I read The Bone Shard Daughter back in May, so I’m thrilled that I can FINALLY tell you how fantastic this debut fantasy novel is. Being my favourite read of 2020 so far, I’ve even pre-ordered two different signed editions (roll on September)! If you’re looking for an epic fantasy escape, you will love this first instalment in The Drowning Empire series.
The Bone Shard Daughter takes place in an empire of migrating islands ruled by a reclusive emperor. He maintains order using constructs created with the titular bone shard magic, a secret craft passed down by the ruling family for generations. However, the emperor’s daughter Lin has lost her memory to a mysterious illness, and with it her father’s trust. She is compelled to launch a plot to inherit her family’s secrets and earn back her place as the rightful heir.
While Lin’s struggle is the central story, Stewart expertly weaves together the subplots of four other protagonists in both first and third-person perspective. While this might sound confusing, Stewart handles it masterfully, to the point where I was so absorbed in the story I forgot to take any notes (thus the somewhat brief review)! All of her characters have great depth, and although I didn’t always know who was ‘good’ and who was ‘bad’, I loved them all. It was also exciting to see a realistic depiction of a complex sapphic relationship between two key characters.
Both the magical and the everyday details in The Bone Shard Daughter are fascinating and new. Stewart’s world and its culture feel fresh and entirely different from the more common European-inspired settings. The bone shard magic system is my new favourite example of ‘magic with a cost’, which can be interpreted as a vivid allegory of imperialist or government oppression.
The best thing about this book is that while it’s an immensely satisfying read, it only lays the basic foundation for the series’ overarching plot.
Actually, maybe the best thing about it is Mephi, the otter-like animal sidekick. Ooh, or the constructs… Well, regardless, like popular trilogies from Robin Hobb and Brandon Sanderson, The Drowning Empire is going to be a very special series for many fantasy readers.
Congratulations to Andrea on a fantastic debut, and thank you to Orbit UK and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.