The Secret is in the Bones. The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart. [Review]

Finished this one just 2 days before New Year’s. This is a fantasy debut featuring a unique magic system and a diverse cast of characters. Let’s dive in!

The Plot

Lin is the Emperor’s Daughter, but that doesn’t mean she will inherit the throne. Competing for the Emperor’s favor is Bayan, foster brother to Lin. The Emperor plays them against each other, training them in the secrets of his bone shard magic. Unfortunately for Lin, her father seems to be favoring Bayan over her as he is withholding the secrets to his magic from her. The only way for her to secure her place as successor is to secretly plot against the Emperor and find a way to learn the bone shard magic.

Artwork included in
the Goldsboro books editions

Jovis is a smuggler. His wife disappeared years ago. Now the rumors of the blue sail boat that took her have resurfaced. Time to go after it. Too bad Jovis is a wanted man by the Ioph Cairn gang and Imperial soldiers. Hopefully, his trusty sidekick/sea creature Mephi can be of some assistance while he dodges those after him all while trying to save children from having their bone shards collected by the Empire.

Sand is on an island with no previous recollection of her past life. One day, the fog lifts and finds that all those around her have no idea how they got there. Instead they are stuck in a repetitive loop, living everyday as it were the same. Who put them on that island?

Phalue is the governor’s daughter. Her father is a man of excess and she has been blind to the true suffering of the island. Unfortunately for her she is in for a wake up call that will force her to make tough choices between duty and love.

“And that was the worst thing about this grief – not just knowing that she was gone, but knowing that eventually new memories and experiences would layer on top of them, making the distance between us ever wider.”

My thoughts

There are multiple POV’s in this book which is how I usually like my fantasy. What seems like unrelated stories on opposite ends of the empire are connected nicely towards the end. The characters all had strong stories although on a personal note, I lacked any emotional connection to most of these characters.

Sprayed edge details on
the Goldsboro books edition

While most of them have clear motivations, Lin’s motivations to me are superficial or unclear at the beginning. Her father is cold and uncaring and if he doesn’t favor her, she will not be the next Emperor. So what? At the beginning there is a disconnect in her initial motivations that didn’t make much sense to me. As the book progresses her intentions and motivations for becoming the heir become much clearer.

The emperor uses his magic to protect the empire from a mysterious race who enslaved the people centuries ago however it requires draining someone of their life in order for it to work. What happens when the thing protecting an empire is the very thing killing it?

One of the things I liked about this book was the queer representation. The queer characters are like your regular characters. There is no need to focus on the fact Phalue has a woman for a lover or that another character might be gay, it’s taken in stride. I like this type of representation in which queer characters are normal and commonplace.

Grief, confronting hard truths, the abuse of power and searching for identity; these are all themes than run throughout the book for our characters.

This was a unique debut with some interesting magic (what a good fantasy book ought to have). Although on a personal level I did not connect very well with these characters at times, this was still a well written book with interesting worldbuilding and a diverse set of characters. I’ll be watching out for the sequel!

I’m giving the Bone Shard Daughter an objective 4 out of 5.

For a quick 30 second teaser in the form on an Instagram reel, head on over to my Instagram page. Warning: there will be bones!

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