readalong · Wyrd And Wonder

Wyrd & Wonder Readalong – Week 1

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 Blurb:
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.

Questions

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.

Favourite Quotes

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.”
“And the skies clear,” she responded.’

Jovis and Danila
(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
I’d love to see other people’s read-along posts, so if you see this and have posted one of your own be sure to let me know and I’ll check it out!

IMAGE CREDIT: pegasus image by Svetlana Alyuk on 123RF.com

17 thoughts on “Wyrd & Wonder Readalong – Week 1

  1. Hallo, Hallo, Ariana,

    I’m touring through everyone’s posts today for the RAL where I unfortunately had to take a step out of the story myself. This became a DNF for me but I did respond to the first week’s questions and spoke about the topics at hand. If you’d like to see what caused me to quit reading the story and/or hear my reactions to the characters/world/magic, kindly visit with me and leave me some notes on my post so I know if we shared anything in common.

    For me I was mostly uncomfortable with the introduction of the bone shard magic system itself but like you, I felt most keenly curious about Jovis. He just felt like such a likeable character to me and he was the person in the story I wanted to know more about — the others (aside from Lin) didn’t interest me nearly as much as I had hoped this was going to shift from Lin to Jovis moreso than entertain two more characters. Sometimes I find that that is what is tricky about multi-POV narratives – I sometimes prefer focusing on some of the characters moreso than the others or in a dual POV – sometimes I prefer one over the other! lol

    As you’ve read the story in full – your impressions on Jovis interested me the most. Especially as they are moving in a direction of what I presumed about him in my own mind, even though I didn’t get too far afield into the text as you had yourself. I truly felt that way myself – he was a complicated man and he was definitely at war between his conscience, his memories and the present circumstances on this world. He was by far the most interesting character I encountered even moreso than Lin as she’s just starting to emerge out of a cocoon so to speak which you also eluded to yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have to admit that I have a certain blind spot as a reader (or probably several, but this one is relevant): if a character has a point of view, I’m predisposed – at least initially – to empathise with them. I think I’ve been programmed by the epic/heroic fantasy I read as a kid: if they’re the protagonist, they must be good people (or come to do the Right Thing even if they’re morally ambiguous). You’d think 20 years of mainstream grimdark would teach me, but open with “father told me I’m broken” and I’m 100% on Lin’s side, all sympathy and ready to set the palace on fire and accept her various excuses for her own choices. I’m enjoying making myself be more critical, because I think this story rewards that – Andrea Stewart is being so careful in what she shares, and how she positions it, so I can go all out with conspiracies and side-eye and still feel myself defaulting to being on Lin’s side even as I disapprove of her 😉 Really looking forward to seeing how this story unfolds…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s so true! And I think even if a point of view chapter/protagonist introduction opens with a character doing something a little more morally ambiguous, it’s so easy to still be in their corner right away and want to believe they are good. I think I’ve also not seen that many super unreliable narrators in fantasy, not like you might find in the thriller genre, for example, where the reader gets blindsided by a major revelation. Although (and I’m sorry for this much longer than intended reply) I read a middle grade book called Orphans of the Tide about a year ago and that completely took me by surprise with the unreliable narrator aspect. And it’s technically fantasy, so extra relevant 😉 anyway, all this to say it’s definitely very interesting the way Andrea Stewart is so careful, as you said, and not just with Lin. Even Jovis, with all his internal ramblings, keeps tucking things away and you only see hints of it.

      Liked by 1 person

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