Special thank you to Kate @ Your Tita Kate and the publisher for organizing this blog tour and providing me a physical ARC of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All quotes are from an advance copy and are subject to change in final publication.
Title: The Bone Shard Daughter
Author: Andrea Stewart
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020
Source: Physical ARC via publisher
Age Range & Genre: Adult, fantasy, LGBTQ+
Content warnings: violence, death, blood, human/animal experimentation
Synopsis: 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.
Yeah, so, this series may or may not be my new obsession because good Lord am I invested. I’d heard from friends that The Bone Shard Daughter wouldn’t be quite how it seemed, but even then, I still had no idea what I was getting myself into – and it was all even more intriguing than I could have ever expected.
And I would show him that even broken daughters could wield power.Andrea Stewart, The Bone Shard Daughter
While The Bone Shard Daughter is indeed Lin’s story, it is also the story of Jovis, Phalue, Ranami, and Sand. All five of these characters provide their own perspectives throughout the book, with Lin and Jovis’s chapters being told in first person, and Phalue, Ranami, and Sand’s being told in third. The shift between first person narration and third can initially be jarring, but Andrea Stewart executes the transition in a way that seems seamless. Although it took me a good 10+ chapters or so to acclimate and familiarize myself with their names and voices, the differing perspectives were masterfully handled in order to craft a phenomenal mystery full of layered twists and turns.
Lin is possibly one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read about. She is simultaneously dealing with severe memory loss and competing with her father’s foster son to see who can unlock all of the keys to secret rooms in the palace and master bone shard magic first. Due to her memory loss and the fact that her father has clear expectations of who she should be, rather than who she is, Lin struggles to develop a sense of self. As she slowly discovers more about the palace and the secrets it holds, she learns more about herself, her father, and their fraught history.
If Lin is the character I found to be the most fascinating, I think Jovis would have to be my favorite. There’s something about the exhausted, reluctant hero who refuses to think of himself as a hero that I automatically love. Jovis’s chapters also had the perk of including Mephisolou (Mephi for short), an adorable talking creature that Jovis sort of accidentally rescues and subsequently bonds with. Their bond is so organic and strong, and I can’t wait to learn more about Mephi and his mysterious origins in the sequel.
Phalue and Ranami are interesting both individually and within their relationship to each other, and their dynamic has intricacies that make Stewart’s overall commentary on imperialism and classism hit even harder. I loved seeing an established sapphic relationship that is also blatantly flawed in a fantasy, where the people in the relationship obviously love each other deeply but have conflicting ideals and beliefs wrought by ignorance and privilege. All of the characters are easy to root for, but I might have been rooting for Phalue the hardest, hoping that she could unlearn her internalized biases and the lies that she wanted to believe about government.
Even though she had the fewest chapters in her perspective, Sand is absolutely crucial to the story. Stuck on an island without her memories of who she is or how she got there, Stewart lays the groundwork to help you guess at Sand’s true identity, and the reveal still knocked me off my feet.
A made thing could grow and change beyond its original purposes.Andrea Stewart, The Bone Shard Daughter
Speaking of how Stewart lays the groundwork for guessing at plot twists – The Bone Shard Daughter is chock-full of twists that left my head spinning. Every time I thought I’d finally figured out what Stewart was hinting at, another layer was peeled back and I was completely taken by surprise all over again. The best twists are the ones that are satisfying, where you can clearly see several paths to reasonable conclusions and yet, no one but the author truly knows where the story is leading.
Stewart pulls absolutely no punches when it comes to imperialism and privilege. Two of our leading narratives are characters in positions of great power and privilege, who have to expand their perspectives beyond their own sheltered lives and recognize the hardships that nearly everyone else is facing. As a governor’s daughter, Phalue is infuriating even as you root for her to grow because yes, she is extremely ignorant, but her rhetoric is so utterly familiar. We’ve all heard people justify exploitation, injustice, inequality, by insisting that people choose that life, that they don’t have to remain stuck in their circumstances and can rise above them, that the world is fair and people have equal opportunities if only they just take advantage of them. It’s an exhausting mindset to encounter and try to undo, and I love that Stewart shows that process through Phalue and Ranami’s relationship.
I adored The Bone Shard Daughter much more than I expected, which can probably be credited to the book’s fairly slow start, but that’s also to be expected of adult fantasies. With a beautifully layered plot and the development of the main characters, I think Stewart set herself up for a truly stunning sequel that further explores the effects of imperialism and how nations are rebuilt in the aftermath – if they’re rebuilt at all. Considering what Stewart managed to do in the first book alone, I can’t wait to see what she does next.
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.
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