The Bone Ship’s Wake by R.J. Barker – Review

Published: September 28, 2021

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Tide Child #3

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 592 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:
Discover a brilliantly imagined epic fantasy of honor, glory, and warfare in this action-packed conclusion to the David Gemmell Award-nominated trilogy.

Joron Twiner’s dreams of freedom lay shattered. His Shipwife is gone and all he has left is revenge. Leading the black fleet from the deck of Tide Child, he takes every opportunity to hurt the Hundred Isles he is given. But his time is limited.

His fleet is shrinking, the Keyshan’s Rot is running through his body, and he hiding from a prophecy that says he and the avian sorcerer, the Windseer will end the entire world.

But the Sea Dragons have returned, a miracle in itself, and who is to say that if you can have one miracle, there cannot be another?


RJ Barker has really knocked this WHOLE series into another category of awesome. Not to mention, it’s earned its spot as one of my favorite sea-faring fantasies of all time! It’s quite an emotional tale and honestly, I was somewhat teary-eyed by the end of it. Thanks for punching me in the soul, RJ.

It starts off with a rather traumatic scene showing Meas’s brutal torture at the hands of the religious order, which only serves to really make the reader quite anxious. I spent many pages mentally hurrying Joron along and hoping they would find Meas sooner rather than later. It was to no avail of course, since these things happen in the author’s own good time. Joron and the crew of the Tide Child are in their own series of unpleasant predicaments, running from the Hundred Isles fleet while low on supplies and with a ship that desperately needs to dock for repairs. Joron’s fame as the brutal Black Pirate has made the Tide Child a more tempting target than ever and this means there’s not a dull moment to be found. Sailing into the deadliest uncharted waters, encounters with krakens and the massive keyshan, rescuing Meas, and taking down corrupt leaders certainly keeps one on the edge of their seat. 

It’s safe to say that if you’ve enjoyed the previous books, you’ll be delighted (and maybe traumatized) by this final installment. The characterization gets better and better and the characters suffer real consequences for their choices and the choices of others. Joron is now a capable acting Shipwife, but secretly struggles with the distance his position puts between him and his crew. The life of a leader can be lonely. Meas’s lengthy capture leaves her with serious physical and psychological damage, evident in her actions later in the book. Gullaime continues to be a strange creature you can’t help but love, and it saddened me to see it be oppressed by the Windshorn and weighted down by duty. All of these elements serve as evidence of RJ Barker’s talent and kept me thoroughly hooked.

I can’t recommend this series enough! If you think pirates and sea dragons sound awesome, then you should definitely give this a try. If you’ve read this and need more RJ Barker books to fill the void, check out his Wounded Kingdom trilogy which is a great story about assassins, war, and friendship.

Call of the Bone Ships by R.J. Barker – Review

Published: November 24, 2020

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Tide Child #2

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 528 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A brilliantly imagined saga of honour, glory and warfare, Call of the Bone Ships is the captivating epic fantasy sequel to RJ Barker’s The Bone Ships.

Dragons have returned to the Hundred Isles. But their return heralds only war and destruction. When a horde of dying slaves are discovered in the bowels of a ship, Shipwife Meas and the crew of the Tide Child find themselves drawn into a vicious plot that will leave them questioning their loyalties and fighting for their lives.


CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!

How are there so many amazing sea-faring fantasy stories this year??? This is one of several that I’ve picked up in the last year and they’ve all been great, though this stands out as one of the best. The plot is epic, the characters are amazing, and they have grown so much since the first book!

As it says in the synopsis, the crew of the Tide Child discovers a ship full of dead and dying slaves who are being carted off for some unsavory purpose. More unsavory than just being slaves, and it’s most likely being perpetrated by their own people. This sets them off on the dangerous task of finding out who’s doing this, why they’re doing it, and where they’re taking these poor tortured souls off to. In short, the Thirteenbern is gathering the sick and unwanted, packing them on slave ships, and taking them off to her secret island to make a deadly poison. Basically, they’re disposable workers and she really, really needs this poison to kill the sea dragons so she can build more ships. Obviously Meas is not okay with this, especially since some of those people lived in the peaceful town she was trying to build. (Also, I hate it when I’ve forgotten names/terms after I read a book and wait to long to write the review).

This book is absolutely packed with action, intrigue, and rebellion. It honestly couldn’t get much more intense unless there was perhaps… a character you dearly love was on death’s doorstep. Poor Joron has had a bad run this book and he won’t be doing much running now unless he gets really good on that peg leg. He was sliced and diced, garotted, poisoned, and now he’s lost his leg too. Still manages to stay in good spirits for the most part though. And the gullaime! He’s one of my favorite characters – so strange, with his wind magic and weird eyes. Honestly, all the characters have a pretty bad time in this book and are constantly being chased around the oceans. Heck, they almost get completely wrecked by a sea dragon that DESTROYS AN ISLAND! 

I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in this series. R.J. Barker has upped the ante once again, leaving me with a sense of dread, because clearly he’s not afraid to hurt the characters I love. I hope we get to learn more about what makes Joron and the gullaime so special in the next book and some more tidbits about Meas’s past would be welcome too.

Currently Reading: 11/9/20

Call of the Bone Ships by R.J. Barker
Thought I might have some trouble getting back into this world since it’s been a year ago that I read the first book. No worries – I was sucked right back into this fascinating world of sea dragons and naval battles. I’m about 90 pages in and LOVING IT.

The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang
This is interesting… it won the SPFBO in 2019, but dang it’s WEIRD at first! I thought it was like, the equivalent of samurai era Japan but they have holo-phones! I like it, but it definitely has some flaws and things that mess with your immersion a bit.

Stacking the Shelves: 11/7/20

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you’ve added to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks!


Received for Review: 

ORBIT GOODIES!!!!

The Poison Prince by S.C. Emmett
OOoo OOo OO!! I loved the first book in this series and can’t wait to read this sequel! There is so much good political drama, potential/budding romance, and it was just so surprisingly awesome. 

Call of the Bone Ships by R.J. Barker
Another amazing looking sequel from Orbit. I’ve been LOVING the pirate/high seas adventure fantasies that have been released lately. Can’t wait to dive in and ‘sea’ if this one lives up to the previous book. 

The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick
And here’s a lovely physical ARC of one of my most anticipated new series for 2021! I’ve already featured this a couple times on my blog, so just check out the synopsis.

Wine Dark Deep by R. Peter Keith
This was a cool looking scifi book that unfortunately didn’t work so well for me. You can check out my review HERE.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken
I’m going to jump on the Greek gods train and have fun with this one! The cover is awesome and the synopsis is promising, plus Alex Bracken has written some good stuff! Thanks to Disney-Hyperion for the eARC!

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst
This was a recent Waiting on Wednesday feature it OMG IT SOUNDS SOOOO GOOD!!!! The early reviews are great and I might read this ASAP! Thanks to HarperVoyager for the eARC.

My Purchases:

I have acquired quite a few versions of the Red Rising series over the years and here’s another one. It’s because I’m WEAK! These are a way cool special edition set from FairyLoot that finally arrived after some shipping confusion. They are LOVELY.

Ahhh yes, birthday gifts to myself! I love buying cookbooks. Bravetart is an awesome dessert  cookbook and Orange Blossom & Honey offers an interesting look into Moroccan cuisine and has great pictures to boot!

I snagged Devolution and accompanying card game from a Del Rey giveaway many months ago. It got delayed forever due to COVID, but here it is! I read it like, the day after I got it so a review will be up soon!

I’ve been charging through audiobooks lately and have listened to some particularly good ones! I’m currently listening to The Sword of Kaigen and will be posting reviews of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and The Devil and the Dark Water soon! You can check out my review for A Deadly Education HERE.

Waiting on Wednesday: Call of the Bone Ships by R.J. Barker

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!

Call of the Bone Ships finally has a cover!! I’ve been waiting on the cover reveal for months. The Bone Ships was one of my favorite reads of 2019 and probably kicked off my craving for pirate SFF in 2020. This will be released in November 2020, so only a couple more months until we can read it!

The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker – Review

Cover- The Bone Ships

Published: September 24, 2019

Publisher: Orbit Books

Series: The Tide Child #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 512 (Paperback)

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:

A brilliantly imagined saga of honor, glory, and warfare, The Bone Ships is the epic launch of a new fantasy from David Gemmell Award-nominated RJ Barker.

Two nations at war. A prize beyond compare.

For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.

The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.

Now the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favour. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory, but the war.


A new RJ Barker series was HOT NEWS to much of the fantasy community earlier this year and I was just one of many clamoring to get my hands on a copy. The Bone Ships takes place in a world where two island nations have been at war for generations, battling with their ships made of sea dragon bone. Now their ships are beginning to suffer and sea dragons haven’t been seen in years… until one is spotted and The Tide Child is sent on a secret mission to track it down. The thing is, this ship is full of those condemned to die in the war. It’s a black ship of bone and the crew is bad, even by the usual standard, and the new captain is upsetting their lackadaisical existence. 

 The story is told from the point of view of Joron Twiner, who a mere handful of pages in, gets ousted from his ill begotten captaincy by the infamous Lucky Meas. Meas is the daughter of what amounts to the Queen and she has for some unknown reason been sentenced to the black ships. I quickly grew to like her, despite seeing her through Joron’s eyes (he was a mite bit resentful, you see). Meas is tough and competent and it is shown to the reader than constantly being told to you which I much appreciate. It also quickly becomes apparent that Meas has a mission of her own and being sent to the black ships is definitely not the end of things. Joron is made first mate and he does harbor some ill feelings at first and I was a little nervous about how certain initial interactions would work out – would he be traitorous or rather, mutinous?

The world of The Bone Ships is incredibly cool and well detailed. The Hundred Isles are Nordic in flavor and are a matriarchal society where one’s position is determined by how successful the mother was at birthing whole, well formed children. The Thirteenbern (basically the queen) is a woman who bore thirteen healthy children, which I’m assuming is the most anyone in the Hundred Isles has borne.Those whose mothers died in birthing are of a lower status, and the malformed who live are the artisans of the city. The whole societal thing is quite interesting and there’s a bit more to it than what I’ve described here. Of course, the generations long war between the Hundred Islanders and their nemesis the Gaunt Islanders requires vast numbers of hale young men and women to fight and sail and also ships. Always the ships, made of the bones of the arakeesians which are gigantic sea dragons. The ships are beyond value and both sides have no new material for more ships, they are just capturing or re-purposing ships and their lifestyle cannot be sustained as such. The sighting of an arakeesian is momentous and Meas and Joron Twiner set off with their unwieldy crew to follow it northward, supposedly to kill it and harvest it for the Hundred Islanders so that advantage over their enemies may be gained.

I think you can begin to see how fascinating this book truly is and why you may just want to run out and buy it. I know, I felt much the same way when I merely read the synopsis. The Bone Ships was a top notch, swashbuckling read and I can’t recommend it enough. Joron Twiner is an unlikely main character in that he is plagued by self doubt and a lack of confidence that is most unusual in your run of the mill fantasy hero. I wouldn’t even say he’s entirely a hero, though not quite an anti-hero either. The supporting cast is a rough group, though there are some real gems and honestly almost every one of the characters is polished up a bit by the end of the book. I’m genuinely in awe of how much meaningful character growth was packed into a book where every character has a death sentence hanging over their head. And lest I fail to mention it, the  gullaime, which is essentially a magical bird-man that channels wind magic to move the ship, was a uniquely intriguing part of the world. This will stand out as one of the highlights of my 2019 reading list for sure!

Currently Reading: 7/29/19

I’m out of town for work this week so I brought lots of reading material along with me!

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

I’ve REALLY been looking forward to reading this one! The main character can bring book characters to life and they start causing trouble around town, so he’s got to stop it. It sounds so fun!

Prudence by Gail Carriger

I love Gail Carriger’s books and Orbit presented the opportunity for me to catch up on this series and here we are. They’re humorous books with a serious plot underneath it all.

The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker

OOOoooooOOO!!! A new R.J. Barker series!!! I couldn’t resist beginning this one any longer! I expect it will be awesome.

 

Stacking the Shelves: 7/6/19

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

0507-2019-060844781752764308858

I featured the ARCs awhile back, but recently I received the lovely hardcover finished copies of The Wolf’s Call by Anthony Ryan from Ace and Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio from DAW.

The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett

This sounds really, really good and I’m super excited to have received an ARC courtesy of Orbit! It sounds like palace upheaval following the death of the emperor and the main players are the queens, concubines, princes, etc.

The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker

Here’s another awesome ARC from Orbit – one of my most anticipated reads of the year, in fact! I mean, it has sea dragons. Enough said.

Shield of the People by Marshall Ryan Maresca

I’m always up for another Maradaine novel. It seems like they always end up being my vacation reads, so maybe I’ll keep the tradition and save this one… Thanks to DAW for the ARC!

A Pilgrimage of Swords by Anthony Ryan

And here we have another Anthony Ryan book! This time it’s an eARC novella from Subterranean Press that will be out in September. It’s a really fantastic cover as is usual for this publisher and their special editions are truly a step above.

Ivory Apples by Lisa Goldstein

This is a super short little novel that has a description that reminds me of The Hazel Wood (which I loved). I admit, I was sucked in by the really lovely cover. Thanks to Tachyon Publications for the eARC!

The True Bastards by Jonathan French

I needed more hog-riding orcs in my reading selection and now here we are. I’m pretty excited about this one, especially since Fetching looks to be the main character! Thanks to Crown for the eARC.

My Purchases:

0507-2019-063133681835654100233

I went hardcore YA fantasy nerd for a sec on Amazon after I finished the audiobook of Sorcery of Thorns. I loved it so much I bought it twice and will have a review up very soon! I also picked up the gorgeous hardcover collection of the Modern Faerie Tales series by Holly Black. I read these books back when I was a teenager and it’s part of the reason I love faerie stories so much!

Also, I snagged this sweet leather bookmark from a Ninth House giveaway promotion – I wish book merch was more of a thing for all adult SFF books because I would collect all the bookmarks/mugs/pins/stickers etc.

And lastly, my audiobook purchases! This time around I’ve been going a little heavier on the scifi and picked up Recursion by Blake Crouch and The Quantum Magician by Derek Kunsken.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Bone Ships

So, first of all, I think the fact that there’s a new R.J. Barker series is cause enough for excitement. Secondly, despite not explicit stating it, this is definitely about pirates. WHO ARE ABOUT TO HUNT A SEA DRAGON. It’s like Moby Dick but in a true fantasy setting!!! I can’t resist and the cover looks kind of like scrimshaw which is also great. I’m putting this at the top of my TBR when September rolls around for sure.