Title: The Bone Shard Emperor (The Drowning Empire #2)
Author: Andrea Stewart
Publication date: November 23, 2021
One Sentence Summary: Now Emperor, Lin is determined to unite the empire with Jovis by her side, but secrets about their mysterious enemy the Alanga and challenges from constructs Lin didn’t know about threaten to topple her before she can do anything.
Warning: May contain spoilers for the first book, The Bone Shard Daughter.
The Bone Shard Emperor is a solid second book in The Drowning Empire trilogy. It builds on what was presented in the first book, deepening the characters, expanding the world, and providing more answers to questions while still leaving a good deal of mystery. Like the first book, this one continued to focus on Lin, Jovis, Nisong, Phalue, and Ranami. Mephi, of course, was a ton of fun to read and I’m really happy he has a new friend like himself. In this book, more of the threads are drawn together, bringing the characters into closer proximity and heightening the threats to Lin’s throne. While I wasn’t a fan of the romance and traveling around to the different islands, I did enjoy this book as it very nicely sets up for what should be an exciting conclusion as multiple stories and sides seem to be hurling towards each other.
Set not long after the events of the first book, The Bone Shard Emperor finds Lin, the new emperor, trying to figure out her father’s secrets and preparing to set out to visit four islands. Jovis is now in her employ as her Captain of the Imperial Guard, though he finds himself torn between spying for the Shardless Few and keeping Lin’s secrets. With Mephi and Lin’s creature companion Thrana in tow, they set off for the islands as questions and revelations about the Alanga begin to come to light.
On the islands, Phalue and Ranami are enjoying their marriage as Phalue has become governor. But the Shardless Few are pushing Phalue to do as they wish while she tries to do what she can for her people. On a nearby island, Nisong is gathering the constructs as she seeks to conquer all the islands between her and Imperial as she believes she should be emperor.
With pressure and impending war on all sides and the Alanga seemingly returning, Lin and Jovis are up against almost too much, and sinking islands aren’t helping.
Just like the first book, The Bone Shard Emperor follows Lin, Jovis, Nisong, Phalue, and Ranami as the empire is held together by a thread. While I wasn’t a big fan of the traveling around to the islands as it reminded me too much of those fantasy stories that are little more than adventures across the land in order to showcase as much of the world as possible, this was still a solid installment in the trilogy that offered a lot of answers and still more questions for the third book to answer. I really liked that everything seemed to be heating up and more of the characters encountered each other. The Bone Shard Emperor takes its time, but it’s well worth it as the world unfolds little by little and danger and threats seem to lie in wait everywhere.
On Imperial, Lin and Jovis are preparing to travel to four islands in order to help secure the empire under Lin, who is acutely aware that her reclusive father did more damage than good during his rule. With Alanga relics awakening, there’s fear that this powerful people are returning to destroy them and Lin hopes to secure promises of people to join her guard as she has chosen to destroy the construct army. But she’s also still trying to demystify all of her father’s secrets and might have her own troubling new powers to contend with as her new creature companion, Thrana, learns to live without fear. In some ways, it’s good she has Jovis and Mephi by her side. The bond they form is sweet and just what both of them need, though I can’t say I was a huge fan of the romantic overtones as I felt they came off a little too strong. But Mephi, as always, was adorable with the cutest little quirk ever (though many characters might not agree!). I wish there had been more of him, but he’s growing up and adolescent Mephi was just as much fun as baby Mephi. Jovis, on the other hand, was one character I both wanted to hug and shake. He has a good heart, but his loyalties are just too divided. I enjoyed the tension it brought, but there were times I just wanted to slap some sense into him.
Turning to the constructs, I both loved and hated Nisong’s chapters. I loved that I completely understood her desires and drive, but she was also so one minded that she ended up lacking the depth I needed to really connect with her. It broke my heart to read about the constructs close to her and what happened to them, and then to see Nisong just plow on ahead. I do like the way the two sides clashed in kind of an epic way at the end, especially with the threat of the Alanga at full force, but I felt not enough time had been taken to develop her and her story, so it felt like the weakest part of the book to me even if I did enjoy how it played out at the end.
Phalue and Ranami still kind of confuse me. Their relationship feels strange, almost forced, and I’m still not completely sure why they are two of the main characters instead of one of the other governors or even someone from the Shardless Few. I find the Shardless Few more interesting and, while I appreciate they’re being brought into the story through Phalue and Ranami, I think it falls a little flat to me. Their marriage, while it gives me the relationship I was sorely lacking in the first book, comes across as two people clashing more than melding. I do like that they come from very different backgrounds and that has an interesting hand in how they govern and there was a nice twist thrown in, but their story line wasn’t quite as interesting as I had hoped it would be.
The Bone Shard Emperor not only has some really interesting characters, but also a fascinating story and world. I loved that the two felt like they went hand in hand. Not only did we learn more about the empire’s history in relation to the Alanga, but it also built up the world a little more. I didn’t get the sense of drifting islands in this one, but I liked that each island was a bit different from the others, but there was so much that still tied them together. I also enjoyed the different receptions Lin got even though I found the traveling from island to island kind of tiresome (traveling the world isn’t really my cup of tea right now). But my favorite was trying to figure out how the sinking islands and the return of the Alanga might be related. My mind kept spinning onto possible answers. While this book does give more history and more answers, there’s still so much left that I’m dying to know how it wraps up in the last book.
The Bone Shard Emperor is a solid second book offering just enough without being overwhelming and keeping cards close to its chest. It didn’t exactly impress me as much as the first book, but I really enjoyed how it built up and still has more to offer. I definitely enjoyed the second half more than the first as the first half felt more like steps backwards and the pressing issues of the Alanga and Nisong and her construct army were pushed out of the way when I really wanted them front and center. Overall, though, I did like what was offered and can’t wait to see how it plays out in the last book.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Angela Man from Orbit for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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