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Welcome to my stop on The Bone Shard Daughter blog tour hosted by Your Tita Kate.
I’ll say it now: The Bone Shard Daughter is one of my best fantasy reads of 2020 and is, without a doubt, a new favourite of mine. In fact, it’s right up there with The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang.
This is a political fantasy read with a unique magic system, an all POC cast, and a very, very cute talking animal! This book highlights issues of class inequality, abuse of power as well as exploring abandonment and loneliness, relationships amidst a growing revolution, and the struggles of doing the right thing.
At the end of my review, I also have a short interview with the author, Andrea Stewart!
THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER BY ANDREA STEWART
BOOK ONE OF THE DROWNING EMPIRE
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.
🌸 Cover art by Sasha Vinogradova
I received a physical copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Father told me I’m broken.Chapter 1: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
The opening line of The Bone Shard Daughter sets the tone of the power dynamics between Lin and the Emperor. For some, this one line might not sound as enticing but to me, I thought it odd that Lin would begin her story with such a line rather than one about her memory loss or being the Emperor’s heir. This does not just introduce readers to the power dynamics but also is a line about how Lin views herself.
The Bone Shard Daughter is narrated from multiple perspectives and for the first few chapters I found the shifts to be too quick; just as I was getting into one person’s story, it would change. But as I continued to read, the multiple perspectives created the feeling of urgency that was necessary when reading The Bone Shard Daughter. I was especially impressed by how the author wove the story lines of Lin, the emperor’s heir, and Jovis, a smuggler. The way their plots brushed against each other, impacting the other but never quite touching.
Also, can I just say how cute Mephi is. Jovis rescued Mephi – a cat-like creature – from drowning during his escape from the drowning Deer Island. I love how deeply Jovis and Mephi bonded since their first meeting. What really struck me with their relationship is not about how cute they are, but it was Jovis learning to let go of what dreams he had in order to embrace what was right next to him.
He rose on to his haunches and placed his paws on my chest. “Not good?” He said, looking into my eyes.
“No.” I cleared my throat. “It’s the sort of good that you get sad about because you no longer have it. A very good.”
He pressed his head to my chin, his whiskers tickling my neck. “A very good,” he cooed.
I rubbed the little nubs on his head. I thought of what [redacted] would make of this creature. “Someday. Someday we’ll find it again.”Chapter 17: The Bone Shard Daughter
The relationship between Jovis and Mephi was one of my favourite of the series. Jovis’ emotional journey had me tearing up at so many scenes because of how slowly and emphatically Andrea Stewart built their relationship, giving Jovis the space to get comfortable with Mephi, to having to choose over Mephi or pursuing the search for his wife, and the way they stuck so close together.
“It’s hard to remake one’s view of the world, to admit to complacency. I thought remaking myself for you was hard enough, but doing that was something I wanted. I didn’t want to realize how much I’ve hurt the people around me, and that’s what confronting my beliefs meant. We all tell ourselves stories of who we are, and in my mind, I was always the hero. But I wasn’t. Not in all the ways I should have been.”Chapter 45: The Bone Shard Daughter
I adore Ranami and Phalue’s relationship; I love how Ranami continuously challenged Phalue’s world-view and the their privileges. The author did not sugar coat the difficulty with their relationship or excuse Phalue’s world view. Rather the author took the time to show how disillusioned Phalue was, how wrong their view on hard-work and privilege was, and the dissonance she faced. I absolutely love that Andrea Stewart decided to add in this particular narrative. Though, of course, it is never on one person to continuously exert emotional labour on someone who refuses to see their privilege for what it is, but Andrea Stewart balanced the two perspectives so well.
The magic of the bone shards is one of the most interesting magic systems I have come across. My initial thoughts were that this would be something akin to necromancy but as I continued to read, the complexity of the magic system – the ability to create constructs from parts of the dead and give them commands through the bone shards – and the secrets of its power continued to impress me. Though we didn’t get much of a background history of the floating islands and why some of them drowning in The Endless Sea. I really hope this gets addressed in the sequel because I am dying to know!
For a story that is full of secrecy and drive, The Bone Shard Daughter is also an emotional story of a loveless child seeking their father’s approval, of a man on a desperate, of lovers with their split loyalties. It is both a warm and chilling story especially scenes that involved the constructs. The ending was so satisfying but left enough doors open for its sequel. I swear, you don’t want to miss out on this book.
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.
INTERVIEW WITH ANDREA STEWART
Every story begins with a thread of an idea, how did The Bone Shard Daughter’s story begin?
The very first inkling of the story came to me years ago at the 2013 WorldCon in San Antonio. I was at the food court with some other writers, when my friend Marina Lostetter (who is a supremely talented author of SF and F) almost choked on a shard of bone in her food. It started me thinking about shards of bone being used for magic. Then came the idea of them being used to power constructs, and then this idea of a daughter trapped in a palace of locked doors and secrets. So I owe Marina a nice dinner, clearly!
As a writer, how did you balance writing the different PoVs? How did you organize the plot arcs to when they finally meet together?
I had an idea from the beginning of each character’s arc and how they intersected to tell the overall story. I write up chapter-by-chapter outlines of each arc first. So I wrote a Jovis chapter-by-chapter outline, a Lin one, etc. Then, once I’m happy with the shape of each of those, I summarize the chapters on virtual note cards in Scrivener and shuffle them around according to chronology and when the plot arcs intersect. Last minute changes still take place, so it’s not quite as organized as it might sound!
When reading, I was really impressed by Shiyen’s character. As someone who loves well-written antagonists, could you tell us about writing an antagonistic figure who is a quiet, contained threat?
I think villains often hold some power that makes them intimidating to the protagonist. And it doesn’t always have to be physical power. Sometimes it’s power over the protagonist’s emotions and happiness. Shiyen is an old man, so any physical threat he holds is purely through his lackeys. But he’s got a keen mind, and he knows what makes Lin tick–so he knows how to use that against her. He has what she wants: the crown, the knowledge of bone shard magic, and his love and approval. And he withholds all of these from her in order to maintain his power over her. So really, there are only two ways she can win–by not wanting these things, or by taking them. I’ll let readers discover which route she goes!
What animal would you have as a companion on your adventures?
Probably my cat, Professor Mochi! I picked him up as a kitten after I’d written most of The Bone Shard Daughter, so any relation to Mephi is purely coincidental. But he has the same sense of mischief, he travels well, and loves exploring new places. Plus he’s super cuddly. I mean, he’s not going to protect me or do…anything useful, really. He’s mostly sort of annoying in an endearing way. On the other hand, he makes me laugh and he wants to touch EVERYTHING, so maybe he would uncover some secret passages. Or spring a trap. He’s a little chaos beast.
What is the scariest/most horrifying thing you had to research for your book?
Oh, definitely trepanning, which is the removal of a piece of the skull. I thought, at first, that maybe teeth could be used as the bone shard component, but did you know teeth aren’t actually made of bone? And since a person still has to be alive in order for the bone shard magic to work, I had to think about where you could most easily remove bone from while leaving the person alive. Back in ancient times, they used trepanation to treat a number of ailments. Was it always effective? No, not really. But people survived the procedure, and we’ve unearthed skulls throughout the world with trepanation holes in them. How crazy is that? Of course, similar procedures are performed nowadays to treat bleeding in the brain or to allow access for surgery, but those pieces of skull are replaced afterward.
What message would you like your readers to take away from The Bone Shard Daughter?
Ah, there’s a lot I was trying to cover! I think mostly, though, it’s that we don’t have to be who we’re told we should be–even when the person boxing you in is yourself.
What’s next for Andrea Stewart?
Finishing the trilogy, of course! I’ve set some things up in book 1 that I’m excited to share and reveal in the next two books. I love where the story goes and how it ends, and I hope readers will enjoy it too. After that, I’ve got a sci-fi idea brewing, as well as ideas for more epic fantasy. Expect exciting new worlds, strange magic, and long-hidden secrets!
FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR!
Join the #BoneShardDaughterPH Twitter chat on September 6, 10PM PHT / GMT+8. (This is September 5, 10AM EST. Please convert to your respective timezones!)
🌸 What’s your favourite book of 2020, so far?
🌸 Which magic system makes you pick up a book immediately?
🌸 Do you plan on picking up The Bone Shard Daughter?