Overview (No Spoilers):
I’m usually fairly adept at keeping up with my book reviews, however (let’s blame it on the new baby 🙂 ) presently I’m finding more time to read than I am to actually draft reviews. At my worst, I’ve fallen to ten book reviews behind, with The Bone Shard Daughter being my most tardy post. My delay in reviewing this first installment of the Drowning Empire trilogy in no way reflects quality as I could hardly stop listening to this adventure, curious as to how the wide-ranging pieces would end up aligning. Published in 2020, I had observed significant hype surrounding The Bone Shard Daughter from fellow bloggers and couldn’t wait for the title to move up through my TBR queue.
As Stewart’s debut novel, The Bone Shard Daughter is told from quite a few perspectives, ranging from Lin who is the daughter to the Emperor to Jovis the smuggler, Sand the enigma, and the rebel Ranami. The Emperor retains power with the understanding he keeps the citizens safe from the mythical Alanga and in return everyone must submit a bone fragment from their skull when they come of age during a perilous ceremony. The skull fragments are used in bone shard magic to animate constructs, with the trade off that the magic drains the life force from the people who donated the shard. Significant time was spent explaining the complex magical system, but as Lin was learning the new magic, the reader was gaining insight simultaneously.
With the social climate rife for rebellion, the whole empire is reeling from unexplained natural disasters, resulting in the citizens pushing back against the established leadership. Each of the characters of The Bone Shard Daughter find themselves caught up both in their own dramas and the wider issues gripping the nation. While the characters were deliberately crafted and developed, each with their own unique personalities and quirks, some of their decisions seemed out of sync with what I would have expected their reactions to be. This results in the plot feeling forced into a set direction instead of a natural flow to the story. Additionally, Stewart relied on coincidences one too many times to not have it become a reliable crutch to aid over rough transition periods. These issues aside, The Bone Shard Daughter was still an intriguing premise and magical system, especially as Stewart spread our protagonists all over the empire. While the worldbuilding could have benefited from more fleshing out of more detail and depth, we were able to glimpse large swaths of the empire in this ambitious introduction to the trilogy.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- The title of this book is a total spoiler! I guessed that Lin and Bayan were both constructs fairly early, especially with Lin’s memory issues, but the title totally prompted me to double down on this assumption. I’d assumed that Bayan had the blacksmith’s shard as a part of his construct. I was a bit disappointed he was actually just experimenting with it.
- What will Jovis do when he realizes that Lin is a construct and has Emahla’s eyes? Is there a copy of Emahla on the island with Sand?
- Why is there an island of constructs in the middle of nowhere? What will happen when they escape? No one knows they were there. So Sand actually remembers being the emperor’s wife, Nisong? How convenient that she fell out of the tree and just happened to jar the right shard loose.
- It’s so creepy that the Emperor was creating Lin to be like her mother, Nisong! If he had finally gotten her ‘settings’ right would he have wiped her memory to make her think she was his wife?
- What are the creatures like Mephi and the one that Lin freed? What are their powers? I have a feeling that they have an adverse reaction to the precious power supply powder (I can’t remember the name) due to it being derived from their kin.
- Is Mephi linked to the island sinking? Why did Mephi get sick when Jovis left?
- How convenient that Lin was able to master this intricate, hands-on magic through only the use of books and minimal in person experience for something that should have taken years of practice.
- Renami was totally using Phalue! She’s the worst!
- I enjoyed the vast majority of this ready but I found the ending to be rather anticlimactic and too convenient. Jovis just strolls into the palace without any resistance and is now Lin’s right hand man?
- I didn’t talk about the blacksmith and his family because it was all just too sad.