The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.
Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.
Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.
But can she trust them?
The Bone Shard Emperor is the 2nd installment in Andrea Stewart’s The Drowning Empire series. This is one of the most unique fantasy stories I have read; in fact, the first book in the series, The Bone Shard Daughter, was one of my (and many others’) favorite books of 2020 (read that review here). With all of the great elements at play in this book and the way the story progresses, I am not surprised to see The Bone Shard Emperor receiving similar accolades.
Everything is broken, and I don’t know how to put it back together in a way that makes sense.
There is so much I like about this book, but I think my favorite part is Lin’s character development. She is absolutely put through the ringer in this book. The quote says it all, everything is literally falling to pieces around her, and she does not know how to handle it. What makes that so great for the story is that Lin never gives up. Having been raised in relative isolation, she does not understand others that much, but she makes a huge effort to do so. Lin does not know how to be an Emperor, but she has a strong moral compass, and that keeps her going. She works hard and tries to do what is right, even when it is not the easiest path. It is really refreshing to watch someone in position of power fight so hard to get it right, even when the world is crumbling around her. She exudes hope. Lin’s journey and accumulation of experience is a part of what makes this book so great, and I really look forward to how that plays out for the rest of the series.
There are so many great characters (too many too name them all – including lots of powerful female characters, which was a wonderful change of pace for fantasy), but I want to highlight Jovis’ role in the book. This is something I think a reader should experience for themselves, but I do want to say that his situation brings so much intrigue and drama to the narrative. Jovis is a big instigator of many of the big plot points, and I thought the character was incredibly well-written.
Also, Mephi and Thrana!! :teary heart eyes: They are so cool, and I was gushing over them the entire book. Just like the human characters, these two were involved in so many more ways than just being companions. But, also, they are amazing companions! It gave me Pokemon GO vibes, and I loved it. This was an aspect of the book that really appealed to me, and I devoured every scene that included them.
There is so much more to say about the book, but I do not want to say too much. The story is deep and layered, even moreso than the first book. Every piece builds on every other piece, and everything is so connected. The levels of intrigue are off the charts. The magic is the same but different, Stewart uses a lot of this book to build up the powers of the Alanga moreso than the bone shard magic. The bone shard magic is still present, but in a very different way than in The Bone Shard Daughter. And that feels very purposeful on the part of the author, as though she wanted the reader to feel the change in atmosphere very obtusely. And I did! The experience is so different from the first book, and the shift in tone is really clear. I cannot speak highly enough of the writing.
With loads of intrigue, strong characters, powerful magic, and writing that is as lovely as it is compelling, The Bone Shard Emperor is absolutely fabulous. I cannot say it any clearer than that. It gets my highest recommendation.