Book Review

The Bone Shard Daughter

The Bone Shard Daughter

  • Author: Andrea Stewart
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: September 8, 2020
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Series: The Drowning Empire #1

CONTENT WARNING: blood, death, grief, violence, abuse, gore, murder

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 recognize 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 couldn’t wait to start this buddy read with Julie from One Book More, and both of us had heard nothing but good things about this book. Luckily, the two of us have all three books and will be binge reading the series together.

I have to start by talking about the world-building, which is outstanding. The Empire is made up of a set of spread out islands, which migrate seasonally. I loved the idea of migrating islands, especially since it’s such a unique concept. The magic system is another unique concept, centering around the emperor and his family’s ability to manipulate shards of bone. These shards are harvested from each resident at a young age in a huge ceremony that is mandatory. These bone shards are then used to power the constructs that the emperor creates and uses for various purposes to maintain order throughout his empire.

This book splits perspectives between multiple characters throughout the Empire, and it is a smart decision, because it gives us insight into what is going on throughout this world. Initially I was more invested in some of the characters than others, but eventually, I started to look forward to all of them equally. 

Lin, the daughter of the Emperor, was one of my favorites from the start. Although she’s the Emperor’s only natural child, she isn’t exactly a shoo-in to be his heir, and is competing against an orphan that her father had adopted as well. And they are both working to gain her father’s trust and attention, although Lin seems to also be yearning for his affection and acceptance, and will stop at nothing to get there:

“Father didn’t think I was enough. My memory was lacking. But I knew who I was now. I was Lin. I was the Emperor’s daughter.”

Jovis, another one of my favorites, is a smuggler with plenty of enemies looking for him. He keeps finding himself in one situation after another where he is forced to be compassionate, when all he really wants is to be selfish, and he shows a lot of growth over the course of this story. It just kind of felt like chaos followed him wherever he went, and he kept getting deeper into situations that he didn’t want to be in, but was torn between what he wanted and what he knew was right:

“I could run from this, the way I’d been running from the Empire and from the Ioph Carn. But I’d rather be running to something, and not inadvertently causing havoc as I went.”

Phalue is the daughter of a governor on one of the islands. She isn’t blind to the issues her island faces, but until she takes over for her father, she doesn’t feel like she can do anything about them. Her girlfriend, Ranami, is a commoner, and wants to open Phalue’s eyes to the real issues that she doesn’t know about, and doesn’t exactly choose the best ways to do this. I didn’t ship these two together, but was invested in finding out what was going on in this part of the story. 

Finally, we have Sand, who lives with a bunch of others on an isolated island at the edge of the Empire. She and the others who live there just complete repetitive tasks every day and don’t remember anything else about their lives. But something happens to Sand and she starts to have some memories, which make her question everything about her life and her existence on the island.

This story involves different factions and a brewing revolution. Since the Emperor is obsessed with his constructs, he’s not involved with managing his empire, and the governors seem more interested in building wealth than ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their subjects. Naturally, this type of system isn’t set up to last, and the people who are most disadvantaged are eventually going to rise up, and now is the time. In addition, the previous rulers of the Empire are mentioned as an always-looming threat, even though we don’t quite know how much of a threat they really are. 

It was a fast-paced, action-packed story that I couldn’t put down. Julie and I would finish our reading so quickly and rush to discuss so we could return to reading, and see if our theories were right. The characters were so well-rendered that they felt like genuine people, leaping off the page. I especially loved how the author avoided info-dumping, revealing aspects of the world and the magic system slowly and naturally as they arose, without it ever feeling overwhelming or confusing. This is a fantastic start to a series, and I can already tell that this is a binge-worthy series.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 21

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