ARC Review – The Bone Shard War

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing a book that I’ve been dying to finally read. That’s right! The epic finale of The Drowning Empire will be published next week, and I finally got to my ARC of The Bone Shard War by Andrea Stewart. I loved the first two books in this trilogy, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing how things play out for Lin, Jovis, Mephi, and all the other great characters. What did I think of the ending? Read on my for non-spoiler thoughts!

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.

***Thank you to Orbit Books and Hachette Audio for providing a copy of the book and audiobook via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading and listening experience.***

This was one of my most anticipated books of 2023. I love this series so much, and this finale met all of my expectations. It had plenty of action, insightful commentary on timely themes, fascinating world-building, and emotional character moments. The writing was excellent and easy to read, as always with Stewart, and the pace constantly pulled me forward, restless to see what would happen next. I finished this 600+ page chonker in less than two days because I just could not put it down.

I’m at somewhat of a loss for what else to say… After the end of the second book, the empire was a bit of a mess with several different factions vying for control. They all seemed to want meaningful change in how the empire treats its people, but each of them had very different motivations and ideas about what the change should look like. Some wanted the people to have more power. Others wanted power for themselves. Many wanted revenge for the history of imperial oppression and genocide. It created a hotbed of compelling conflict that was fascinating to read. That being said, I really could have used a recap of the first two books at the beginning of this one. I definitely recommend re-reading the previous stories before this one because it took me a while to remember all the major players and past conflicts that set up the tensions in this one.

I enjoyed the world-building quite a bit. It brought everything together in ways that made sense and tied up the loose ends really well. I liked that the magical focus shifted to a melding of the Alanga and bone shard magic rather than one or the other as in previous books, and the connection between the two was interesting to learn. Of course, there were plenty of ossalen in this story, as well. So, if you were wanting to meet even more of these adorable creatures, you’re in luck, and I loved getting more info about them.

As I mentioned above, the story itself was expansive with tons of moving parts. It utilized multiple POVs, just as in the previous books, to get a window into each of the various factions of the conflict. All of it came together very well, but it did feel bloated at times, especially during the middle of the book. The race for the magical swords, while interesting, ran on a bit too long before coming to the point, and it felt like it took too long to come back to certain POVs at times. For example, Jovis and Mephi seemed largely sidelined for the first half of the book, and Ranami’s story felt abandoned at times because of the gaps between her chapters. It also made the timeline feel weird because so much happened in the other POVs while Ranami’s story seemed like it barely moved forward at all. That being said, I commend the author for her ability to weave together all the disparate story threads, from this book and the others, into a cohesive and compelling narrative. It was wild seeing all of it pay off in deeply satisfying ways. I’ll definitely miss this story now that it is over, but I absolutely loved the journey and its resolution.

There’s so much to say about the characters that I’m just not even going to try. lol. Instead, I’m going to give you my brief reaction to each POV, and you’ll just have to read the book to find out more. I was super proud of Lin and the decisions she made, especially at the end. Ranami’s story ended in a way that I really wasn’t expecting but probably should have known was coming because it was perfect for her. Nisong/Sand was surprising and made me both sad and hopeful. Speaking of sad, Jovis and Mephi had me BAWLING my eyes out. I love them and their relationship so much, and there were so many moments that hurt so bad.

There were several great themes in this story. One of the most prominent in this installment was the focus on learning from the past without being consumed by it. This was explored on both a societal and individual level, as many of the characters struggled with coming to terms with their past and how it impacted their actions and motivations in the present. The story also explored how best to implement change to a broken system. Each of the main players had a different take on revolution, and it was interesting to see the various approaches battle it out in real time. Should they burn the empire to the ground? Should they try to fix the system from within? Should one person wield the power to make efficient changes or should all the people have a say? These are timeless questions, and the story really made me stop to think about them.

I had the absolute pleasure of listening to the audiobook while following along with the text. If you have the opportunity to do the same, I highly recommend it. The narrators were fantastic and added so much personality to these characters that I already loved so much. The male narrator for Jovis was probably my favorite just because of the way he did Mephi’s voice. It was perfect, and he captured the essence of Mephi so well. Overall, this was a phenomenal conclusion to a fantastic trilogy. It felt truly epic and provided a satisfying resolution to the over-arching story and each character’s personal journey. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.


13 thoughts on “ARC Review – The Bone Shard War

  1. Great review!!! It was such a brilliant series overall but the ending was perfect! It was so hard to write my review because the words are so hard to come by when you love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your review of this book, Chris. I just finished writing my own (finally) and though I loved the book, I struggled with figuring out how to review it. You say everything much more eloquently than my brain seemed to be able to do tonight, lol. I agree that this was a very satisfying ending to the trilogy. All the the POVs were great…I’m not sure whose I liked the most. I remember finding Phalue’s POV annoying in book 1, but everyone has matured so much that I like reading all POVs now.

    Liked by 1 person

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