Publisher: Orbit Books
Page Count: 448
Release Date: September 8th, 2020
Series: THE DROWNING EMPIRE, Book 1
Rating: 4/5 Stars – Really Liked It
Note: I was provided a free ARC by the publisher in exchange for my fair and honest review.
Lin is the daughter of the Emperor, but that doesn’t mean she’s heir to the throne. Her father demands perfection, and ever since an illness five years prior, Lin has been unable to remember anything that came before. Unless Lin can find a way to remember what happened, the Emperor will likely name his foster son Bayan as his heir instead. But Lin can tell that the empire is on the verge of collapse unless changes are made, and soon, and so she begins to steal keys from the Emperor, keys that unlock rooms that contain the secrets of his bone shard magic that power the constructs that help him rule his kingdom. But the deeper Lin goes, the more secrets she discovers.
THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER is an engrossing fantasy mystery, with interweaving POVs that come together in both expected and unexpected ways. Lin might be the central focus, but there’s also Jovis, a smuggler who finds himself the caretaker of a mysterious creature, and Ranami & Phalue, a female resistance fighter and a governor’s daughter who are lovers, but have very different views about how to fix their island. Jovis might have been my favorite sections to read, but that’s because he has Mephi, a creature that looks like an otter-cat and has mysterious abilities and intelligence. Watching those two figure out their relationship is one of the highlights of the book.
But it isn’t all cute animal companions. The magic at the heart of this series is quite dark. The Emperor rules through the use of constructs, grotesque amalgamations of various animal parts, powered by bone shards forcibly collected from his citizens, and the shards slowly drain the life of the human they’re connected to over time. How these constructs work is a closely guarded secret, and Lin’s quest to unravel how they work has her delving deeper and deeper into the palace. It’s a somewhat gruesome concept, but never overbearing. The tension of the mystery permeates throughout the book, as answers have consequences across the nation.
The world building was also a treat. Islands that drift across the ocean instead of remaining stationary, an ancient race defeated centuries ago that have left behind artifacts, annual festivals that mask the brutal bone shard collecting process in cheerful ribbons. There’s another plot line entirely which I’ll let the readers discover for themselves that will likely have a drastic impact going forward, though it takes some time for the pieces to fall into place.
This book was such a satisfying read, and one of those times where I enjoyed the world so much that I found myself wanting to keep reading after I finished. It’s not that the book ends on a cliffhanger; it’s a satisfying self-contained story, but with plenty of open threads that give you the feeling of wanting to hit “next episode” on your Netflix screen. If the next book had been on hand, I probably would have started reading it immediately. If you like your fantasy to have strange creatures, a fresh magic system, and a healthy dose of mystery, you must check out The Bone Shard Daughter.