Artysaedra Veiyel is a liquor-loving, street-fighting, foul-mouthed soldier with a temper—everything the Infinite Royal Family’s first daughter shouldn’t be. Suddenly forced to bow her family’s stifling rules and expectations instead of storming the battlefields she revels in, Artysaedra finds her reprieve when three deities of the multiverse, known as Guardians, disappear without a trace.
Only to turn up dead. Eyes gouged. Hearts ripped out. Souls missing. And all in apparent suicide.
Now, a fourth Guardian has vanished.
Slipping away from her protective detail, Artysaedra sets out to uncover the truth of the alleged suicides before the next can occur, joined by her best friend, Naliah, and her brothers, Kinrae and Draven, but their investigation soon plunges them deep into the Realm of Black Waters, a dimension where cities have been devastated, all wildlife has mysteriously died, and mutilated bodies are heaped by the millions, with no cause to any of it in sight.
Artysaedra and the others confront a startling realization: something greater and darker than they ever imagined is at work in the multiverse, and now, they’re all in its path.
Goodreads Link: A Shard of Sea & Bone (Death of the Multiverse #1)
Author: L. J. Engelmeier
Genre: Epic fantasy
Rating: 2/5 stars
Let me start by saying that I made it about 50% of the way through this book before I finally gave up. I’ve been working on it for a few weeks, but it feels like a chore. I was waiting for the promised plot to get going, but it’s just not there. It’s long, complicated, and disorganized.
I’m not sure where to start with this one. It’s so complicated, it feels like at least two different books that were kind of smashed together. It’s not just the fact that there’s a multiverse (with tons of characters, locations, languages, and cultures described in too much detail). The tone and pacing of this story are all over the place.
To begin with, the title sounds like it came from a fantasy book name generator. I can picture a bone shard, but what is a sea shard? And what’s a shard made of both sea and bone? Bones and the sea both appear in the story, but they hardly seem like important elements. Not since the video game Horizon Zero Dawn have I had this much trouble understanding and remembering a title. Off the top of my head, I would call it something related to the murder of the guardians. Even Spoiled Demon Royalty would be more descriptive.
Second, there is just too much. Too many characters, too many viewpoints, too many worlds, and too many passages written in fictional languages that aren’t translated at all. Every chapter opens with a quote from an in-world text (most of which seem to be irrelevant), then a long description of the location. Oh, and none of these chapters are properly linked in a ToC so I can’t find previous chapters easily in my e-reader. Sometimes, these varied characters do offer different perspectives on events relating to the main plot (which I think is the murder of the guardians). But sometimes, it spends time meandering about court politics, or the history of a clan, or a prince getting scolded by his mother for not having good manners, and the plot comes to a grinding halt. Characters are ignored for long periods of time before finally popping up again. Any kind of tension gets lost in the constant hopping to yet another location.
Third, I didn’t really like any of the characters. I might have liked Oliver, but after a few initial chapters, his POV got dropped and I don’t know what happened to him. The other characters mostly seem to be demons, with ages ranging from a few hundred years to thousands of years old, but they’re all petty and immature. Even when they realize there’s a threat, they still waste time arguing about stupid things and getting distracted by their sexual desires. If they’re our last hope to save all of existence, then the multiverse is screwed. The series title, Death of the Multiverse, promises to come true.
Fourth, I mentioned that another book I read, River of Thieves, had a lot of cursing and vulgar references without it feeling too gratuitous. It had a reason for being crude–the humor, which was executed well. A Sea of Shards and Bone (or whatever this book is called) feels like it’s crude just for the shock value. And although the author appears to be a woman, it’s written with some of the same cliches that you usually find being made fun of in r/menwritingwomen. I really don’t care what Saedra’s nipples are doing just because she’s outside and it’s cold. I don’t care that the person sitting three rows away from Naliah smells like sex because it’s absolutely irrelevant to the actual scene.
These are just the main issues that I had. There were a lot of smaller things that made me roll my eyes or switch to reading something else for a while, but it would take too long to list them all. The thing is, I really tried to get into this because it seemed like an interesting premise, and I usually enjoy detailed worldbuilding. But this is an example of detail gone wrong.
LGBT representation: some of the characters are LGBT. I think there might be a same-sex romance later in the book, but I didn’t get that far.
This book might be good for someone else, but I can’t recommend it myself.