Jovis, my Captain of the Imperial Guard, paced the hallway outside my room, his beast, Mephi, beside him.
Andrea Stewart did it again! This successor of her great Bone Shard Daughter could have fallen to the dreadful Middle Book Syndrome. I’m always reluctant to go for the next one after a great opening book, because so many trilogies in our beloved genre just expand a little bit of the setting, stay with the established characters and play around with the plot, holding back all the fire for the grande finale of the third book.
To get the white elephant out of the room: Jovis’s iconic beast Mephi is there, talking and loves to play cards, supercute as ever, but more a teenager than a child.
“He lay at my feet, belly up to the meager sun, his whiskers twitching as he dreamt.”
Of course, Bone Shard Emperor brings back the two main protagonists of the first book.
Lin Sukai, the Phoenix Emperor’s daughter is now Emperor herself and struggles with the succession aftermath. Governors don’t know or trust her. The undead Bone Shard constructs aren’t controlled by the Emperor anymore, they are planning a violent revolution under Nisong’s leadership, who has been the former Emperor’s wife and Lin’s mother. The influential rebel group Shardless Few call for her abdication. Another island has been sinking, the godlike Alanga are rumored to have returned. Ever grumpy Jovis, former smuggler with superhero abilities, now Captain of the Imperial Guard finds out about her true nature. All that under a frenzy pace of a ticking clock.
Summarizing, Lin has to juggle a huge amount of confrontations in several dimensions, always together with Jovis (and Mephi, of course). Pick your favorite out of politics, economics, criminals, immersive battles, and you’ll stay entertained.
Also, Lin doesn’t stay in her palace as she did last book, but is touring the islands to win over governors. Lots of fun with protocol and strange habits exposing surprise after surprise.
No, this book is as unique as the first one, because it takes a different turn, changing to a different subgenre Romantasy. People might know that I have an aversion, no, an allergy against romance, and even more so against Romantasy. But in this book, the author did everything right in bringing Lin and Jovis slowly together and ripping them asunder again. Not that I’m a specialist, but the evolving love together with the acceptance problems – you know, employer/employee relationship – felt natural while at the same time exposing an interesting chemistry.
Both have their own agenda, with Lin hiding secrets, and Jovis is balancing his loyalty to Lin, as he is also working as a double agent for the Shardless Few. The reader stays always tight to both protagonists in alternating chapters where both tell their point of view in first person.
No, this is no Middle Book, this page-turner will keep you on the edge of your seat. The only bad thing? Having to wait for the next part.
Meta: isfdb. UK publication date is at 10.8.2020 by Little, Brown Book Group.