Hello all and welcome to another (slightly late) edition of Your Mileage May Vary, the book review series where I discuss books I actually finished! This week I’ll be discussing The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart.
But, before we get started, as always:
And I really mean it this time. I’m extra spoilery today. Alright, let’s get to it.
Friends, I’ll be honest, I have Extremely Mixed Feelings about this book. There were some really great parts, moments I hated, and some that just left me scratching my head.
The Bone Shard Daughter is a multi-POV fantasy following some fairly diverse story paths, and in that regard is somewhat similar to my current WIP, The Nexus, so I was pretty dedicated to finishing this one, even as the middle sagged into the depths of hell. I came away feeling like I learned more about the pitfalls of the multi POV/story path format, actually, so all told I’m grateful to have read this book even if that isn’t exactly a compliment.
Due to the various POVs, I found that almost the entire novel is slow as molasses. It’s interesting, but the three (and a half?) plots all move at a snail’s pace. It picks up a little with the climax, but then the denouement is just as drawn out as the first 350 pages! I’m serious, like five or six chapters following the climax, one of which, I’d argue, is completely superfluous. But I’m getting ahead of myself, as usual.
Lin, the eponymous Bone Shard Daughter, had the most compelling arc of them all but was the worst in terms of forward momentum. Jovis’ arc, that of a smuggler turned folk hero, had plenty of action and interesting lore, but right around the middle became insufferable when it collided with the, in my opinion, worst plot (and characters) of the entire book. Seriously. I H A T E D everything on Nephilanu Island. Everything. I can’t even in good faith cheer the queer romance because our opening snapshot of the relationship is one half GASLIGHTING AND EMOTIONALLY MANIPULATING HER PARTNER and there is absolutely no reprimand, no consequences of any kind whatsoever! I really wanted to like Phalue, the abused partner in question, but she just… agrees that she was the one in the wrong and promises to do better and then proposes (again) at the end! I cannot overstate how furious their entire arc made me – not just because of how we get to be inside the abuser’s head and read lengthy passages on how she really does love Phalue!!!!!!!!! but the revolution is more important lmao so suck it – but also because it was completely, utterly irrelevant to the rest of the narrative. I mean, if Stewart’s goal was to have a plot device that hooked up Jovis and Gio, the leader of the violent insurrectionists trying to overthrow the governor (Phalue’s father), there were almost assuredly easier and more interesting avenues to take. As it stands you could excise Ranami and Phalue’s chapters and lose almost nothing of value toward the plot. Add the fact that I had 0 emotional investment in them as a couple due to the aforementioned EMOTIONAL ABUSE and coming across one of their chapters meant I had to take a break to compose myself before I continued reading.
While I could envision a version of this book where the sparks of revolution forming on Nephilanu rippled back to the capital, where Lin was struggling to usurp her despot father by secretly learning his private brand of magic, that would make that whole storyline relevant but instead all we get are a few throwaway lines and a story hook for Jovis betraying his newfound friend Lin maybe in the next book.
Speaking of which, I also was pretty pissed with Jovis’ ending. I might be biased because I hated Ranami, Gio, and the Nephilanu stuff so much (and because of the insight I had into Maila Island) but I was kind of upset that he just… gave up on his wife just because that dumb jerkass Ranami said he should. I mean, on its surface Jovis’ story was about learning to let other people and concerns into his world despite his hyperfixation on finding his abducted wife, and so the conclusion that she must be dead after so much time kinda makes sense, but it just felt so… abrupt? And his grief was not nearly well documented?? Like this is a man coming to grips, really for the first time in seven years, that his wife is probably, almost assuredly, dead and he gets all of three paragraphs dedicated to dealing with it and then it’s just welp, guess I’m gonna join this revolution thing after all.
I mean it wasn’t all bad. The Sand POV was pretty compelling and suspenseful, right up until the ending (I honestly felt a little let down by the reveal), and the climax of Lin’s story was great if a bit confusing (how does a person, in the heat of battle, reach inside a construct, retrieve the bone shard controlling it, engrave a new command on the shard, then put it back in the construct without getting their head torn off??? And I mean do this repeatedly, constantly???). And I think Lin and Jovis hooking up could be really, really, really fascinating except Jovis is apparently going to continue siding with the rebels??? Even after the emperor has already been deposed??? Like… wasn’t that the goal??? What is left to spy on????
Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Just Another Struggling Writer book review if I didn’t get nitpicky about something totally inconsequential. I can’t remember the context but at one point Jovis was ruminating on the choices before him and thought “before Emahla [his wife]” he would have done x y or z action. This completely threw me out of the story because… all throughout Jovis’ chapters we had been getting pretty much the lifelong love story of Jovis and Emahla. They’d been friends since they were kids and he loved her since he was 13 or something, yadda yadda. Point is… there was no “before Emahla” for Jovis, certainly not as an adult. I suppose Stewart could have been referencing Emahla’s abduction, but I just wish the language was clearer. It was one of those moments that completely through me out of the narrative with it’s absurdity.
All of that to say, and this came as a surprise even to me, I’m probably gonna pick up the second one when it comes out later this year. I don’t know, I think Lin and Jovis could be a rad power couple and I’m interested to see how their (hopefully united) story pans out. The Maila Island stuff getting fleshed out and explained, too, would be interesting, and I’m dying to know if Mephi and Thrana are the mythical Alanga we keep hearing about. But so help me god if Phalue and Ranami get an expanded arc in the sequel…
Final rating for The Bone Shard Daughter: 3 out of 5 miles.
This book took me longer than I’d hoped to get through (that middle section was rough) and now I just have one (1) week to read the next one if I want to stay on my reviewing schedule! I look forward to ripping through The Throne of the Five Winds at breakneck speed! Until next time, my friends, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few.