelie. She is tasked by the Gods to bring magic back to everyone. Can she do it?
While this was a purely fiction YA fantasy story, it did feel like Adeyemi pulled themes from modern day into her story: racism, prejudice, injustice, and more. The Diviners were able to live in freedom but were certainly hunted and treated worse than those not born with the mark of the Gods (white hair). Every Diviner that was living had lived through the genocide ordered by the current King, Zel will never forget that as she lost her mother at that time. To read how oppressed the Diviners were and how unfairly they were treated turned my stomach. It also gave me pause to reflect on our current times and how we might think that type of treatment has gone away, it has not.
There are four POVs in this story: Zel, her brother Tzain, Princess Amara, and Amara’s brother, the Crowned Prince Inan. These were wonderfully complex characters that were painfully flawed. They all had their own monstrous demons to battle while trying to figure out how they fit into the world. They developed so well as the story continued and were different people by the time the book ended. I feel honored to have been a part of their journey. I am excited to continue their adventures in book 2 (which I need yesterday).
I really cannot say it enough – there was not a dull moment in this story. It was non-stop adventure. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time simply wanting…. nah, needing to know what happened. I had to know if Zel was able to bring magic back to the Diviners and she recognize her true place in the people. I am always hesitant to read books with this much hype because I often find myself not seeing what everyone else saw. That isn’t true for this one, again, the hype is real and very much deserved. There are so, so many powerful and necessary topics covered in the best way possible. Adeyemi deserves all of the celebration that comes with this story because she earned it. I do not know how I am going to make it until next year to find out what happens but I’ll have to find a way.
If you have read this, let me know your thoughts. Did you enjoy it? Do you recommend it to everyone? I know I certainly do.