The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
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.
Hey everyone, and thanks for joining me again today.
First up, thanks so much to Netgalley and Orbit for my review copy of this book, and happy book birthday to Andrea Stewart, since today also just so happens to be the release day for The Bone Shard Daughter.
I don’t think it would be fair to delve into this book without first talking about this absolutely gorgeous cover. It’s possibly one of my favourite book covers of 2020 because it perfectly captures so many bits of plot and intrigue from the book. The key, the waves, the fact that it looks as though it really has been carved from bone, it’s just stunning. If the synopsis for this novel hadn’t already caught my attention, this cover absolutely would.
If we’re being totally honest here, I wasn’t immediately hooked by The Bone Shard Daughter. I can’t remember if I just wasn’t feeling like reading, or if the plot was maybe a touch too slow for me at the start, but it wasn’t a love at first sight kind of grab. But it did intrigue me! From the very first page, I was drawn to the concept of the magic in this world. It’s a really unique magic system, one that is intricate and thought-provoking and made me know from the start that I was in good hands with this novel. In all honesty, I didn’t mind too much that the first few pages were a little on the slower paced side, because in the end it gave me glimpses into the mystery that really did hook me for the rest of this book– how does the magic work? Every time there was some bone shard magic happening on the page, I perked up. I was so intrigued by it, and it definitely made me hungry for Lin’s chapters.
The narrative is a little bit complex, in so much as you sort of have to trust that the author has a plan for the novel. There’s a few different POVs going on, and it takes a good chunk of the book before you start to see how those narratives connect. For me, Lin’s and Jovi’s chapters were probably the easiest to read, simply because they have more twists and turns going on and more action in general, though I did also love reading Phalue’s and Ranami’s chapters too. I struggled a little bit with Sand’s, possibly because it took me a while to figure out what was going on, but again patience is rewarded later down the line. With the amount of POV characters this book has going on, it should’ve felt a bit clunky, but (like the magic system) I think this is clearly one of Stewart’s strengths. Her characters are very well-developed, especially their motivations for doing things. There’s a lot of balance going on, and I loved how complicated their motives and ambitions could be. Phalue, in particular, leapt out of the page at me, because I could understand how she was thinking and feeling for most of the book and it really added a lot to her relationship with Ranami, since they both saw the world in such different ways but frequently saw the good in each other too. I think the character development is truly standout. All too often, fiction can struggle with that line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters, and things like rebellions or class status or privilege can be overly simplified in the quest for a clearer narrative. The Bone Shard Daughter embraces complex characters whose motives, needs, and desires are complicated, messy, and (at times) at odds with one another. The attention to detail added a lot of depth to the book.
There are moments which do snag a bit. While I was interested in the mysteries of the palace and the big event that happens partway through the book (which I can’t say more about because SPOILERS!) I was a little bit disappointed that it took a while to get to find out more. But again, I guess there’s two more books (?) to come, so hopefully answers will be more forthcoming later down the line. There’s also some plot twists that I wasn’t entirely sold on, but again I kinda feel like I need to hold my tongue until I read more of the series. And the worldbuilding, particularly when it comes to the history of the world prior to the Emperor’s reign, seems so far to be a lot of repeating the same little chunks of info without really giving you much to sink your teeth into, which sometimes made it more difficult to remember that there was more going on behind the scenes. Again, I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be resolved in a satisfactory manner later down the line, but if we’re just going off first impressions it was a sticking point for me.
Overall. I’m giving The Bone Shard Daughter 8.5/10 stars. I loved the magic system, and thought it was well developed, intricate, and clever. I feel like we’re going to get some jaw-dropping plot that links to the bone shard magic in one of the other books in the series. The characters were all complex, fascinating people and this was probably my favourite thing about the book. I’m definitely curious to know what happens next and will be excited to read on!
Has anyone else read this book already or plans to? What do you all think of it? Let me know in the comment section down below