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.
An astonishingly gripping start to a grand, new epic fantasy series that clutches its mysteries right until the end, and still doesn’t relent it all; this is one reader who frantically tapped his kindle at the end of the book searching for more, finding nothing but the need to read on.
“The Emperor’s sworn duty – to protect us from their magic with his own – is looking more and more like we’ve set an old dog to guard a pair of unworn slippers.”
The Alanga, beings of immense magical power, are long gone – supposedly only held at bay by the Emperor, but their artifacts are coming alive, seemingly moving, while the Imperial Empire looses its faith in the Emperor and its belief that there is any threat left to guard them from; the entire book had me on the edge of my seat wondering if the old threat was relevant as Stewart weaved mystery and intrigue relating to the Alanga throughout. In all but one character’s story they are reference cleverly, sitting in the back of the story as a constant pressure, a thought in the back of the mind, while the rest of the story unfolded. This lore, this type of storytelling is what I love the most. The world feels incredibly lived in and that’s just what is happening around the main story-line.
Within this, we’ve got Lin, the Emperor’s daughter trying to earn her father’s favour, and with it the keys to rooms in the palace that will aide her in learning his Bone Shard magic; Jovis, a smuggler and his strange animal companion, on a mission to find his kidnapped wife and escape the Ioph Carn; Ranami and Phalue, lovers split by class who are both trying to make the Empire a better place and Sand, who doesn’t know who she is, why she is on the island, or what is keeping her there – a story that truy spans the known isles of the Empire, across the Endless Sea. From seafaring adventures, to palace intrigue and godly, inhuman magic, this has everything an epic fantasy fan needs and wants; a story of divided factions, of infighting death and murder, of magical beasts, seated in a wealth of history.
The plot seems to sail by; there’s not a dull page, each telling a story of its own which slowly weaves into one clear image where the different POVs get entangled in each other. Towards the end, I was hoping for some huge pay-off, some massive event that all the foreboding led me to, but instead we’re still left with hints, mystery. Stewart masterfully keeps some cards still close to her chest and rather than disappoint, I’m left with a yearning for the next book. Within the pages, she paints a picture with vivid, clean prose that forms pictures in the mind rather than a sum of words on the page. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this read, if you hadn’t already noticed, and it is with despair a heavy heart that I’m writing this so far away from the sequel.