3.5 out of 5 stars
Stubbornness and carnage.
In Children of Virtue and Vengeance, the war for Orisha rages. The abused, disenfranchised maji have had their magic restored, and they plan to use it to avenge their year of hardship at the hands of the king. But restoring their magic had a surprising consequence: It gave that magic to a great many other people too. People unbound by the maji’s laws; people willing and able to wield magic with a power the maji never knew existed.
It gets confusing. I had trouble following who had what kind of magic, and who and why they hated. Those who always despised magic because they didn’t have it? Well, they have it now, and they love it, but they still hate it, and want to kill all the maji. They woke up one morning to find themselves exactly like their enemies – and stayed enemies anyway. It’s an allegory for equality, for a failure to see all people as people. I just didn’t think it was that well done. That point is drowned out by too much else going on.
Zelie, who brought magic back to the world to save her people, must face the consequence that her action may lead to their ultimate downfall. She lets it turn her heart to the hate she once fought against, balanced on the knife’s edge of turning bad in her single-mindedness. The maturity she had in the first book is lost in her anger, and it reduces her to a less multi-dimensional character than she originally was.
Inan, who did the “right” thing (clearly wrong) and learned to late, is still trying to be good. He has half of Zelie’s backbone and twice her self-awareness, but maintains the maturity he showed in the first book. He is the more sympathetic of the two in this installment.
Then there’s Amari, who sided with Zelie’s rebellion against her own royal family, and would be queen of Orisha if they could get her on the throne. I listened to the first book, and the narrator made Amari a total whiner. Amari improved greatly in this second book, both in character and because I read it instead of listened. Her determination that she deserves queenship remains off-putting. But she gains humility as she learns from mistakes, faces challenges and takes on a new role – one more powerful, important, and much more terrible, than what she felt entitled to before.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. But the lesson is a bit lost in the action, which is a bit too messy. And like the first book, my connection to the characters was a bit too weak – especially as Zelie became someone to almost root against, though she wanted what the reader was supposed to want as well.