The Bone Shard Daughter is brilliantly readable epic fantasy full of original magic and compelling, diverse characters. The different plot arcs pulled me in and kept me hooked, with twists that were foreshadowed enough to not be entirely surprising but still felt bold and clever. The backdrop – an Emperor unliked and untrusted by his people, supposedly protecting them from a mysterious threat that no-one is sure is real – is well-trodden territory, but was just different enough here to maintain interest.
There are five point of view characters – two main, and three more secondary. The first, Lin, is the Emperor’s daughter – quick-witted and loyal, and determined to become better at the Bone Magic only the Emperor’s bloodline can learn than her foster brother, Bayan. Lin could be naïve and somewhat cold, but her kindness to the constructs and desire to do better always shone through. I always rooted for her, although I wasn’t sure I believed in what she was fighting for – mostly because she wasn’t sure herself.
The second, Jovis, is a smuggler. Wanted by the Empire for his smuggling, and by the smugglers for failing to pay his debts, he’s on the run, searching for his ex-girlfriend – but one good deed snowballs into another, and suddenly he’s involved in a movement he never wanted to be a part of. I loved Jovis – his kind heart, his dedication to his lost lover, and his relationship with Mephis. Jovis is the stereotypical soft-hearted rogue we all need. I loved the idea of the Bone Magic and the constructs, but I almost found Jovis’s parts more compelling because he was just so nice.
The other point of view characters – Ramani, Phalue, and Sand – were interesting, but for the most part less compelling. Sand was the exception – at first, I wasn’t sure why she was included, but her revelations were truly surprising and I’m excited to see more of her in the sequel. Ramani and Phalue were great characters, and Phalue especially had a brilliant arc, but they added less to the overall story. It was nice to see a romantic relationship between two women fighting to make it work across class differences, ambitions, and beliefs, but I never quite understood how the relationship worked – hopefully it will be fleshed out in future books.
Overall, this was an easy-to-read but still creative epic fantasy with intriguing magic systems and characters you wanted to root for. The finale wasn’t quite satisfying enough – and the sequels have potential to be even better. I’ll definitely be looking out for them when they’re published.
Published by Orbit (Little Brown Books)
Hardback: 10 September 2020