Today I am reviewing ‘The Bone Shard Daughter’ by Andrea Stewart. Spoiler: I loved it, and I hope you will check out the author and this stunning fantasy debut which is out next week!
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.
I seem to have fallen into a habit lately of falling in love with a book’s cover first and foremost, although in this case, I think that is more than warranted because the cover art is amazing and combined with the title, it makes you want to know more about the book. The synopsis sealed the deal for me, and I was delighted when I was approved for this arc.
I will say that it took me a little while to get into this book, in fact at one point I did wonder if this was the book for me, and then it all fell in to place. It was actually the second POV character – Jovis, who made me fall in love with this book. I hadn’t engaged quite so well with Lin – although she certainly grew on me as the book progressed, and it was Jovis that hooked me into the world and the story and remained my favourite of the five POV characters throughout. Perhaps, because he was such a reluctant hero, getting caught up in the action even when he was trying to follow his own path and mission, but I also like his personality a lot, and of course, there was Mephi. Once, I was fully immersed, I found that I appreciated all the characters in different ways – and going back I reread the start after finishing and found myself enjoying Lin’s POV at the beginning a lot more.
Another thing that did take a little while to get used to was the use of the two different types of point of view, and I found the first few transitions a little jarring. Still, I think that was more due to it being something I’ve rarely encountered than anything else because the prose was otherwise was fluid and beautiful. Still, I enjoyed the very different voices between the five.
One thing I did love was that we had an established couple in Phalue and Ranami. And while their relationship is complicated – realistically so, even if you did want to occasionally bang their heads together – it was wonderful to see that kind of relationship, especially between main characters. It’s felt refreshing to read, and I looked forward to their POVs, and their conflict, based on class and the difficulty of finding understanding and balance when coming from different positions in society was very well done, and to me made their relationship more faceted and extraordinary. The last POV character was fascinating too in a completely different way to the others, but I also felt that after Lin, Sand was probably my least favourite POV. However, I still enjoyed her chapters, and I feel that she is the kind of character that will continue to grow on you.
Now, the worldbuilding and especially the magic system, is what really sold me on this book once Jovis had pulled me in. There were so many layers to this world, from the lives of smugglers to soldiers and the daughter of an Emperor, to the government, magic and even the environment itself, and each was vividly described without being overwhelmed, creating an engaging, immersive world that was often just as disturbing as it was interesting.
And the magic system.
To be honest, I was sold, just on the idea of using bones – or bone shards – in magic, even before learning that it was tithed from the population and that bones were only really the starting point. The idea of combining them with animal parts to make constructs was fascinating and dark, and I honestly can’t wait to see more of this magic system explored in the future books, as there is still so much that isn’t known. It’s the kind of magic that can only spell trouble, and I am interested to see just what will happen.
I found the Bone Shard Daughter, to be a fascinating read overall, that explored many themes that were woven so beautifully into the story that they slip under your skin and consume your thoughts. The magic system stands out in particular, as do the questions it raises about the value of human lives in a system like this. The POV characters were compelling in their own ways, offering unique insights into this world, and altogether it made for a very memorable read that I would highly recommend for anyone looking for something different and incredibly thought-provoking.
The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) – Andrea Stewart (To be published 10th September Orbit) – **** (4/5 Stars)
Preorder Links: Waterstones | Amazon UK | Amazon US
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.
4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) – Andrea Stewart”
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I’ve read it recently and scheduled my review for publication day. While Lin was interesting, I also identified more with Jovis. First, I feared he would turn to a Gary Stu with all his new acquired power, but it turned out better. The magical system itself wasn’t really fascinating – I always thought of programming robots with punch cards (I come from computer science), so it didn’t feel exotic, foreign, or new to me (in fact, I just waited for the mentioning of if-then-else constructs, loops, callbacks, or recursions… and yes, they were there). But I loved the interaction and the whole setting.
Hi Rowena, I recently found your blog via Twitter 🙂 I consider myself a fantasy fan, but I haven’t been reading as much adult fantasy as I might like. This book is on my TBR. I love what you’ve written about the worldbuilding and magic system – that’s what caught my attention about this book. I’m looking forward to giving it a go!
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