It’s my spot on the Compulsive Readers Blog Tour for The Bone Shard Emperor, the second instalment in the Drowning Empire series – and I am absolutely loving this set of novels.
Title: The Bone Shard Emperor
Author: Andrea Stewart
Series: The Drowning Empire #2
Publisher: Orbit, Little Brown Book Group
Publication Date: 25th November 2021
Ownership: eARC provided by the publisher in conjunction with Compulsive Readers book tour
Rating: 4 stars
The previous novel had ended dramatically – Lin had become Emperor, soaked in blood, guilt and secrets. Jovis had arrived at Imperial island expecting to kill the old emperor, but instead found a young woman on the throne. And forgotten creatures were beginning to rediscover their identity.
This book picks up not long afterwards – Lin has made Jovis – the folk hero – captain of her Imperial Guard. But Jovis is a spy, reporting back to the Shardless Few and ties back to his old smuggling roots too.
Lin meanwhile is attempting to establish her dominance. She has put an end to the Tithing Festivals, is attempting to return the bone shards – fragments of human skulls that are used to power constructs that only the Emperor has the power to create that drain the life of their human ‘donors’ – and has outlawed constructs. She is working hard to show her scattered empire that she is not the same as her father, but even her apparent kindness isn’t enough to win new allies, as she finds islands that are dealing with their own pressures or have virtually established their own independence.
Meanwhile there are rumours of a threat from the north-east islands – attacks from an army of constructs, and Lin needs more soldiers, more guards and more allies to tackle this new threat.
But there is also a looming external threat too – relics that herald the fabled Alanga are beginning to wake up and, although both Lin and Jovis begin to realise that they some kind of unnatural power granted to them by the wonderful Mephi and Thrana, what does this mean for them?
There’s a lot of admin to be done in the first half of the book as Lin explores away from Imperial and takes us to where the action or conflict is in her Empire. We see different approaches from different island governors and get a feel for the scope of the political challenge that she’s now facing, as well as the level of distrust that people have for her. Both Lin and Jovis are doing a lot of sneaking around and spying (sometimes on each other), and rapidly switch from trusting to suspicious, but there’s also an important bond that begins to form, as they begin to realise not only how they can be good for each other, but the Empire too, if anything is left by the time the Shardless Few have had their say.
But despite the slow pacing in the first half, I still found every flawed character interesting and engaging – expect perhaps that of Nisong, whose plans for revenge seemed to involve an awful lot of murdering and burning – the hallmarks of a cartoon rather than fully-developed villain.
However, it massively ramped up towards the end, answering so many questions perfectly. This crumbling empire, this cluster of small islands, so many of which are at risk from so many different forces, and this rough and raw magic system has led to what will undoubtedly be an exciting third book.
I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review as part of my spot on the Compulsive Readers Blog Tour.