Read-along: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (week 1)

The Bone Shard Daughter: A Wyrd and Wonder Read-Along

Before I start – I was so so jealous of all the people who received the B-E-A-U-tiful ARC copy of this book last year! I wanted to read it from the first moment I saw that elegant golden wave on its plain dark cover, not knowing anything about the story or the author, but just needing this book. When the Fantasy Hive did an interview with Andrea Stewart I was even more intrigued, so I am massively grateful that this was picked for this year’s Wyrd and Wonder read-along (about which all details can be found here). Just so you know that I’m not in the slightest bit objective going into this!

Appropriately, our prompt questions for this first week have been set by Fantasy Hive’s Editor-in-Chief Bethan, which has a lovely symmetry to it, don’t you think? It pleases me.

Anyway, let’s get to it, shall we …

 

Chapters 1 to 11 inclusive

Welcome to Stewart’s glorious world! What are your initial impressions?

An empire of migratory floating islands. Magically created hybrid creatures used as imperial servants. A young woman with missing memories. A man searching for his lost wife. These things immediately grabbed me.

I’m enjoying Stewart’s method of drawing me into the story: slowly building up small details (whitstone, the constructs, the Emperor’s bone shard magic, shard sickness), but keeping the various characters at the front, so that the world is built up layer by layer. I realise some readers can find this kind of storytelling frustrating (I’m interested to find out what fellow read-along-ers think of it), but I’m liking it so far. I want so much more information!

 

What do you make of the magic system and the world-building?

Well I’ve never come across a magic system quite like this. I’m fascinated by the shard sickness in particular. Here’s how I understand it: these tiny bone shards are taken from people when they’re children, and when the Emperor employs them in a construct, the person whose shard it is is sapped of energy, and of life, faster than normal. So the shard is somehow connected to a person’s life force, and acts as a conduit between the magic and the person. Meaning that the Emperor uses people like batteries.

Am I the only one disturbed by this?

I don’t think the Emperor is a good person.

As for the world-building – I am clutching at every little detail at the moment. I’m half in love with the idea of an empire spanning many small islands. I want to learn so much more about the migratory nature of these islands.

 

Is there a character you’re particularly drawn to so far?

I’m burning with curiosity about Sand, out on Maila Isle. Whose memories is she carrying around in her head? (First suspicion: does she somehow have Lin’s memories? How? Why?)

And I liked Jovis straight away. I like the mess he’s in, I think because it’s very human. And he’s compassionate, even though he doesn’t want to be. That goes a long way, no matter what lies he may be telling us or himself.

I am interested to see when Phalue’s storyline goes, although I haven’t immediately warmed to her. I share Ranami’s frustrations with her that she is happy to accept the way things are.

Of everyone we’ve met so far I am least fond of Lin. Again, I’m interested, but I don’t really like her…

 

What do you make of Lin’s motivations? How much do you think she’s driven by a desire to save her Empire – or are her motivations more selfish?

…because I feel she’s driven to dig up the Emperor’s secrets for the wrong reasons. Or, not the wrong reasons exactly, but for a kind of clinical need to know, rather than an emotional reason/need that I can empathise with. Does that make sense? She seems systematic and intelligent, but not warm. She is driven by competition with Bayan and a desire to prove her father wrong about her being broken, not by any love for a person or people, or an ideal. And she’s walking around with a huge part of her life missing, so she doesn’t really know who she is. Consequently, we’re not getting any of those small details to colour in our view of her. She’s … odd.

OMG! I’ve just had a weird thought – what if Lin isn’t really the Emperor’s daughter? And that’s why he keeps questioning her and won’t make her his official heir. And why she doesn’t have any memories. And why no-one’s really seen much of her. ??? !!! In which case, who on earth is she? And wtf? (Am I reading too much into things? These are late Friday night thoughts, I could be building on sand here…)

 

Jovis tends to tell lies when faced with truths he doesn’t want to face. As a first-person narrator, how reliable do you feel this makes him?

Hmmm, I don’t know. I don’t feel like he’s super unreliable … so far. I think because he’s aware that he lies to avoid the uncomfortable truth. Maybe I should be more suspicious rather than less, but at the moment I’m inclined to trust him.

Watch me regret this in a couple of weeks’ time!

 

Mephi! Any guesses/wild theories about Jovis’s new furry friend?

My first suspicion was that Mephi was a construct because he seems to be a cat-otter-with-tiny-hands (squeak!), who can talk, and constructs similarly seem to be blends of different creatures and capable of speech from what we know so far. Also, that bit of whitstone Jovis had has disappeared and part of me thinks Mephi ate it, which is how he was able to fill the sails with wind. I don’t even know if constructs are fuelled by whitstone, I’m just making this stuff up! All I really know at the moment is that Mephi is another oddity that I want to know so much more about. But I frigging love him and his tiny hands!

 

My next post for this read-along can be found here:

Week 2 – Chapters 12 to 23 inclusive

 

22 thoughts on “Read-along: The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (week 1)

  1. Oh I really love your speculations! I’m posting mine tomorrow, but since I’ve read it previously I like seeing people’s fresh reaction to it! Especially interesting what you say about Lin, because I think my intrigue in what happened to her memories and what’s behind each door and how constructs works didn’t let me think too much about her emotions, if that makes sense? So I quite liked her from the start because her need to know mirrored my need to know… but I definitely see what you mean now that I reread it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Her position is definitely compelling to read, but I hope I’ll grow to like her too. I look forward to your post, especially as this is a reread for you. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hallo, Hallo Mayri,

    Shortly after I finished sorting out my thoughts to share this morning on behalf of this RAL, I read your post. I decided to take an exit from reading #BoneShardDaughter for the reasons I discuss on my Week One’s reaction post today, however, I wanted to swing through the posts to see what others were talking about before I let you all move ahead of where I left the story myself.

    I was quite invested in the juxaposition between Lin & Jovis but when she moved out of those two spheres of interest, I admit, my interest started to wan a bit. I don’t mind multi-POV plots, as I read them every so often myself in other genres, but sometimes I find myself preferring the focus to be more insulated between certain characters rather than shifting too far afield. As I had with this one.

    Yes, that was part of why I marked this as a DNF myself – the complexities and issues stemming from the bone shard magic system itself and the further implications of what that causes for the people in which the shard was taken. That, and just the whole ‘bit’ of how/why its used, etc. It just really didn’t sit well with me at all on so many levels as I explained on my post.

    I personally felt more akin to following Jovis than Lin, though Lin intrigued me a bit too but it was Jovis who left the strongest impression on me. I wrote quite a bit about how I felt he’s a reliable narrator in the story. If you want to see the bits I’ve shared for week one, I look forward to your notes on my post today or whenever you drop by this week.

    You did well to theorise and share your own reactions throughout this recap of the first reading group of chapters! I even liked when you stretched out some long-term theories and mused about the implications of those – such as Lin’s actual ancestral heritage – and the woman with the memories on the island (I didn’t get to meet her myself – but its a good theory!). It would be interesting if she held the key to unlock Lin’s past.

    PS: I think the reason Lin’s father won’t accept her is because he cannot accept any deformity — or any medical issue in his children. He seeks perfection and in a way, that’s why he has constructs; he’s striving towards perfection and perfect control as that is what is most important to him; so in my mind, Lin is his daughter but he cannot acknowledge her unless she is restored to whom she were before the illness struck her down. Those were my fleeting thoughts anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jorie! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me!
      From what we have seen of Lin’s father so far I really DO NOT like him and your thoughts on why he cannot accept Lin ring true for me.
      I can appreciate your feelings about the bone shard magic, and the way it operates too. I look forward to reading your post for a more thorough exploration of your reactions to this.

      Thank you again for sharing Jorie! I’ll go read your post now! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this style of layer by layer worldbuilding. I like to learn about a world in natural, bit by bit way while also enjoying the action as the characters move through that world. I also wondered if Sand’s memory is somehow linked to Lin’s! Jovis is my favourite character so far – but I am intrigued to learn more about everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d missed Mephi and the whitstone – you’ve persuaded me that’s what has happened there.

    Re the layer by layer storytelling/worldbuilding – I am very hit and miss on this*; there’s definitely times where having to constantly adjust to new information prevents me from getting fully invested in the story, and I think this is somewhat happening here.

    *I say this like I’m not very hit and miss on everything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting. I’m enjoying the layer by layer worldbuilding, but struggling a bit more to connect to some characters – particularly Lin. I just don’t care about what she cares about…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe if I was more connected with the characters, I would be enjoying the worldbuilding – I certainly think the lack of connection to the characters is my big thing.

        I think we’re meant to instantly empathise with Lin’s underdog position in her family/wonder about her lost memories/be hooked at her daring in stealing and forging keys. Like you, none of them really made me connect. For whatever reason, Stewart’s writing didn’t get emotional responses from me on those three things.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. …well damn, Mayri. It hadn’t even occurred to me that Lin might not be the Emperor’s daughter, and now you’ve put it out there it totally works for me. It has me even MORE curious to know what happened to the Empress (whose death the Emperor reacted SO badly to there’s now no pictures of her, which is suddenly SO MUCH MORE SUSPICIOUS). I have so much side-eye for the Emperor and I don’t trust Lin at all.

    I’m enjoying the layering in of the world-building, but I feel like the characters could do with a bit more layering? Plot is great, but I feel like I’m only just starting to get to know Jovis at the halfway point (and Phalue is still very two dimensional). I do love how much has been done with so little where Sand is concerned tho, but more on that next week when it won’t be spoilery 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🤣🤣🤣 Yeah, the Emperor – dodgy geezer if ever I saw one! I don’t like him at all!
      I agree that Phalue has yet to pop out into three dimensions, and even Jovis has taken a while to become real. And I still don’t really know what to make of Lin.
      But I’m firmly in love with the migratory islands idea!

      Like

  6. Hey lovely, these are some fantastic insights! I particularly love your comparison of the Emperor using peklme like batteries, that such a great way of looking at it! I mean it’s a horrible thing obviously, I really should be enthusiastically gasping “yes! These people are batteries!” 🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️🤦🏻‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 🤣🤣🤣 on the other hand, at some point in this world’s past that us exactly what a character did – “eureka! I shall use people as batteries!” 🤣🤣🤣

      Like

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