After reading Children of Blood and Bone, I was excited to get the next book in the series from the library; however, Children of Virtue and Vengeance sets a completely different tone as the characters try to figure out “now what?” after the ritual went awry. The descriptions of magic are still wondrous, and the most enjoyable part of the book is seeing the characters figure out how to grow and share their powers. At the same time, they seem stuck in their opinions, which make some of the chapters feel circular in repeating the same interactions over and over. Whereas the first book focused on justice, this book focused on power. The story did pick up after the midway point, and I read quickly through the pages to find out who ended up in control of the country of Orisha, but the ending was even more unexpected and unsettling than the first book. I hope the third book in the series is closer to the first book than the second.
I read this book while on a trip to visit Ohio, where we went on some amazing hikes. I imagined the characters trekking through the forest covered in rocks and tall trees like Hocking Hills until they found the city of magi. True to form, I even brought the book to read whenever we took a break!
Two of the main characters – Zelie and Amari – were often at odds in the first book, but they grew to appreciate each other and grew close like sisters. Due to the events at the end of that book and how Zelie perceived she was betrayed, now they can barely be around each other for more than ten minutes without disagreeing about how to proceed in fighting the monarchy. Before, Amari believed in Zelie’s powers and ability. Zelie believed in Amari’s role to lead. Children of Virtue and Vengeance gets frustrating with how they start to distrust each other and think they each have different motives…over and over.
The chapters feel like waves in that their emotions and relationship are warm and then angry, almost always because of each other. In the first book, they were like children who grew up and accepted the responsibility of bringing magic to the world without entirely knowing what would happen next. Then, in this second book, they seem like young adults fresh into the world with knowledge and skills, but they are plagued by doubt, insecurity, and fear.
Despite this book having many more characters than the first book, Tzain is relegated to just being Amari’s supportive boyfriend with no real voice of his own, which is disappointing. At the same time, Amari’s mother emerges as an interesting character. A lot of new elders and maji are introduced, and I would have enjoyed to see them develop in dialogue and personality more so than read about another fight between Zelie and Amari.
Throughout the book, I felt a sense of dread. Zelie, Amari, and Tzain had found a safe haven in the forest that sounded beautiful, but I knew it could not last. Zelie knew that too as her worries seem to hang heavy in almost every chapter. Whereas the tactical maneuvering of armies on the two sides were gripping, no clear message of “who is right” seemed to be decided. The monarchy was torn in two viewpoints: (1) trying to achieve peace and communication with the new maji, versus (2) destroy the maji. The side of the maji were divided in two as well: (1) Zelie wanted to destroy the monarchy in power, versus (2) Amari who wanted to try to communicate with them to see if a peace could be worked out. Amari believed in her ability to rule a peaceful Orisha, but Zelie seemed to keep her thoughts on the best ruler to herself. Sometimes she seemed to think maybe she would be a better ruler, and sometimes she inched towards abolishing the monarchy altogether.
Overall, I enjoyed the descriptions of moments of curiosity and learning of magic. The first book was full of promise, and the second felt like it was full of dread. Especially knowing the inspiration for the series, this change in tone makes sense, but I can’t help wishing the characters would communicate more with each other. This would make them seem more complex rather than ruled by single emotions throughout most of the book. I am still looking forward to reading the third book, and I want to know where the characters area headed.