Book Review: The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

The Bone Ships // by RJ Barker

Book 1 of The Tide Child

Pub Day: September 24, 2019

Publisher: Orbit

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. One 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.

My Thoughts:

I heard several book blogger friends raving about this book so when I had the opportunity to request it for review, I jumped at the chance. I enjoy fantasy a lot, especially when magic and dragons are involved so I was looking forward to it a lot. Despite this, I was not prepared for how much I would love this book! I mean, I could not stop thinking about it even when I was supposed to focus on other things, such as work! All I wanted to do was get back to the book so I could see what would happen next!

At first, the unknown world and terms were a little confusing. The writing was on a different level from my last read as well so I had to readjust to the more descriptive style of this author, which I did not mind at all as this is something I enjoy a lot. Once you get further in though, you realize that while you may feel a bit lost at first, the author actually does a fantastic job at explaining everything along the way without making it obvious that he’s simply explaining it to the unknowledgable. It fits very smoothly into the story.

The world building is – simply put – amazing. One of my favorite parts about starting a new fantasy series is learning about the world the author came up with. This is what makes me love this book so much. It’s obvious how thorough the author is with so many amazing details. From the flora and fauna in the sea and on land to the traditions of the people and the cruel religious practices, there is so much to absorb. The social system based on fertility and strength of blood was new to me also, but I have been enjoying the trend in my books lately where men and women seem to be on a more equal footing in professions that are more gendered in the real world (such as pirates and shipwives).

While the narration is in third person, it does focus on one specific character and lets us know about his personal thoughts and motivations. I tend to analyze my own and others’ thoughts deeply myself so this has always worked great for me in books as well. Joron has a huge learning curve in this book, which allows the reader to learn right along with him, and it was great to see him grow, especially since he is not a perfect character. There are doubts and losses, fears and regrets along the way but there is also conviction, victory and celebration that we get to experience right along with him. But of course I cannot talk about characters in The Bone Ships without mentioning Lucky Meas. This is not a story with a man that slides in, saves the day, and is hailed a hero. This is actually far from that. Joron and the crew are on a ship of the dead, just waiting for the sentence to be carried out. These are outcasts, criminals, unwanteds. But Meas is the glue that holds them together, gives them a purpose, and makes them feel important again. She is confident, knowledgable, and experienced in a way Joron didn’t expect and also did not appreciate right away but needed nonetheless. She is one of my favorite female characters in a long time.

While I feel like I have a relatively good understanding of this world now, I do suspect there is so much left to learn as well and I am thrilled for that. This book has a very satisfying ending that at the same time leaves enough open to make you very excited for Call of the Bone Ships and I am lucky to be able to dive into that one immediately. The writing and imagination of the author come together for an excellent experience of world-building and character-development, and just the right mix of action and slower parts. If you like a world with dragons, windtalkers, coursers, ships, pirates, and epic battles, then this will be the perfect series for you to get lost in.

Affiliate Link:

If you think you’ll enjoy this awesome book, I would appreciate if you consider purchasing it here.

I am super excited to be a part of Bookshop.org as an affiliate. With every book sale that is done through my shop link here, at no extra cost to you, I receive a percentage which will be used to continue to bring you book-related content (probably going straight back into Bookshop). What is really awesome though is that a percentage will also go to support independent book stores across the country, which has already helped support (and even save!) many book stores during the COVID struggles.

About the Author:

RJ Barker lives in Leeds with his wife, son and a collection of questionable taxidermy, odd art, scary music and more books than they have room for. He grew up reading whatever he could get his hands on, and has always been ‘that one with the book in his pocket’. Having played in a rock band before deciding he was a rubbish musician, RJ returned to his first love, fiction, to find he is rather better at that. As well as his debut epic fantasy novel, AGE OF ASSASSINS, RJ has written short stories and historical scripts which have been performed across the country. He has the sort of flowing locks any cavalier would be proud of.

Find out more on his website or follow him on Twitter. He interacts with readers a lot, which is always fun!

About the Publisher:

Orbit is a leading publisher of Science Fiction and Fantasy, with imprints in the UK, US and Australia. They publish across the spectrum of Science Fiction and Fantasy – from action-packed urban fantasy to widescreen space opera; from sweeping epic adventures to near-future thrillers. Launched in 2007, Orbit US is the Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint at Hachette Book Group USA.

Follow them on Twitter to stay up to date on their book happenings! They often have giveaways going on so make sure you don’t miss out on those!

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. Keep an eye out for my review of Call of the Bone Ships. It will be posted next week!

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