The Bone Shard War by Andrea Stewart (The Drowning Empire #3)

With the help of the Shardless Few, Jovis and Lin have defeated the construct army and the treacherous Ragan. But not all alliances are easy. The leader of the Shardless Few has debts to pay and a world to make over. And this new world does not need or want an Emperor.

But this is not the only thing to threaten the fragile peace. Now that fewer people are undergoing the Tithing Festival, the Alanga are returning, and not all of them are peaceful. While Jovis and Lin find allies in unlikely places, other Alanga begin to choose sides–and many are none too happy with the current regime or with the commoners.

With enemies on all sides, Empress Lin must decide if she should follow in the destructive steps of her forebears to save the Empire's citizens and bring peace. 

CONTRIBUTOR(S): Natalie Naudus (Narrator), Feodor Chin (Narrator), Emily Woo Zeller (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Hachette Audio
YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 614 pages (19 hours 35 minutes)
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

General Vibe: Book1 with Book2

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Main Character(s).


I love this book so much! I did not want it to be over and I lingered over it as much as is possible with an audiobook, having a fantastic time. THE BONE SHARD WAR is the conclusion of the Drowning  Empire Trilogy, a story of memory, identity, and connection in the context of a war filled with greed, shifting loyalties, and magic arising from unexpected sources. 

As a sequel, and the final book in the trilogy, THE BONE SHARD WAR wraps up pretty much everything I could think of in ways that range from surprising to satisfying, but all of them wonderful to read. Jovis has an entirely new phase in his life, this time he is coerced and magically enslaved by an enemy rather than his previous state of voluntarily working with Lin. Lin, two years after being told that Jovis was dead, is trying to do what is necessary to hold the empire together, slowly beginning to understand that holding the empire together at any cost might not be what's best for the people within it. None of the storylines are wholly new, but they are in new phases which are distinct from the first two books. Finally the characters start to understand the connections between the various sources of magic, and solve mysteries related to the white bladed swords. 

I wish this weren't the end of the trilogy because this world is very cool and I love so many of the characters. This doesn't try to redeem every villain, but rather it gives most characters an arc that makes sense for them. While this particular phase of these characters' lives is distinct and largely self contained, the context of the first two books matters enormously. What Lin is starting to realize about the moral implications of being an emperor represents a change in her thinking from earlier. It's not quite the same arc as what Phalue went through , but they realize related things for similar reasons. The end of the book as it relates to Lin and Jovis is so much more meaningful when earlier context is understood, and the story of Ranami, Phalue, and their adopted daughter likewise showcases hardship and personal growth that is an extension of previous events. 

I remain impressed with the audiobook narrators, they did an excellent job once again. If you liked the first two books then you'll love THE BONE SHARD WAR as a satisfying conclusion to the whole trilogy. The final chapters take the time to show where people end up and give an idea of their next steps. The final quarter does so much to wrap everything up that the ending gets to be a bit calm and lingering, not needing to cram in a dozen loose threads at the last minute. It kept me on tenterhooks as to how a couple of things would wrap up, but they're very character-focused questions not related to any kind of plot mystery. I'm satisfied and a bit sad that the story is over, I'll definitely keep an eye out for more from this author in the future.

Graphic/Explicit CW for memory loss, confinement, kidnapping, emotional abuse, toxic relationship, blood, violence, war, torture, injury detail, child death, suicide, suicidal thoughts, murder, animal death, death.

Moderate CW for grief, racism, xenophobia, classism, panic attacks/disorders, domestic abuse, abandonment, terminal illness, genocide, torture, animal cruelty, child abuse, vomit, gore.

Minor CW for sexual content, parental death.

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