Read-along: The Bone Shard Daughter – week two

The Bone Shard Daughter Read-along

This week, events keep conspiring to turn Jovis aside from his pursuit of the mysterious boat with blue sails thanks to his growing reputation as a smuggler …and as a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, Lin progresses in learning bone shard magic – and in recovering fragments of her memories. But will Ranami ever persuade Phalue to challenge the status quo?

Welcome back to the Wyrd and Wonder read-along, where we’re discussing The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart. We’re at the halfway point, and plots are beginning to heat up! I’m your host this week, so without further ado let’s get to the questions…

Jovis has begun to show strange new strengths since escaping Deerhead Island. What do you think is going on?

While I initially ran with an assumption that the changes are thanks to his association with Mephi, on reflection I think this may be misplaced. After all, statues are opening their eyes and islands are sinking: the game afoot is bigger than one man and a friendly sea-creature however mysterious. Maybe – just maybe – a greater shift in the balance of the world has awakened both Mephi and Jovis.

For now, I’m throwing Jovis, Mephi and statues at the feet of the mysterious Alanga, for no other reason than we’re reading epic fantasy, where mysterious legends have a tendency to wake up and bite you before breakfast.

That said, one of the things I didn’t touch on last week was Jovis’s heritage. We’re told his family hail from Poyer, another island group that crosses the Empire’s path every thirty years or so. This may be a simple touch to show the Empire is not the whole world, and that it’s insular in its attitudes as well as its geography. But where did the Alanga go? I don’t think we’ve been told they’re dead – they’re gone, right? So maybe they’re on another bunch of migrating islands… or maybe I should step away from my pins and string before I get a murderboard going. Wouldn’t be the first time.

What is your understanding of witstone, and the strange effect it has on Mephi?

I’ve been blithely reading witstone as a fossil fuel of some sort. You burn it, you go faster – sounds pretty familiar (although the mechanics seem rather more magical than combustion engine). I’m fascinated that Mephi seems to be allergic to it though. Sticking with big assumptions about the Alanga… were they driven away by mining / deployment of witstone as much as by bone shard magic?

I’m also curious about witstone in terms of the (side) effects of mining and stockpiling. The Empire seems to be big on taking valuable resources out of circulation by sending them to the Emperor, which implies warehouses full of witstone somewhere. So given it’s maybe a magical fuel, is that safe? Does mining it leave more than just a hole in the ground (yes, I’m looking at Deerhead Island and its witstone mine and wondering whether the sinking is directly related to it). I don’t even know where I’m going with this other than having vague world-building questions and curiosity. What was that? Yes, yes, I’m still holding those pins. And yes, I’ve got string. Shhh, everybody loves a murderboard.

Lin attends two rather different – and rather awkward – family dinners. Why do you think her father invited her to eat with him? What do you make of Bayan now?

I do love an awkward family dinner scene and we got two, what a treat!

I’m not sure what Bad Dad’s (original) motivation was with the dinner invite. Shit stirring? Having done so, I think he makes good use of it – once she passes his memory test, he gives her a key in a move calculated to rile Bayan and UGH I hate the Emperor so much, this is totally on brand for him. He’s just a nasty old man playing these two off against each other and hoarding his secrets and the worst thing? I half suspect there’ll be some big development at the end of the book that explains WHY he’s such an asshole and invites us to understand him and his preferred way of manipulating the world (even if we can’t endorse it). Which, y’know, is always a strong narrative move and I’ll applaud it, but GAH I HATE this man so I’m just letting my inner child get her strop out of the way on this one now. Okay? Okay.

Where were we? Oh yeah – he can’t have known Lin would finally pass his memory test (and besides, he doesn’t usually conduct those tests over dinner) – so the whole dinner invite still feels fishy to me, like there’s something else going on… like he’s aware of at least some of her supposedly secret antics. But maybe the entire evening was purely to get under Bayan’s skin because the kid has been getting too comfortable as favoured heir.

I do like that we got to see a bit more of Bayan this week – and I increasingly feel that Lin is the unreliable narrator round here. We’ve only had her perspective of Bayan, and she’s obviously very threatened by him, which is another concern for me in terms of what sort of Empress Lin would make (she assumes Bayan would get rid of her, because he couldn’t tolerate a rival. Lin, are you projecting? I think you’re projecting). Sure, he can be a bit of an ass, but it also seems like he has olive branches to hold out if Lin weren’t horrible to him by default.

So yeah. Getting to know Lin better is not making me feel better about Lin. See also how she keeps asking Numeen to take risks for her, but she doesn’t reciprocate – she only takes risks for herself. Do I believe she’ll pay her debts if she gains power? I’m just not sure I do from what I’ve seen so far.

To be clear: I don’t dislike Lin. I’m enjoying her chapters. But I don’t trust Lin, and I don’t think she’s necessarily a hero just because she’s our narrator… And yes, I may be being biased by my other archipelago fantasy read, which is actively encouraging me not to trust its heroine).

What do you make of the rebel plan and the deal they offer Jovis? Do you trust them to deliver what they’ve promised? How do you think Phalue will react to their plan?

Ahahaha no. I’m not even sure Gio knows where the blue-sailed ship is going, I think it’s just a useful lever to get what he wants. Jovis looks a lot like a perfect fall guy to me – powerful, famous smuggler handy to storm the Governor’s palace? Brilliant! I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Gio is – best case – planning to use him as cannon fodder or – worst case – running a double-cross that hinges on trading Jovis to the authorities. Me, mistrustful? What makes you say that?

At least Ranami appears to be all about helping people in need; but the book is open on the Shardless Few leadership as we’ve seen so little of them. They’re here to seize power from the Emperor and/or his governors; and they may have started out with the best motivations, but… this is only book one. Things are surely going to get much dirtier before they come out in the wash (if they come out in the wash) and right now my money is on some reversals of expectation. So while the Shardless Few look vaguely like the good guys, I’ll be pleasantly surprised if that turns out to be the case.

As for Phalue, I’m really not enjoying her storyline – it feels horribly forced, and what’s missing for me is enough character development to support it. It’s like she just suddenly failed a Conviction roll – or finally passed an Empathy roll – when she finally manages to see the world through the lens of this could have been someone I love. And sure, it feels appropriate that privileged Phalue would still fail to care for people she doesn’t know, but it’s a big step from there to having her just not react when Gio tells Jovis they want to overthrow the Governor. We’ve not seen the rebels have that conversation with Phalue previously, so I have to assume they haven’t – which means this is news to her. But she doesn’t react, which seems out of character. Or did I sleep through a scene and do I need to take myself out back and give myself a good talking to?

Anyway, yes, still generally leaning towards feeling that Phalue’s POV should either have been given a lot more weight or cut out and handled in some other way.

Thoughts from around the Endless Sea

But wait, this is a read-along – what did everybody else have to say?

Links will be added once they go live.

Don’t see your blog here? I may have missed you are joining us – add your post to the Wyrd and Wonder master schedule and I’ll pick it up and include you here!

Reading Schedule

We’ve got a suggested reading schedule (although everyone is free to read at their own pace) and we’ll follow our traditional approach of a blog post each week to talk about what we think so far. If you don’t have a blog, you can join the discussion via the comments on the week’s host blog or the Goodreads topic, or start a Twitter thread and tag us in. Wherever you post, please avoid spoilers for future weeks if you read ahead (or have read it before).

  • Week 1: Beginning through Chapter Eleven
  • Week 2: Chapter Twelve – Twenty-three – hosted here @ There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week 3: Chapter Twenty-four – Thirty-five – hosted by Lisa @ Dear Geek Place
  • Week 4: Chapter Thirty-six to the end – hosted by Mayri @ BookForager

Discussion prompts will be posted on the dedicated Goodreads topic midweek each week. I’ll be posting on Sundays, but you can post any day that suits you – just add your link to the Wyrd and Wonder master schedule.

Want to join us in the read-along? Jump on in!