EXCLUSIVE: In a remarkable pair of deals for a debut author who is just 23, Fox 2000 has just made a preemptive acquisition of Children of Blood and Bone, the first installment of a fantasy novel trilogy by Tomi Adeyemi that will spawn a trilogy. Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are producing with Karen Rosenfelt. Word is this deal landed at or near seven-figures, and so did a whopping publishing deal that just closed at Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, with both deals brokered by ICM Partners.
People I trust who’ve read the book called it an epic accomplishment in world building, and it must be: this is one of the biggest YA debut novel publishing deals ever. The novel is unusual in that the fantasy trilogies studios usually buy for big bucks are built around white characters. This one weaves in African culture and characters and mixes it with magic to create an intriguing mythology that is otherworldly but somehow familiar. It is being called a Black Lives Matter-inspired fantasy. Here’s a logline I got hold of. The protagonist is Zélie, who at six years old watched the king’s guards hang her mother on a tree outside her home. She never forgot it. In the beginning, every Orïshan was a magi: born with dark skin, stark white hair and the blessing of the god’s magic once they reached adulthood. Yet over time, their population dwindled and they became Orïsha’s minority. Magic became a thing to loathe, dark skin transformed into a thing to hate. Ten years after the raid that killed her mother and took away magic forever, Zélie Adebola has one chance to bring magic back. Through a fortuitous encounter with the Princess Amari, Zélie comes into possession of a sacred scroll necessary to restore a connection to the gods and secure magic for another hundred years. This sets the young women on a quest to end the senseless violence and oppression by the lighter-skinned royal class. Danger lurks in this west-African inspired world, where lionnaires and cheetanaires roam, and the beautiful villages built over oceans, out of sand or forged in iron hide a dark underbelly of slavery and corruption. They find themselves pitted against a crown prince bent on wiping out magic for good. Gillian Bohrer will shepherd it for the studio.
Adeyemi is a Nigerian-American writer and creative writing coach based in San Diego, who graduated from Harvard before receiving a fellowship to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. At ICM Partners, Alexandra Machinist and Hillary Jacobson brokered the book deal with Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group president/publisher Jon Yaged and will be published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, where Christian Trimmer was the acquiring editor and Tiffany Liao will edit the book.