Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) , by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter, by Andrea Stewart is an epic, mesmerising and rich fantasy full of magic, revolution and deadly plots.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

4.75 Stars

Synopsis: The Emperor has ruled for decades, maintaining his power through his use of bone shard magic that controls the animal-like constructs that help him govern his Empire. But his Empire is now crumbling, his rule is weakening and revolution is brewing. His daughter, Lin, has her own vision for the Empire but her father fails to acknowledge her and keeps her in a palace of locked doors – she decides to master bone shard magic herself and prove her worth.

Nothing, however, is as it seems and the price of power may be higher than anyone anticipated.

The Bone Shard Daughter, by Andrea Stewart is a rich and unique fantasy that is epic and captivating. It is a mesmerising tale of revolution, power and corruption filled with interesting magic and dynamic characters.

The Writing. This book is beautifully written and seamlessly weaves the multiple narratives together to create a shocking and fantastic story full of emotion and surprising twists and turns. Andrea Stewart’s writing is wonderful, with rich and immersive descriptions that pull you into the story right from the start. Despite being an epic fantasy the writing is not overly convoluted and is incredibly easy to follow without losing its depth and vivid imagery. The writing fleshes this world out wonderfully and draws a clear picture of the magic, the constructs and the dark underbelly of this incredible world.

The mastery of Stewart’s writing is clearly displayed through how well she crafts each narrative. The story is told from 5 different perspectives, some with more time lent to them than others, and each compliments the others perfectly to craft a multi-layered story. The narratives are distinctive but also manage to blend seamlessly to the point where you don’t realise that two are in first person and the rest are in the third person. Each perspective is engaging, unique and dynamic, lending an interesting and individualised views of the story and the world allowing us to organically learn about it without any info-dumps.

The multiple narratives work wonderfully with the story as it is heavily character driven. It perfectly allows for tension and mystery to be built and slowly crafts an intricate web of secrets and resistance that comes together to produce a shocking and multi-layered picture.

The Story/Plot. This is a heavily character driven story which is outstanding and unique. On the whole the story is well paced, though slightly slow at the start this doesn’t prevent you from being immediately drawn in, and the pace picks up when necessary allowing both emotional depth and interesting action scenes. The story follows 5 characters, each with different perspectives of this crumbling Empire.

Firstly we follow Lin, the Emperor’s daughter. Lin is ‘broken‘, her father fails to acknowledge her as the heir to the Empire and keeps her in a palace of locked doors only to pit her against Bayan, his adopted/foster son. Despite her broken memories and forced rivalry, Lin is determined to prove her worth and master Bone Shard magic, even though her father has yet to reveal the secrets of it and locks away the knowledge needed. She wants to improve the Empire but must work without her father’s knowledge. As she secretly collects the keys and finds a way to unlock each of the palace doors, and the mysteries behind them, she slowly learns how to use Bone Shard magic and how to make constructs but the more doors she unlocks the darker the secrets that are revealed.

I really loved each aspect of Lin’s storyline and how it developed over the course of the book. Her story has a lot of mysteries from her lost memory and past to her slowly developing her knowledge of the Constructs and subsequently learning more about her father – it is filled with tension and suspense as she sneaks around the palace to learn its secrets. The desperation to prove herself alongside her rivalry with Bayan was fascinating as Bayan always seems to be a step ahead of her when it comes to learning from the Emperor. The complex relationship between the two adds a brilliant dynamic to the story. Lin’s perspective had some of the most shocking and unexpected twists and turns over the course of the book and definitely surprised me multiple times, as well as frankly horrifying me at some points! I adored this it truly had be gripped and the reveals were surprising showing the true horror of trying to hold onto your power. It’s hard for me to say just how captivating, tense, horrifying and thrilling this part of the story was without spoilers but I will say that this will go above and beyond your expectations and predictions.

The next primary character we follow is Jovis. He, for the most part, is incredibly single minded on his mission to find the woman he loves. Getting himself into trouble along the way in order to follow a boat that passes like a ghost, Jovis ends up entangled in the web of revolution despite having just one goal. I liked Jovis story more and more as it went on, particularly as he began to get involved in more that just chasing a mysterious boat that he believes is tied to his loves disappearance. Jovis is a smuggler, a brilliant one at that, meaning that he is also wanted and thus needs to look out for himself, he does, however, have a bit of a soft heart and ends up smuggling children out of the Tithing Festivals. Amidst his smuggling antics and his search for the ghostly boat, Jovis befriends Mephi (who is basically a sea-cat-otter type animal THAT I LOVED). Though Jovis goes through a lot, and has a few action scenes – which are brilliantly written and very interesting – one of the most fascinating aspects of his story was his bond with Mephi, because who doesn’t love talking magical animal companions!

I really enjoyed this aspect of the story and watching how it eventually ties in with the others, specifically Lin’s, and loved how we learned more about the harshness of this magical world and the regulations the constructs enforce through Jovis and his smuggler status. A particular thing that was interesting was Jovis’ ability to talk around the Constructs – this added so much depth to the world and its magic, and limitations, so naturally making it all the more interesting.

Phalue and Ranami’s storylines intertwine often and feature each other as the two are in a relationship. Firstly, the relationship is incorporated naturally, the romantic aspect does not over power the rest of the story and yet is incredibly important to the two characters and their actions and conflicts. Phalue and Ranami and worlds apart in terms of class, Ranami believes Phalue could use her position to be more helpful to those less fortunate and Phalue doesn’t fully understand Ranami’s position. These two have less time in the spotlight that Jovis and Lin but their stories are still very interesting. Ranami is a rebel and we follow her and her allies with their revolutionary plans. Phalue is a Governor’s daughter who adores Ranami but cannot quite give her all to aid her and her rebellious ways. This story is more focused on their struggles and ideas towards rebellion and was fascinating to watch how far each of them would go and to what extent they support each other. I can’t say too much more about these two perspective because spoilers but I loved the time spent on them.

The final perspective is that of Sand’s. Sand has a unique perspective that is set on an island away from the rest of the characters we see. Her story is more mysterious as we follow her realising that she has no memories and that this island has an odd vibe and sense of general complacency. As Sand tries to work out exactly where they are and why, a bigger mystery slowly unfolds. This storyline is intriguing and tense, and its ending is fascinating and I look forward to seeing how it ties into the next book and the rest of the big picture that has and is being revealed. But, this is also the element I can say least about because of the tightly wound mystery! However, this was an effective addition to the story that will have your mind reeling with possibilities and will keep you completely mesmerised.

Overall, the story/plot is fascinating, tense, mysterious, unique, gripping, captivating and shocking. Each of the perspectives are effective and help add to the story as well as the world and weaves together perfectly to create a mindblowing fantasy. The ending of this book is brilliant and unpredictable, the risks are high and the consequences are real. This is a brutal story but also a magical one that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. I cannot praise this enough I loved it!

The WorldBuilding/Magic. This world is vast and fascinating. The Empire is run by the Emperor and his network of Constructs, animal like beings powered by shards of the people’s bones taken from their skulls as children in the Tithing festivals. If this wasn’t cruel enough, some children die during the process and others begin to die as their bone-shards are used to power the constructs (known as Bone shard-sickness).

The Constructs are uniquely fascinating – though powered by something horrifying, they are incredibly interesting to read about. Made up of animal parts combined the creatures are bound by their masters rules and commands. The magic is not pretty, which we know from seeing it in practice and creation. It is gritty and takes hard work, it is almost mathematical in application with a numerous web of rules and commands to power and control it. Not only that the Constructs are more complex the more powerful they are with us seeing the most complex of them all as they work for the Emperor. This magic is well balanced between horrifying and fascinating – you want to know more even though it is cruel. While Bone-Shard magic is the primary source of anything remotely magical in the world we do get glimpses of something more, like through Mephi – I won’t go into detail but this seems to promise something more in the future.

There is also the mysterious history of the Alanga and the old artifacts left behind in its wake. This is something that creates a sense of foreboding and mystery – something we do not quite understand but seems as though it will come into play later on, linking with the sinking islands and crumbling foundation of the Empire.

The actual world is fantastic in this Asian inspired fantasy. The Empire is made up of numerous Islands and the world is vast and realistic, each Island being distinctive in its own way despite being part of the larger Empire. I adored learning about the Empire and its regions.

The world and the magic is rich, deep and multi-dimensional, it comes off as realistic in its gritty and raw feel and is both fascinating and horrifying. I loved this world and the magic that surrounds it and am so excited to see how things will change along with the development of the series.

The Characters. Due to being quite character driven, the characters are a highlight of the story. The cast is huge, the characters are diverse and each one is individual, distinctive and has their own complex personality that makes us love them or hate them. (Rep: Asian coded characters, established f/f couple, strong female leads). The fact that each of these characters are so different and have their own unique goals and different social, political and cultural viewpoints makes this novel incredibly distinctive, each characters is standing on their own side of this Empire and it is thrilling to watch.

Lin. The Emperor’s daughter with a clear goal of mastering Bone-shard magic so that she can create a better Empire. She is determined, headstrong, clever and kind. I loved her character and found her to be incredibly interesting as she is forced to be stealthy and secretive. I loved watching her learn about the constructs because we got to with her and as she pieces together the puzzle her character is laid bare and we get to see her true colours. She was a fascinating character to read about and her relationships with the Emperor and with Bayan were complex and interesting to watch grow and change.

Jovis. The smuggler who comes of hard and grumpy but has a soft heart and wishes only to save the woman he loves. He is clever, quick and sly and I loved him a lot. His character goes from having a single track mind to being one drawn into multiple forms of rebellion. He and his relationship with Mephi was a highlight for me in the book and I loved watching him develop over the course of the story . His bond with Mephi is pure and heart-wrenching and his soft spot for children is endearing and sweet. Though it doesn’t seem like it at first, Jovis has a lot of layers to him and as the story goes on he becomes more loveable and intriguing.

Phalue. A Governor’s Daughter with a narrow world view but a soft heart and a severe weakspot for Ranami. Phalue is kind and gentle wanting only to be with Ranami but she is sheltered and unable to comprehend the harshness of a life in poverty – she develops well as the story goes on and becomes more likeable as her view widens and becomes more realistic and accommodating.

Ranami. Though it is clear she loves Phalue, Ranami is harsher. Though she is sweet and kind and desperately wants to help those who need it, she can be harsh in her decisions to shed light on these problems. Ranami is an interesting character with a lot of softness but also with the drive of someone unafraid to do what needs to be done.

Sand. Sand is interesting and complex because she lacks memories. But, she has drive, determination and guts when it matters and you grow to love her as the story goes on.

Mephi. What is not to love about a talking magical sea-cat companion honestly?! Mephi is hilarious, sweet and I just loved watching the bond between them and Jovis grow. Watching Mephi grow and learn was interesting and unique like watching a child grasp how language and physcal limitations work, Mephi’s growth makes you drawn to him.

There are a lot more characters I could talk about from the Emperor, who is cold, cruel and calculating, to Bayan who by the end you will likely love or at least feel sorry for. Each character is so dynamic and intriguing that you will be completely captured by all of them and the relationships they build. I absolutely cannot wait to see how the existing and new relationships will grow over the course of the series!

Overall. This was a rich, immersive and captivating start to a magical and fascinating series. The story deals with so many hard-hitting themes from family, to humanity, to social class conflict and disparities but in a mesmerising way that is brimming with magic and revolution. The world and the characters are rich and dynamic with multiple-layers and complexities that make them seem real and believable. I honestly loved this world and the story and the twists and turns were truly shocking and surprising!

I would definitely recommend this to all adult fantasy lovers. Especially lovers of multiple POV’s and large diverse casts of characters.

*Many thanks to @orbitbooks @Gambit589 (Nazia) for my physical ARC of this phenomal book in exchange for an honest review*


  1. […] The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) , by Andrea Stewart. Another Asian inspired fantasy that is incredibly unique and compelling. This delightful physical ARC had me up way past my bedtime! With morally grey characters to charm us, magical animal companions to swoon over and deadly secrets, this book is an all aorund success. The stand out magic system is incredible, the risks are real and the twists are shocking and horrifying. This is a series I will be keeping my eyes on! […]


  2. […] Book Review: The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1) , by Andrea Stewart – ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨(4.75 Stars) – Stuck in a castle of locked doors, each hiding a secret, knowledge, the only escape is to earn the keys to freedom. Or to stealthily learnt he secrets of BoneShard Magic. But with the empire crumbling and rebels rising, more and more secrets are revealed, each more horrifying than the last. […]


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