Review: The Bone Shard Daughter

Posted: December 20, 2020 by in Books We Like (3.6/5 single_star) Meta: Andrea Stewart, Fantasy

Lin doesn’t remember much before the day she woke in the room with the chrysanthemum ceiling. Her father–the emperor–said her amnesia is the result of an illness that stole her memories. She doesn’t remember her mother (long since dead), her childhood, or the bond shard magic lessons she’s supposedly been learning from her father the years previous. Instead, her current life is full of competition with Bayan, a young man who is also learning the bone shard magic and may take her place as emperor if he learns it better than her. But Lin will do whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it means sneaking around the palace to get the information she needs.

You see, bone shard magic is what the emperor uses to protect his people from the ancient race that used to enslave the population. Bone shards power the golem-like constructs that act as guards, spies, and warriors. But, of course, there is a price. Bone shards come from each child as they come of age. And sometimes the child dies in the harvesting process. Eventually the bone shard wears out, and the person it’s tied to will die.

Jovis was able to escape the bone shard harvest when his older brother died as a result of it. That was many years ago, and since then Jovis has earned his navigator training. But circumstances have led him to a life of trading goods in a way that’s not exactly legal. Years ago his wife disappeared, kidnapped and stolen away by a blue-sailed ship. He’s been searching for her ever since. In a life-threatening escape from an island, he saves a little boy and a creature from the sea–both events which change the course of his life.

Phalue and Ranami are in love. But Phalue is the daughter-heir of the governor and Ranami a young woman of the streets. Will their love survive their vast socio-economic divide and Ranami’s fervent need to change how the governor treats the local populace?

THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER by Andrea Stewart is something a little different than the usual, which was a nice change of pace. The setting is an archipelago of islands that shift (and they can sometimes disappear in to the sea!), so that means Jovis’ navigation skills are more important than first glance. This book has themes of loss, love, social justice, and trust that move through all the stories in ways that are often thought-provoking and disturbing. Stewart takes these themes and twists them around in ways that often torture the main characters–which can be fun to read, but simultaneously frustrating.

The story is long and takes its time in the telling as it builds the world, the magic, and the characters. The narration rotates between the four main characters (and a 5th mystery) and their individual trials as they search for acceptance and love. While there are plenty of exciting parts, the forward pace is a little uneven. By the last quarter of the book it finally starts to really take off and move in a direction where you can start to see the characters take hold of their stories and create their own destiny. Some resolutions you see coming, some you don’t.

The magic is interesting and it’s the focus of Lin’s storyline as she learns bone shards and what you can do with them. Most of her learning is her own and not from the emperor, so there’s a deal of trial and error (oh so many errors). But it’s fascinating to watch as she struggles through the limitations the emperor has given her, forcing her to take matters into her own hands.

Bone shard magic protects the emperor's people from an ancient threat. His daughter, Lin, is set to inherit. IF she can learn how to use it.

I must admit it took me a while to work my way through this book. The Phalue/Ranami chapters were the least interesting and didn’t move the plot forward, they felt tacked on and forced. Jovis’ story was slightly less problematic than P/R, but still took too long to work through (and I’m not sure how I feel about the resolution). Only Lin’s story really had deeper interest for me. It just took too long for these disparate stories to converge and begin to get interesting.

But finally the story reaches a conclusion that promises more. The question is how it will build on what we learn in THE BONE SHARD’S DAUGHTER?

  • Recommended Age: 13+
  • Language: Minor
  • Violence: Fighting and death; discussion of dismemberment
  • Sex: References to relationships

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