Macmillan Children's
Isabella Biedenharn
November 13, 2017 AT 11:17 AM EST

Children of Blood and Bone is the first installment of a new fantasy trilogy by Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi — and buzz for this debut novel has been building ever since publisher Henry Holt Books for Young Readers pre-empted the book in a seven-figure deal, making it one of the biggest debut YA publishing deals of all time. (Yes, there are plans for a movie — Fox 2000 already nabbed the film rights.)

The book, which draws upon African history and mythology, follows Zélie Adeola, whose home, Orïsha, used to be full of magic — until an evil king ordered all maji, including Zélie’s mother, to be killed. Now it’s up to Zélie and a rebel princess to rise up against the crown prince and bring magic back, while struggling to keep her own power under control.

Children of Blood and Bone won’t hit shelves until March 6, 2018, but EW can exclusively reveal an excerpt from the book, as well as Adeyemi’s upcoming tour dates, below.

Children of Blood and Bone Tour

Excerpt from Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie and her brother Tzain, compete in a blood-soaked sea battle staged for the entertainment of the wealthy. Outnumbered and inexperienced, Zélie must draw on her newfound Reaper magic to win the competition and save their lives. The excerpt is from the perspective of Zélie as she sails into the ocean arena. 

The horn sounds and I jump overboard, crashing into the warm sea with rushing speed. As I hit, our ship shakes.

The first cannons fire.

Vibrations shudder through the water, rippling through my core. Spirits of the dead chill the space around me; fresh kills from today’s games.

All right, I think to myself, remembering Minoli’s animation. Goose bumps prick my skin as the spirits near, my tongue curls at the taste of blood though I keep my mouth closed. The souls are desperate for my touch, for a way to return to life. This is it.

If I’m truly a Reaper, I have to show it now.

“Ẹmí àwọn tí ó ti sùn, mo ké pè yin ní òní—”

I wait for the animations to swirl out of the water before me, but only a few bubbles escape my hands. I try again, drawing from the energy of the dead, but no matter how hard I concentrate, no animations come forth.

Dammit. The air in my throat thins, going faster as my pulse quickens. I can’t do this. I can’t save us—

A blast thunders from above.

I spin as the ship beside ours sinks. Corpses and shattered wood rain down. The water around me reddens. A bloodied body plunges past me to the arena ground.

My gods . . .

Terror grips my chest.

One cannonball to the right and that could’ve been Tzain.

Come on, I coach myself as the air in my lungs shrivels further. There’s no time to fail. I need my magic now.

Oya, please. The prayer feels strange, like a language half-learned and entirely forgotten. But after my awakening, our connection should be stronger than ever. If I call, she has to answer.

Help me. Guide me. Lend me your strength. Let me protect my brother and free the spirits trapped in this place.

I close my eyes, gathering the electric energy of the dead into my bones. I’ve studied the scroll. I can do this.

I can be a Reaper now.

“Ẹmí àwọn tí ó ti sùn—”

A lavender light glows in my hands. Sharp heat courses through my veins. The incantation pushes my spiritual pathways open, allowing ashê to flow through. The first spirit surges through my body, ready for my command. Unlike Minoli, my only knowledge of this animation is his death; my stomach aches from the cannonball that ripped through his gut.

When I finish the incantation, the first animation floats before me, a swirl of vengeance and bubbles and blood. The animation takes the shape of a human, forming its body out of the water around us. Though its expression is clouded by the bubbles, I sense the militant resolve of its spirit. My own soldier. The first in an army of the dead.

For the briefest moment, triumph overpowers the exhaustion running through my muscles. I’ve done it. I’m a Reaper. A true sister of Oya.

A pang of sadness flashes through me. If only Mama could see me now.

But I can still honor her spirit.

I will make every fallen Reaper proud.

Ẹmí àwọn tí ó ti sùn—”

With the dwindling ashé in me, I chant, casting one more animation to life. I point to a ship, then give my command.

“Bring it down!”

 

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