In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.
The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.
Title: The Bone Shard Daughter | Series: The Drowning Empire | Author: Andrea Stewart | Publisher: Orbit| Pub. Date: 8 Sept. 2020 | Pages: 449 | ISBN: 0316541427 | Genre: Fantasy| Language: English | Source: NetGalley | Starred Review
The Bone Shard Daughter Review
The Bone Shard Daughter is one of those books that burrows into your brain and makes a home there. I’ve typed and deleted three introductions because nothing I’ve said feels like an adequate way to introduce this book, and I want to talk about it while avoiding spoilers.
This story follows multiple POV characters. It takes considerable skill to be able to weave the narratives together in a compelling way, without readers struggling to keep track of characters and storylines. Andrea Stewart does this effortlessly, and every POV character is distinct and developed. Stewart has almost mastered making the reader gasp at the end of a chapter by raising the stakes and increasing the tension.
In fact, Stewart’s skills as a storyteller rival those of seasoned authors. Introducing characters that are at one point loathed and eventually liked is a hard thing to do, but even some of the secondary characters who don’t have POV chapters earn redemption or fall from grace through the narrative. I found my sympathies changing throughout the story, right up until the end.
There were also some surprises in store. I thought I knew where some of the threads were going, but didn’t foresee all the outcomes. In fact, I didn’t anticipate a lot of the developments in the story. Stewart had laid the groundwork, however, and it was my own assumptions and hopes that drove some of my projections.
I was particularly invested in Lin and Jovis. Lin’s journey was one that twisted and turned as she tried to prove herself worthy of being her father’s heir. Part of her problem is that she has no memories from before she was sick, and the emperor grills her to determine if she’s started to recall things from before that date. Instead of trying to unravel the secrets that are supposed to be buried in her mind, Lin uses her wits to try to learn the bone shard magic her father won’t teach her. In the process of trying to prove herself, Lin must come to terms with what she’s doing and who she is, and some of the revelations will force her to consider what she really wants for her future. At one point, she reflects: I didn’t live in a palace. I lived in a dollhouse of my father’s making, a living graveyard.
Can Lin ever be happy trapped in an artificial reality, a home that’s nothing more than a construct, designed by her father for his own nefarious purposes?
Jovis is searching for his long-lost wife, Emahla, who was taken from him years before. Everywhere he goes he runs into trouble, and is given opportunities to prove himself a hero again and again. His reputation jeopardizes his personal mission as people beg him for help. He must come to terms with his grief and decide how he will spend his future.
One of the key themes in the story is about family and love. Jovis is searching for his wife. Phalue is desperate to win Ranami’s heart. Sand is trying to remember who she is and where she belongs. Lin is trying to win her father’s love and approval. This theme is paralleled by the heroics of Jovis, as he saves children from having their bone shards removed.
That ties to one of the most intriguing elements of the story. Constructs are made from parts of animals and powered by bone shards removed from children. When bone shards are in use, they slowly drain away the life of the person they came from. In the end, the donor will become sick and die. The emperor thinks it’s a small price to pay for safety. He perpetuates the idea that the mysterious Alanga could return and threaten their lives at any moment to keep the people in line. Anyone who dares to speak ill of him or defy him could be executed. This is something Lin has to grapple with as she tries to learn his magic. As she sneaks out into town and meets the people affected by her father’s decisions, she struggles with how the bone shard magic affects them, and whether it’s right to use it at all.
Another important theme in the story is forgiveness. Can Lin and Bayan find a way to overcome their past rivalry and work together? Can Ranami and Phalue forgive each other for mistakes they’ve both made? Can Jovis forgive himself if he gives up his quest to find his wife?
These key themes play an important role in the progression of the character arcs that unfold throughout the novel. The primary characters will all have to make deliberate decisions before the end, and none of them can avoid change. The only question is whether they’ll change for the better.
Like all good stories with multiple POV characters, the characters intersect in interesting ways. Jovis forms the thread that connects Lin to Phalue and Ranami. Will the outcome of Lin’s quest be enough to save the empire? The answers may lie in the conclusion to this book, which I don’t want to spoil for anyone. Let’s just say I, once again, thought book 2 was shaping up one way and found myself surprised by an unexpected development.
This is the first work in a series. Stewart manages to balance the art of giving this book a sense of resolution and set the stage for the next book at the same time. Within a handful of pages at the end I’d experienced both fear and hope, and I have no doubt that book two will raise the stakes for all the protagonists.
The Bone Shard Daughter is an original, engrossing fantasy story that introduces compelling characters and concepts. I loved every minute of this impressive debut and highly recommend it. 5/5 stars.
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