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. Or, if you want to see what I said about the first week’s section, you can see that here.
This week’s section includes chapters 12-23, and this post will definitely include spoilers for that section and possibly previous chapters 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. Jovis has begun to show strange new strengths since escaping Deerhead Island. What do you think is going on?
Well, it’s definitely got something to do with Mephi, since his changes started around the same time as he met the creature, but I have a theory that whatever is happening to Jovis may be connected to the Alanga, or at least that the magic (if that’s what it is) that he’s exhibiting is the same that the Alanga used to wield.
I am now going to use this little moment to go on a tangent about the Alanga, because they are one of the most interesting things in this world; nobody knows who they were really, and what happened to them, except that the Emperor’s family defeated them (why? what were they doing?) and has protected the Empire from their return (also, how exactly does the bone shard magic protect the Empire from these super powerful people?). Throughout the story so far there have been quite a few references to these lost people, believed to all wield great island-moving powers; the mural in the royal palace, the statue in Phalue’s palace that opens its eyes (spooky! tell me more!), the architecture on almost every island left over from the Alanga’s time. Jovis mentions one of these, possibly in his second chapter, and then the island sinks. Coincidence? Who’s to say… but I do think it’s interesting that now, at the end of chapter 23, Jovis finds himself with unexplained abilities blossoming and he’s just stepped into a hideout that was probably built and used by the Alanga.
And Jovis is the only character so far that has made a very valid point that I was thinking of last week:
‘It was odd to me – that there was evidence of magic all around us in the form of the Emperor’s constructs, yet no one seemed to think any other sort of magic existed. It clearly had in the form of the Alanga. And if folklore was to be believed, cloud junipers had some magic as well, though it was zealously guarded by the monasteries.’
Love me a world with multiple magics!
2. What is your understanding of witstone, and the strange effect it has on Mephi?
Now, just like my Alanga tangent, I have another theory to go on about for a while; I mentioned in last week’s question about Mephi that it’s curious he’s named after a mythical giant sea serpent. The first time I read that I thought it was a cool little bit of world building but generally forgot about it, but this time I’m not so sure. I mean, it’s still a very cool bit of world building, and I’d love to hear more stories and mythologies from the Endless Sea, but in this week’s reading Mephi and sea serpents are mentioned together twice more! Twice! Is this foreshadowing? Is cute little Mephi a sea dragon?
Which would sort of explain his warm breath that can power Jovis’s boat, but it doesn’t really explain his aversion to witstone, which leads me to answering the actual question (sorry). When I picture witstone I imagine a powdery rock-like substance, and it’s clearly mined so it comes from beneath the earth. And when Deerhead Island sunk we’re told it had a pretty big witstone mine, so it’s possible the two are connected… (yeah, I know I just blamed the Alanga for that, but I’m just full of wild theories today). To mix in further conspiracy, I also mentioned last week that I think Mephi’s appearance could have been triggered by the sinking island, maybe his species lives beneath the islands and he was awakened by the earthquakes… in which case, maybe he knows something more about witstone and either doesn’t like it or knows what its true purpose should be. Again, this is all wild speculation but during my first read through I didn’t think too much about witstone beyond it being a cool way to power ships, but this time I’ve found myself wondering about it more.
Lin attends two rather different – and rather awkward – family dinners. Why do you think her father invited her to eat with him? What do you make of Bayan now?
I definitely know which dinner I would have rather been at! Those four constructs freak me out so much. The others we see throughout the story I can sort of brush past and just imagine vaguely droid-like creatures (a bit like those ones from the Star Wars prequels) unless they’re specifically described, but with the four major constructs there is always such an uneasy sense of wrongness. Anyway… I’m not sure what the Emperor was thinking when he invited Lin to dine with him, but it’s possible he either grew concerned by her absence or that he suspects something about what she’s doing. I’m sure he also wanted the chance to question her in front of Bayan, to keep pushing their rivalry. Either Lin would have failed and not received a key, or -as she does- she would be rewarded and Bayan would feel threatened.
What I like about that chapter is the way Lin, through her pity, subverts that. Bayan is probably one of the most complex characters in this book, because you’re not sure if you can like or trust him as a reader, just as Lin can’t be sure of the same thing. But I did notice the little moment while she is dining at Numeen’s home when she thinks of marrying and her thoughts turn to Bayan. I think that from here on out, his presence will be more complicated than simply “rival to the throne.”
On a very different note, I just wanted to mention something I’ve noticed in both of my reads. I don’t know if it’s significant or not, but either way I think it’s really neat: Lin’s chapters tend to have quite a few instances in which she mentions the docks, the sea, or the ships out in the harbour. It’s very poetic.
What do you make of the rebel plan and the deal they offer Jovis? Do you trust them to deliver what they’ve promised? How do you think Phalue will react to their plan?
I’ve been thinking of the rebels, and I find it quite interesting the way they’re presented to us in this book. I’m not sure how sympathetic they are supposed to be… or rather, I think we’re supposed to be interested and sympathetic towards them and their cause, but we’re also not given much information about them. Tales of rebellion usually work harder to make sure the reader supports the rebels, but in the case of The Bone Shard Daughter we see things from the point of view of the ruler (or rather, his daughter) and only see the rebels from the perspective of two characters who have only recently joined them. We don’t know how they started, what their end goal really is, and so on. I know Ranami mentions they intend to set up a council, which dismisses the Emperor’s claim that the rebels don’t know what they want, but in some ways he is right. Or at least, we don’t know what they want, not really.
So, to answer the question in a roundabout way once more, I’m not sure I trust the rebels too much yet. And I know I’ve read this book before, but I can’t remember all the details about this plot point, so even if they were to deliver what they promise (and I can’t recall whether they do) I’m not sure I trust them or their motivations in general. I’d like to know more about them and their leader Gio.
As for Phalue, I know she’s there when the plan is mentioned to Jovis, though we don’t see her say anything, but I suspect that if she didn’t raise any objections she’s already been talked over. I definitely find her and Ranami’s chapters the hardest to read, because though I love their romance, and the way the issues they’re working through are important, it’s hard to see a way in which they’ll still be the same at the end of this. Even if Phalue has realised her ignorance towards the suffering of her people, will she not become resentful of Ranami? And I know Ranami’s points are all valid, and I’d probably do the same in her situation, but her actions always feel like manipulation. Time will tell, I suppose. I think I liked Ranami more during my first read through, but this time I’m not so sure…
These were really good questions (thank you Imyril!) and I think, as things move forward, there’s more to talk about. From this point onward, I don’t remember a lot of the details of the story, just the broad strokes, so I’m really looking forward to diving even further, which leads me to one last question… is the Endless Sea called that because it stretches endlessly onward, or because it’s bottomless? Scary thoughts, either way.