Thursday, September 27, 2018

Worldbuilding with Tomi Adeyemi

I had been working on a series of posts about worldbuilding when I read this wonderful debut YA Fantasy novel by Tomi Adeyemi, Children of Blood and Bone.

Drawing on her Nigerian heritage, Adeyemi weaves the story of Zélie Adebola who sets out to restore magic in the country of Orïsha. The story is told by three shifting first person points of view: protagonist Zélie, an escaped Princess Ameri, and her brother Prince Inan.

The setting never really came alive for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story world presented and the plot kept me turning pages. Let's take a look at some of the worldbuilding choices.

Names: Zélie, Tzain, Ameri, Jailin, Baba, Mama, Inan, Lekan Olamilekan, Kwame, Mother Oya, Saran (king), Roën, Nailain, Kaea, Zulaika,Folake, and Zu.

Language: Adeyemi draws from West African Yoruba (eg. sún èmí okàn sùn, sùn sùn èmí okàn sùn).

Exclamations: Oh my gods. Thank the skies. Maggot is an insult.

Clothes: dashiki, ipélè, and a jeweled headdress for royalty.

Places: Ikayi, Ibeji, Ikayi, Ilorin, Orishä, Gombe River Valle , Orinion Island, Ibadan, JIbeta, Sokoto, and Orisha palace.

Weapons: Staffs, knives, swords, and daggers. Majacite is a metal that counters magic.

Fauna names were formed with slight changes to existing animals such as: Firehawk (messenger bird), leponnaire, gorillion, snow leoponaire, lionaire, and cheetanaires.

Food: Foxer meat, coconut milk, moin moin pies, lemon cake, jollof rice, palm wine, and fried plantain,

Sports: Agbö and Sȇnetisa.

Festivals: Annual Tigerfish Festival, the Solstice, and Centennial.

Races: Sentaro, Orishan, Kosidan, Senbaria, Yoruba, Omi, Braetonians, and Pörtöganès.

Origin Story: Drawing from Orishan Mythology, the origin story portrays a Sky mother who had nine god/goddess children who bestow magical (ashé) powers to her earth children. Each god/goddess has a tribe with a specific magic power. Individuals manifest their powers at age 13. Maji are identified by their white hair. After death they go to Alȃfia (heaven) or Apȃdi (hell).

Reapers have control over death. They can summon the dead and bring people back from the verge. Connectors have power over people’s “mind, spirit, and dreams”. Tiders control water. Burners control fire. Winders control the wind. Grounders control earth. Welders control metal. Lighters control light. Healers can heal. Cancers can cause death. Seers can see the future and control time.

As the series begins, magic has been suppressed by King Saran who is in search of a scroll, dagger, and sun stone which if destroyed will erase magic forever. It is up to Zélie and her brother Tzain to obtain the relics first and restore magic to Orïsha. Complicating the quest are escaped Princess Ameri who wants to help and her brother Prince Inan who needs to stop them.

Book two in the series will be released in 2019 and the first book is being made into a major motion picture.

Updated November 30, 2018: Sharing pictures of the Nigerian writer's New York Times Bestseller and Roberts' upcoming sequel 'Of Blood and Bone', Adeyemi tweeted: "It would be nice if an artist could create something special without another artist trying to shamelessly profit off it."
Aside from the fact that Ms. Roberts has been a famous, prolific writer in multiple genres for over thirty years and has no need of attention seeking, there were already at least eight other books titled Blood and Bone published prior to Ms. Adeyemi's. The stunt was in poor form. Ms. Adeyemi's Tweet kickstarted a negative Twitter campaign against Ms. Roberts. Although Adayemi acknowledged she was wrong in her assumption, she did nothing to call off her Twitter fans.

I can't fathom the motivation, but she has lost me as a fan.

For more information on worldbuilding, check out the Story Building Blocks Build A World Workbook available in print and ebook.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Worldbuilding requires vivid imagination to create and a generous smattering of realism to make it understandable and believable. Touchstones (those bits of realism) in fantasy transport one to the book's locales and shape unique visuals that allow the reader to step into a scene, see the action, root for the protagonist, and despise the antagonist. S.K. Randolph introduced me to fantasy a few years ago with the opening book of her Unfolding Trilogy, The DiMensioner's Revenge. Since then, she has published the second and third books in the trilogy, added several shorts, and written other works that round out the series and leave the reader well acquainted with its memorable characters. I doff my hat to fantasy writers such as Adeyemi and Randolph, whose unique creative abilities take readers to imaginary places that spring to life with often alien beings who leave an indelible impression on the reader's mind and heart.

  2. The unique settings and characters are what I love about Fantasy and Paranormal . It takes a lot more work to create a world out of nothing than using an existing place.


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