Zelie (Zel) lives in Orisha where the non magical king has made it his mission to eradicate the Maji or magical people and he does so by murder. Zel’s mother was one of the fallen and Zel was born a diviner-magical child of fallen maji. Amari, the king’s daughter, is indifferent until an event forces her to take action against the king. She meets Zel and her brother Tzain, and they set off on a journey to restore magic back to the maji before it is gone forever.
Ooo, this book is dense! Breathe…Breathe…Of We Go…
The book opens with Zel training with Mama Agba, a woman who runs a shop that makes clothes but is really a front for training diviners. Zel is sparring with Yemi in order to graduate when the king’s army bursts in and demands a tax payment. All the girls run to their sewing machines while Mama explains that she paid her taxes. The soldier tells her that she getting taxed again because she employs diviners. Zel complains that it isn’t fair and the soldiers see her and threaten her and leave. Zel’s brother Tzain runs it and said their father is in trouble. They go find their father and see he’s almost drowning. He’s saved and tells them the army wanted tax money and if he didn’t pay, they would take Zel as an indentured servant. He was fishing to get money. Zel and Tzain take the fish to the market to sell.
Amari is at the castle when her diviner maid is replaced. Amari is worried that her father found some jewelry she gave her maid to pay the tax increase and goes snooping. She overhears her father and his two top soldiers talking about a maji scroll. The soldiers, including Kaea the king’s lover, tell the king that the scroll they tried to destroy made it to Warri and the diviners gained some of their magic back. They tried to destroy the scroll 11 years ago but they couldn’t so they threw it into a body of water. When they found the scroll in Warri, they killed all the diviners and recovered it. The king wanted to see it’s power so he made Amari’s maid hold it and she got some powers and he killed her. They put it in the king’s office but Amari stole it and ran away because of her maid.
While in the market, Zel was about to sell her special fish to a worker in the castle when chaos brakes out and people started running everywhere. A girl asks for Zel’s help and being the Gryffindor that she is, she helps her try to get out. The girl is Amari and as they try to escape, they are met with the king’s army including Inan, Amari’s brother and the crowned prince. Zel and Amari jump on Nailah, Zel’s horse sized panther or lion (?), and Amari hits Inan while the scroll is in her hand but they escape.
11 years proir, the maji killed King Saran’s father, his first wife, and his 1st born son. Saran found a way to sever the connection between god and maki. He called the raid as revenge. Inan and Amari know this and this is Inan’s justification for ridding the world of magic. Also, magic begins to show when diviners turn 13.
Zel, Tzain, and Amari return to Zel’s home to find their father at Mama Agba’s. The royals have started bombing their villiage as Zel tells Agba about the scroll. The trio learns that the scroll is a ritual and a way to connect to the Gods. Agba tells Zel that she was a maji but she had a Healer/Cancer Maji give her cancer to make all her white hair fall out. Agba is a Seer and she tells the trio that she sees them traveling to Chandomble-the temple of the protectors of magic and spiritual order. Kaea tells Inan to kill everyone in the villiage but Inan wants a more humane resolution. Inan begins to have visions of the trio, especially Zel, and he thinks Zel infected him. He can hear Zel’s thoughts and a white streak has begun to grow in his hair. He doesn’t tell Kaea. We find out that Inan is a connector who weilds power over mind, spirit, and dreams.
The trio travel on Nailah to the temple knowing Inan is chasing them. They find the temple and enter thru a statue and are immediately poisoned. They are met by a sentaro named Lekan.
Here is the history of the world:
On earth, Nana Buruku created humans, her children of blood and bone. In the heavens Nana gave birth to the gods and goddesses. Each god and goddess posses a different fragment of her soul. To connect the gods and humans, she gave some of the magic to humans and each human has a diety. One diety, Oya the goddesses of Life and Death, didn’t take from Nana like her siblings; she asked Nana/Sky Mother to give which showed patience and wisdom. Nana/Sky mother gave her power over life and death. Oya realized that great power could be abused so she only granted the power to those who showed patience and wisdom. These special people have coiled white hair like Nana Buruku. Soon, the other dieties granted powers to a selected few and the maji population dwindled.
Here’s the plot of book 1 (I took this word from word from chapter 18):
The trio have to take three artifacts to a sacred island. The bone dagger is a sacred relic carved from the skeleton of the first sentaro. The dagger is needed to draw the binding blood from the mamalawo who keeps magic alive. Whoever wields it draws strength from the life force of all those who have wielded it before. The sunstone is a living fragment of Sky Mother’s soul. When holding the stone, you tether her to the world keeping magic alive. Every century, the mamalawo carried the scroll, the dagger, and the stone to a sacred temple to perform the binding ritual. By drawing her blood with the dagger and using the power impbued into the stone, the mamalawo sealted the spiritual connection of the gods into the sentaros’ blood. The mamalawo must say the words on the scroll to complete the ritual. As long as the bloodline survives, magic does too.
What happened 11 years prior when magic died:
King Saran knew of this ritual, came to the temple and killed everyone thus severing Sky Mother’s connection and ripping magic from the world. This ensured that the ritual could not be performed ever again. Lekan was away on a pilgramage that day and returned to a slaughter and the last sentaro alive. As Saran was killing everyone at the temple, he ordered his army to kill all the maji in Orisha.
Back to the plot:
Although the scroll brings back magic it cannot make a permanent connection the trio has to perfrom the sacred ritual. They have the scroll and the now the dagger, which they got from Lekan, they have to find the sunstone. On the centennial solstice, a sacred island appears off the northern coast of the Orinion Sea and is home to the temple of the gods. The trio must take the three artifacts to the temple and recite the ancient incantation on the scroll to restore the connection and secure magic for another hundred years. They have less than two weeks (?) to get the stone and get to the island. Only a woman can be a mamalawo so Lekan cannot perform the ritual. He endoctrinates Zel to be the mamalawo.
Back to the story:
After Lekan’s ritual with Zel to be the mamalawo, they hear Inan and flee but have to cross a rickety bridge. Lekan holds off Inan and Kaea with magic to give the trio a headstart but when he has to break his hold on Inan and Kaea to save Zel, Kaea kills Lekan. The bridge is uncrossable so Inan calls in the troops to rebuild buying our trio a headstart. Inan dreams about Zel and finds out her location. Kaea notices that Inan hesitates to kill or call his dad. She notices his white hair and tries to convince him to go home and tell his father. He tries to reason and stop her with magic but he accidently kills her which leaves blue crystals in her hair.
The trio travel to Ibeji and discover a fighting ring. The winners win the Babaluaye relic that grants eternal life. The trio finds out that the relic is the sunstone. The trio enters the competition and Zel discovers she can use her magic to conjure an army of dead soldiers from all the spirits of the dead maji who have not passed over. During the competition, Zel uses all her energy repairing their boat. The trio wins and everyone thinks Zel is immortal.
As the trio celebrates the victory and the fact that they have all three relics, Inan catches up to them. Tzain and Amari are taken by masked people leaving Zel and Inan. They capture one masked man but in the tussle Inan sees Zel’s mother’s capture and feels her pain. They torture the masked man for info. They find their camp and see Amari and Tzain. Inan and Zel agree to call a truce to rescue their family.
The camp questions Amari but don’t believe her because she’s royal. Their leader is Zu, a 12 year old, and while they are captured; Zu turns 13 and gets her power especially because of the scroll. Zu is a healer and heals Tzain. Zel and Inan plan to use her dead army to resuce Amari and Tzain but Kwame has the scroll and can conjure fire. Inan almost sacrifices himself to save Zel when Kwame attacks. They almost kill each other but Zu stops them because they shouldn’t fight each other. The camp of diviners are from Warri where the scroll was found. Everyone celebrates and Zel meets a flirtatous man named Roen. Zel and Inan go off into the woods and make out. Tzain is upset because once again, Zel’s carelessness is a detriment to others. They have a big fight and Tzain leaves the camp with Amari. The king’s guards arrive and Zu and Kwame die saving their camp.
Zel is captured by the king and holds her in a majicite cell, a metal that supresses magic. Inan tries to reason with his father to no avail. Inan is taken away as the king carves MAGGOT into Zel’s back. Maggot is a slur for the maji and the worst name you can call them. Inan does not confess his maji-ness and does nothing to stop his father.
Tzain and Amari go to a nearby tavern to find his diviner friends and ask them for help. They agree to help rescue Zel. Tzain’s friends create a diversion during the rescue attempt. One of the diviners melts the guard’s blades. Another diviner, a cancer, leaks sliver liquid that causes diseases when it touches skin. The king sees Amari. Inan sees all the destruction caused by the diviners and begins to agree with his father that magic is bad and should be abolished. He goes to Zel’s cell and when Amari and Tzain rescue her, Inan stays behind. Inan and Zel have goodbye sex in their shared dreams. After the rescue, Zel realizes that her magic is gone and she only tells Amari.
How it ends:
The trio and Tzain’s friends travel to Jimenta because they are running out of time to get to the island and need a short cut. Jimenta is a rough place but they need their boat. They send Zel to ask the ruthless leader for help and it is Roen. In exchange for their boat and their help, Zel promises them gold and jobs in the palace when it’s all over. They agree. While sailing the the island, Zaria, they see the king’s armada. They need to overtake a ship to outrun the king and Roen’s men over take one in an impressive 7 minutes. They dress like the guards to get passed the king who has surrounded the island. When they get to the island, they are met by the King, Inan and Zel and Tzain’s father Baba who has been taken as ransom. The king will exchange their father for the scroll and the stone and Zel agrees because her magic is gone. She gives them the two relics but she never told Inan about the dagger and she keeps it. The king kills Baba anyway. When her father’s blood touches her, it restores her magic. She becomes angry about her father’s death and begins to turn people into ash. Inan grabs the scroll with a plan to end magic. He baits Zel to hurt him and she burns the scroll, he is happy. He sees his father coming with the stone and he sees a “guard” ready to kill the king and he uses his magic to stop the guard. The king sees the blue crystals in the guard’s hair and realizes Inan killed Kaea. The king comes after Inan and tries to stab him. Inan begs for his life as his father says, “You are no son of mine.” Inan blacks out.
In Amari’s chapter, she sees the king stab Inan in the stomach. Amari kills the king.
During all the chaos, the solstice has begun. The scroll has burned but she takes the stone in hopes she can save it. She cuts her hand and touches the stone to bind her blood and her father’s blood. The souls speak the incantation through Zel. The sandstone shatters and light invades Zel’s body. As it fades, Zel sees truth in plain sight and hidden all along. “We are children of blood and bone. All instruments of vengeance and virtue.” “It binds me its love as death swallws me into its grasp.” Zel sees her mother. Her mother tells her what she did at the temple is unlike anything the spirits have ever seen. She tells Zel that she will always be with her but tells her she has to go because Orisha needs her. She tells Zel that it’s not over; it’s only just begun. Zel wakes up on the boat with Tzain, Amari, and Roen. She asks if magic is back and Amari shakes her head and hold up her hand. Her hand swirls with blue lights and she has a white streak of hair. Zel’s blood chills to ice.