The Bone Shard Daughter // by Andrea Stewart
Pub Day: September 08, 2020
Publisher: Orbit Books
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 recognize 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 have a lot of thoughts about this book but as it happens often with these kinds of books that are making me think a lot, I struggle to put those thoughts down in writing. First off though I want to say that this is a fantastic fantasy debut novel! While there are some things I would have liked to have differently, overall Andrea Stewart is off to a great start in this genre!
I am a big fan of multiple point of views, especially with first person narration, because it gives you insights and details you would not otherwise get. While at first, I felt like there were too many narrators in this book and I kept having to re-orient myself to each new location and thought pattern, eventually it started to make a lot more sense. Once you realize that each person really does bring their own unique and important story to this book and you start connecting the different pieces, you get excited to see what happens next for each one of them. It turned out that she chose just the right amount of narrators to keep you updated on each part of her world and story.
While I enjoyed reading all of the characters, I did love Lin the most. She was just such an interesting person to follow, which is not surprising though since that is where you learn most of the things about bone shard magic. You could really see the transformation in her as she was learning more about the magic herself and as she learned more about her father, the emperor. While it sometimes felt like she was learning the magic too quickly like it was not very difficult, I wonder if maybe the passage of time was not as obvious as it could have been. That’s a rather small downside though. Maybe it also was not as obvious how much she knew previous to the start of the novel. I love how throughout the book, she starts to realize the consequences of the magic she wields but that she still is not this perfect character that the chooses to give it all up. You get to watch her way the pros and cons, and then sometimes take the darker path instead because she believes that to be a necessary means to an end. Despite her inner ethical struggles though, she comes across as a very strong person with confidence and conviction. She knows her place and knows what she deserves and acts accordingly. She also has a great sense of humor sprinkled in every once in a while.
One aspect that I really enjoyed was that I had certain suspicions about the plot and motivations of certain characters soon after I started reading. Generally that is not a good thing obviously because you don’t want to already know everything that happens in a book. What is the point of reading it then? But Stewart writes in a way that does not actually give too much away and ruins the suspense for you. I found myself wanting to find out everything more quickly because I wanted to see if I was right. It was just as fun to see what I predicted correctly as finding out when I was wrong when she threw in some really unexpected twists.
Something that stood out by not standing out is that there were gay and lesbian couples everywhere but it was not something that was specifically pointed out. This is a society where this is just as normal as straight couples, whether it’s the lower class, middle class, or ruling people. Not once did I notice a negative comment about this or anybody even talking about it at all in the book. Wouldn’t it be nice if real life was that way too? There also was no stigma to women as leaders, which was refreshing as well. Male and female characters were represented equally as rulers, heirs, and in professions that in our society are generally male-dominated.
I was impressed by the the way she included PTSD in her story. While she never actually said the words out loud or described its symptoms, the way Jovis remembered a tragic event in this book clearly is that. You can tell how it throws him off balance sometimes when he remembers it but it does not consume his life either.
Speaking of Jovis, maybe I need to take back that my favorite character was Lin. Because Jovis’ little buddy, Mephy, is actually the real favorite character of probably every reader. I wish we had an image of what Mephy looks like so we can all picture ourselves more easily with that adorable little familiar. I have not read a book in a while that includes a character like Mephy and I really loved that part of the book.
The Bone Shard Daughter is Stewart’s debut novel and I do think that is obvious in some aspects. While overall, she did a fantastic job coming up with a new magical system that I was not familiar with yet, I would have loved to see more character development as well as more world building. One of my favorite things about starting a new fantasy series is learning about an entirely new world and there was a lot of room where Stewart could have added in more detail about hers. This is one of the reasons I love books like Paolini’s To Sleep in a Sea of Stars or Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind. There is not much doubt about what their worlds look like because they put so much effort into the details. Stewart is off to a great start though and I admire this debut novel a lot. I can see her doing big things with the future installations in this series if she puts her focus on some of these details a little more. She has a great mind for plot and interesting characters so I know she has the talent for this. I am really looking forward to the next book and will be reading it as soon as it hits the shelves (or NetGalley if I am lucky enough to receive an ARC again). This is definitely one of my favorite reads this year!
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About the Author:
Andrea Stewart is the 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.
About the Publisher:
Orbit is a leading publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with imprints in the UK, US and Australia. We publish across the spectrum of Science Fiction and Fantasy – from action-packed urban fantasy to widescreen space opera; from sweeping epic adventures to near-future thrillers. Launched in 2007, Orbit US is the Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint at Hachette Book Group USA.
Thank you to the author, publisher, and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I am looking forward to following Andrea Stewart as she comes out with other interesting and beautiful works in the future.