The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) by Andrea Stewart

Bone

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Even Better Than The Hype

I loved this. It’s a great start to series. It’s creative, has excellent world building, characters you can really get on board with and fantastic imagination and it hints at so much more yet to come.

Set in a world of floating islands the early chapters get off to a very dramatic start when one of the islands sinks killing thousands of people. This is where we first meet Jovis, a smuggler and one of five pov voices. I must say I loved Jovis and his animal companion Mephi. I think it’s fairly safe to say that Mephi is going to be a firm favourite with many readers.

A little bit of history about the Empire. The islands were previously ruled by the Alanga – powerful, magic wielding entities that were highly destructive. We don’t really learn much about them in this instalment other than they were defeated by the magic of the first Emperor. That magic is passed down to the heir and is used to maintain control. The fear of course is that the Alanga will one day return and the fact that some of the ancient artefacts seem to be behaving rather oddly (for example statues opening their eyes) certainly fuels this fear.

Magic is used to create ‘constructs’ that help the Emperor maintain control. Constructs are made up of all sorts of body/animal parts and the magic that fuels them comes from bone shards removed from the Emperor’s subjects at an early age during a ‘Tithing’ ceremony. The shards are placed within the constructs and are used almost like a computer chip, to give the construct its own code at the same time as using the person’s life force to fuel the construct. Of course, people are becoming resentful of this process. The tithing ceremony itself is dangerous and painful and the shards, once placed within the construct slowly drain the donor of energy and life. This resentment is in fact the force behind a mounting rebellion that is gaining popularity across the Empire.

The story is narrated through five different POVs that help to give an all round view.

Lin is the Emperor’s daughter. She lost her memory five years ago following illness and whenever she recalls something from the past the Emperor rewards her with a key to one of the many locked doors within the palace. Lin’s story helps us to gain information about the constructs and the way they work.

Jovis relentlessly searches for his missing wife – she was abducted seven years prior and he sails the seas in pursuit of his only clue – a boat with a blue sail that was seen departing the island at the time of her disappearance. He’s a wanted man, his smuggling having earned him something of a reputation and he unwittingly becomes almost a saviour to the people, gaining hero status when he rescues a number of children before they can have their shards removed.

Phalue and Ranami are a couple who share a stormy relationship. Phalue is the daughter of one of the island’s governors. Ranami is one of the islanders, her life and upbringing provide a sharp contrast to the lifestyle of the governor and in fact their relationship is used to highlight the difference in the class system – the downtrodden, underfed famers at one end of the scale, living in abject poverty and working long hours for very little reward and the overfed, over indulged Governor at the other with his opulent lifestyle and scant regard for the masses.

Finally we have a character known as Sand who lives on an island with others who all seem to suffer from some form of memory loss. This is an intriguing element to the story and I confess I completely went down the wrong track with this particular thread. I won’t discuss this element further only to say this promises to be an intriguing element of the next book.

In terms of plot. Well, I would say that this has an almost ‘set up’ style feel to it. Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a negative remark – this has great pace and I couldn’t put it down – but by the conclusion I would say that what has really been established here is a feel for the people and place plus the promise of so much more yet to come.

Criticisms? I don’t really have any to be honest. I think, as with any book with multiple povs, there will be firm favourites and povs that readers are more keen to return to. I would also like to learn more about the world depicted here. I love the asian influences and the idea of the constructs and the magic used, plus there are a couple of twists that were very eye popping. Basically, I want more and I want it now – so not really a criticisms but a desperate desire to visit this fascinating world again.

Overall, this is a very impressive debut. The writing is polished and there’s a stunning amount of imagination and creativity at play here that certainly provides plenty of food for thought. I can’t wait to read the next instalment.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars