If you’ve read the Drowning Empire trilogy by Andrea Stewart, or even just read a review of The Bone Shard Daughter, The Bone Shard Emperor, or The Bone Shard War (which just came out yesterday), you must have inevitably read about an adorable creature named Mephi. Now, I did enjoy the trilogy and had a great time with all the characters, but I have to be honest and say the primary force driving me to continue with the series was Mephi.
In the books, Mephi is an ossalen, a creature invented by the author, as far as I can tell. When he’s introduced in the first book, Jovis thinks he’s some kind of kitten-otter creature. Whatever he is, he’s just adorable with a personality to match. He’s adorably childlike and instantly fiercely loyal. There’s absolutely nothing to dislike about him. After that, I kind of lost track of what he was supposed to look like as he grows up. Part of my problem is that I was raised in a Chinese American household where we had big fans with Chinese dragons and embroidered pillows with mountains, scraggly trees, towers, pagodas, and Chinese dragons. These dragons are long, serpentine, with short, stubby legs and claws at the ends. They tended to have beards and what looked a lot like whiskers coming out of their cheeks and foreheads, and a mane down the back of the head. I kept imagining Mephi looked like one of these. But there’s mention of a tail and paws, and it took a while for me to remember statues of what looked like great bearded lions. That seemed to jive a little better with the descriptions, but I kind of like the dragon I imagined better.
But Mephi is a lot more than how beautiful he looks and the powers he confers to Jovis. In the first book, he’s a delightful child. He’s learning from Jovis what’s right and what’s bad. He’s just so flat out adorable I was sad when the book ended because I needed more Mephi. In the second book, Mephi’s grown up a bit. He reminded me of a teenager constantly pushing boundaries. He’s become a handful for Jovis to handle, but he’s still fiercely loyal, even if he isn’t the best listener. In the last book, he’s matured even more. He’s still got his love of food, but he’s definitely grown up. He has some incredible scenes where he truly shows how far he’s grown up, as well as how much more growing and maturing he has left to do. While he initially leaned on Jovis for survival, it felt more like Jovis leaned on Mephi by the last book, drawing strength from his steadfast companion. I was a little sad to see some of his playfulness go by the wayside as he and Jovis dealt with things they shouldn’t have had to, but he’s still got that youthful spirit all the way through, and was always a delight to read.
Now, I, like so many fantasy readers, have read about a lot of different creature companions. There have been cats, dogs, birds, horses, even a small tree. A gargoyle remains a strong favorite, as well as a bird-like creature in RJ Barker’s Tide Child trilogy. There are so many creature companions I’ve loved, so many that have wonderful bonds with their people. Their reliance on each other is always my favorite part, and I love that one doesn’t truly feel whole without the other. There’s that little bit of magic added to the characters when they do have a creature companion, and I couldn’t imagine a story without them in it.
But Mephi is my favorite. Unlike most of the creature companions I’ve had the pleasure to meet, Mephi literally grows and matures throughout the trilogy. His loyalty is steadfast, his love for Jovis unwavering, his morals as deep as the seas. In a lot of the important ways, he’s the same through and through. He’s as steadfast as any other creature companion, always available when their person needs them, always offering everything they can. But Mephi is different because his character experiences great growth and maturity. He goes from a child to a young adult. He experiences real love and true loss, makes friends and enemies, and his powers grow as well. Unlike other creature companions, he also leaves Jovis without his powers from time to time because he needs to hibernate to grow some more. I loved how Jovis had to learn to adjust to being on his own again, to having to care for this growing creature that literally can’t protect itself. It really spoke to a deep bond full of love and trust, one that goes both ways. I loved that Mephi was sometimes completely reliant on Jovis for survival.
When it comes to most creature companions, I find they’re little more than secondary characters, sometimes even forgettable at some point in my mind. They play a role, they serve a purpose, they bring out something new and better in their person. Sometimes they had delightful personalities and felt like fully fleshed out characters. Other times, they sometimes felt more like a prop to the human character, something useful when they were needed. Certainly, they were cared for, but, when they weren’t important for the story to move forward, I felt they were a little left behind. Not Mephi. I always felt like he was ready to bound off the pages and stick his nose in my face with curiosity. He has a big, bright personality, but he’s more than just fun loving and playful. His experiences, especially in the third book, make him grow up and mature. He’s left on his own in danger and has to deal with it the same way any other character in the same situation would have to. His character felt like it was treated with the same care and love as the main characters. Mephi did more than serve a purpose, he was more than just a companion. Mephi was a friend, confidant, moral compass. Sometime he felt like he was Jovis’s son. Other times he was Jovis’s protector. There was just such a broad range for him that I really can’t see Jovis being Jovis without Mephi.
Mephi is my favorite creature companion because he’s so much more than a companion. He’s more than just a friend, more than just this creature who magically supports Jovis and gives him powers. He and Jovis have a give and take relationship, one tied tight with love and respect and a deep friendship. He was more than Jovis’s companion; he felt like Jovis’s best friend, and received the character treatment to match. But my favorite part of him, of course, was getting to see him grow up. He also always made me want to give my reluctant cat a squeeze because she’s more than just my furry companion; she’s my furry first baby.
5 thoughts on “Why Mephi is My Favorite Creature Companion”
Yes!!!!! I love Melphi! I totally agree with you!
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He’s the best! Thank you for reading!
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This is so well said and expresses exactly why I love Mephi so much. He was the heart of the novels, and watching him grow over the course of the story was one of my favorite things about reading these books.
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Thank you! I absolutely agree; Mephi is definitely the heart, and getting to see him grow up just felt like the cherry on top. He’s such a fantastic character, so I’m hoping Stewart will return to this world one day and we’ll get to see him again. I’m curious what a more fully grown Mephi would be like.