ARC review: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

In an empire controlled by bone shard magic, Lin, the former heir to the emperor will fight to reclaim her magic and her place on the throne. TheBone Shard Daughter marks the debut of a major new voice in epic fantasy.

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.

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this book is a very good
— Mephi, probably

I had such a great time reading this debut!

I feel like I am in a minority here but I love adult fantasy with multiple POVs to the point where if I know that that’s a feature of the book I am much more likely to start it. The Bone Shard Daughter didn’t disappoint with its five (!!) POVs and, something I hadn’t seen done before, the use of different voices (1st or 3rd person) for different characters. I think that might sound scary to someone but I personally thought the transition from one chapter to the next was seamless and it never bothered me, on the contrary it contributed to diversify the POVs with their different strengths.

Lin is the Emperor’s daughter and one of the two more frequent POVs. She’s trying to remember her past and secretly learning the magic her father is keeping from her until she remembers. Bone shard magic is basically a type of magical programming used for constructs, creatures made of different animal parts and operating on the life force of the bones of the citizens of the empire. Constructs can be small and relatively easy and much more complicated with many variants in the code used for them, which essentially tells them the different conditions in which to operate and who to obey to. This magic was so cool to read about in its different aspects, I couldn’t help but root for Lin to learn it and to find ways to hack her father’s constructs. I loved the focus on having her own agency especially as things unravel towards the end. With that sad, I also thought her chapters became kind of repetitive after a while because a good chunk of the middle book revolved around her sneaking around and essentially following the same pattern over and over. I was still engaged but I couldn’t help remove half a star from the overall rating because of this.

Jovis is the other main 1st person POV and simply my favorite, and I suspect I’m not the only one in this. He’s a smuggler trying to find his wife who went missing years ago. He witnesses the collapse of one of the island of the empire (..the title of this series is quite literal) and finds a new friend in Mephi, a strange otter-like creature who starts small, just a little beast initially mistaken for a kitten, and we see grow up in the few months in which this book spans. Mephi is, for me, the highlight of this book and I will never shut up about him. If you have a soft spot for magical animal companions please stop reading my review and just go buy and start this book right now because you mustn’t miss this. Mephi and Jovis form a deep bond and let me just tell you about 80% of the highlights on my kindle are things Mephi says to Jovis or Jovis says about Mephi. While Mephi sometimes kind of acts as an outside conscience for Jovis, Jovis is also a really interesting and lovable character of his own and I want him to only and always have good things.

Phalue and Ranami are two POVs that are connected to each other from the beginning. They are an established sapphic couple (!!!!!!!) in which Phalue is a lesbian and Ranami is wlw. I never know going into a book what to expect from an established couple because I’m personally a reader who lives for romance in books and I love the getting there more than the we’re already there and have to deal with conflict, but what the author did with this couple is so, so relevant and so important. Reading about the difference in privilege and struggles that Phalue and Ranami have faced in life was every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds and yet so needed, and I appreciate the choice to offer both POVs when it might have been easier to condense them into one and leave the other’s growth to be seen from an outside point. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for these two in the sequels.

Sand lives on an island where everyone is dedicated to their daily tasks without many worries, and yet when she starts to remember that she might not have always lived on the island she starts to question why they’re all there and how to take back some autonomy. Her POV served both as a glue to other storylines and, I suspect, as a setup for the next installments, and I thought this was done brilliantly.

I’m so glad I got to read this and even though now the wait for the second book will be exhausting I still think that this first book offers enough closure and such a satisfying feeling that you won’t be mad you have to wait for the rest of the series. It’s one of the most solid debuts I’ve read and I think it will appeal to a lot of different types of readers, even to fantasy readers who come from YA and want to try their hands at adult fantasy. So by all means, give this new Asian-inspired debut set in a world where queerness is perfectly normalized a try, you won’t regret reading it.

2 thoughts on “ARC review: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

  1. Omg this sounds amaaaazing!!!! So, based on what you said, I already love Mephi and now feel scared about getting into this series in case something happens to him. I am definitely going to be reading this book, especially after your wonderful review. Beautiful job as always xx


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