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 two weeks, here are my thoughts on week 1, and here are my thoughts of week 2.
This week’s questions were put together by Lisa at Dear Geek Place, and there were some really good ones! To catch you up, at the start of this section Jovis has joined the Shardless Few for a mission in exchange for information about the boat with the blue sail, and there he has met Ranami, who is trying to convince Phalue to help them overthrow her father. Sand is gathering the other inhabitants of Maila in an attempt to escape the island, and Lin is on a mission to reprogram her father’s top constructs.
This week’s section includes chapters 24-35 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. Sand appears to be organising something of a rebellion herself – but against what? Any ideas about what might be happening to the people on Maila, and why? For that matter, do you have any theories about who Sand herself might be/where she came from?
Okay, I gave spoiler warnings but here they are again because I’m about to talk about the MAJOR SPOILER we discover right at the end of this section. In chapter 35 we discover that Lin and Bayan are constructs created by the emperor!!! Like, what!!! Having read this before, I knew this twist was coming (and it was quite entertaining to read a few other people’s theories where they came close to touching on this!) but it is no less chilling to read the realisation. And so as I was reading Sand’s chapter, a thought struck me… are all the people on Maila failed constructs from when the emperor was trying to construct Lin and Bayan? Which is a terrifying thought if you think how there are 217 people on Maila. 217!! That’s definitely something I missed on my first read, I was sort of picturing maybe 20 or 30 people because Sand only interacts with a few other named characters. I think it’s safe to say they are constructs because of the way they’re not able to think or utter intent to harm or kill their captor, which means they have certain commands preventing it. It’s so creepy!
As for what they’re rebelling against, I suppose in a way it’s the Emperor if they are constructs, just like the Shardless Few, except the people on Maila don’t know they’re being held by the Emperor… It’s all very strange! I remember on my first read I also thought Sand was Emahla but there were little things that made me change my mind, and then I thought it was Lin’s mother because of the memories she has, but that wouldn’t really make sense because the Emperor clearly loved her, so I think failed construct makes the most sense.
2. Ranami got something of a taste of her own confrontational medicine in another discussion with Phalue, this week. What do you think the future holds for these two? Are either of them really in the right here?
Yes Phalue, say your piece! That’s what I wrote in my notes while I was reading this chapter, but the reality is more complex, as always. I think this is the chapter we’ve been waiting for, as readers. We’ve seen Ranami manipulate and push Phalue in the direction she wants her to go, and Phalue has gone along with it for love, and then because of the desire to help the people she didn’t realise were suffering so much, but she’s still been frustratingly silent.
This chapter does make me think that my previous frustration does stem from the purposeful intent of the author, because there was a time when I thought she might just not have been as confident writing this complex relationship, but from Ranami’s chapter we see that she knows what’s going on with them. And I have to say, Ranami doesn’t endear herself to me… I know that in life there are causes greater than individuals, but the way she talks about ending up with Phalue never being the final goal in this makes me feel so sad for Phalue. And I think their road ahead is going to be rocky, and I think a betrayal might come up…
Of course, Phalue isn’t perfect, and I know I’ve been very anti-Ranami during this read along, but Phalue certainly could have tried much sooner to listen and understand her partner. She could have investigated her people and their condition, because surely something of what Ranami said to her must have given her pause? I do hope we see more of them in the next book, because their chapters are very rare.
3. “Fanatics were all alike, cut from the same cloth and dyed different colours.” Do you think this assessment of Gio by Jovis is accurate? And do you think it only applies to Gio?
I’m not sure, because we still don’t know much about Gio and his end goal… I definitely think Jovis is correct in his assessment that Gio is lying and hiding something, and I am itching to find out what. I did have a thought that maybe Gio is connected to the Alanga somehow because he seems to react strangely whenever Jovis brings them up. PLUS the coincidence of using an old hideout and a hidden entrance built by the Alanga?? Suspicious…
4. Speaking of Jovis, do you think his power really is connected to Mephi somehow, or is something else going on?
Well, things are getting complicated… last week I said that his powers were definitely connected to Mephi, but I did see other people thinking that Mephi’s appearance and Jovis’ powers might just be the result of the same force, somehow. But this week’s reading does really seem to point to Mephi being the source of Jovis’ powers, since they stopped just as Mephi got sick. But I’m curious about that other strange force he experiences during the storming of the palace, because I can’t remember what that turns out to be or whether it’s explained at all, so I’m excited to find out!
But I did notice a “throwaway” line (and I add air quotes because I think it’s seemingly throw away for the character but could mean everything for foreshadowing) –
‘The only creatures that spoke in stories were the bad kind.’Jovis about others discovering Mephi talking
Now, I’m not saying Mephi might be evil, and I certainly don’t want that because I adore the strange little thing and I think he’s a very good, but it’s a very interesting quote and again I’m thinking of the giant sea serpent Mephi was named after, which was mentioned again!
5. “I lived in a dollhouse of my father’s making, a living graveyard.” We get part of the truth about Lin (and Bayan!) revealed this week, following a rather harrowing massacre; how do you feel about this particular twist? And what do you think the Emperor’s goal here might be?
What a reveal! And what a horrible twist for Numeen. I knew this was coming and really wasn’t looking forward to it, but it was over quicker than I remember (or maybe I skimmed past it to avoid the pain). Numeen and his family being killed has definitely remained as an image in my mind since my first read, and it was hard to come to it again. Like Lin, I thought there was still time for them to escape… and for it to come at the same time as the Emperor’s revelation to Lin comes like a double sucker punch. The twist gives me a lot of emotions. It’s brilliantly done, first of all, and it takes you back to the first week when we talked about how reliable of a narrator Jovis was, and we see how much more that applies to Lin if even she doesn’t know this about herself. I mean, how often does the Emperor have to change her shards? The repercussions are wild! And it’s just so sad if you think of Lin’s refrain of ‘I was Lin. I was the Emperor’s daughter.’ It’s all been leading to this.
‘My father might have ruled the Empire, but when he was asleep, when Bayan and all the servants were asleep, this palace was my kingdom. I held the keys to its doors and plied its secrets from its rooms.’Lin
A bit of an ironic quote after the twist at the end of her chapter, but a really beautiful one. I just wanted to highlight Andrea Sterwarts writing skills!
As for the Emperor’s goal, I’m not sure. We also found out that Lin Sukai is supposed to be dead, which then leads to the revelation that Lin isn’t the real Lin, and so it’s possible that the Emperor is just trying to create the daughter he never got to have. I won’t say more than that because I actually know a bit more regarding all this that we will only get to in next week’s reading so I’ll keep my thoughts for then.
6. Now that we know more about the Emperor’s constructs, particularly Ilith… what do you make of the nature of her bone shard commands? Do you think she might prove to be a wild card?
Well, it’s interesting because Ilith is essentially independent. I’ve listened to a few interviews with Andrea Stewart in which she says that while constructing bone shard magic she used coding as an inspiration, and I suppose Ilith (and Lin and Bayan for that matter) is the equivalent of an AI becoming self-aware. Almost. I think mostly this aspect of her makes her even more terrifying. She’s already a spider with a human face and eight human hands, and if you add to it the fact that she’s not only a construct but essentially an independent individual who can make decisions and has a personality… it’s just terrifying. I do have to applaud Stewart for taking the fantasy trope of giant spider and making it even scarier. She might be a wild card, but I try not to think about her too much.
I will end this week’s thoughts with one final question – what happened to the witstone mine on Imperial Island and why has it been shut down and forgotten?