Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 279
During Zélie’s training, her teacher Mama Agba tells a story about the change that happened when the magi, the first kings and queens of Orisha, lost their powers.
Until that night the maji were able to survive because they used their powers to defend themselves. But eleven years ago, magic disappeared. Only the gods know why . . . . One day magic breathed. The next, it died.
Although the maji lost their powers, they still constitute a separate category of person. One distinguishing feature they share is white hair, which Zélie has as did her mother, now deceased. She contemplates cutting it off so she will be less obvious, wondering if it would help keep her father and brother safe.
[I]n the beginning, white hair was a sign of the powers of heaven and earth. It held beauty and virtue and love, it meant we were blessed by the gods above. But when everything changed . . . our heritage transformed into a thing to hate.
As her training is completed and she sets off with the new staff that Mama Agba bestowed on her, Zélie has to run through several trails before she faces her fiercest opponents. Each time she hits a setback, her confidence takes a blow from which she must rebound. Her greatest enemy and her greatest strength, she realizes, is her fear:
I am always afraid.
It’s a truth I took away years ago, a fact I fought hard to overcome.
Because when it hits, I’m paralyzed . . . .
It doesn’t matter how strong I get, how much power my magic wields. They will always hate me in this world.
I will always be afraid.