Header image taken from There’s Always Room For One More
We have come to the end of The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, this year’s book choice for the Wyrd & Wonder Readalong. 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. As you know by now, this was a reread for me, and I have loved looking at this story in more depth, talking theories with fellow bloggers, and thinking of the questions I have going forward in the series, especially with The Bone Shard Emperor coming out later this year. If you’re interested, you can read my spoiler free review here. Or, if you want to see what I said about the rest of the read along, here are my thoughts on week 1, here are my thoughts of week 2, and here are my thoughts on week 3.
This was actually my first ever read along, and I have to say I absolutely loved it. I love the social aspect to it, even though we’re all reading in our own time and space it’s so nice to know there are several people out there reading the same thing and that you can discuss your thoughts with them, so if anyone has any other readalongs coming up this year I would love to get involved!
The questions this week were put together by Mayri at Book Forager, and I definitely admire her ability to limit herself to only asking 5 because based on my notes, if I’d had to set the question we’d be writing dissertations at this point! In fact, I apologise but this post is going to be somewhat of an essay, so sorry!
To catch you up, at the start of this section Phalue is imprisoned in her father’s dungeon, Lin has also been confined to her bedroom until the Emperor can “perfect” her, Jovis is in the middle of a coup on Nephilanu Island with the Shardless Few, and things are not looking good, and Sand and her fellow islanders are awaiting the blue-sailed boat so they can commandeer it and escape Maila.
The section includes chapters 36 through to the end, and at this point I don’t feel like I need to say but 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. Lin’s a construct, Bayan’s a construct, the people on Maila Isle are constructs … Let’s talk about constructs! We now know far more, but still not enough. What are your thoughts and feelings on the nature of constructs?
This did just make me think of Oprah – ‘You get (to be) a construct, and you get (to be) a construct, everybody gets (to be) a construct!’ Sorry… I shall now take this very distressing and world-shattering revelation more seriously.
‘If I was not Lin Sukai, if I was not the Emperor’s daughter, then what was I?’
We did get this revelation last week, and I definitely suspected that the people on Maila also were constructs, but to have it laid out on the page is quite something. Especially with Lin, where you start to wonder at her every thought and action – what are the commands that go into making such a complex construct that can think for itself and rebel! Or – and this is a sickening thought that just came to me as I wrote the last sentence – was Lin’s rebellion part of the Emperor’s plan? Is this the way that he passes on his legacy? I don’t think so, because he certainly didn’t have everything in place yet and he didn’t expect Lin to escape, but how creepy would that be?? Also can I just say that, even after being imprisoned by the Emperor, Lin’s longing to be loved and for approval is utterly heartbreaking.
What I did really like was the way her little construct Hao jumped in to rescue her despite Lin not reprogramming it, and I hope Stewart explores more independent constructs in the next book, which I think she’ll have to do. All the Emperor’s constructs have been disconnected (for want of a better term) from him, and we’ve seen the effect this has on the people of Maila – they haven’t just collapsed, something in them has been loosened. I think Lin does mention that some of the lower level constructs might start shutting down or going rogue, but it seems that the more complex ones are completely independent. It’ll be interesting to see the ramifications throughout the whole archipelago.
2. Hot on the heels of the revelation that she was not born but made, Lin has learned why she was made *shudder*. Reaction shots, please.
Goosebumps!!!! What a creepy reveal, even the second time around. I mean how messed up is it to recreate your dead wife and then have her believe she’s your daughter for five years? What was his plan eventually? I know he wanted Lin to regain Nisong’s memories, but surely she would still remember the years spent as ‘Lin’ right??
And also how she was made is very creepy. I’m pretty sure the Emperor’s lab will haunt my thoughts for ever, but I am interested in the contraption used to grow the bodies – *shudder* – because it has a brazier for witstone and Lin says it smells of cloud juniper. This jumped out at me because earlier in the section Jovis learns that the boat he’s been chasing is believed to be made out of cloud juniper wood, and we’ve seen little mentions of this tree dropped throughout the novel, just like the witstone, and it’s interesting to see them together.
I know I’m completely diverting from the question now, but I really want to learn more about the cloud juniper trees going forward because a) what a cool name for a tree and b) there is a whole religious order around these rare and magic-bestowing plants and I want to know why. Do they worship the tree or does the religious element come from the monks fervently guarding the trees, or do they believe they were created by some greater force? So far there’s been no mention of anything to suggest this last one, but the monasteries are always spoken of as being very secret and enclosed, so who knows really? But safe to say between this and the witstone I am very intrigued.
3. The Emperor is dead. (Hurray!) Phalue has successfully usurped her father as governor. (Yay?) Change is on the wind and those Alanga paintings have opened their eyes… Care to make any predictions for what’s coming? Do you think the Alanga are really a threat?
The battle between Lin, Bayan, the Emperor and the constructs was absolutely brutal! It’s definitely one way to write a fight scene – having not only to think of where each character is but also have to keep track of which constructs are where and under whose power must have been complicated, so I applaud Andrea Stewart. But also I am very mad at her because BAYAN!!! How could she? He really grew on me by the end and I’m very sad to see him die. Lin has mentioned a few times trying to bring him back, and so that might still happen, but even though I’m sad about his death, I’m not sure how I feel about Lin continuing her “father’s” works in that way. It’s a slippery slope, Lin.
The take-over on Nephilanu is another matter… though it went relatively smoothly, I feel like the ramifications from that one will be greater than the more private battle fought in the imperial palace. Essentially, nothing has changed except for a more caring governor now being in place, so even though I didn’t want Gio to succeed in killing Phalue and her father, I can see his motivation. If he and the Shardless Few don’t have direct control of the island, then is it really a victory for them? Gio, who we talked about a bit more in previous weeks, is very unsettling as a character, and I would really love a glimpse into his mind.
And speaking of Gio, what does he know about Mephi?? He warns Jovis to keep him close, and this strengthens my conviction that Gio has something to do with the Alanga (whether he is one or just their agent) and through them has heard of creatures like Mephi. Which might explain the mysterious power used when he and Jovis sneak into the palace, because that definitely wasn’t Jovis (more on that in a moment). But Ariana, you’ll say, why didn’t Gio just use his powers then, instead of dragging Jovis through everything. Ah, well I have a theory for that as well! Gio doesn’t want his cover blown, wants to remain the humble leader of the Shardless Few who is ready to step down and live a quiet life once his goal has been reached, and so he can’t have people knowing he’s super powerful, and when Jovis shows up with his strength he sees a perfect cover to be able to use some of his own powers without anyone noticing. Of course, this goes wrong when Jovis’ strength disappears, but Gio doesn’t know that until after they break in, and so he uses some of his strength to knock out one of the guards.
We know it wasn’t Jovis, because he feels it when the strength returns to his bones, and I love his new, heightened powers – his affinity and awareness of water makes me think his power is like that of the Alanga, from what we know of them. And his growth in power seems connected to Mephi’s growth spurt, so I think it’s safe to say Mephi at least triggered Jovis’ changes – and we see in Lin’s chapters that she feels an instant connection to Thrana and that the two of them heal faster after coming together, just like Jovis and Mephi do. And if the connection between a person and one of these creatures is what creates the Alanga (I’m not really sure if I believe this, but it’s an interesting theory), then what happens to Lin? An Alanga construct would be interesting.
Speaking of the Alanga though, I love the chill I get whenever their statues and murals open their eyes. I especially love the moment Jovis walks into the palace and sees the Alanga’s eyes fixed on him, and I can’t help but think that’s a premonition. I fear poor Jovis might have a third direction he’ll be pulled in as the story progresses, because I definitely think the Alanga are returning. It wouldn’t make sense if they didn’t, with the way they keep being mentioned throughout the book, and the little hints that their artefacts, at least, still hold power. Whether they’re a threat or not remains to be seen. The stories we’re told never say they were evil, only that they became dangerous when they started fighting amongst themselves and their strength destroyed cities and islands. They are definitely the most intriguing element to the story, I think, because they seem to be the centre of all the other mysteries and I cannot wait to find out more.
4. We’ve also discovered the identity of Sand. Possibly. She has memories that suggest she is Nisong, but she is a construct just like Lin. What does it all mean?? (Not a rhetorical question – please tell me what it all means!)
I have so much to say about this! Strap in my dear readers, my thoughts on Sand are as numerous as… erm, grains of sand…?
‘You had to know, the way I did, that we would end up this way.’Nisong to Shiyen in Sand’s memories
Last week I proposed that Sand might actually be Nisong, and that she had grown too powerful for her husband to control, so he banished her to Maila. But since she is a construct, and the Emperor’s main motivation for all his terrible actions seems to be grief, and because he says he burned Nisong’s body, then Sand can’t actually be her. But she certainly has her memories. Now the question is, are the other constructs on the island all iterations of Lin and Bayan that failed, and if so, do they all have relatively similar memories? We can’t know this yet because Sand is the only one remembering, and the one other person she speaks to has vague enough memories that they could belong to the Emperor or they could be someone else’s.
But regardless of who Sand is, I want to talk a bit about Nisong and who she was, because during my first read I just saw her as the ‘dead mother’ that we see so often in fantasy, and in some ways she is but I think we’re going to see more of her. She has this aura of mystery around her. We know that the Emperor could have done better, according to his advisors and the rumours going around, but that she was extremely clever. And we learn from Sand’s memories (and from Lin’s flashback) that she learnt to make constructs as well. And what does the above quote mean? How did Nisong know her and the Emperor would end up ‘this way’? Lin also says that ‘[Nisong had] seemed like a normal enough young woman in her journal, but she’d aged before she’d married [her] father. Something must have changed between that time and when they’d wed.’
What changed?? Was it something that eventually made her deteriorate and die, or is it something unrelated? And how did she catch the Emperor’s eye in the first place? I definitely feel that Nisong, through Sand, is going to bring trouble to the rest of the characters, because though Sand wants to burn down whoever left her on Maila with no control over her own mind, I feel that the memory of Nisong within her won’t take kindly to the death of her husband.
So, in conclusion, what does it all mean???
5. Jovis and Mephi have arrived on Imperial Island and come face to face with Lin and Thrana. This is an Interesting Development. What are your theories on Mephi and Thrana? Also on the Emperor’s laboratory and what he was using Thrana for?
I love when two point of view characters that you’ve got to know independently come together, and my two faves, here together?? Each with their own little animal companion?? Each of them battered, bruised, and both having just let go of the one thing that has kept them getting up in the morning for years?? Really, my heart breaks for both of them. Jovis has finally let go of Emahla, and Lin has finally let go of the idea that she needs to earn her father’s approval, and though it will push them to heal and grow, it has left them very vulnerable and I cannot wait to see how their relationship develops. I’m sure it won’t be the smoothest of relationships, what with Jovis working for the rebels as well, but it certainly is an Interesting Development.
I’ve mostly talked about my thoughts on Mephi and Thrana above, and on the Emperor’s lab – sorry, I didn’t read this question properly before answering the others, and the flow of my thoughts carried me on. I’m not sure what exactly Thrana was being used for, but perhaps just like the witstone and the cloud juniper wood she is a source of power and energy, and maybe she is the missing piece that makes the constructs come alive. Is this how all Emperor’s have created their constructs or is this an extra step taken by Shiyen to power these human experiments?
I do wonder, though, how Mephi and Thrana learn the human language just through listening. It’s very impressive but also somewhat disconcerting, especially the way Mephi jumps from simple statements to complex sentences. I hope that gets explained, but I think I’ll understand if the author has a few other things on her mind and just needed Mephi to be able to communicate more efficiently!
Other than the questions presented by Mayri, I wanted to talk a little about Phalue and Ranami, because I know myself and most of the others participating in the read along have not exactly taken to the couple, but I do feel that their last chapters did redeem them somewhat.
‘Always, always – things were better for her. Even when she’d been born. Her mother had been a commoner, but no matter how fiercely she’d held to that part of her origins, she’d still been born to nobility.’Phalue
In her cell, a much more comfortable and spacious one than a commoner would get, Phalue finally realises that she’s been lying to herself, and that Ranami has been right about her privilege and the lack of action being taken to protect the poor. At the same time, when Ranami learns from Jovis that Gio had planned on killing Phalue, she sees that the ways in which she has pushed her lover have damaged their relationship, and is ready (though not happy) to see it end. That the two of them come together in the end, apologising and each trying to build a bridge to the other, is beautiful to see. Phalue reads all the books Ranami kept suggesting to her, and Ranami acknowledges the ways she pushed and manipulated Phalue, and accepts her marriage proposal after at least ten refusals. I do like to see compromise, and I know I’m being a bit flowery and positive, but these two still have a long way to go. So much could still go wrong, and they are nowhere near their happily ever after. I’ve said it before, but for these wonderful, complex, queer women to actually shine through I’d like to see more of them and see them explored at more depth. I think during my first read I was just so excited to see the sapphic rep that I didn’t think much beyond it, but during this read I’ve realised that, though romance obviously isn’t a key part of the story, Ranami and Phalue feel a bit token-like. But we shall see what happens!