The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Publication Date: September 8th 2020
Series: The Drowning Empire #1
Blurb: In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. The Bone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.
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 recognise 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.
In the Phoenix Empire bone shard magic powers constructs to protect the Empire against threats, and to keep its citizens in line. But rebellion grows as the threat of the Alanga passes into story and there are those that will do whatever it takes to topple the Sukai Dynasty.
And I would show him that even broken daughters could wield power.
The Bone Shard Daughter is told from mainly from four perspectives;
~ Lin, the daughter of the emperor who is fighting for her right to be named as heir to the Phoenix Empire and to earn keys to the palace
~ Jovis, a smuggler searching for his wife after she disappeared many years ago but finds himself guardian of a strange creature
~ Phalue, the daughter of the governor of Nephilanu Island who finds herself having to confront and question her privilege
~ Sand, in the furthest reaches of the Empire on the island of Maila, where none dare go Sand knows nothing but her daily task but not everything is as it seems and there is more to those on the island than they themselves realise
The Bone Shard Daughter was an excellent debut and solid start to the Drowning Empire series. I loved the world building and magic system Andrea has created. The Phoenix Empire is made up of migratory islands and the magic that powers the constructs comes from bone shards which are removed from the skulls of every citizen when they turn eight. This is done so that the Emperor can defend the Empire from the threat of the Alanga. Except they haven’t been seen for centuries and the people are sick of seeing their children die or their lives ended too soon.
I love magic systems that have limits and consequences, and particularly watching Lin grapple with the consequences of using bone shard magic to achieve her goals made for great storytelling. Systems like this rather than magic systems that have zero consequences, tend to make for better stories and character growth I think.
The constructs were such a great (and creepy!) concept. They are pieced together from different parts and powered with the bone shard magic. They can range from low level constructs to the high level, complex constructs the Emperor uses to maintain power and control: Ilith, the Construct of Spies; Uphilia, Construct of Trade; Mauga, Construct of Bureaucracy; and Tirang, Construct of War. The more complex the construct the more shards needed to write and power it’s commands.
Getting the perspectives of the four major characters (though Sand has the least amount of page time) was great but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I loved Jovis’ chapters in particular. I loved them all, don’t get me wrong, but I have a soft spot for Jovis and in particular, Memphi. I would wage wars for Memphi, he is adorable and soft and if anything happens to him I’m going to cry. No one is really sure what he is, least of all Jovis and the more time they spend together the more Jovis finds himself with inexplicable powers.
Something I loved about The Bone Shard Daughter was the established relationship between Phalue and Ranami. Not only did we get a major sapphic couple but it was also within a world of normalised queerness, which was really nice to see. There were mentions of other queer couples/relationships throughout the novel. It’s always so refreshing to see.
I did find it a little slow to start, it didn’t immediately hook me in but as the story progressed it got more and more interesting. The last third in particular, was very strong and there were twists you did see coming and other things happening that made me very excited for the next book. In that sense The Bone Shard Daughter read a bit like a set up for book two, however, definitely not in a bad way. It keeps you engaged but I think there will be a lot more room for the story to pick up now that the groundwork has been laid.
What could mere mortals do against such power?
I definitely recommend The Bone Shard Daughter. It’s an incredible debut with wonderful worldbuilding and unique magic system rounded out by a great cast of characters. I’m very excited for the sequel!
Have you read The Bone Shard Daughter? What did you think?
Until next time 📚