by Andrea Stewart
Publication: November 23, 2021
Series: The Drowning Empire #2
**It’s also long so you can probably skim the bolded statements for a rough summary. Sorry!**
**I received a copy through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own, and the book is awesome.**
The Bone Shard Emperor is amazing. Rest assured it doesn’t fall into the second book slump, acting as a filler for characters to prepare for the impending “real” conflict in the final book. It’s a glorious read that met, maybe even exceeded, my expectations and I can’t thank Orbit Books enough for approving me for this ARC. The only bad thing about being approved is waiting another year for the final book. The Drowning Empire is on its way to being one of my favorite trilogies.
Before we get to anything else, let’s talk about what’s important here, Mephi. Mephi is back and as loveable and entertaining as ever. Mephi and Jovis’s relationship remains one of the highlights of the book.
Okay…here I go. There was a lot I wanted to say but my most organized and coherent thoughts were about Lin and Jovis so I focus on them. The character development is well-done.
Following the events of the first book, Lin is newly crowned emperor. Her father’s neglect of the empire leaves her in a precarious situation. As unrest ensues, both from the machinations of the Shardless Few and the uprising from rebel constructs led by Nisong, Lin scrambles to strengthen the relationship between the throne and the islands, while people question her lack of experience and intentions. While Lin may not necessarily have the experience, her tumultuous relationship with her father instilled in her the drive to be a better emperor. It’s apparent in her attempts to solidify alliances between the islands. She appears to hold a sense of right and wrong and the conviction to be an emperor who cares. Her experiences from the first book continue to ground her, leading her decision-making even as her temper and frustration tempt her to act otherwise.
As Lin navigates the political waters, she displays the same vulnerability from the first book as she tries to balance her new role and an innate desire to connect with others, specifically finding someone she can confide in. While her position has forced her to be more visible and to take on new responsibilities, she’s still that girl who yearned for her father’s love and affection. Rather than her father’s acceptance, she now needs the residents of the empire to place their faith in her. While one of her smartest moves may have been to get Jovis on her side, it also makes one question what loyalty, if any, the people have toward her without his endorsement.
Lin was my favorite character from the beginning and remains so. Despite the pressure she is under, she tries to adhere to her promises but she learns first-hand how difficult it can be to try to please the people and to make decisions she believes is best. Additionally, it’s harder to be the person in charge when people are scrutinizing her every move as well as prepared to depose her at any time.
Jovis uses his new post to his full advantage. He can move freely within the empire, and the people adore him, continuing to hail him as a hero even if he has become one more face of the government. At Lin’s side, he is privy to her thoughts and plans. As someone who always fought for the people, Jovis finds himself questioning Lin’s actions, often to himself and, more often than not, directly to Lin. I enjoyed this dynamic the most. Their relationship is supposed to be formal but often slips to one that feels more like a growing friendship with Jovis speaking his mind and Lin confiding in him. While I understood the difficult position Jovis was in, I grew increasingly frustrated with him as Lin began to let her guard down while he continued to stand at a crossroad over his loyalties. It was difficult to read at times because I wanted someone to be on Lin’s side, to fight for her or alongside her. I could not help but want to remedy Lin’s loneliness especially after everything she went through in the first book.
- The strength of The Bone Shard Emperor continues to be the strong female characters and world-building. An already rich world is further expanded with the addition of the history of the Alanga, a history that is slowly revealed throughout the book. It was one of my favorite parts of the book.
- While there continue to be multiple points of view, Lin and Jovis make up the majority with those of other characters kept to a minimum. This contributed to a much better reading experience than I had with the first novel.
- Government and its role remain a central theme in the book. What makes a benevolent ruler? Can the will of the many be embodied by a single ruler? Who is fit to be the voice of the people? The fight over the rule of the empire is still at hand. I expect this to be central in the next book and cannot wait.
- While I cheered Lin on, I found myself sympathizing with the fight for construct rights and the support for a new government. My resolve toward Lin being successful couldn’t help but waver as I read each character’s point of view and empathized with their struggles.
The book is amazing. I finished reading it as soon as I got approved, but it took a while to get my thoughts translated from sighs, gasps, and grunts to words and finally to sentences that made sense. This is one of my favorite reads of 2021.
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