Book Review : The Bone Shard War

I received this book for free from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : The Bone Shard WarThe Bone Shard War (The Drowning Empire, #3) by Andrea Stewart
Published by Orbit on April 20th 2023
Pages: 624
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five-stars
Source: Orbit Books

The Bone Shard Daughter was hailed as "one of the best debut fantasy novels of the year" (BuzzFeed News). Now, Andrea Stewart brings us the final book in this unmissable, action-packed, magic-laced epic fantasy trilogy, The Bone Shard War.
Lin Sukai has won her first victory as Emperor, but the future of the Phoenix Empire hangs in the balance – and Lin is dangerously short of allies. 
As her own governors plot treason, the Shardless Few renew hostilities. Worse still, Lin discovers her old nemesis Nisong has joined forces with the rogue Alanga, Ragan. Both seek her death.  
Yet hopes lies in history. Legend tells of seven mythic swords, forged in centuries past. If Lin can find them before her enemies, she may yet be able to turn the tide.     If she fails, the Sukai dynasty – and the entire empire – will fall.  

 

I have never been more satisfied by the ending of a series—let alone one I loved as much as The Drowning Empire—until The Bone Shard War. The Bone Shard War brings the trilogy to a resoundingly flawless finish, where all of the characters’ arcs culminate in immensely satisfying and touching conclusions. 

 

Though The Bone Shard War takes place two years after the events of the prior entry in the series, The Bone Shard Emperor, I felt right at home with Lin, Jovis, Mephi, and the rest of the gang. It was such a delight to be back among these characters and in their unique and magical world again, even if it’s initially a little bit jarring being two years ahead from the last book. The characters are mostly separated in this novel, each fighting their own battles. This separation allows each of the characters to stand on their own, letting their strengths and weaknesses shine. In The Bone Shard War, Lin struggles to keep her crumbling empire from sinking (in more ways than one), and to protect her people amidst multiple threats. Meanwhile, a presumed dead Jovis fights to regain freedom for himself and for Mephi, and Nisong finds herself falling in with Ragan in her relentless quest for empowerment. Even characters who were more side characters than main characters in the past, such as Ranami, Phalue, Ayesh, Halong, Dione, and Philine get plenty of opportunities to show hidden depths. No character is too small to be remembered in this finale and it’s amazing how author Andrea Stewart manages to include all of these characters in arcs that do such justice to all of them. 

 

In some fantasy novels with an ensemble cast and plenty of different perspectives, I find myself dreading the switch back to certain characters’ point-of-views. Either I don’t like some of the characters as much as the others or these perspectives simply aren’t as exciting to me. But that was never the case in The Bone Shard War, as I was wholly invested in all of the characters, their point of views, and what was happening around them. I could see some readers finding the pacing a bit slow in this entry in the series, especially in comparison to The Bone Shard Daughter, but that was not at all the case for me. As someone who lives and breathes for character development, I was riveted by how the characters handled their conflicts and the higher than ever stakes. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the backdrop for these characters I knew and loved was a truly unique world and magic system.

 

Furthermore, I was fully blown away by Stewart’s ability to drop so many hints throughout the entire trilogy about something, only for the full truth to be revealed in an intense, heart stopping moment in this final book in the trilogy. All along, this reality was hidden in plain sight. It’s clear that the author had her world and its direction planned from the very beginning. It’s incredibly satisfying to experience the payoff of what readers will now recognize as the build-up from the first two novels to this reveal. 

 

When preparing to read the The Bone Shard War, I must admit that I had no small amount of trepidation over this novel being the finale to a series I loved so much. After all, there is something uniquely heart wrenching and disappointing about not liking the ending to a series, as if the rest of the experience is rendered forever tainted. That alone made me nervous, but I was also practically shaking at the knowledge that there were so many friendly furry companions that I didn’t want to see hurt—or worse. 

 

For those with similar worries, let me help assuage them in a non spoiler-y way—The Bone Shard War manages to have a happy ending in a way that is still believable, realistic, and perfectly in keeping with the characters and their world. As someone who finds herself far too often disappointed by the conclusion of a series she loves, it is not hyperbole when I say I honestly couldn’t imagine a better ending to this series if I tried. In fact, I cried at the ending of The Bone Shard War (and also countless times throughout reading the whole novel.) The depth of feelings the characters have, as well as their attachment to each other, and the forces they are up against, just render them all so three dimensional and real—it is alarmingly easy to love these characters and to feel overcome with emotions for their plights. Even the villains are complex and sympathetic. I am quite sorry to say goodbye to all of the characters and the truly original and magically mysterious world they inhabit, but forever thankful I got to enjoy it all in the first place.

 

My only “complaint,” so to speak, is a rather shallow one—I greedily feel as if this novel had so much going on and so much content that it easily could have been split into two (or even more), books, easily making the trilogy a series. I could envision one or more books focusing solely on the quest to find the seven mythic swords and more time being spent on Lin visiting the far reaches of her empire and learning more about the citizens, their cultures, and how her practices as emperor affect them. This division into more books also would’ve given characters a more believable amount of time to come to certain realizations or to take up their new roles as well. But ultimately, this is most likely just my selfishness showing—I just want to read more and more of these characters and this world. I never wanted the trilogy to end—even though I’m entirely happy with how The Bone Shard War actually concluded.

 

I can easily see myself revisiting these books again and again for years to come, as The Bone Shard War has cemented the series as one of my all time favorites. This is no surprise, I’m sure, but I would also absolutely jump at the chance to return to this world and its characters in the future, if given the opportunity. I’d love to read a novel from the perspective of an ossalen or to return to the world before and after the events of this trilogy. In any way, shape, or form, I’d count myself lucky to revisit The Drowning Empire. And if that day never happens, I’ll at least be picking up  Andrea Stewart’s future releases on day one.

 

For those who enjoyed the other books in the The Drowning Empire, run, don’t walk, to the bookstore when The Bone Shard War releases. For others who haven’t yet read this series and love fantasy books with complex characters, strong heroines, cute creatures, and incredibly creative world-building, I implore you to pick up the first book in the series, The Bone Shard Daughter , this instant. 

 

five-stars
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Book Review : The Bone Shard War - Blogging with Dragons

Posted February 8, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Favorite Books

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