Orbit Books recently sent me Andrea Stewart’s The Drowning Empire trilogy in anticipation of the release of book three in April. (A huge thanks for the gifted books.) I reviewed the first installment last month. The second of the trilogy, The Bone Shard Emperor was published in 2021.
If you haven’t read the first in the series, The Bone Shard Daughter, don’t read any further as this review will spoil that book.
The second installment of The Drowning Empire begins a few months after the conclusion of The Bone Shard Daughter. Lin is emperor and Jovis is her Captain of the Imperial Guard. Mephi is seldom far from Jovis’s side, and Thrana, the same type of creature, has bonded to Lin. Sand, now Nisong, is rallying forces to storm the Empire. Islands are still sinking and the Alanga are clearly returning. Having participated in the overthrow of her father, Phalue is now governor of her island and Ranami is her wife. Their sections remain the weakest in the series, but I did enjoy the introduction of the gutter orphan that Phalue has developed a bond with. I also thoroughly enjoyed Phalue’s interactions with Lin.
The first half of this novel was a bit of a slog. The second installment is still told in alternating POVs, but it’s a bit clunkier than the first because Jovis and Lin are frequently together and their sections cover overlapping timelines. I didn’t like Jovis as much in this book. I was too frustrated with his choices and with his failure to notice what was right before his eyes. He knows his wife was taken by Lin’s father and used in his experiments. He knows Lin has his wife’s eyes. But he can’t manage to piece things together (no pun intended). And he when he does, we’re shuttered from his thought process, and that is the internal struggle I wanted to see.
The final third of the book, when we finally get to the face-off between Lin and Nisong with her army of constructs, is what kept the novel from just being just one step above “meh.”
I’m eager to see how Stewart wraps up this unique trilogy with its memorable cast of characters. I’ve grown extremely fond of Mephi; Stewart can kill off any of the cast of characters, have them sink into the water, so long as Mephi survives. And Jovis, I guess, because Mephi loves him so.
Read this book.