Monday, August 31, 2020

Review: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire, #1)
The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) by Andrea Stewart
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020
Hardcover. 448 pages

About The Bone Shard Daughter:

"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."

The Bone Shard Daughter has been getting some pretty intense hype calling it the most anticipated and best fantasy 2020 debut of the year and I can easily understand why! I don't think I connected with this novel quite as much as it seems other people have, but I also think this is one that I will appreciate even more on a re-read, which I'll probably do before the sequel comes out.

The Bone Shard Daughter has some inventive worldbuilding that really stood out to me and is part of what drew me to wanting to know more about this world. The world itself is essentially made up of a myriad of different islands with some interesting movements associated with them, and I really can't wait to hopefully see a map of this world one day.  Additionally, the magic system is one of the most interesting parts of this book (which is saying something, considering how incredible most other aspects of this book are) and I really loved learning about how the bone shard magic worked, even if I didn't fully understand it at all points. From my understanding, bone shard magic basically works to help create and direct these sorts of creatures known as 'constructs,' which are essentially put together with various animal parts and seem to be the sort of military/police of the land. Without these constructs, there isn't a whole lot to enforce law and order, so when the various 'commands' that are imbued into them fail, repercussions can be fairly momentous. I loved seeing all the different ways that bone shard magic functioned and how Lin learned how to use it most effectively.

There is a fairly large cast of characters, and readers follow five different POVs that utilize both first and third person perspectives. I've noticed more books seem to be doing this split-perspective style and I find that it tends to have mixed execution--fortunately, I think it worked well for this book. Not only does it provide a better look at Stewart's skilled prose, it also allows readers to differentiate between characters a bit and understand their role better in the story. The two first person POVs belong to Lin and Jovis, two people that I always enjoyed following the most.

Lin, the emperor's daughter, and Jovis, a smuggler, seem to be the two perspectives, however, that maintain the greatest amount of attention. There is also a bit of an 'animal' companion in Jovis' POV that I loved, as I'm a huge sucker for any animal companions and I love how Stewart incorporated that element into the story. Lin's entire narrative was easily the most interesting to me so how she lived as the emperor's daughter and attempted to gain his trust via her abilities with bone shard magic and the frankly weird dynamic she has with both him and those around her. 

The other POVs we get are Ranami and Phalue, as well as considerably less from a fifth character known as Sand. I really appreciated Ranami and Phalue's chapters, not only because they were compelling, but because they provided even more variety in looking at the different ways of life that exist in this world, as well as on a more universal level how those from different wealth and privilege backgrounds navigate relationships when their experiences are so different from one another. I always appreciate when authors choose to use a variety of POVs in order to showcase a fuller and more well-rounded view of the world they are living in. 

I think the only reason I didn't love this book as much as it seems most other people did is because I found the pacing slightly off. Personally, I think that this is due to the fact that The Bone Shard Daughter very much felt like a book that was setting up everything for future books--and that's not to say that this is purely a negative. I don't mind when fantasy books do this because I get that it's a lot to introduce an entirely new world, magic system, culture, etc., but I just found that there were a few different times where I wasn't as invested in the world and story as much as I felt that I should be considering how truly interesting the world and magic system are. 

Overall, I found The Bone Shard Daughter to be a really solid and exciting start to a new fantasy series! I completely get why everyone is so excited about this book and calling it the 2020 debut fantasy of the year--I can't wait to see what's next!

*I received a copy of The Bone Shard Daughter in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*


  1. I'm hoping to start this soon, and I'm excited to see what everyone is talking about. All the hype worries me a bit, though😁 Glad you enjoyed it! I can't wait to find out about the animal companion.

    1. The hype made me so hesitant to start it at first, haha! Animal companions are the best. :)