Header image taken from There’s Always Room For One More
This year’s book choice for the Wyrd & Wonder Readalong is The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart. If you want to find out more about the read along itself, you can check out this page on imyril’s There’s Always Room For One More blog. I have read this book already, but I enjoyed it a lot, and was very keen for the chance to re-read it and think about it in more depth. If you’re interested, you can read my spoiler free review here.
This week’s section includes chapters 1 – 11, and this post will definitely include spoilers for that section so don’t read on if you don’t want to know!
The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands. Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic. Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.
1. What are your initial impressions?
Well, the first chapter opens with Lin, and I immediately found her to be an interesting character; though her first line is ‘Father told me I’m broken’, there is strength that radiates from her. She is immediately sympathetic, and her loss of memories is a driving force for both her and the reader to dive deeper into the world and try and discover something more of it, so I am definitely cheering for her on her quest to get more keys and open more doors in the palace.
Then we jump to Jovis, and I have to say he cuts to my heart even more during this second read. On the surface he is the roguish smuggler only looking out for himself, but everything about his actions and internal monologue contradict that. I’ll say more in Jovis’ specific question, but I could talk about him for ages.
Phalue and Ranami are an interesting duo, and both now and during my first read I struggle to know how to feel about them. I love their complex relationship and the way they are both determined to work through it, but I did feel that some of the time there was a bit too much manipulation on Ranami’s part, especially in their first chapters. I’ll have to see as it goes along, as I don’t remember their storyline as much…
My overall impression though, upon finishing this first section, is one of intrigue. I want to know more about the people, and the islands, and their history, and the strange bone shard magic.
2. What do you make of the magic system and the world building?
The world building and magic system are one of the things that elevate this book to another level, for me. The characters are brilliant, the plot is intriguing, but the world is incredible. I would happily read a whole history and lore book on it. Andrea Stewart does such a good job at putting little hints of the bigger things she’ll explain more of later, like the references to the Alanga that are slipped in a few times even before we’re told exactly who and what they are.
There’s so much to take in, really, and so many questions I’m left asking: floating (and sinking) islands?? super powerful people that just disappeared??? the eyes of a statue opening?? creepy constructs?? the bone shards in use make people die faster?? Even as someone who’s read this book through once, a lot of these questions remain, and while it’s frustrating to have to wait, it’s one of the things that made me really enjoy the story and has me eagerly anticipating The Bone Shard Emperor.
3. Is there a character you’re particularly fond of so far?
I have to say Jovis for this one, but it’s probably a tie between him and Lin, for very different reasons. Although, I think I’m coming at this knowing the full story, so I’d say based only on the first eleven chapters, Lin is still a bit mysterious and, while she is sympathetic, Jovis is immediately endearing in a way only anti-heroes are.
4. What do you make of Lin’s motivations? How much do you think she’s driven by a desire to save her Empire – or are her motivations more selfish?
Oh, this is a good question! I think, given Lin’s situation -her being trapped in the palace for all of her known life- it would be very easy for her to continue to ignore the Empire at large, given that it is an unknown. So I think she does have a genuine desire to help her people, and she can see that her father is doing nothing about the problems plaguing them. I do think, though, that she uses this motivation to cover some of her more selfish ones, which I don’t really blame her for. I’d also want to know more of where I came from and who I was, if I couldn’t remember my past.
5. Jovis tends to tell lies when faced with truths he doesn’t want to face. As a first person narrator, how reliable do you feel this makes him?
As I said above, on a surface level Jovis is an anti-hero who is proud of his smuggling and his stealing, and what he says to others and himself support that, but all of his actions and his inner monologue speak of a grief-stricken and isolated man who is trying to recover a lost piece of himself, and who cares about others even when it does not benefit him directly. I think his chapters are layered so well, because you can see, as the reader, this war that’s waging within him. So I believe he’s not as unreliable as he might be because his opposing thoughts are presented in subtle ways throughout, and I think that even when he lies to himself, Jovis always confronts the truth in the end.
6) MEPHI 😍 Any guesses / wild theories about Jovis’s new furry friend?
Well, I know a little bit more of what becomes of Mephi, but still I have no real idea what he is! But I do remember that he’s named after a monstrous sea serpent from folklore so who’s to say if that’s a bit of foreshadowing? One of my theories regards where he comes from, which is never really explained, and I like to think something about the sinking island brought him to the surface, which is a thought inspired by the second book in the Tide Child Trilogy (Call of the Bone Ships) by RJ Barker, if you’ve read that.
One of the things I really love about this book is just the writing style and choice of words, which results in a lot of really cool quotable moments, so here are some of my favourites so far:
‘He carried his contempt for me like a child’s favourite seashell.’Lin, about Bayan
‘ “May the winds be favourable.”Jovis and Danila
“And the skies clear,” she responded.’
(I’m a sucker for a cool farewell phrase)
‘It didn’t seem fitting that the world should end on a cloudless day.’Jovis
‘ “The secret library,” I said flatly. “It’s not a secret if you’ve told me about it.” ‘Lin to Bayan
‘She’d been crouched at the edge of the dock, long lashes shadowing her face, slender fingers pulling a crab trap up from the depths. Who fell in love with the way someone drew up a crab trap?’Phalue about Ranami
‘Hers was the beauty of ospreys, of sea serpents, of a wave crashing against rocks. It was a wonder Ranami had been able to turn her away at all.’Ranami about Phalue