The Bone Shard War by Andrea Stewart (The Drowning Empire #3)

Lin Sukai has won her first victory as Emperor, but the future of the Phoenix Empire hangs in the balance – and Lin is dangerously short of allies. 

As her own governors plot treason, the Shardless Few renew hostilities. Worse still, Lin discovers her old nemesis Nisong has joined forces with the rogue Alanga, Ragan. Both seek her death.  

Yet hopes lies in history. Legend tells of seven mythic swords, forged in centuries past. If Lin can find them before her enemies, she may yet be able to turn the tide.  
If she fails, the Sukai dynasty – and the entire empire – will fall.  

Thank you to Orbit Books and Angela Man for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. The Bone Shard War will be available on April 18th.

In the final installment in The Drowning Empire trilogy, Emperor Lin finds herself on the brink of her empire’s collapse. Enemies beset her on all sides, and her allies are few and scattered. She enters into a desperate race to save her empire, but are her actions enough?

The Bone Shard War is breathtaking and impossible to put down. As the stakes get higher, the choices made by all the characters become ever more critical. The fate of the empire- indeed many people’s lives- depends on the decisions of a few. I loved seeing that every character plays a role in the empire’s collapse or salvation, even those who have had lesser roles, like Ayesh the adopted child of Phalue and Ranami.

As with the other books in the trilogy, The Bone Shard War is split between multiple points of view. Each is well-written and distinctive enough that it’s never confusing, despite the many events (or disasters) being discussed in each separate chapter. As events unfold, the characters weave in and out of the main story, that of Lin’s attempt to hold onto a rapidly failing empire. It was extremely gratifying to see the seemingly disparate threads of narratives line up, becoming a complex multi-layered story, epic in scale and beautifully written.

Jovis and Mephi continue to be my favorites. Poor Jovis finds himself trapped by Kaphra, forced to be his weapon. His point of view was doubly fantastic because, on top of wondering how- or if- he will ever escape, he grapples with questions of morality. Is he a hero or has he become a villain? How can a person weigh lives saved against evil deeds? It was at times heartbreaking, yet always enthralling. And I just adore Mephi, of course.

Lin, now Emperor, is struggling with the many problems that rulers are plagued with: dissatisfaction among other leaders, groups of dissenters (some of whom may have violent agendas), and war. On top of everything are the sinking islands. She is convinced that magical blades, mentioned in history texts, hold the key to at least some of these problems. She is singly focused on finding them, but in the process seems to be losing sight of the needs of her people. I kind of thought she was a lousy ruler, which made her good intentions and the justifications for her choices even more interesting. At times I truly didn’t like her, making her an even more fascinating character.

Meanwhile, Phalue and Ranami are in two different places, fighting their own individual battles. While their story arcs have been less interesting to me in previous books, Ranami’s chapters kept me riveted in The Bone Shard War. Her skills, which have less to do with fighting and more to do with words, are showcased in ways that are quiet yet important. I loved seeing a different aspect of battle; one that is more intentional and sometimes even more dangerous.

There is no downtime in this book. The Bone Shard War races toward a heartstopping conclusion which kept me on the edge of my seat. The writing was superb. Author Andrea Stewart has created a unique world and memorable characters. The Bone Shard War is a stunning conclusion to an amazing series. Don’t miss this one!

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

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?  (taken from Amazon)

Book two in the Drowning Empire series, The Bone Shard Emperor was a wild ride full of action, betrayal, and heart-in-your-throat plot twists. Nothing happens as expected, and it’s fantastic.

The Bone Shard Emperor picks up soon after The Bone Shard Daughter ends. We are still following the points of view found in book one, although a few characters find themselves crossing paths. This is one of the main changes in dynamic: the new interactions. Instead of being on separate but related paths, the book slowly brings the characters into contact with each other. Some form alliances. Others…not so much.

While the world is well developed (and massive), it’s the characters that drew me in and kept me enthralled. Phalue and Ranami, now married, grapple with Phalue’s new role as governor. There are new obstacles and a new twist in their relationship: a scrawny urchin who may be hiding something. While still not my favorite points of view, Phalue and Ranami add a different angle to the story, fleshing it out well.

Meanwhile, Lin finds herself head of a kingdom that is, quite literally, drowning. I am always curious why anyone in their right mind would actually want to be in charge, so seeing her motives and the shifts in her viewpoint was fascinating. She is no longer the idealistic and motivated character she was in The Bone Shard Daughter. Instead, she is a person struggling to keep her head above the dark waters of politics, alliances, secrets she must keep, and an approaching army. From being rather ambivalent about her for the first half of book one, I have gone to eagerly reading the next part of her storyline, wondering if she can somehow hold the fraying kingdom together. I loved the combination of vulnerability and sheer stick-to-it-ness that Lin displayed. She didn’t quit, even when she really probably should have.

Jovis (and Mephi!) once again stood out as my favorite storyline, although things are a little different now. Jovis is now Lin’s Captain of the Guard, and his relationship with her is complicated, to say the least. They are both hiding big things, while at the same time trying to learn who to trust. His part of the book felt like it was always about to tip over into chaos, but never quite did. Author Andrea Stewart kept the multiple threads of his narrative held together wonderfully. Nothing was forgotten, and every action had consequences that were both far-reaching and sometimes flat-out terrifying.

Stewart has come into her own, her writing skillful and confident. The narrative flows wonderfully and the pacing is magnificent. The Bone Shard Emperor felt like a roller coaster, building up speed as it hurtles from drop to turn, turning everything on its head before plunging you straight into an astonishing confrontation. If the series continues on in this vein, it will easily become one of my favorites.

Read this one sooner rather than later.

Originally published in Grimdark Magazine.