Blood Scion by Deborah Falaye is a fantasy novel which explores colonialist themes, drawing from Yoruba legends and mythologies. The story portrays Sloane struggling to hide her identity while fighting for the very people who would kill her: the Lucis. Sloane must go through mandatory recruitment training known to either kill or break you, in order to thwart them. The world of Blood Scion is rich with magic and lore; the use of African mythology sets it apart from other mythology based books. It is far more frequent to find books with Greek gods or even Norse gods but African gods are untapped source material. It was enjoyable to read a new mythos, being unfamiliar with Yoruba mythology. YA needs more diversity in its titles and this felt like a great example of what new authors should strive for.
I was pleasantly surprised by the worldbuilding in this book. The war between the surviving decendants of the Orisha and the Lucis set the backdrop for the entire plot to unfold. Scions are descendants of the ancient Orisha gods; Sloane being a descendant of Shango, possesses fire áse (fire magic). It was different to see characters who use their hands to perform magic, unlike books such as Harry Potter which uses wands and Percy Jackson which has “enhanced abilities.” Magic systems not limited by magic aids (wands) or ancestry, were refreshing to see, as these overused tropes often dilute the impact of universal themes. It was also interesting to have Sloane’s magic be physically painful for her to keep in and not expend. Magical powers are often written as gifts with no negative effects to the user, but this book depicts magic as a painful burden. The magic systems therefore end up contributing to the theme of oppression and colonialism the book explores; Scions and Yorubas have to hide who they are in order to avoid persecution. Sounds familiar doesn't it?
One part of this book that was advertised by the publisher was an enemies to lovers relationship. On this, the book did not really deliver. There wasn’t enough groundwork to make the relationship between Sloane and Dane (a Lucis officer in charge of her squad) seem anything but sudden. If we saw them fight more, or heard more of Sloane’s inner thoughts regarding Dane, perhaps it would have been more natural. The book gives little indication that Dane has a romantic interest in her. Additionally, Sloane mentioned little about liking Dane. There were a few instances where she felt, what I interpreted to be, a confused sort of interest. Aside from that, there was nothing that made me scream into the pages of my book, “just kiss already!” There wasn’t enough chemistry between the two characters, making the romantic plot feel forced. Once they did get together, there wasn’t enough interaction for Dane to seem important. It felt like their relationship was only formed to make Sloane more hurt and rageful when he ultimately stabbed her in the back.
Blood Scion draws very clear lines between hero and monster. The idea of either/or is always present in Sloane’s mind; she is committing acts that make her a monster,surrounded by Lucis soldiers who she considers to be monsters. She can’t lose her humanity, she can’t let the Lucis break her otherwise she will become the monster. In the beginning of the novel, Sloane saw herself as a victim, nothing more. She had only ever known her people as hunted and killed, not those with strength and power. When Sloane was drafted, her arc turned from her self-identification as a hero, to realizing that she is the monster that she was trying to avoid. You do not see Sloane come to the realization of an in-between, existing with her fire power but also her humanity. She always thinks in terms of one or the other: hero or monster. Though this arc makes sense, it would have worked better if she were kept morally gray. With the new trend of making famous villains more ambiguous (think Maleficent), perhaps Falaye was trying to be more original. However, I feel as though this hard line between hero and monster hinders the depth of Sloane’s character arc. Realizing that her áse is a gift she can use to fight for her people’s freedom is inherently heroic, but knowing that her fire kills and leaves scars (physical and emotional) is inherently villainous. The combination of the two makes a morally gray character, yet Falaye is so set to establish that this is not an option. By the end, Sloane is consumed by her fire, fed by rage and a thirst for revenge. She chose the path of a monster and chose to forget the humanity she once held dearly.
The book ends on a vicious cliffhanger that absolutely baffled me (spoilers ahead). I must admit, the intricate nature of the novel’s familial ties forced me to draw out a family tree, but it was shocking nonetheless. The reveal of Sloane’s father was shocking but his hostile takeover of the Lucis was even more so. His wish to persecute his own people did not make sense within the theme of colonialism. He should be fighting for the freedom of people like him, but instead he decides to kill them just as the Lucis had. If he chooses to act like the oppressor it undermines everything that the novel works to establish. To go right back and do the same things he resented as a prisoner seems counterintuitive. Regardless, it was a shocking twist and the next book promises to be very interesting.