The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Publisher: Orbit Books

Publish Date: 8 September 2020

Page Count: 438 pages


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.

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10 thoughts on “The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

  1. Damn fine review, Jake, and has me drooling to get my hands on my own copy. I’ve been fascinated by the magic system since this one first popped up on everyone’s radar. It really does sound different, if not, unique, in a genre saturated with the usual tropes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s soo good! Just ahead of Velocity Weapon as my fav book of the year. It’s a familiar epic fantasy set-up but with lots of fresh ideas. Can’t wait for you to read it!

    And thank you, I think because I liked the book so much (and I’ve spoken to the author a few times, who is just the nicest) that my review wasn’t my best. Glad it gets the message across though! 🙂

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  3. Oh, your review was passionate, and that’s what counts when we can’t squeeze everything in. There was so much I felt I missed when talking about Velocity Weapon and We Ride The Storm. Anyway, this one is, as you say, going to be a huge hit. And I love that the author is also so very chatty on social media too. That makes a big difference as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We need to befriend her before she gets too famous 😂
    I felt like that too. But at the same time, I try to remember a review isn’t an analysis – we should leave SOME surprises for readers 😬

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  5. Yeah, to the befriending, and yes, you’re right, we’re not writing critical analysis of these stories, but how much we enjoyed them and why!

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  6. Glad you enjoyed this so much! I think you were the first person to put this book on my radar. I’m a little wary of long fantasies, especially with multiple POV, but it sounds like this is well-written. I’m looking forward to giving it a go.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think you should give it a go! The multiple POVs work really well and it’s not a mission to read like some epic fantasy. I think you can still check out the first three chapters for free on the Orbit website 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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