The Bone Shard Daughter is the first book in the Drowning Empire trilogy and marks the author’s debut into epic fantasy. It is a multi-perspective story set in a fictional Empire consisting of many islands. For decades, the extremely unpopular Emperor has ruled, but now his rule is starting to crumble and there are whispers of a rebellion. There are five main character perspective in this book. Lin is the Emperor’s daughter, who is trying to prove herself as his successor, while Jovis is a smuggler trying to find his missing wife. Phalue and Ranami are deciding where they stand in terms of the rebellion, while also dealing with issues of social status in their relationship. Finally, a woman called Sand is trying to unravel the mystery of who she is and why she is on a distant island. The amazing cover art is done by Sasha Vinogradova. To avoid spoilers, I will not be going into any detail surrounding the plot.
This was a fantastic first instalment to this trilogy. From the very beginning I was immersed in the world and I loved that the different character perspective meant we got to see different parts of the Empire. While I would definitely say that Lin was my favourite perspective, each chapter is as compelling as the last and Stewart does a great job at maintaining the flow of the story through each switch in perspective, which is pretty impressive considering the changes in narrative perspective. Both Lin’s and Jovis’s perspectives are written in a first-person perspective, while Phalue, Ranami and Sand are written in a third person perspective. This could have resulted in quite a jarring switch in perspective, but Stewart manages these changes really well and it never disrupted the flow of the story for me. The pacing remains good throughout and I found that once I started, I didn’t want to put it down, particularly towards the end of the book when it is reaching its climax.
The characters are all so well written and Stewart does a fantastic job at developing relationship between each character. Phalue and Ranami relationship is particularly interesting due to the issues with social status. These two women clearly love each other very much but they come from very different worlds and it is interesting to see how they each deal with this. Jovis’s relationship with Mephis, a mysterious creature he meets early on, is another highlight of this book. I love fantasy books with animal companions and Stewart does such a good job at developing this relationship. I can’t wait to see more of them both in the next book. Lin is another fantastic protagonist and I found Sand to be an interesting character, because there is so much mystery surrounding her. I cannot wait to see what is in store for these characters in the sequel.
One of the main strengths of this book was the world and the magic system, or more specifically bone shard magic. Bones are used to power and command constructs, which are built from parts of dead animals. Each citizen of the Empire must give a shard of their skull to the Emperor and it is these shards that power the constructs; however, the use of a person’s shard will ultimately reduce their life span. The constructs will have intricately placed commands within these shards, which will dictate their purpose (e.g. war constructs, spy constructs). I loved this concept and Stewart has done a fantastic job at giving enough information to understand the idea while still leaving a lot of mystery around it to explore in later books. I cannot wait to see it explored more in the next two instalments. The world is also incredibly well done. I love the idea of migrating island and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring different parts of the world with each character perspective.
Overall, this is a fantastic first instalment in the Drowning Empire trilogy and I would highly recommend checking it out. There is a fantastic cast of characters, a compelling plot, a unique magic system and a vividly written world. I cannot wait for the next instalment to see what is going to happen next. The Bone Shard Daughter is set to be released in US on the 8th September and in the UK on 10th September. As of writing this, there is no information about the second book, but I will be eagerly awaiting its release. If you are looking for a new epic fantasy trilogy to start, then you should definitely check this one out. This will definitely be on my favourite books of 2020 list and will probably be my favourite fantasy debut of the year. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.