Review in 10 words: A whole new world of magic. Captivating until the end. 5/5
How to consume: Slowly. The world in this book is new and exciting. Pour a green tea and settle in. Maybe play some rain sounds in the background (unless you can read it during a real storm, if so, I am jealous).
“Was there a time when this man stroked my hair and kissed my forehead? Had he loved me before I’d forgotten, when I’d been whole and unbroken?”
The Bone Shard Daughter is the first book in the Drowning Empire series by Andrea Stewart. It follows 5 characters living under the rule of the emperor of the Phoenix Empire; Lin, Jovis, Phalue, Ranami and Sand. Predominantly the book follows Lin and Jovis through POV however the characters each reflect a different experience of living under his reign and what this means for their livelihood.
The emperor’s use of bone shard magic stands to ruin the lives of those who live within the empire. It is something Lin hopes to change as heir, but first she needs to remember.
The story is set temporally in the 1500’s- and although there is not a direct reference to Asia the book does seem to be inspired by Stewart’s heritage. In her book review, S. Qiouyi Lu talks about this more and offers a great perspective so I would encourage you to take a look.
“I didn’t live in a palace. I lived in a dollhouse of my father’s making, a living graveyard.“
I – wow.
I devoured this book in two days. As soon as I picked it up I was captivated and it’s probably one of the best fantasy debuts of 2020. The world building and magical devices are super unique and not like anything I have read before. Andrea paints her world so vividly. I can picture every construct, every scene and I love when a book can do that for a reader. It was gritty and gruesome and it felt real.
Not to mention it is impeccably written (for the most part- I found two spelling errors but the writing style greatly outweighed this) and has left me so excited for the next installment.
I was skeptical when I discovered this book had multiple POVs.
So often in fiction I find the story gets lost in multiple view points and characters are weakened. WELL! Way to prove me wrong Ms Stewart. This book is one of the best examples I have seen of multiple POV writing. And FIVE! FIVE CHARACTERS! It made the world deep and complex and it had me all in. Andrea also moves between first and third person narrative seamlessly. I just find that flat out impressive.
My favourite POV was definitely Jovis. His story hit me the most emotionally and I loved Mephi. His arc is also the one I am most excited to read about in future books. I also enjoyed experiencing Ranami and Phalou’s established relationship. I tend to read a lot of romance and so this was such a welcome change. Lin’s POV was much more enthralling towards the end of the book. I found at about the halfway mark her story was a little repetitive for a couple of chapters but it improved. It also wasn’t enough to make me dislike it or dread the chapters- I am just being pedantic.
I won’t say much more about the plot because I REALLY want people to go and read this and I don’t want to spoil it. But oh man, it was magic. The ending has paved such a nice lead into future books in the series- and I am super pumped to get my hands on them!
“When a shark offers up a pearl, be wary of its teeth.“
This book explores agency, empire, inheritance, love, commitment and importantly the complexities of defining yourself. Although it is classed as high fantasy there are definitely elements of scifi in the bone shard magic execution.
If you are after a polished, captivating read- please pick this up (and then immediately message me so we can talk about it!)