Such Power Carries a Great Cost
The Bone Shard Daughter
by Andrea Stewart
“Fanatics were all alike, cut from the same cloth and dyed different colors.”―
Andrea Stewart, The Bone Shard Daughter
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.
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.
The Bone Shard Daughter is one of the rare books I did almost no research on before buying – I liked the short bit of premise I’d read and a couple of reviewers I like had enjoyed it. The cover is nice too, but I got the audiobook so it plays less of a role in this instance.
I’m very happy to say that I enjoyed it and I’m glad my blind leap paid off. For around the first half of the book though, I was having some doubts that this would be the case!
It was just pretty slow-paced, I wasn’t particularly bothered about the characters and what action there was, didn’t feel particularly engrossing. At the halfway mark though, I felt like things started to fall into place and everything clicked. It turned out I actually had cared about the characters, and that the first half was just subtly and covertly building up my attachment and interest in their stories. Suddenly I cared, just in time for things to get exciting.
There are five POVs, four of whom are women. This is quite refreshing; how many fantasy stories are full of male characters with a token woman? In this case, the male POV isn’t a token one, either. It works, it feels organic, unforced.
Eventually, it would be nice for an 80% female MC bias to be unremarkable enough not to be worth a mention and 4 of the 5 POVs here are really strong, well-written characters that I enjoyed spending time with on the page, regardless of gender. The fifth, Sand who we spend the least time with, just didn’t have the same pull for me, her chapters didn’t engross me in the same way the others did, nor did I care about her character particularly.
Lin is the star of the show – the titular Bone Shard Daughter and I particularly enjoyed her chapters as it is through her POV we learn most about the Bone Shard magic. In short, organic constructs can be assembled with the parts of organisms and basically activated with bone shards – each shard containing a command.
These commands follow a binary logic-based system some readers might be familiar with in other formats, and these commands determine the actions of the construct, though they do have a degree of free will if determined by the bone shards. It’s quite a soft magic system in that the bone shard magic just works without the need for pages of explanation. Would you really want a hard magic system in this instance, to try and explain how these bone shards control a construct and in-depth descriptions of how they are assembled? I personally don’t, for me in this book it’s fine just to accept the magic works, and not an in-depth how or why.
Lin’s story follows her determination to carve out her own future, its potential stifled by her cold and controlling father, the emperor – who powers his constructs with the life force of the empire’s citizens. The bone shards are taken from every person and when used to power a construct, shorten the lifespan of whoever’s bone shard is being used.
Ranami and Phalue are two POV characters with differing personalities who are in love with one another, and it’s a charming aspect of the story to be a part of – for a person who is not a huge fan of romance in fantasy, I enjoyed and appreciated it on this occasion and it complemented the main story really well.
Ranami is a member of the resistance to the empire (The Shardless) whilst Phalue is the daughter of a governor who has been oppressing his subjects. Naturally, this causes conflict and asks the question of whether love can be strong enough to break down barriers.
Jovis is a Han Solo sort of loveable rogue character and starts the story searching for his missing love, following a mysterious boat with blue sails. I really enjoyed experiencing his character arc in this, but as I’m sure many other readers will agree, the highlight of Jovis’ storyline is his companion, Mephi.
A mysterious mammal-like creature Jovis saves from drowning towards the beginning of the book, there are some wonderful moments with Mephi and I imagine he could become many readers’ favourite fantasy animal companion.
All in all, this is a solid debut from Andrea Stewart that gave that affirmative, satisfying feel on having read it. There are imaginative elements and very likable characters. The only caveat is some readers might enjoy a little more depth or complexity than can be found here, depending on your reading preferences.