The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shards 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 shards.
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.
The Bone Shard Daughter is a book I saw a lot of buzz about on Twitter but I didn’t know if it was quite my thing despite a lot of my go to trusted reviewers saying they loved it. However, I’m so glad I gave it a shot as I ended up really savouring it and it’s one of my top picks for a sci fi / fantasy read for this year hands down. In this book, Andrea Stewart has managed to establish such a strong fantasy debut with distinct characters and a plot which is suspenseful, well crafted and draws a reader in bit by bit until you’re fully invested and just along for the ride. A big thank you to Nazia at Orbit Books for sending me a beautiful hardback copy! It’s sitting in pride of place on my bookshelf.
The Bone Shard Daughter is set in an empire which consists of different islands, all under the rule of a Sukai, a ruling family who were said to take over from the mythical Alanga people in a brutal conquest. The emperor – Lins father- uses bone shards to power the constructs and maintain law and order in the empire, with shards being taken from the citizens in a cruel tithing ceremony when they are just children. I thought the whole setting and world-building in this book was so unique and interesting, especially when it comes to the bone shards and the constructs. The constructs themselves are monstrous creations, made up of different animals and woven together by the emperors rigid commands. There is some exploration of how the two work in conjunction but I feel like there will be further explanation of this in the next book.
In terms of the story itself and the suspenseful nature as well as the many twists and turns, I was so invested. While some of the twists are a tad more predictable than others, there were a couple which I didn’t see coming and definitely made my head hurt because of the implications – in a good way!
One of my favourite things about this book and a feature which works incredibly well is the use of multiple pov’s. Now hear me out, because I know this can be hit or miss for some readers and even for myself, I’ve definitely read books where too many characters can muddy the story and prove to be confusing or disjointed, but Stewart does this flawlessly. I loved that we have the two pov’s – that of Lin and Jovis’ – which are the two ‘main’ characters in a sense which serve to really move the plot along and get more page time, but the three other character pov’s also serve a purpose and enrich the book. I liked how each character has their own distinct voices, motivations and backstories, which is ever so slowly revealed and I found that I was equally invested in all of the different threads.
As well as the use of multiple pov’s really working for me, I loved how suspenseful and dark this book was at times but also how there are small glimpses of light amidst all the intensity. Lin’s chapters definitely had me on edge, as she navigates the sinister rooms of the palace and uncovers her father, who is the reigning emperors secrets as well as the mystery of her lost memories. The tension in these parts and the sense of foreboding was so strong, I had a physical reaction and could feel myself tensing up and then breathing a sigh of relief when Jovis’ chapters would begin. Jovis’ chapters while action packed and eventful have a very different tone to them, perhaps this is because he is not cloistered in one place and his part of the story is more expansive. I also loved these parts because of Mephi, a small creature of unknown origin who is basically Jovis’ companion on his quest. I am such a sucker for animal / mythical companions in media and Mephi is a delight. There is just something about an unwitting character who grudgingly accepts the company of a companion and then over time they build this really sweet bond which ends up changing them and making them open up.
Overall, The Bone Shard Daughter is an excellent first instalment in the Drowning Empire series – I feel like this might be a trilogy? I’m not sure on that but regardless, I’m so excited to see where these characters and the story will go next. If you’re looking for an Asian inspired fantasy with high stakes, intrigue, suspense and engaging characters then this may be the book for you!
Until next time,