Tomi Adeyemi. I rewrote the first couple sentences of this post several times. I wasn't quite sure I had the words for the journey this book took me on. Highs and lows and then high again. I normally struggle with fantasy books, but this one was a breeze because so much of the subject matter -- classism, racism, poverty, and corruption -- parallels the problems and struggles of modern society.
Leading up to publication, this was a book that was heavily hyped. My first experience with this book was a cover story in Publishers Weekly. I saw that striking and cover, and thought "Now that's a cover!" I didn't need to know what the book was about, the cover had me at hello!
Orisha was once a land full of magic -- literally and figuratively. The maji of Orisha possessed all kinds of power, from healing to controlling fire. But King Saran feared their power, choosing to target the maji for death. Throughout Orisha, the maji were murdered at the behest of the king. The mother of our main character, Zeile, was one of the king's targets. Wiping out magic forced those who were left into submission to the monarchy. Wiping out magic wiped out an entire culture and language. Wiping out magic wiped out hope. But there are some, like Zeile, who fight back in secret. Zeile is defiant and strong. Her brother, Tzain, wishes she wasn't, as Zeile's mouth and behavior often get her into trouble. But now trouble will find her.
Amari grew up the privileged daughter of King Saran. She doesn't know about the struggles of others outside the palace walls. But she does know about her father's ruthless streak. He often makes Amari and her brother, Inan, fight each other -- almost to death. Inan is very much like his father, willing to kill if it serves his purpose. But, unlike her family, Amari does have a heart. She's willing to try and save her best friend, even if it makes Amari the next target of her father's rage.
Fate brings Zeile, Amari, and Tzain together. Fate, or more aptly put the gods of Orisha, has selected these three to bring back magic. Their quest is filled with adventure, danger, friendship, and heartache. Inan is hot on their trail, not only to stop them but also to keep his own secrets from coming to light.
For me this book was almost perfect. I say almost because there was one thing that I felt dragged the book down....ROMANCE!!! This book had a lot going for it until the YA trope I hate the most reared it's ugly head. I'm all for romance if it's organic to the story. And for me the romance was NOT organic to the story, in fact it felt completely unnecessary. It came out of left field for me. Two character who spend SOOOOOOOOOO much of the book hating each other suddenly have feelings for each other. Why? Why? Why? Why? The romance also ends up being central to the latter half of the book. But....putting that aside I still enjoyed the book. The ending confused me slightly but still left me wanting more. It's a long wait until book #2!