Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
Reading format: Library hardback
Content warnings: fighting, death
“Father told me I’m broken.”
On Imperial Island Lin, daughter of the Emperor, can’t remember her childhood memories. Without her memories she can’t be her father’s heir.
“How can I trust you with my secrets? How can I trust you as my heir if you do not know who you are?”
She also isn’t allowed to continue learning the art of bone shard magic, which has helped protect the Phoenix Empire for over a century. Constructs created from bone shard magic act as eyes and ears for the Sukai Dynasty, keeping mayhem at bay and peace across the lands. Instead, the Emperor focuses his attention and tutelage on Bayan, the Emperor’s foster son and Lin’s rival.
Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lin must continue her studies of bone shard magic to prove her worth. To do so she secretly enlists the help of an unwitting blacksmith beyond the palace walls. As she nimbly carries out her plan to overthrow her father, Lin begins to realize he has some dark secrets that threaten the existence of Empire’s people.
Far away from the palace, Jovis the smuggler has been trying to find his missing wife for years. With nothing but threads of tales of a strange ship, he continuously sails the Endless Sea searching for Emahla. While eluding the Emperor’s soldiers at the Tithing Festival, a terrible act of nature befalls Deerhead Island. Jovis finds himself the reluctant savior of a strange creature plucked from the sea and a child he whisked away from the Tithing Festival. Word quickly spreads amongst civilians of a smuggler who saves children from the Tithing Festival, thrusting Jovis into the underground world of rebellion against the throne.
On Nephilanu Island, Phalue, the daughter and heir of the island’s governor, broods over why her partner Ranami refuses to marry her. As she tries to understand Ranami’s reluctance, Ranami is kidnapped. In her search for Ranami, Phalue slowly begins to realize that their beliefs may be forever at odds. She must choose between the Empire and her father’s rule or the people and the love of her life.
And then there’s Sand whose sole purpose in life is to pick mangoes on Maila Isle at the edge of the Empire. That is, until she falls from a mango tree and the cloud over her memories begins to lift. So Sand sets about trying to figure out how she and everyone else on the isle got there and why it’s so difficult to remember.
I saw a lot of praise about Andrea Stewart’s The Bone Shard Daughter by fellow book reviewers. So,I was excited when it finally arrived on hold at the library. I loved the intrigue of the first line of the book. Stewarts writes with just enough detail in the early chapters to paint a picture and build the reader’s curiosity. I admit I was a little confused at first while reading the first chapter about Lin. What is bone shard magic? What’s a construct? But keep reading and I promise you’ll find out.
Generally I prefer a single point of view narrative. But books like The Bone Shard Daughter make me change my mind. I enjoyed reading about each of these character’s stories, particularly Jovis’s. I’ll be honest: I think I enjoyed reading about Jovis the most because of the entangled storyline he has with Mephi, the strange creature Jovis rescued from the sea. (This isn’t a spoiler–the rescue occurs in the first couple segments of the book.) Who doesn’t like a cute, albeit unknown, animal with a pleasant and helpful disposition?
My only critique is that I found Phalue’s storyline to be a little slow. I found myself frustrated with Phalue’s closed-mindedness when Ranami repeatedly tries to explain her political beliefs.
However, another thing I enjoyed about this story is the concept of rotating islands. From what I gathered, the islands rotate based off of some seasonal schedule and also have rainy and dry seasons. In order to sail to another island, one must take into account the time of year to plot the correct direction. This concept is unique to me and I thought it was brilliant.
I also feel that Stewart did a great job leaving breadcrumbs that carry the reader to the big reveal. Admittedly, I did correctly guess at one of the plot reveals, but I was definitely surprised by the others. Suffice it to say, I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, The Bone Shard Emperor, which comes out on November 9, 2021 in the U.S.