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.
I was not sure what to expect when I picked up The Bone Shard Daughter, the first in The Drowning Empire series. The idea of magic and pieces of bone and how it fit into a story was not easy to imagine. The good news is Andrea Stewart’s writing is so rich and comprehensive that once I started reading the details came easily. And it was fantastic.
First of all, the story is told through 4 different character perspectives, each one a journey in its own. I actually do not want to get into too much detail about this aspect of the book (I just deleted this whole descriptive paragraph) because the way these stories are written is so experiential that I do not want to take that away from you. I am happy I came in blind because doing that allowed me to immerse myself in the character arcs without another persons thoughts or feelings getting in the way. The anticipation to the climax builds so naturally it was great to experience with no prior expectations. What you need to know is that each character arc is a story of its own with a problem to solve, obstacles to overcome, and character growth. Of course, there are connections between the characters (some obvious, others not so much), and there is also the overall narrative of what is happening in the Empire, as well. This is the perfect setup for a fantasy book such as this, as it creates so many disparate layers of tension. Waiting for 4 different storylines to resolve while at the same time anticipating if/when/where/how those storylines are going to converge puts the reader in a state of constant suspense. Stewart does such a wonderful job of choreographing everything that I did not want to put the book down, because there was always something to look forward to and I never wanted to wait.
The biggest question coming into this book for me was: how was the magic going to work? Bone shards? I didn’t know. Do not get me wrong, I had an image of it in my head, but my thoughts on it ended up being so simplistic. After reading the book I came to realize how ingenious this idea actually is. Again, I would be remiss if I let on too much here, but the process of using pieces of bone from living people for magic allows for a lot of creativity around the world building. And Stewart took that proposition and ran with it. The bone shard magic permeates everything, and is used as a medium to introduce and explore the themes of the book. Power is a dominant theme in every story arc: who has it, who wants it and why; how they wield it; how can one use it to create a better world? Human rights comes into play, as well. The idea of using a piece of another person to create magic brings about many different scenarios that make for a very interesting world.
When I say “magic”, by the way, I do not mean it in the traditional sense. With the intent of purposely trying to leave you in the dark, here, know that it is not really a “magic system”. At least I would not call it that. The reader find out early on in the book what the magic is and how it works, and of course it evolves over the course of the story. The biggest takeaway from the way the magic is used in this book is that IT WILL MAKE YOU QUESTION EVERYTHING. And I mean that literally. By the time I was 3/4 of the way through my mind was talking itself in circles. I love being in a state of disorientation, unsure of where reality begins and ends… so long as it is done well. And in this case it is does very well.
I should also mention the ending. Everything concludes in such a way as to be both satisfying to the current narrative while simultaneously leaving everything wide open for the remainder of the series.
The net-net of it all is The Bone Shard Daughter is a phenomenal books. It is one of those reads where there is so much going on but all the pieces are put together so well that it comes together to make something really great. The writing is amazing, and Andrea Stewart is an absolute genius. I am overjoyed to recommend The Bone Shard Daughter to all fans of fantasy. It is no doubt going to be on my favorites list this year, and I am eagerly anticipating where the series goes from here.