Today I have a review of THE BONE SHARD WAR by Andrea Stewart. It’s the third and final book in The Drowning Empire series. Note that this book review contains spoilers for the previous two books.
Author: Andrea Stewart
Series: The Drowning Empire, #3
Age Category: Adult
Publish Date: April 18, 2023
Print Length: 624
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From the author of The Bone Shard Daughter comes the final book in the Drowning Empire series, as the fate of Lin Sukai–and her family’s dynasty–lay in her hands in this action-packed, magic-laced epic fantasy.
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 received a free, advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher. My review is my own and reflects my honest opinion about this book.
THE BONE SHARD WAR is a fitting ending to a trilogy packed with magic, war, and sacrifice. Two years have passed since Lin’s encounter with Nisong, her constructs, and Ragan on Gaelung. With the bite of battle tucked away but everpresent, Lin focuses her attention on searching for a witstone alternative while trying to keep the Empire together.
The writing in THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER and THE BONE SHARD EMPEROR is already fantastic. But the prose in THE BONE SHARD WAR seems even more polished and expressive relative to its predecessors. I felt as if each book showed growth both with the characters as they matured as well as for the author and her craft. Moreover, I felt like I greeted some old friends poignantly settling in for the slow crescendo toward the clash of combat.
Though this book is quite hefty, each page is necessary to provide a well-rounded ending to the trilogy. I absolutely loved how each character reflects on and interprets their current circumstances. Many characters, some more stubborn than others, learn from their encounters and try to apply the knowledge gained to their lives. Still, there are others who take advantage of the power vacuum for their own gain, no matter the cost.
As Lin, Phalue, Ranami, Jovis, and Nisong work toward their end games, various themes weave through their experiences. As previously established, bone shard magic imprints the wielder’s commands and upon a construct. This magic essentially robs the construct of free will and autonomy and replaces those rights with obedience. Stewart explores this theme across several characters, mainly with Jovis, Nisong, and Lin. The freedom of choice is further explored with respect to the bond that develops between an ossalen and Alanga.
Patience, open-mindedness, and acceptance exhibited by Phalue, Ranami, and Lin are a foil to Ragan’s all-consuming desire to be idolized. The first three qualities mentioned, while not as alluring initially to some, promote trust and hope among the people. In comparison, Ragan’s impassioned speeches appeal to more primal fears to build an army. But in Ragan is a desire so singular, selfish, and vicious that it could have devastating consequences. Lin, Nisong, and Ragan are all characters that experienced less than ideal degrees of love. Thus, it’s interesting to see how each of them responds to challenges and when in positions of leadership.
For those keenly invested in the magic system, Stewart does reveal more about the Alanga. However, much of the Alanga past remains shrouded in mystery. Though I wish more about their past and culture had been shared, though the reader comes to understand much was lost to time and genocide of the Alanga.
THE BONE SHARD WAR is the thrilling finale to a trilogy that explores family loyalty, personal ambition, governance, and autonomy. It quietly praises the friends made along the way who challenge each other and ultimately remain steady in the face of adversity.
Content warnings: blood, death, sexual content (off page)
Reading format: Paperback (ARC)