The Bone Shard War (The Drowning Empire #3) by Andrea Stewart
Published by Orbit Books
Adult Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
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Release Date : April 18th 2023
With the help of the Shardless Few, Jovis and Lin have defeated the construct army and the treacherous Ragan. But not all alliances are easy. The leader of the Shardless Few has debts to pay and a world to make over. And this new world does not need or want an Emperor.
But this is not the only thing to threaten the fragile peace. Now that fewer people are undergoing the Tithing Festival, the Alanga are returning, and not all of them are peaceful. While Jovis and Lin find allies in unlikely places, other Alanga begin to choose sides–and many are none too happy with the current regime or with the commoners.
With enemies on all sides, Empress Lin must decide if she should follow in the destructive steps of her forebears to save the Empire’s citizens and bring peace.
There was no going back. The Empire was changed; the world was changed. How could we help but to change with it?
ARC provided by the publisher Orbit Books US through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Bone Shard War is the epic conclusion and the great revelation to the mysteries of the drowning empire that will get your heart beating until the very end.
The new year brings in new books and sequels for many series’ that I’ve been following these past few years. The Bone Shard War is the last book of The Drowning Empire series that I’ve waited for a couple of years now to release. Thank you to Angela from Orbit for sending an early copy for me to review. When it came in the mail I immediately pushed it up my TBR pile. Because where The Bone Shard Emperor left off, there are so many things that needs to answered and the anticipation for the fates of my favourite characters are up in the air for two years.
As usual I would like to admire the purple cover of The Bone Shard War that will complete the series all together. Cover design by Lauren Panepinto and cover illustration by Sasha Vinogradova. The purple is much more striking than the other two books. I love seeing the ossalens with the crown on top of the book. After finishing The Bone Shard War seeing the waves and boats on the cover is a nice foreshadowing of whats to come in the book.
I was not a hero, but maybe – I could still do heroic things.
The Bone Shard War will take place two years after the last events of The Bone Shard Emperor. Lin is still the reigning emperor of the Sukai Empire that is currently falling apart. The Alanga, humans granted magical powers and enhanced physical abilites after bonding with Ossalen, are returning and the people of the empire are restless of their presence. Dione, the head of The Shardless Few and the oldest legendary Alanga, is building an army with a purpose to crush Lin. Bog cough is spreading, the people are dying, governments are destabilized, and ancient artifacts needs to be recovered to turn the tides of war. There are a lot of things in Lin’s plate since the Battle of Gaelung.
Other characters fates are at stake too as they try to survive through war. Phalue, the Nephilanu acting governor of Nephilanu and wife of Ranami, is leagues away from her family. Ranami, the former rebel now wife of a governor, is holding island together as Shardless Few invade to gain control of caro nuts. Ragan, the defected cloud tree monk and skilled Alanga with a mission to kill anyone in his path, is missing. Nisong, the woman that lead a construct army in The Bone Shard Emperor, is also missing. Jovis, the hero of the people and Lin’s love interest, has left Lin’s side lost somewhere sailing the Endless Sea. The only person by Lin’s side is Thrana, the ossalen that bonded with her in the depths of the castle.
“No matter how hard you try.” She felt things click into place in her own mind. “You can only do your best to make things better.”
All of the characters are clashing as their goals and intentions collide with each other fighting for power and control. Politics and ideologies shines through in between battles on land and sea as characters debate with each other to find a compromise. That compromise came at a cost of innocent citizens displaced, dying, and battling for peace. The tone of the story takes a massive shift from the first two books as the planning and plotting that were placed are finally coming to fruition. The tensions are high and intense, it could be cut with a butterknife, it is that thick. Stewart did an amazing job building tension since the first book and with each book it only got higher. The Bone Shard War is when that tension is taken to an even higher level; combining the characters arcs, the world building, and the character relationships into one explosive conclusion.
The world Andrea Stewart has built with endless mysteries that has been trickling information drop by drop throughout the series is now gushing out like a stream in The Bone Shard War. Stewart’s creative decision in submerging readers blind into the world and discovering knowledge together with the characters is utilized to its maximum potential. Every single hidden secrets of the world are revealed as readers and characters come to the same conclusion at the most crucial moments of the series. It is a masterful display of skill by Stewart who built a world that grows and expand simultaneously with the thickening of plot and growth of the characters. The story itself became an organic living being that thrived as character arcs are fulfilled, plots takes shape, relationships established, and secrets are revealed.
I was used to fighting. I was less used to giving up.
The Drowning Empire series is a trilogy with a cast of characters and with that comes multiple character arcs. I want to get into each character arc but for the sake of this review and to avoid any spoilers I will only write about a few characters that stood out amongst the cast throughout the series.
Jovis. The smuggler, folk hero, and alanga. Jovis is a complicated character that has gone through many trials and tribulations in the series. He has witnessed the massive deaths from the sinking islands, killed and saved countless lives. From the start of the series readers are introduced to a reluctant hero and that has faced multiple crossroads. Stewart really put him through the wringer when it comes to his character development. In The Bone Shard War it is no different. Jovis will face his hardest trial yet, facing his worst fears and coming fully into his characterization. The way I see it is as though Andrea Stewart and Jovis has been debating on defining who is throughout the series and in this last book Jovis is finally accepting. Jovis’ character arc is compelling and intense, he shows his development into a man that is brave and compassionate. The words he says to himself contradicts his actions and that what makes him such a lovable character in this whole series. Especially his strong friendship with Mephy that has never failed to capture the hearts of readers since the first book.
Lin. The daughter that defied her father, the empress that fights for the people, and a hero that never gives up. Lin is the main focus of the story as she is one of the most powerful characters in the series in status and power. She is the icon that became the face of the crumbling empire as she makes the decisions that changes the course of the story. Lin’s character development is the most apparent and consistent throughout the story. She started out as an isolated privileged princess that grew to be a character that never stops learning from the people around her. Her vulnerability and will to listen shaped her to become a leader that is wise, brave, and strong. In The Bone Shard War, Lin finds humility and understanding; the final step that ends her fight to save the empire. Lin’s character arc ends in a bittersweet note as the story comes to its final conclusion with her chapter. Stewart has intertwined Lin’s development with all of the characters throughout the series, in a way the other characters taught Lin and in turn they had learned from her. It is satisfying to see how it all came to be in the end.
Ranami and Phalue. The couple who came from different backgrounds, who conquered their differences with love and understanding, and in the end showed the world that through conflict people can grow. I have to admit I did not like Ranami in the first book and had doubts about her. But throughout the series she has grown to be a wonderful character. The development of Ranami and Phalue works in tandem as they mostly share many moments together, especially in The Bone Shard Emperor as they both have grown to their fullest potential. In The Bone Shard War, they are separated for most of the time but for Ranami and Phalue in this last book it is time for them to take a new position that will change the course of the story. Ranami has stopped being a follower and became a leader that she was intended to be. Stewart has set Ranami up as a character that started from the bottom rising up from the ashes like a phoenix. While Phalue is a companion who stood by her side the whole time knowing Ranami’s fullest potential and has the privilege of saying “I told you my wife is best wife” in the end.
Sand. Out of all the antagonist, Sand is the joker card of the series. When she was introduced in The Bone Shard Daughter it wasn’t clear what her purpose was as a character. In The Bone Shard Emperor it became apparent that Sand will be a character who surprises readers at every turn and she did just that. Stewart shaped her character well throughout the story, utilizing her motivation and intent to coincide with the development of the plot up until the end. At some point in the series Sand became Nisong, the emperors former consort. Seeing the psychological trauma from her memories that manifested fully in The Bone Shard War shaping her character arc is interesting to see. Of all the bad deeds she has done throughout the story I never stopped feeling sorry for her existence. At the end seeing how her character arc end with hope and joy, I am happily satisfied.
“Aye, I did. I’m sorry, old friend, but you’ve been right about me from the very beginning. I am the one who helps.”
Final thoughts, The Bone Shard War is a beautifully written conclusion to a consistently great series. With the release of The Bone Shard War it solidifies The Drowning Empire as a series that is unique and a stand out amongst other published fantasy books in the market by how incredibly well the story takes shape. Stewart is a consistent writer that upheld and even increased the quality from the first book up to the third and final book. I am truly impressed with every book I read in The Drowning Empire series.
As a reader that has followed this series from the start I am honoured and happy to be a witness of the growth of its characters. The heartfelt relationships that developed throughout the series has left a huge impression on me. I am happy with how Stewart wrote the end of this epic series. But I am also sad that it is ending and I have to say good bye to these characters. For those who have followed this series and will read The Bone Shard War, it is going to be a wild and intense ride from start to end. For those who are considering picking up this series, just do it because every book will impress you. I hold this series in the highest regard and I can’t wait to read more books by Andrea Stewart.
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
About the Author
Andrea Stewart is the daughter of immigrants, and was raised in a number of places across the United States. Her parents always emphasized science and education, so she spent her childhood immersed in Star Trek and odd-smelling library books. When her (admittedly ambitious) dreams of becoming a dragon slayer didn’t pan out, she instead turned to writing fiction. Her short stories can be found in such venues as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, and others.
Her debut epic fantasy novel, The Bone Shard Daughter, was a finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel, the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel, the Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy and Debut Novel, and the BookNest Award for Best Traditionally Published Novel. She now lives in sunny California, and in addition to writing, can be found herding cats, looking at birds, and falling down research rabbit holes
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