This week’s Biblioshelf Musings is for The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart. There was such a buzz about this book across the blogosphere on it’s initial release in Hardback format, that I was so excited to get my hands on an e-arc of it from NetGalley in preparation for the paperback release date on 8th April 2021. Huge thanks to Little, Brown Book Group / Orbit, Andrea Stewart and NetGalley for my complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.
Book: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Genre: Fantasy / Science-Fiction
Publication Date: 8th April 2021 (Paperback version)
Publisher: Orbit / Little, Brown Book Group
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
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.
Shifting islands, an empire on the brink of revolution and a sinister magic involving shards of human bone… It’s no surprise that this was right up my bookish street!
Told through the perspectives of five different characters, the main story follows Lin, the Emperor’s Daughter as she tries to regain her lost memories and learn the complexities of bone shard magic in order for her father to declare her as his heir. Elsewhere around the empire, we follow Jorvis, a smuggler, as he attempts to escape both the Ioph Carn and the Empire whilst smuggling children away from trepanning ceremonies and trying to track down a mysterious boat which kidnapped his wife several years previously.
With the addition of sapphic couple Phalue and Ramani (a Governor’s Daughter and her partner) who are trying to put their different upbringings aside to compromise on their ambitions to create a better world, and a mysterious island-dweller Sand who can’t remember anything about her past, there is plenty of character development to keep your mind buzzing as their storylines gradually become intertwined in the course of the novel.
For me, Stewart hit the right balance between the length of each character’s perspective and the pacing of them throughout the story. Each character break left me on a cliffhanger, just wanting to find out more. Lin’s determination and braveness made her likeable and Jovis’ vulnerabilities and honesty made me champion him as his storyline took various twists and turns. I also admired the way that Stewart was not afraid to be bold and daring when it came to the fates of her characters. My heart was in my mouth at more than one point whilst reading this book (with one particular moment involving a family of side-characters leaving me reeling)!
Mephi was by far my favourite character though – I’m such a sucker for animals and the mysterious nature of his origins and power is something I am hugely intrigued about. His relationship with Jovis was wonderfully written so I hope we get to see and learn more about them both in the sequel.
I need to say how much I loved the STEM representation within this book! For those who may not be aware, STEM is an acronym used in education to describe subjects relating to Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. As a primary school teacher (and the Maths/Computing lead), there has been a big shift in the promotion of these subjects, particularly with providing opportunities for girls and young women to try and inspire them in pursuing these industries in their future careers and highlighting just how widespread and multi-faceted these subjects are.
It was so refreshing to see the main character, Lin representing this through her pursuit of learning bone shard magic. The idea that bone shard magic is some sort of magical computer programming for the strange, Frankenstien-esque, living constructs was a really intriguing and unique type of magic which is so different to the most common forms that you usually encounter in fantasy stories.
I loved the way Stewart mixed these ideas together and the way performing the magic was explained. It gave just enough detail so that I could fully understand what was happening, whilst at the same time being subtle enough to keep it mystical rather than overwhelmingly scientific.
The constructs themselves left me freakishly curious; part-human / part-animal, they brought a quirky element to whole narrative. At times, I struggled to visualise them in my head but I enjoyed how unique and strange they were. As the plot unravels, we get to understand a little more about how the constructs are made and it was interesting to see how they are integral to some of the bigger plot twists and developments within the story.
I loved the Asian-inspired world and the shifting islands that Stewart created. It was supernatural yet realistic. Through the descriptions of each place, I could clearly build a picture of the islands in my mind and I liked how they had their own stories and vibes, as well as the way they interacted with each other and provided a stage for the different characters and events. The incident with Deerhead Island towards the start of the novel put the scope and scale of what could happen in this world right at the forefront of my mind. I still feel like there is so much more to explore of this empire and I’m hoping we get to see that in The Bone Shard Emperor.
Overall, this fantasy with a STEM-based twist did a superb job at setting the scene and whetting my appetite for the rest of the series. We are now familiar with the world, the magic and the characters. Breadcrumb trails have been left for even more secrets to be uncovered about Lin and Jovis, the constructs, the mysterious Alanga artefacts and the future of the empire. The chess pieces are on the board and I can’t wait to see how they move in the second instalment of this Drowning Empire series!
Why Should I Read This?
For the quirky, computer-science element to the bone shard magic.
For an intertwining cast of characters all converging on an Empire on the brink of political revolution.
For a unique, Asian-inspired fantasy which seeks to redefine the parameters of blending science with magic.
About the Author:
Andrea Stewart is the Chinese American daughter of immigrants, and was raised in a number of places across the United States. Her parents always emphasized science and education, so she spent her childhood immersed in Star Trek and odd-smelling library books. When her (admittedly ambitious) dreams of becoming a dragon slayer didn’t pan out, she instead turned to writing books. She now lives in sunny California, and in addition to writing, can be found herding cats, looking at birds, and falling down research rabbit holes.