I am a sucker for a good fantasy novel, and this series had everything that I wanted: love, betrayal, friendship, family, loyalty, MAGIC. This series is so much more than your typical fantasy novels though. At the end of the day, the Legacy of Orisha series by Tomi Adeyemi is an allegory for oppression and institutional racism.
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.
Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.
Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.
After battling the impossible, Zélie and Amari have finally succeeded in bringing magic back to the land of Orïsha. But the ritual was more powerful than they could’ve imagined, reigniting the powers of not only the maji, but of nobles with magic ancestry, too.
Now, Zélie struggles to unite the maji in an Orïsha where the enemy is just as powerful as they are. But when the monarchy and military unite to keep control of Orïsha, Zélie must fight to secure Amari's right to the throne and protect the new maji from the monarchy's wrath.
With civil war looming on the horizon, Zélie finds herself at a breaking point: she must discover a way to bring the kingdom together or watch as Orïsha tears itself apart.
First, I want to state that both of these novels are Young Adult Fiction. These aren't literary masterpieces. Both books can come off a little cliched and hokey at times and the plots themselves have a lot of parallels with some of the better known YA fantasy novels such as The Hunger Games series. And they're looooooooooooong. Over 500 pages each, which is uncommon in YA Fiction. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed them and am anxiously awaiting the final book in the series.
As I stated above, in addition to the magic and action of fantasy novels, the Legacy of Orisha series is an allegory for institutional racism and oppression. The magi, who are all Black, are feared by those who do not have magic. So, in response to that fear, they are oppressed, murdered, and enslaved. The magi have to fight for equality and the right to embrace the history and culture that has been stolen from them. While the theme may not be as fleshed out and deep as one might expect out of an adult novel, I think it's perfect for YA. The parallels between the novels and the real world are obvious enough for the reader to notice but they are incorporated seamlessly into the action and mysticism. As a parent or teacher, these books would be a wonderful opportunity for deep discussions and teachable moments.
Whether you plan to read these by yourself or with you child, these books are just plain FUN. If you're looking for a page turner with an important underlying message, you are going to love this series.