Stewart interweaves multiple perspectives on the failing reign of an emperor in this bleakly atmospheric but predictable epic fantasy debut, the first in the Drowning Empire series. The leader of the Phoenix Empire is more interested in carving magic symbols onto the skull shards of the dead to power Frankenstein-like “constructs” that do his bidding than he is in ruling his living people. His daughter, Lin, struggles to please her father, regain her memories, and master bone shard magic after her foster-brother, Bayan, infects her with an illness that might cost her the crown. Meanwhile, Phalue, the daughter of a governor, is drawn into a plot against her father by the Shardless Few, a resistance group. The Shardless Few also enlist scene-stealing smuggler Jovis, who accidentally becomes a folk hero while searching for his kidnapped wife. In between the dovetailing narratives, a woman known as Sand tries to discover why she’s imprisoned on an island without her memories. The magic system is well thought-out, and the Asian-inspired setting is a welcome break from European-esque epics, but the simplistic plotting and predictable twists put a damper on the inventive premise. Fans of grimdark epics will be drawn in but hope for more complexity in Stewart’s next offering. Agent: Juliet Mushens, Mushens Entertainment. (Sept.)
Correction: The name of the character Phalue was misspelled in an earlier version of this review.
Reviewed on : 04/29/2020 Release date: 09/08/2020 Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror