American YA author Tomi Adeyemi talks to us about the follow-up to her bestselling fantasy début, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, and shares an exclusive extract from the book.
What can readers expect from Children of Virtue and Vengeance?
Readers should ready themselves for another epic adventure that they can get lost in. But because Children of Virtue and Vengeance is a sequel, we get to go deeper. Deeper into the world of Orïsha, into the magic and the maji clans, into the characters you’ve grown to love, deeper into everything! I am immensely grateful to every single person who has supported me and Children of Blood and Bone, so it was important for me to give the readers everything I had for Book 2. I hope they’ll find the things they loved about Children of Blood and Bone, while enjoying an exciting continuation of Zélie and Amari’s story.
Can you share any of the new elements or characters that we can look forward to in this book?
There are a lot of new characters that I had fun with in Children of Virtue and Vengeance, but I think the one people will look forward to the most is Roën. There is a lot more Roën in Book 2, and he always lights up the page!
Children of Blood and Bone was your début book and it went on to be a bestseller. Did you expect that kind of response? What was the best feedback you got?
I didn’t expect this response! I didn’t even know this kind of response was possible. I knew Children of Blood and Bone had a chance at being a #1 New York Times Best Seller, but I didn’t expect it to stay a best seller for 88 weeks.
The best feedback I get is whenever a reader posts a video of them after finishing the book with this blank stare like, “What am I supposed to do now?” Knowing I’ve given someone a book hangover makes me feel good.
What’s happening with the film adaptation of Children of Blood and Bone? How involved have you been with that process?
The film adaptation is currently being developed by Disney’s Fox/LucasFilms and it could not be in more capable and passionate hands. I’m fortunate to say that I’ve had nothing but incredible encounters and creative discussions with every person who’s bringing this story to life. The process is moving along with passion and purpose and I couldn’t be more excited to continue the journey.
What can you tell us about the final volume in the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy?
That it may be really really long...I know more or less what happens. What I don’t know is if that’ll end up being 500 pages, 600 pages, 700 pages, or worse. The one thing I do know is that I’m going to take my time! I’m committed to enjoying my last adventure with these characters, and ending this series with a BANG.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance will be published by Macmillan Children's Books on 3rd December 2019. Read an exclusive extract from the book below...
Chapter One - Zélie
I try not to think of him.
But when I do, I hear the tides.
Baba was with me the first time I heard them.
The first time I felt them.
They called out to me like a lullaby, leading us away from the forest path and toward the sea. The ocean breeze ruffled the loose coils in my hair. Rays of sun spilled through the thinning leaves.
I didn’t know what we would find. What strange wonder that lullaby would hold. I just knew I had to get to it. It was like the tides held a missing piece of my soul.
When we finally saw it, my small hand slipped out of Baba’s. My mouth fell open with awe. There was magic in that water.
The first magic I’d felt since the king’s men killed Mama.
“Zélie rọra o,” Baba called as I drifted toward the tides. I flinched when the seafoam washed over my toes. The lakes in Ibadan were always so cold. But that water was warm like the smell of Mama’s rice. As warm as the glow of her smile. Baba followed me in and lifted his head to the sky.
It was like he could taste the sun.
In that moment he grabbed my hand; laced his bandaged fingers between mine and stared into my eyes. It was then that I knew, even if Mama was gone, we still had each other.
We could survive.
But now . . .
I open my eyes to the cold, gray sky; to the howling ocean crashing against Jimeta’s rocky bluffs. I can’t stay in the past.
I can’t keep my father alive.
The ritual that cost Baba his life haunts me as I prepare to lay him to rest. My heart hangs with all the pain he endured; every sacrifice he made so that I could bring magic back.
“It’s okay.” My older brother Tzain stands by my side and offers me his hand. A shadow of a beard wraps around his dark brown skin; the new hair almost masks how tight his clenched jaw truly is.
He squeezes his palm against mine as the gentle mist transforms to a pelting rain. The downpour chills us to the bone. It’s like even the gods can’t help but mourn.
I’m sorry, I think to Baba’s spirit, wishing I could say it to his face. As we pull on the rope keeping his casket tethered to Jimeta’s rocky coast, I wonder why I thought burying one parent would prepare me to bury the next. My hands still shake with all the things left unsaid. My throat burns from the screams I force into silent tears. I try to keep it all inside as I reach for the jar filled with the last of our burial oil.
“Be careful,” Tzain warns as the tremor in my hand makes drops of oil spill over the jar’s rim. After three weeks of bartering to get enough to soak Baba’s casket, the rippling liquid feels more precious than gold. Its sharp smell burns my nostrils as I pour the last of it onto our burial torch. Tears stream down Tzain’s face when he strikes the flint. With no time to waste, I prepare the words of the ìbùkún—a special blessing a Reaper must pass to the dead.
“From the gods comes the gift of life,” I whisper the Yoruba. “To the gods, that gift must be returned.” The incantation sounds strange on my lips. Until a few weeks ago, no Reaper had the magic to perform an ìbùkún for eleven years. “Béèni ààyé tàbí ikú kò le yà wá. Béèni ayè tàbí òrun kò le sin wá nítorí èyin lè ngbé inú ù mi. Èyin la ó máa rí—”
The moment magic breathes under my skin, I can’t find my voice. The purple light of my ashê glows around my hands, the divine power that fuels our sacred gifts. I haven’t felt its heat since the ritual that brought magic back to Orïsha. Since Baba’s spirit tore through my veins.
I stumble back as magic bubbles inside me. My legs go numb. Magic shackles me to my past, dragging me under despite how hard I pull—
“No!” The shout echoes against the ritual walls. My body slams into the stone floor. A thud sounds as Baba follows, stiff as a board.
I move to protect him, but his eyes are frozen open in an empty glaze. An arrowhead sticks through his chest.
Blood soaks through his ripped tunic—
“Zél, watch it!”
Tzain dives forward, reaching for the torch as it falls from my hand.
He’s quick, but not quick enough. The flame extinguishes the moment the torch falls into the thrashing tides.
He struggles to light the torch again, but the fire won’t catch. I flinch as he chucks the useless wood into the sand.
“What’re we supposed to do now?”
I hang my head, wishing I had an answer. With the kingdom in chaos, getting more oil could take weeks. Between the riots and food shortages, it’s hard enough to secure a measly bag of rice.
Guilt cages me like a casket, trapping me in a tomb of my own mistakes. Maybe it’s a sign I don’t deserve to bury Baba.
Not when I’m the reason he’s dead.
“Sorry,” Tzain sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.
“Don’t be sorry.” My throat closes up. “This is all my fault.”
“If I had never touched that scroll . . . if I’d never found out about that ritual—”
“This isn’t on you,” Tzain says. “Baba gave his life so you could bring magic back.”
That’s the problem, I hug myself. I wanted magic back to keep Baba safe. All it did was send him to an early grave. What use are these powers if I can’t protect the people I love?
What good is magic if I can’t bring Baba back to life?
“If you don’t stop blaming yourself, you’ll never stop, and I need you to stop.” Tzain grabs both my shoulders, and in his gaze, I see the brown eyes of my father; eyes that forgive even when they shouldn’t. “It’s you and me now. We’re all we’ve got.”
I exhale and wipe my tears as Tzain pulls me into a hug. Even soaking wet, his embrace is still warm. He rubs his fingers up and down my spine the way Baba used to when he wrapped me in his arms.
I look back to Baba’s casket floating in the ocean, waiting for a fire that will never come. “If we can’t burn him—”
“Wait!” Amari calls from behind. She sprints down the iron ramp of the warship that’s been our home since the sacred ritual. Her soaked, white tunic is a far cry from the ornate geles and gowns she wore when she was Orïsha’s princess. It clings to her oak brown skin as she meets us at the thrashing tides.
“Here.” Amari hands Tzain a rusted torch from the captain’s quarters and a fresh jar of oil taken from her own meager ration.
“What about the ship?” Tzain frowns.
“We’ll survive.” Amari passes me the torch and my eyes linger on the new streak of white hair pasted to her cheek from the rain. A sign of the new magic that lives in her blood. A harsh reminder of the hundreds of nobles across Orïsha who now possess streaks and magic like hers.
I turn away before she can see my pain. My stomach clenches at the constant reminder of the ritual that gave Amari her gift and the boy who broke my heart.
“Ready?” Tzain asks, and I nod although it isn’t true. This time when he strikes the flint, I lower the torch to the rope. It catches in an instant.
I brace myself as the line of fire races down the rope’s oil-soaked cords, shooting toward Baba’s casket. My hand grips my chest the moment he goes up in flames. Reds and oranges blaze bright against the gray horizon.
“Títí di òdí kejì.” Tzain bows his head, whispering the sacrament. I clench my teeth and do the same.
Títí di òdí kejì.
Until the other side.
Speaking the sacrament aloud brings me right back to Mama’s burial. To watching her corpse go up in flames. As the prayer passes, I think of all those who might rest with her in alâfia. Everyone who died so that we could bring magic back.
Lekan, the sêntaro who sacrificed himself to awaken my gift. My friends, Zulaikha and Salim, murdered when the monarchy attacked our festival.
Mama Agba, the Seer who spent her life watching over me and the other Ilorin divîners.
Inan, the prince I believed I loved.
Títí di òdí kejì, I think to their spirits. A reminder to carry on. Our battle isn’t over.
If anything, it’s just begun.