So it looks like after Winter’s Orbit, I’ve jumped straight into more political fiction! Rather than sci-fi, this one is fantasy, and rather than an empire spanning cluster of planets, we have an empire spanning an archipelago. A sort of fantasy Moluccas, if you will. And while this is not a romance, it does have one of the very cutest animal sidekicks I’ve come across in a long while
The empire of The Bone Shard Daughter is ruled by a man who favours tight control of his power and keeps his cards close to his chest. This Emperor is also an expert in bone shard magic, which involves an incredible combination of taking life-force magic from living people’s bones and a kind of programming to power magical constructs. It’s rather creepy, as these constructs are quite alien in their construction. And the use of bone shards saps the heath of the person they were taken from once they are put to use. It’s no surprise then when we discover that there are movements within the empire that oppose the harvesting of these shards, and in turn, the Emperor himself.
While the narrative follows multiple perspectives throughout the empire, the person we spend the most time with is Lin—the Emperor’s daughter. As a child, Lin contracted a serious illness that left her infirm for a long time, along with robbing her of her memory. She doesn’t remember much of her childhood, her bone-magic lessons or even her own mother. Lin’s place as heir is not secure though; her foster brother Bayan had a better grip on the magic than she does, and she feels her father’s favor slipping away. So in order to grant herself further security, Lin starts getting stealthy and breaking into parts of her father’s palace that she should not.
On the other side of the archipelago, the smuggler Jovis is proving to have more heart in him than what he would like. Tasked with trying rescue children from having bone shards taken, Jovis get’s embroiled with the local authorities, watches a whole damned Island sink into the sea, and rescues a small cat/otter like creature named Mephi. You would think that the first two of these things would be higher priority for both Jovis and the reader, but Mephi? Mephi is a dear. And Mephi is special…
Less prominent are perspectives is that of Phalue and Ranami, who are trying to to navigate their relationship while also navigating a revolution. This is not exactly straightforward, because while Ranami is a young woman tight with the movement, Phalue is the local Governor’s daughter. While their relationship is not as front and centre as main relationship in Winter’s Orbit, it is treated in the same normalised fashion, which I am glad to see again. And while these two are our first proper intoduction to the Shardless Few, they wont be the only ones to tangle with them.
This then leaves us with Sand, who seems to be living her own private version of Lost… full of mangos. Until she has a mishap. With the mangos. And I’m going to have to leave it at that.
The story does start off slowly in parts, and some of the narratives are initially more directly relevant to the plot than others, but the books slowly and steadily builds up its pace. It’s clear though by two thirds of the book though that a lot of the plot threads are not going to be tied up nicely and are instead set ups for later on in the series. So while some of the plotlines grant some massive pay offs, I guess we’ll have to be more patient for others.
But the world building in The Bone Shard Daughter is second to none, the politics involved are engaging, and the magic system is equal parts creepy and unique. It really is a novel though that needs it’s sequel!
It’s this last bit though that made scoring this book a bit tricky though. I’ve settled on a three -and-a-half, as I dont think I can judge parts of this book alone—I need to see how it sits with it’s sequels. Rounded up to four on the star system though.
For Bingo, this is Gaslight. Because, holy shit, one of our main characters is revealed to be copping it bad.
And I’m off to look at fan art of Mephi