Title: The Bone Shard Emperor
(The Drowning Empire #2)

Author: Andrea Stewart
Genre: High Fantasy, Magic
First published: November 23rd 2021
Publisher: Orbit
Finished reading: November 11th 2021 
Pages: 561

“When you’re young, you think you can change the world. You think you can bend it to your will. When you’re old, you learn to change your small corner of it and live with the rest.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Orbit in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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While it’s true that I don’t seem to read much (high) fantasy anymore, there are always exceptions to that rule. I’ve been looking forward to read this sequel ever since I loved my time with The Bone Shard Daughter earlier this year… While there was no painful cliffhanger to endure, things were still left wide open for book two and I’ve been looking forward to meet up with the characters again as well. Sadly, I do feel that The Bone Shard Emperor seems to be suffering from the so-called ‘weak-second-book’ syndrome and it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. Why? I’ll try to explain my mixed feelings below.

First of all I have to say that I still love the worldbuilding and the whole world of the bone shard magic as well as the ‘other’ magic. Especially the second is fleshed out even more in the sequel, and we also learn more about the Alanga… For me one of the keys of enjoying a high fantasy read is proper worldbuilding, and this series definitely delivers that. A little warning: this is definitely a series where you need to read the books in order, because you will be mostly clueless about what is going on otherwise (not to mention it will be impossible to understand and juggle the many different characters). The first book is excellent, so you won’t regret spending the extra time to do so!

Most of the characters in this series are quite easy to like, although my favorite by far is still Jovis (and his companion Mephi of course!). While I did start to like Lin and Phalue’s POVs better, I still preferred to follow Jovis instead, and as there are multiple other POVs in play too, things could get a bit too tedious in points. Especially since there seem to be so many subplots and different stories going on at the same time… And I have to confess that I found myself to be bored during a substantial part of the plot. This had to do both with a considerably slow pace during most of the story, the many side stories I mentioned and the fact that there were parts where nothing much was happening at all or where there was mainly focus on setting the scene for later. While necessary in a way, it was hard to stay focused and it took me a lot longer than usual to read this part.

It’s true that the last third of this sequel kind of redeemed the story, but I confess that I only made it that far because I had seen people mention the final 30% was much better. True, things finally got intense, fascinating, suspenseful, dangerous… But it also felt like it was a little too late to fully redeem this book for me. As a whole, I think The Bone Shard Emperor was too long and too slow during much of the story. BUT. I did love meeting up with the characters again and the ending left me more than curious to see what will happen in the final book. So as a whole I’m still considering it a win, and book three is already hanging out on my list of most anticipated 2022 releases.


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