The Bone Shard Emperor: The Drowning Empire 2

Book Reviews / Saturday, November 27th, 2021

By: Andrea Stewart
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit/Hatchett Book Group

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Bone Shard Emperor continues the adventures of the main protagonists from the Bone Shard Daughter and picks up the actions where the first novel left off. This second novel in the Drowning Empire series is as excellent as the first with page-turning excitement from beginning to end. Once again, Ms. Stewart’s sharp, clear prose carries this book on a different path. The Emperor and Bayan are dead, and Lin is now Emperor. As The Phoenix Empire crumbles from threats both within and out, Lin embarks on a journey to travel to each island to find allies. Jovis has become Captain of the Guard, Lin’s personal bodyguard. The Bone Shard Emperor focuses Lin trying to keep the empire intact from those who seek to bring it down. The character interaction and development continue to grow in complexity and relatability. As Lin seeks out allies in the empire, the threat of the Alanga, a powerful, magical race long since thought destroyed by the Emperor, appear to be coming back. The Alanga can be anyone, since they look no different from humans, which presents a particular difficulty for Lin. The battle scenes in The Bone Shard Emperor takes the reader into the action. Her versatility in writing magic systems, characters, worlds, and the new battle scenes is nothing short of amazing. She excels at all aspects in writing the Drowning Empire Series. Once again, Ms. Stewart has given us a brilliant, detailed novel The Bone Shard Emperor. It was a page-turning novel from start to finish, ripe with twists and turns that keep the reader both engaged and wanting more. I highly recommend The Bone Shard Emperor.

We know at the end of the first book that Lin is a construct. Her father was trying to replicate his wife that he dearly loved and died giving birth to Lin. It accounts for her memory loss, as she has none before she was “created.” She worked on developing bone shard magic, which she did, she is not yet proficient in it. Lin also has Phrana, the same creature that Jovis has, with which she has formed a strong bond. She has grown from the secluded young woman she was into the new emperor, although her self-doubt about ruling is still ever-present. Lin is young and does not instill confidence in her people. While she has stopped the Tithing Festivals, dismantled as many contracts as possible, the uncertainty lingers. As a gesture of goodwill, when she travels the empire she returns the shards of all the people of the islands so no one will suffer from shard sickness. I thoroughly enjoyed how Lin was portrayed. I felt she was relatable as we all can see a reflection of ourselves in her, as we all face difficulties in decisions we make. 

Jovis is unsure as well in his role of Captain of the Guard. His bond with Mephi is stronger than ever, their interactions are a joy to read. For rescuing children from the Tithing Festival, Jovis has gained folk-hero status. Lin needed a symbol of goodwill to the people, and it is the main reason for appointing Jovis to Captain. She does not fully trust him, but they have a chemistry that and comes through in the book. We learned in the first book that Jovis’ shard was never taken. He has a scar that all who have a bone taken have, but it’s made to look as if it was.

While we met this group in the first book, it is The Shardless Few that are one of the internal threats to Lin. They are exactly what the name indicates-those who never had shards taken. They believe in an empire ruled by representation. They have already overthrown Phalue’s father. Phalue is now governor and finally married to Ranami. While what they seek seems to appear good on the surface, their leader, Gio, seems somewhat fanatical in his beliefs. He refuses to trust Lin or anything to do with the ruling class. It’s hard to argue with fanatics who are so sure what they believe is right. That certainly comes across whenever The Shardless Few appear in the books.

Sand, as it turns out, was the construct of the emperor’s wife, sent to Maila. She begins to remember her “life” and comes out of the island’s fog with several of her friends. She and several others remember, and they manage to leave Maila. Sand is a construct of Nisong, who was the Emperor’s wife. She is now a threat, gathering constructs for an army to overthrow Lin. She claims she is Lin’s sister, and as her sister, has a legitimate claim to the throne. To achieve her goal, she is willing to do anything to anyone. She and her companions travel the islands, conquering it with her army of constructs. Her knowledge of bone shard magic makes her even more dangerous. I feel that Nisong-Sand is the replacement for the Emperor as the main antagonist, although, what she does seems far worse than the emperor, as we see the fear of the people she conquers without mercy. 

Overall Thoughts

The Bone Shard Emperor, the second book in the Drowning Empire series by Andrea Stewart, is just as brilliant as the first book. Once again, all the fantasy elements are in place and the continuing character development is excellent. Each character is even more developed and the expanded lore of the Shardless Few and Nisong-Sand adds to the excitement of Lin protecting the Phoenix Empire. The bone shard magic system is taken to new levels with both Lin and Nisong-Sand wielding it as they come closer to war with each other. The outside threat of the Alanga, with their own magic, seems overwhelming odds for Lin to maintain control of her empire and protect her people. I absolutely loved this sequel. I loved The Bone Shard Daughter, but The Bone Shard Emperor takes the series to a new level of excitement and fantasy. Once again. The Asian-inspired world-building and LGBTQ representation only add to how impressive this series is and underscores the need for representation. Ms. Stewart’s prose is so well done and paints vivid descriptions of all the elements of the novel. Both the bone shard and Alanga magic systems, the continuation of character development and seeing more of the world of the Phoenix Empire The chapters are told from multiple points of view in the first-person narrative but weave together the wonderful fantasy. The Bone Shard Emperor was a great read from start to finish and I highly recommend it.


The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.   Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the north-east of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.  

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga–the powerful magicians of legend–have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin will need their help in order to defeat the rebels and restore peace.  

But can she trust them?

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