Book Review

The Bone Shard Emperor

The Bone Shard Emperor

  • Author: Andrea Stewart
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Publication Date: November 23, 2021
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Series: The Drowning Empire #2

Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

In this stunning sequel to The Bone Shard Daughter, the new Empress finally sits on her hard-earned throne, but dangers still lie ahead and enemies hide at every turn.

Lin Sukai has won the throne. But her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the northeast of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force. Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to secure her throne and save her people.

After reading the incredible first book in this series with my buddy Julie @ One Book More, we just had to jump right into a buddy read of the next book immediately. And while second books often struggle with the pitfall of stalling out and not being nearly as good, this one packs a hell of a punch and was even better than the first book in so many ways.

To start with, we’ve already bonded with the characters and seen some of their growth in book 1, so we’re already invested in the plot and the role of the characters in it. However, the storylines further intertwine in this book, so it’s less like reading a bunch of different plot threads and more like reading all the different viewpoints of a situation from  various characters as it all comes together. 

You know the saying, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it?” Well, that’s basically the story of Lin’s life here. She’s finally Emperor, but she’s inherited an empire in chaos. Constructs are wreaking havoc, her governors aren’t cooperative, and she doesn’t know how to win them over when the only assets she really has are Thrana and Jovis. But she’s clever and stubborn, and won’t give up. Instead of relying on the methods her father might have used, she figures out new tactics to help her win over allies to her cause. On top of that, she doesn’t know who she can trust, and finally lets down her guard just enough to start trusting Jovis. But the thing she’s struggling with the most is overcoming the ghosts of her past:

“First I’d sought to prove myself to my father; now I was seeking to prove myself to everyone else. The knowledge that I was still not enough stung my pride.” 

As for Jovis, he’s coming to some realizations. He’s pledged his services to Lin, but he’s still on the fence and working for the Shardless Few on the side. However, these two aren’t compatible goals—working for one means working against the other, and it starts to not sit right with him. And he’s coming to some realizations about himself and the hero role that he’s been fighting against for quite some time:

“Always check your exits. Always leave a way out. But if some other person fell into danger, my brain became muddled as the melon pulp at the bottom of the wine barrel. I’d told myself so many times I wasn’t a hero.” 

Phalue and Ranami grew on me in this book. They’re married now and facing the difficulty of actually governing their island. Like Jovis, they’re torn between who they want to support—the Emperor or the Shardless Few, and starting to have some questions about what they’ve thought to be facts all along, especially when they finally meet Lin and get to know who she is and what she’s about. But when an orphan crosses their path, it throws a wrench into their plans and they realize that despite their plans to adopt a child someday, they aren’t quite sure how to parent. 

Finally, we get even more insight into Nisong’s plans, and who she really is. And the more I saw of her, the less I could empathize with her. Her entire being is focused on destroying what the empire has built up and Lin with it. She’s so fixated on her hate that there isn’t much room for much else, but she does love the people she saved from Maila.

“She craved destruction the way I had once craved my father’s love.”

Each of the characters showed so much more growth throughout the story, and it speaks volumes about Stewart’s incredible talent that she was able to manage the various characters without them sounding the same, as well as keeping track of all of the plot threads without dropping any or leaving plot holes or questions. Everything is blended seamlessly and feels so deliberate that I was awed at her skills. 

Unlike other books leading up to a major battle, where the story feels slow and uneventful for much of it, this book was thrilling and full of plot twists that completely blindsided me, action, betrayal, and intrigue, as well as magic that was mind-blowing. Even the magical animals, Thrana and Mephi, showed immense growth during the story! But when the battle finally came, it was like that drop at the top of a roller coaster. The last third of the book flew by, and I couldn’t stop reading if my life depended on it. The action was non-stop, and I was shocked at some of the revelations and twists that occurred in this part of the book, even though some of my theories were proven right. Regardless, this series has only just gotten better, and I can’t wait to dive into the last book, even though I’m kind of dreading the end of this 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: 26

7 replies »

    • Thank you! I’m so glad I committed to binge reading the series with a buddy so we’re both motivated to get through them all in quick succession, although now I’m going to be sad when it’s over.

      Liked by 1 person

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