The Bone Ships (The Tide Child, #1)
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.

The Bone Ships (The Tide Child, #1) Details

TitleThe Bone Ships (The Tide Child, #1)
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 24th, 2019
PublisherOrbit
ISBN-139780316487962
Rating
GenreFantasy, Dragons, Adult, Fiction

The Bone Ships (The Tide Child, #1) Review

  • Robin Hobb
    January 1, 1970
    Rats and double rats! Have you ever done a cut-and-paste to move a paragraph? And then come back to discover that said paragraph is missing?See an insertion below, with a few stars to mark it!My usual Caveat: I received a free copy of this book as an Advanced Reading Copy. I have met RJ Barker, and shared several breakfasts with him in a dungeon. This creates a bond of friendship.However, I do not think that affects my review of this book.The Bones Ships Rats and double rats! Have you ever done a cut-and-paste to move a paragraph? And then come back to discover that said paragraph is missing?See an insertion below, with a few stars to mark it!My usual Caveat: I received a free copy of this book as an Advanced Reading Copy. I have met RJ Barker, and shared several breakfasts with him in a dungeon. This creates a bond of friendship.However, I do not think that affects my review of this book.The Bones Ships, as noted above, is book one of The Tide Child. There are unanswered questions at the end of the book, but I felt that this section of the tale made a satisfying read on its own. My husband comes from a family with a long maritime tradition, as fishermen and Merchant Marine. Both my sons have gone to sea for extended periods of time. Our home is full of bits and pieces of maritime heritage. Our homes have always had 'galleys' and 'decks' instead of kitchens and floors. I mention this as when I first entered the world of the Tide Child and his crew, there were changes in idiom that were small hurdles for me. Slates on the deck? Ships referred to as 'he'? Deckhands as deckchilder? If these puzzle you at first, persevere. (And my copy has an appendix in the back if you need help keeping the ranks straight in your mind.) Many fantasy and SF books simply plunge the reader into the middle of a foreign setting and expect you to accept and hold onto the thread of the story and move forward. The Bone Ships does this very well. Just trust it. The flora and fauna of the world, the organization of the society, and the economy of the world will fall into place around you. It all makes sense.If you've read any of my other reviews, you know that I avoid spoilers. So reviewing a book without giving spoilers can push me into using the same phrases over and over. A good tale. Well developed characters. A well thought out world. Don't fear that I am using generalities. I'm telling you what is genuinely important to me in reading a book all the way to the end. Characters. Plot. Setting.**** Inserted paragraph: The lush descriptions of the foreign forests and sea creatures are remarkable. I chose the word 'foreign' rather than 'alien' as it is apparent that Joron Twiner is a man of the sea, and a fisherman. When he ventures into the forests on the land, or goes beyond fishing grounds into deeper waters, his reactions to these foreign environments are genuine. He sees them in the same way I saw my first encounter with a subway station, or a desert. He has known of these things, but to him they are foreign. This is a nice bit of worldbuilding, as is the way the inhabitants of this world accept their social system as 'the way it has always been.' Too often I read fantasy where the characters are suddenly able to lift their eyes and see 'a better way' with no catalyzing event to wake them up to it. It always rings false to me. But as Joron moves through his disasters and adventures, he is gradually pushed into a wider awareness. He has to adapt to his changing status aboard the vessel, to modify his behaviors to fit his differing roles, and eventually to interact with different species in a way he had never even considered possible. That is brilliant writing.****** There. Fixed it. And I'm sure you see why inserting that was important!Bits I especially liked: How the difference in flora affects the construction of a ship, and the garments that are worn. Consistency in world building! The gullaime. I will say nothing about the gullaime except that I very much enjoyed it! The wheels within wheels of the plot is another excellent ingredient. I hope you will enjoy Joran and Lucky Meas and the rest of the crew as much as I did. The characters have believable flaws. Some they overcome. Some they don't. Isn't that what always keeps us reading to the last page.
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  • Petrik
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review. 3.5/5 starsHighly imaginative world-building with a large focus on sea voyages and naval warfare. Let me begin by saying that I’m a huge fan of Barker’s debut series: The Wounded Kingdom trilogy. I gave each installment in the trilogy a 4.5 stars rating and ever since I finished King of Assassins, The Bone Ships has been on my list of priority books to read ASAP. This is why I’m genuinely sad that I have to give this book a below 4 stars rating, but I have to always ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review. 3.5/5 starsHighly imaginative world-building with a large focus on sea voyages and naval warfare. Let me begin by saying that I’m a huge fan of Barker’s debut series: The Wounded Kingdom trilogy. I gave each installment in the trilogy a 4.5 stars rating and ever since I finished King of Assassins, The Bone Ships has been on my list of priority books to read ASAP. This is why I’m genuinely sad that I have to give this book a below 4 stars rating, but I have to always be honest with my review. I still had a great time with the book but The Bone Ships is a totally different sort of beast—that’s sadly not too suitable for me—compared to The Wounded Kingdom and I had expected to love this book more. RJ, if you stumbled upon this review, please don’t read it. “No sane woman or man wishes for war, and those that do never would if they thought it would leave paint on their doorsteps.” The Bone Ships is the first book in The Tide Child trilogy by R.J. Barker. For generations, the two nations in the Hundred Isles have built their bone ships from the bones of supposedly extinct ancient dragons. The two nations used these ships to wage an endless war for supremacy and dominance in the high seas. Now, our main characters, Joron Twiner and Lucky Meas, heard that there’s a new sighting of a new sea dragon for the first time in centuries; nations participate in a race to shift the balance of power in their favor by catching the dragon. I won’t lie, I struggled through the first half of the book. I, as a reader, prefer characterizations first more than anything else. A focus on characterizations was one of the things Barker did immediately and exceptionally well in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy. The Bone Ships to me felt like it followed the opposite direction by focusing the narrative on heavy world-building first; characterizations came in the second half. The main premise regarding the appearance of a new sea dragon didn’t really begin until 40% in. Because of this, the first 40% felt like the plot was directionless. Thankfully, the second half was significantly better. “The greatest revenge is not taken with a blade, it is that done by taking your enemy’s taunts and throwing them back in their face.” The long amount of time required to get me to care about the characters was definitely the most disappointing aspect of the book to me. In The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, I cared about Girton immediately just from the first few chapters and my investment for him and the side characters continuously grew throughout the series. In here, Joron is a type of the main character that takes the role of an observer of a legendary figure; something like Bloodsounder’s Arc by Jeff Salyards. It took a while for me to care about him but I finally started to like the characters in the second half of the book. Seeing Joron Twiner, Lucky Meas, and the misfit crew of Tide Child gradually learn about duty, friendship, honor, and loyalty was simply a joy to read; the expert characterizations skill that was found in Barker’s first trilogy became more evident in the last 35% of the book. “Loyalty. That is what makes a ship work – ties of loyalty. To each other, to the ship. And every time we fight together, we are bound closer together. It is your nature, Joron, to like people and to be kind. Do not think I have not seen the leeway you give.” The one thing to highly praise about The Bone Ships, in my opinion, would have to be its inventive and intricate world-building. This isn’t an easy book to read, the learning curve is higher than usual and in the first half was totally a sink or swim situation; world-building, lingo, unique names were introduced rapidly—sometimes in an info-dump manner—that it took a long time for me to acclimate myself with the world and characters. I’m not particularly a fan of long sea voyages in a fantasy book; almost the entirety of the novel was spent on seafaring and this indeed became a hindrance to my enjoyment. However, this is also where the book excels. Not only is the gorgeous cover art similar to the UK cover of The Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb, the setting was also reminiscent and yet it still felt refreshing and original to read. Gullaime (wind-mage or weatherman), sea dragon, bone ships, and the colossal Skearith’s Spine were some of the factors that made the discovery and sea voyage heavily prominent and awesome in the narrative; if you’re a fan of this kind of novel, this book would be a hit for you. The vivid imagery displayed when they were traveling on the sea was stunning, and the gorgeous map and chapter icons are done by Tom Parker also enhanced the strong atmosphere of the book.Picture: Interior chapter icons by Tom ParkerIf it weren’t because this is written by Barker, I probably would’ve given up reading the book in the first half; I’m glad I didn’t because the second half made the struggle worth it as every part of the novel starts becoming clearer. The vivid world-building and thrilling naval warfare concluded The Bone Ships on a high note. I recommend this book to readers who loved pirates, seafaring, and a fantasy book that prioritized world-building first. “My advice is to judge them on who they are when you meet them, rather than on what you have heard from those to whom they are only stories.” Official release date: September 26th, 2019 (UK) and September 24th, 2019 (US)You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
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  • John Gwynne
    January 1, 1970
    A big thank-you to Orbit for sending this my way. It's the first book I've read by R.J. Barker - an author I've been meaning to read for ages, as I've heard great things, but we all know what the TBR MOUNTAINS are like, they just keep on growing. I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of RJ Barker's writing. THE BONE SHIPS is a whole lot of swashbuckling awesomeness, with intelligent, organic world-building and deeply likeable characters. Reminiscent of Patrick O'Brian, which can only ever be a com A big thank-you to Orbit for sending this my way. It's the first book I've read by R.J. Barker - an author I've been meaning to read for ages, as I've heard great things, but we all know what the TBR MOUNTAINS are like, they just keep on growing. I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of RJ Barker's writing. THE BONE SHIPS is a whole lot of swashbuckling awesomeness, with intelligent, organic world-building and deeply likeable characters. Reminiscent of Patrick O'Brian, which can only ever be a compliment, this was a sea-fairing tale with heart, and one that picked me up and swept me along. There was a point where I could not stop reading, where I found myself thinking about the story during my day, and looking forward to when I would get back to reading it. This won't be the last R.J. Barker book I read. Highly recommended. I think Black Oris might have been my favourite character.
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  • Nick T. Borrelli
    January 1, 1970
    9/10THE BONE SHIPS is set in a world where vast seas and oceans cover the majority of its mass, hundreds of islands are scattered across it, and huge ships made from the bones of long-dead sea dragons are the primary means of transportation, war, and commerce. We'll get back to that dragon part later, I promise! One particular bone ship, Tide Child, is by default led by the weak and ineffectual Joron Twiner. That is until he is forced out of his tentative role as shipwife by the reno 9/10THE BONE SHIPS is set in a world where vast seas and oceans cover the majority of its mass, hundreds of islands are scattered across it, and huge ships made from the bones of long-dead sea dragons are the primary means of transportation, war, and commerce. We'll get back to that dragon part later, I promise! One particular bone ship, Tide Child, is by default led by the weak and ineffectual Joron Twiner. That is until he is forced out of his tentative role as shipwife by the renowned Lucky Meas Gilbryn. Lucky decides to spare his life in return that he become the ship's main deckhand and carry out her orders without fail.Joron faces a huge challenge as the crew of Tide Child are made up of a surly bunch of prisoners who can't find spots on a more reputable ship. They're not used to taking orders from anyone, especially not someone with the low self-esteem and insecurities of Joron. His only saving grace is that Lucky Meas' Gilbryn has quite a reputation of her own as a rough and battle-tested shipwife. She gives Joron the authority to speak with her voice backed up with her ruthless punishment should the crew fail to adhere to Joron's commands.Oh yes, about those sea dragons! They supposedly disappeared and were completely wiped out of existence centuries earlier. Until recent rumor revealed that there may have been one (and possibly more) spotted some leagues from Tide Child's location. Were this to be true and Tide Child could somehow manage to kill the legendary beast, power and prestige unknown for centuries would be Meas' and Joron's prize to claim. And perhaps a sliver of redemption for a captain and crew who have long been consigned to permanently wander the open seas for mere survival's sake.But there are others who would also claim the sea dragon's bones as prize for their own glory. Which means that the race is now on between warring nations and ships' crews to locate this mythical creature, and to somehow find a way to kill it utilizing limited knowledge on how to do so. Can Tide Child fulfill its mission and bring all due honor and power that would come along with it? Or will those who also hunt the beast get there first and spoil their plans? The 500 or so page journey to find out the answers to these questions is just as fun as the action-packed and amazing conclusion.I was utterly enthralled by R.J. Barker's THE BONE SHIPS and devoured it in a little over a week. That's how great it is, as the 500 pages literally flew by as I brushed off much-needed sleep. I loved this story, especially because it reminded me of one of my favorite Fantasy series of all-time, The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb. This had many of the same elements that I enjoyed from that series, yet was a wholly original tome in its own right.An aspect of this book that really appealed to me was that yes, it's a Fantasy book, but at its core it is a fabulous adventure story. The Fantasy elements are more subtly handled than the usual Fantasy offering, and the thrilling adventure of hunting a sea dragon that may or may not exist, absolutely ramped up the suspense and kept me turning pages just so that I could get to the next chapter and the next and the next...I feel like I should also quickly mention the characters and the world building which were certainly significant strengths that helped catapult THE BONE SHIPS to another level altogether. Meas is an incredibly strong female main character and an unwavering sea captain who shows throughout the book that contrary to what her nickname implies, you ultimately make your own luck. Joron is the antithesis of Meas and often struggles with his command of the deck crew. However we see his character grow immensely from the first chapter to the end of the book and that is also part of the endearing qualities of this book.Lastly, the world building is second to none. R.J. has definitely outdone himself with this wonderfully complex world. All the more impressive because it is such a different setting from his previous Wounded Kingdom series. I can't say enough about how tremendous of a read this book is and I highly recommend it to lovers of all types of genres, not just Fantasy. This is a story that will appeal to anyone who loves wonderful stories filled with deep characters, gripping adventure, and multi-layered world building. Comparisons to the books of Patrick O'Brian, Herman Melville, and Jules Verne are natural and somewhat appropriate. But make no mistake, this is a totally unique and original tale that proudly stands very tall on its own. I simply loved it from beginning to end. The good news is that this is just the beginning of the Tide Child series with book 2 coming out in 2020. Until then, definitely pick up a copy of THE BONE SHIPS by R.J. Barker. It will be one of the more rewarding reading experiences that you will have and an incredibly fun one as well.
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  • TS Chan
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by the publisher, Orbit, in exchange for an honest review.4.5 stars.Bold and inventive, R.J. Barker sailed through new, uncharted waters with The Bone Ships and emerged with a brilliant tale of seafaring adventure and deeds of derring-do. With The Bone Ships, Barker's sophomore series is quite a departure from the tone and style in his debut The Wounded Kingdom, which I loved, but the most important that remained is his engaging voice. Let me first state this pertinent fact - I am not typically a fan of seafaring sto/>Bold/>4.5 ARC provided by the publisher, Orbit, in exchange for an honest review.4.5 stars.Bold and inventive, R.J. Barker sailed through new, uncharted waters with The Bone Ships and emerged with a brilliant tale of seafaring adventure and deeds of derring-do. With The Bone Ships, Barker's sophomore series is quite a departure from the tone and style in his debut The Wounded Kingdom, which I loved, but the most important that remained is his engaging voice. Let me first state this pertinent fact - I am not typically a fan of seafaring stories - be it in the medium of books or movies. To set some context before I proceed, I have not read The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobbs and not seen the movie, Master and Commander. Why? Because ships. Throughout my many years of reading, whether it's fantasy or otherwise, I usually dreaded the part of the story where the main characters had to undertake a sea voyage, always hoping that it'll be as short as possible. There had been exceptions where I've found it to be more than just agreeable, but these were rare and usually do not make up the bulk of the narrative. As such, I was actually pretty anxious going into this book. I would say that over 90% of The Bone Ships took place on a ship and in the sea. And, I loved reading every minute of it. Honestly, I was quite blown away by how much I enjoyed this book. Not only was the narrative predominantly seafaring - the very culture, religion and economy of this world are centred around it. To top it all off, Barker even created a whole slew of new sailing jargons. However, due to his deft skills in contextualising these terms in the narrative, I found myself struggling less than I usually do with our real-world sailing jargon. Barker's lyrical prose pulled me into the story effortlessly notwithstanding how foreign this world of the Scattered Archipelago was. On that note, I just want to take a moment here to praise the incredible worldbuilding. Even accounting for the fact that I've not read much seafaring narratives, the worldbuilding in The Tide Child feels unique stacked against other fantasy settings. The building blocks of this world - religion, culture, economy, mythology, even the flora and fauna - are rooted in the seagoing life of its people and shaped by the never-ending war between the two major nations in the Scattered Archipelago. All these are so well-crafted that even such foreign environment came alive in my mind. I don't have the right words to describe how everything seemed to just fit and work well, from ships made from the bones of sea dragons to an avian God, and the worship of feminine deities. The world is decidedly matriarchal. For example, ships are referred to as "he" as opposed to the typical use of the feminine pronoun and the captains are called shipwife. The social structure is built upon a blatant and absolutely awful discrimination between those who are born normal and those with deformities, however slight. To be part of the fleet is an honour granted to the privileged and strength is perceived from lack of deformity. This is just one of the many harsh realities in The Hundred Isles - life there is hard and brutal. One element of Barker's writing which stayed true to The Wounded Kingdom is the significance of animals or creatures in the narrative. As an animal lover, I love having them strongly represented in stories, and one of my favourite characters in The Bone Ships is an avian creature.Now on to the most crucial part of any storytelling, and it is the characters. The Bone Ships differ from Age of Assassins most of all in the way it deals with characterisation. In Barker's debut, the narrative was so highly character-driven that the plot and worldbuilding seemed secondary to the character arc of Girton Club-Foot. In The Bone Ship though, the balance between characterisation and worldbuilding has shifted with the latter taking more precedence given how unique the setting is.  I thought that it was managed remarkably well through the perspective of Joron Twiner, our main protagonist, who was brought up with ingrained prejudices and preconceived notions, pretty much like most of the people in The Hundred Isles. The story started with Joron being usurped from his position as shipwife (i.e. captain) of the Tide Child, a black bone ship whose crew is made up of the condemned, and hence known as a ship of the dead. Through Joron, I was able to understand the way of life in The Hundred Isles in all its brutal glory and be part of a compelling journey in his character development. Lucky Meas, a renowned former shipwife of a famous white bone ship, became the shipwife of Tide Child after defeating him easily in a duel. With her competent leadership, we get to witness Joron's growth, both in his strength of character as well as in his awareness of how wrong some of his earlier prejudices are. "It diminishes no commander to learn from those which know more. Weak commanders dare not ask. Strong commanders know no fear of learning. And, just so you know, Joron, if I am in a competition I like to win, and as you are my second in command I expect you to win for me. So do not expect me to be soft on you." Lucky Meas is a fantastic character. A formidable ship captain who demonstrated solid leadership, competence and well-placed empathy. While we don't get much of her backstory, enough was revealed to know that her luck could either be from providence or self-made. I would like to believe it's both. There are some strong leadership lessons in this story that's for sure, and it was especially captivating because the characters we follow are stuck in a dark place. I've always been enamoured by stories about people rising above what life has thrown at them. Those condemned to the ship of the dead are not necessarily all criminals, but they are essentially deemed as dead the moment they take on the black armband of the crew. Nonetheless, under the right leadership, to be given the trust and the chance to prove oneself, and to then take pride of job done well, even the dregs can rise from the bottom. I found myself caring for the survival of some of these supposed rogues or curs, and feeling equally moved by the stirring speeches delivered by Lucky Meas and the courage of the Tide Child crew as they prepare to face the battles in an almost-suicidal mission. "To be fleet is not do so what is possible, it is to do what you must." The sea battles in The Bone Ships are magnificent. Never have I been able to imagine battles between ships so vividly. Never have I been so engrossed in the ship manoeuvres and fully appreciate the power of wind in seafaring. Even in handling the aspect of wind, the wild and wonderful imagination of Barker shines through. There is magic involved here, and that's all you'll ever get out of me for now. If you like seafaring adventures, do yourself a favour and pick up this book, for even one who's not normally a fan like me enjoyed it immensely. Before I end this review, I also have to make special mention of the stunning map (which I've referred to numerous times during my read) and evocative interior art created by the ultra-talented Tom Parker. An enthralling story in a fascinating yet brutal world and its harsh seas, The Bone Ships is another winner from R.J. Barker. You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.You can find this and my other reviews at Novel Notions.
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  • Peter McLean
    January 1, 1970
    I was lucky enough to receive a pre-ARC proof of THE BONE SHIPS by RJ Barker from Orbit books, and it was glorious! Imagine the naval sagas of Patrick O'Brian (the Aubrey–Maturin series, Master and Commander) in a fantasy world with a triumvirate of goddesses, avian wind-mages, and a fully matriarchal society. Imagine it told in the language of the sea, in rolling, rhythmic prose that crashes over you like breakers.Imagine the mythic grandeur of the last sea dragon, and the dragonbon I was lucky enough to receive a pre-ARC proof of THE BONE SHIPS by RJ Barker from Orbit books, and it was glorious! Imagine the naval sagas of Patrick O'Brian (the Aubrey–Maturin series, Master and Commander) in a fantasy world with a triumvirate of goddesses, avian wind-mages, and a fully matriarchal society. Imagine it told in the language of the sea, in rolling, rhythmic prose that crashes over you like breakers.Imagine the mythic grandeur of the last sea dragon, and the dragonbone ships that set out to hunt it - or to save it. Barker has created a living, breathing society here, with every turn of phrase and nuance of expression hand-crafted to draw you on and on into this world of women and men on the high seas; into an epic tale of duty and obligation and honour, and what bravery really means. It is truly magnificent, and I can't recommend it enough.
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  • Eon ♒Windrunner♒
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 StarsAudacious storytelling, with an original, captivating world. After a slow start, I found it increasingly difficult to put this book down and I am on board for more. RJ Barker wrote one of my favourite fantasy series of all time, The Wounded Kingdom trilogy. So, when I heard that he was writing a brand-new series called The Tide Child trilogy, I was excited. And by excited, I mean I might have shouted about it to one or two, or seventy random people. I am a huge fan. You may wonder why it did not get a higStarsAudacious 3.5 StarsAudacious storytelling, with an original, captivating world. After a slow start, I found it increasingly difficult to put this book down and I am on board for more. RJ Barker wrote one of my favourite fantasy series of all time, The Wounded Kingdom trilogy. So, when I heard that he was writing a brand-new series called The Tide Child trilogy, I was excited. And by excited, I mean I might have shouted about it to one or two, or seventy random people. I am a huge fan. You may wonder why it did not get a higher rating then. The truth is that this was a very good book in the end, but it took it’s time in getting there. Beautiful cover illustration by Hanna Wood The story of the Bone Ships sets sail in a world where two seafaring nations are engaged in a never ending fight in what has almost become a war of attrition. The ships they sail the dangerous oceans upon are made from the ancient bones of sea dragons, but the last sea dragon was killed centuries ago, and their bones have become a very limited, priceless resource. When a whisper of a rumour is heard that a sea dragon has been sighted, the race to secure the future is on. In the war’s greatest battle, whoever kills the dragon, will have the prize of it’s bones and the mantle of victor. The two main characters of The Bone Ships, Lucky Meas Gilbryn and Joron Twiner, both recently condemned to a ship of the dead, or Black Ship, have been given the deadly task of capturing the sea dragon or arakeesian as they are commonly known. As truths became forgotten and legends turned to myth, much of what was known about sea dragons, including the methods of their capture has been lost to time though and they have to use every resource available to them in order to have even a miniscule chance at succeeding. Fascinating, right? I really could have loved this book, if it was not for the struggle I had with the first half of the story. RJ Barker has proven before that he can grip you right from the first sentence with an engrossing story and compelling characters. It is something he demonstrated again and again with every entry in the Wounded Kingdom trilogy, and he won many fans for it. With the Bone Ships though, I found myself continuously picking this up, only to put it down again a few pages later. The characters did not pique my interest and the plot meandered. I could not tell you for the life of me what the book was really about or where it was heading. I felt lost. While many fantasy books employ worldbuilding that just drop you into their strange new waters and ask you to sink or swim, they more often than not give you lots of support to stay afloat. This was the deep end my friends. Unfamiliar honorifics, terminology and strange idioms littered the pages. It was a slow read, but I did not give up, for this is an RJ Barker book. Lo and behold, the tides of change arrived at around the halfway mark.UNFURL THE MAINWINGS! That great hunt I mentioned earlier? It rears its head here, and becomes the catalyst for The Bone Ships, kickstarting the actual plot. The significant amount of early worldbuilding that so hindered the ebb and flow of the tale becomes a boon, having already laid a solid foundation for everything else to expand upon. Queue the action! While most of the time was spent voyaging on the sea in pursuit of the arakeesian, the chase was not without skirmishes and very captivating ship battles and tactics. And as the pace sped up in tune with the pursuit, the characterization I was expecting from Mr Barker from page one also made a welcome appearance front and center. Where I was apathetic before towards Joron, Meas, the Guillame, the crew, RJ started pulling my strings and I found myself rooting for them and starting to enjoy the journey they were on, just as they themselves were starting to enjoy it. Yes! This was what I had signed up for. Beautiful chapter icon illustrations by Tom ParkerIt’s a weird thing trying to review a book that was a tale of two halves. I do not want to focus solely on the individual parts, but rather the whole. As with all things, I think it is about balance. The author took a risk with his approach, and The Bone Ships comes out on the right side. Just shy of great, it is a very good read and I would definitely recommend it, but with a caveat. Be warned going in that it is a slow build, and persevere. The read is worth the time. For an unknown author, I might have put this down. But I trusted RJ to deliver, and in the end he did. A wonderful testament to his skill and talent. I will be ready and waiting when the sequel arrives.
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  • Dave
    January 1, 1970
    The Bone Ships is book one of a new fantasy series. Don’t be thrown about by the concept of a handful of warriors chasing after the world’s last sea dragon. This is not a children’s book. It is a bold, exciting, adventure that is dark, gritty, and ruthless. At first, it may be difficult to enter this world because the prose - the incredible prose - is filled to the brim with terminology that is unfamiliar and customs and history that are often only hinted at. Nevertheless, this is a book with a The Bone Ships is book one of a new fantasy series. Don’t be thrown about by the concept of a handful of warriors chasing after the world’s last sea dragon. This is not a children’s book. It is a bold, exciting, adventure that is dark, gritty, and ruthless. At first, it may be difficult to enter this world because the prose - the incredible prose - is filled to the brim with terminology that is unfamiliar and customs and history that are often only hinted at. Nevertheless, this is a book with a great payoff. It is well worth the time to dig into this. It is a fantasy world where almost all the action is naval in character. Two great warring island nations do battle on glorious ships made of dragon bone. And, the dragons 🐉 are gone for three generations now so any hint of dragon bone is more valuable than gold. Nothing else that ships can be built with floats like this bone. And, there are all kinds of bows, crossbows, and siege engines mounted on these boneships. To be a part of the dragon bone fleet is to have the values of duty, loyalty, honor, and bravery. But, alas, our hero, Joron Twiner, rides not on a magnificent fleet ship, but on a black ship of death manned only by condemned prisoners, the Tide Child. He is in command- sort of - on a drunk more like it while his sailors let the ship rot in a forgotten bay. Those looking for a strong female lead will look no further than Lucky Meas, the toughest, most ornery, sea captain to ever sail the however many seas they have there. Meas takes Joron and his motley crew and turns them into the most tenacious crew to ever sail. This is a book chock full of action and all kinds of fascinating creatures, particularly the Gulliame (or windtalker) who can fill the ship’s sails with wind. And, the giant sea serpents and of course, the sea dragons, mightiest of all, who are referred to as Keyshan or Wakewyrm. The biggest problem is that the sequel is not due out till Fall 2020. It’s going to be a long wait.Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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  • Mogsy (MMOGC)
    January 1, 1970
    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2019/09/23/...With the completion of his Wounded Kingdom trilogy, RJ Barker has shot up to the top of my must-reads authors list and I was so excited when I found out that his next fantasy series will be a maritime adventure set on the high seas featuring bone ships and a dragon hunt!This first novel of the Tide Child trilogy aptly titled The Bone Ship takes us to the Hundred Isles where two rival nations have been warring since time immemorial. None can 4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2019/09/23/...With the completion of his Wounded Kingdom trilogy, RJ Barker has shot up to the top of my must-reads authors list and I was so excited when I found out that his next fantasy series will be a maritime adventure set on the high seas featuring bone ships and a dragon hunt!This first novel of the Tide Child trilogy aptly titled The Bone Ship takes us to the Hundred Isles where two rival nations have been warring since time immemorial. None can even tell you how or why the enmity started between them, but all they know is that in this archipelago system, the side with the best ships win. Thus for generations, the islanders have endeavored to build the most powerful fleets out of the sturdy bones of great sea dragons, but after centuries of this practice, inevitably these magnificent beasts have been hunted to extinction. Dragon sightings have become virtually non-existent, sparking yet another fierce competition for the few bones that remain.Unfortunately, this culture of constant war has also affected the ways people lived. Society favored the strong, and it was decreed that anyone with a physical defect or disability—and even those who were born from a mother who died in childbirth—is automatically relegated to the lower classes, denied a chance to ever amount to anything. That said, it wasn’t all peachy for the healthy and able either. Many are sacrificed to the dangers of the sea, sent to win glory and treasures or die in brutal conflict. In this society where birthrate is low and whose survival depends on raising the next generation, women who have proven their ability to bear and deliver many children are also in places of authority, but as a result, everything else about what makes her a person is diminished. It didn’t matter who you were, it seemed life on the Hundred Isles had relatively little meaning beyond your ability to breed or to fight.Which brings us to the main characters of this particular tale, Joron Twiner and Lucky Meas Gilbryn. Both of them are condemned to the crew of the Tide Child, a ship of the dead, so called because those aboard are prisoners and outcasts who will toil the rest of their lives on the ship in service to their nation, and it is only a matter of time before the sea claims them—no riches or glory for them, ever. The book first begins with Joron as the shipwife, or captain, of the Tide Child, but he is soon swiftly dethroned by the fierce and plain-spoken Lucky Meas, who vows to whip her new crew into shape. She has been given a mission, and in order to have any chance of success, she’ll need all of them at their best. News of a dragon sighting has been spreading across the Isles, sending everyone into a furor to hunt the creature, which might be the last of its kind in the world. But the Tide Child has been given different orders. Instead of killing the dragon, they have been sent to protect it.So, one thing I’ve learned from reading Barker’s books is that he is extremely on-point when it comes to writing mentor-apprentice relationships. Granted, Meas and Joron are nothing like Merela and Girton from The Wounded Kingdom, but the author has made their dynamic no less interesting and filled with nuance. This time, the story is told from the third person, mostly through Joron’s eyes. This essentially places him in the role as chronicler of Lucky Meas’ achievements, as it soon becomes clear she is the series’ lynchpin. But one downside of this mode of narration is that it ends to put a distance between the reader and the characters, and I confess missed the more intimate perspective of Barker’s first-person writing. Still, as Meas second-in-command, Joron is also like her pupil of sorts. Their constant interaction and close proximity makes him a good authority on her character, and as a result, much of what we find out about the shipwife is gleaned from his observations of her and their conversations.I also loved the incredible world-building behind The Bone Ships. Life in the Hundred Isles is harsh, cruel and unpleasant, but I give me a good maritime fantasy and you’ll find that I can put up with a lot of bleakness. After all, I can never resist a sea-faring adventure, and the promise of pirates and dragons simply sealed the deal. Also, the more I learned about the world, the easier I found to appreciate it, even some of its nastier and more brutal elements. Barker clearly spent a lot of time crafting the world, the people and their culture and their traditions, and I’m happy to say all that hard work paid off in the sheer immersion of the experience. History and mythology intertwine to create a full picture of the setting and to explain how life on the Hundred Isles has developed to become so dark and rife with chaos.With that said, it’s time to move on to the criticisms, though to be fair, they are few. Mainly, The Bone Ships has a mild case of what I call the first-in-a-series doldrums, suffering from sections marked by sluggish pacing which took the wind right out of the story’s sails. What’s more frustrating is that more often than not, these periods would follow immediately after a flurry of action. One moment, I would be all pumped up, only to run smack into a brick wall a few pages later. I understand that in a series starter there’s a lot of setup to be done, but that requires a careful balancing act, which I wish had been handled better here. Fortunately, the second half had fewer of these pacing issues, and the story picked up immensely thanks to many the many exciting scenes of pitched battle at sea.I won’t deny it, I’m hooked. Despite its hitches, I think The Bone Ships is a promising start to what is on track to be an extraordinary new fantasy series, and strengths like the superb world-building and characters have no problem shining through. Better yet, now that the groundwork has been established, the sequel will likely run more smoothly considering we’ll be able to jump straight into the action. Needless to say, I can’t wait.
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  • The Tattooed Book Geek (Drew).
    January 1, 1970
    This review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book Geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...Joron Twiner, once a fisherman is condemned to crew Tide Child, a black ship, a ship of the dead on which he is made shipwife (captain). He is uncaring, disconsolate, consumed by melancholy, insecure, wretched and drowning in the bottle. He is a useless and unworthy captain for a useless and unworthy crew. A crew of rough convicts and the deck of Tide Child is a place rife with disrespect and filled with anger, disgrace, s This review can also be found on my blog The Tattooed Book Geek: https://thetattooedbookgeek.wordpress...Joron Twiner, once a fisherman is condemned to crew Tide Child, a black ship, a ship of the dead on which he is made shipwife (captain). He is uncaring, disconsolate, consumed by melancholy, insecure, wretched and drowning in the bottle. He is a useless and unworthy captain for a useless and unworthy crew. A crew of rough convicts and the deck of Tide Child is a place rife with disrespect and filled with anger, disgrace, shame, simmering resentment and threats of violence.Lucky Meas Gilbryn is famous, revered and some would say the greatest shipwife in the history of the Hundred Isles Bone Ship fleet. But, she has recently fallen from grace and found herself condemned to serve on the black ships where she challenges Joron for the rank of shipwife on Tide Child. Lucky Meas easily wins the duel, Joron’s skill with a sword being almost as slovenly as his captaincy. Instead of killing him Lucky Meas spares his life and makes him her deckkeeper (second-in-command).There is a rumour that the first arakeesian/keyshan/sea-dragon to be seen in generations has been spotted in the oceans of the Scattered Archipelago. The bones of the arakeesian are used to make the Bone Ships and they were thought hunted to extinction, long gone, faded from the world to fable, to myth and to legend.Lucky Meas and Tide Child are given an impossible mission, hunt the arakeesian. But, there are others who covet and who hunt the arakeesian too. Those who prize the glory, the power and the wealth that killing the arakeesian will bring them and those who wish to fan the flames of war with the new Bones Ships that would be made from the bones of the beast.Tide Child is a black ship, a ship of the dead, the sentence for each crew member has already been passed and they are sailing the sea in the knowledge that one day, that sentence will be fulfilled, that they will die and that the sea will claim their body. There is a very slight chance of redemption for the crew of Tide Child. If they perform a heroic act, an act of bravery and valour, or, a renowned deed that will carve their names in the history of Hundred Isles (like single-handedly killing the arakeesian). Then, the crimes of the crew would be erased, wiped out and from death, they will be given a return to life. Though, it has been lifetimes since anyone managed to reclaim their life and leave behind the black ships.With that knowledge and rumoured return of the legendary arakeesian the race is on to hunt the sea-dragon, to become part of the Hundred Isles history and to win glory and renown.The Scattered Archipelago was created by Skearith the Stormbird as a place to lay her eggs. The inhabitants worship the Stormbird but, many also worship the three goddesses, the Sea Hag, the Maiden and the Mother. It is a world rife with superstitions. For the crew of a Bone Ship, they constantly throw paint on the deck, the gallowbows, the ship for luck and offer prayers to the Sea Hag to keep them safe, to protect them and to ward off ill omens. The Scattered Archipelago is a world of two warring nations, the Hundred Isles and the Gaunt Islands. The two are stuck in an endless cycle of repeated attacks, of repeated raids on the other with the original reasons for the war having been lost in time but the conflict, the hatred still abides. The two nations are separated by Skearith’s Spine, a vast mountain range that runs through the middle of the Shattered Archipelago. And, it is a world where water holds sway, where the sea, where the ocean dominants and what land there is to be found is made up of islands.The Hundred Isles are made up of two classes. The Bern, the ruling class who are the women that survive childbirth and who birth healthy, strong and whole babies. They have men who are the ‘kept’ of the Bern, the chosen to serve them. Then, there are the Berncast, the lower class, the second class citizen. The Berncast form the majority of those born in the Hundred Isles, either those with no physical defect but of ‘weak’ blood whose mother died during childbirth and then, those with deformities, missing limbs, etc. The first-born child, if born healthy, strong and whole allows the women to become ‘Bern’. But, the first-born is also cursed born and every first-born child is sacrificed to the Bone Ships. The child dies but their soul lives on as a corpse light above a Bone Ship, giving life to the ship. It is a society where the more healthy children you birth, the more power you hold.The Bone Ships are highly valuable, highly sort after and with a dwindling stock of arakeesian bone are extremely rare. The Bone Ships of the fleet are blinding, bright and brilliant polished white bone with lights adorning them showing that the ship lives. While, the Bone Ships that are the black ships, the ships of the dead are painted the colour of death, pitiless black and have no lights as they have no life.The Bone Ships are referred to as ‘he’ and their captain, whether male or female is the shipwife a ‘she’. Apart from the officers, most of the crew are referred to as either ‘deckchild’ or ‘deckchilder’ and they are the children of the ship and the shipwife, like a marriage between the two and both, are to be respected by the crew.Lucky Meas is a strong-willed character, confident in her ability as shipwife and determined. She is a force to be reckoned with and Joron is her opposite. Where Lucky Meas is strong Joron is haunted, resentful, weak and lacks confidence in himself. There is a contrast between them and throughout The Bone Ships, you see him flourish, grow and bloom under her captaincy. He finds a sense of pride, of self-respect and of worth that he had previously been missing. becoming someone better, someone so much more than he was at the beginning of the book.As shipwife, Lucky Meas moulds the crew, shapes them, restoring discipline and a sense of order to the deck of Tide Child. You see the crew change, transform and become familiar with the ways of the ship. The crew were lost and under Lucky Meas, they find a purpose, redemption and they unite. Learning duty, honour and loyalty to each other, to Lucky Meas and taking pride in Tide Child they ultimately become worthy of the name ‘crew’.The characterisation on display by Barker is terrific. Not just for the main characters of Joron and Lucky Meas either but for the whole of the crew of Tide Child. I really liked Black Orris, only a small role but when he appeared he never failed to make me smile. Also, the fascinating bird-like Gullaime, a windtalker who controls the wind aboard Tide Child and the unlikely friendship that developed between Joron and the mysterious Gullaime.The harsh world created by Barker is richly detailed and vivid. The bright and lush flora of the islands and the dangerous creatures, only glimpsed that inhabit them. There’s a brutal hypnotic beauty to the sea, the treacherous waters that are rife with myriad monsters that dwell, that lurk in the depths. Each ship, even the mighty Bone Ships are only a single drop in the ocean, each crew member even less, a mote of dust, they don’t own the ocean, the ocean tolerates the ships.The action in The Bone Ships is stellar. There is some fighting on land but the majority of the action takes place on the high seas and is ferocious ship-to-ship combat. The conflict is exhilarating to read and gets the heart-pounding. The concussive collisions between ships and the massive gallowbows on the decks that thrum to life and of the death, destruction and devastation that they rain down with there deadly bolts all has a heft to it and you feel the impact of the violence.There are a lot of terms (there’s a helpful appendix located at the back) and information is thrown at you at the start of The Bone Ships. In the beginning, it can feel like you are adrift and cast on stranger tides. Like you are caught in the undertow as you navigate through and become accustomed to the various terms on display, become acquainted with the characters, the wealth of information and the world that Barker has created.After about the first quarter everything comes together. Barker is a magnificent storyteller and one that can keep your attention. From the first page through to the last his ability to craft a spectacular story that you can lose yourself in really shines through in The Bone Ships. Your perseverance pays off rewarding you with a rich reading experience. You see that by crafting a story that is dense and information-heavy in the beginning he was laying the foundations for what is to come. From that point on the sails unfurl and the narrative moves at a far faster pace with Barker taking you on a dangerous and exciting nautical adventure that is filled with thrilling seafaring action. A stirring finale completely satisfies whilst leaving you eager for the next book in the trilogy and the further adventures of Tide Child and his crew.When reading fantasy it takes you to another world and that’s what Barker does with The Bone Ships. He transports you into a fully-formed, alive and immersive world that is populated by characters that feel real and allows you to get lost in the story that he is telling. The bite of the blades, the thrum of the gallowbow strings, the briny air, the salt spray, the crash of the waves, the creaks, the groans, the hustle and bustle of ship life aboard Tide Child all come to life on the pages and I didn’t want it to end.The Bone Ships is a sublimely crafted epic voyage and everything that I want in a fantasy book.
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  • Athena (OneReadingNurse)
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you so much to Orbit Books via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own! Honestly I just want to start by saying that The Bone Ships is one of the best books I have read all year, and I can't wait to have it in a hard copy with the rest of the trilogy!! I KNOW I will be re-reading this! I was swept away by all 500+ pages and never felt bored, never skimmed, and definitely can't wait for the sequel.*description omitted* I will Thank you so much to Orbit Books via NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own! Honestly I just want to start by saying that The Bone Ships is one of the best books I have read all year, and I can't wait to have it in a hard copy with the rest of the trilogy!! I KNOW I will be re-reading this! I was swept away by all 500+ pages and never felt bored, never skimmed, and definitely can't wait for the sequel.*description omitted* I will start by saying that the cover and internal map are both really awesome designs, and I think the map adds a lot to the story. It is helpful to be able to visualize the ship's route and have some sense of scale to the journey they are on. The story itself is completely unique to anything I have ever read before, and very dark as well. The entire war at this point is based on stealing children from the other side to sacrifice their souls as corpse lights on their ships. Additionally, each healthy first born of the Hundred Isles' women is sacrificed in the same regard. These souls seem to make the ships literally alive, as when the ships take damage, the corpse lights go out. This doesn't seem like an intelligent way of life to some people, which may or may not be one of the many sources of intrigue, treason, and subplotting within the empire. There are also black ships of the dead, where the brilliant white ship is painted black to signify that those on board are condemned to death as criminals. They sail to their deaths.... Good lord what an amazing cast of characters as well. Meas, the ship's captain, or shipwife, is one of those morally grey characters that I wanted to hate but ended up loving. She is known as the best shipwife in the isles, if not the world, and stole command of the black ship Tide Child from the other main character, Joron Twiner, who had an arc of growth and leadership that made me proud of him. My favorite character was probably the Guillaime, I wanted to set the book down and clap when he finally did his thing but I really can't talk about him without spoilers, but trust me. The same concept kind of goes for the sea dragon, an amazing being but too full of spoilers. The ship's crew was such a rag tag bunch but they faced soooooo many things together including learning discipline, enemy ships, inclement weather, traitors in their midst, and becoming unsung heroes... Watching the crew come together was a huge strong point for me. I also can't get over how well Barker describes, well, pretty much everything. The flora and fauna as the crew discovers new places, I felt like I was there. The ships themselves felt so visible in my mind as well, even the clothes and uniforms and weather. The language and ship slang is done impeccably as well, right down to Black Orris! The one other thing that really had my spine tingling were the naval battles, holy cripe does this book describe a naval battle or two!! So long story short, I absolutely 100% recommend this book to anyone with any slight interest whatsoever in fantasy, dragons, pirates, sea life, old gods and legends, treason, morally grey characters, women in charge, snarky animals....basically read it. Thank you again to Orbit Books and NetGalley for this early read! The book comes out September 24th so be sure to preorder if it sounds up your alley!
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  • Kayla
    January 1, 1970
    Happy release day! Hoping to get this finished by the weekend :)
  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    An excellent sea based sailing ship fantasy, written with a good understanding of the way ships with sails work, with a touch of fantasy worked in to make it fit into a fantasy world. Well worth reading and highly recommended by me to everyone who wants well written fantasy epics. First book by this author I have read, means I have to read his first series now.
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  • FanFiAddict
    January 1, 1970
    Rating: ★★★★☆SynopsisA 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 centu Rating: ★★★★☆SynopsisA 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.ReviewThanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of The Bone Ships (The Tide Child #1) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.A modern-day Moby Dick, Barker’s The Bone Ships takes sail on the high seas and gives readers a swash-buckling adventure they will never forget. Though no Girton and Merela, Barker introduces us to another unlikely duo in Joran and Lucky Meas that will delight fans of his previous trilogy and new ones alike. There’s naval warfare, coarse language, plenty of rum drinking, and, of course, a sea dragon. What more could you want?Yo Ho Ho, and get me that dragon’s bum!I have to start off my full review by stating how much I simply love RJ Barker. His Wounded Kingdom trilogy, still to this day (over a year after King’s release), stands as one of my – if not my – favorite trilogies EVER. Girton Club-foot is hands-down one of the best protagonists I have ever had the pleasure of reading and adventuring with, and Barker’s prose is simply stunning.Now, in regard to The Bone Ships, Barker gives us a completely different story, environment, cast of characters, and mood. In all honesty, this is a vastly different book than Age of Assassins was because the author is now well seasoned in his writing style and his originality is, once again, on full display: ships made out of dragon bones, carrying giant crossbows and crews made from prisoners, traitors, and exiles, and a giant prize in sight that could bring power to the ones ready to yield it, cross-threaded with a fresh take on “pirates”, their language, motivations, and fighting techniques gives even the casual fantasy fan plenty of love.I thought Barker’s world-building was sensational, and the descriptions throughout had me feeling a little seasick and covered in seaspray if you catch my meaning. From the ships themselves to the seaside towns, the dense forests to the high seas, every bit felt real and fully fleshed to immerse the reader as deep as the bowels of the dragon.I haven’t read many high seas adventures, but I know Rob Hayes is the most recent I have seen with his SPFBO hit, Where Loyalties Lie. I really wish there were more that would come across my lap as I wholly enjoyed reading The Bone Ships after growing up with fondness for Pirates of the Caribbean and Hook. I don’t feel that is a trope that is overdone in the least and Barker’s latest has me excited for Book 2 and on.Though a bit heavy on the world-building in the beginning, Barker makes the wait wholly worth the while with an immersive seafaring adventure full of massive naval battles, a giant sea dragon, and enough witty banter to tide (pun intended) you over until the sequel hits in Fall of 2020.
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  •  Charlie - A Reading Machine
    January 1, 1970
    For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.Then the dragons disappeared. But the battle for supremacy on the high seas persisted.When the first dragon in centuries is spotted in far-off waters, 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.Joron Twiner was raised a fisherman, but after seeing his father spl For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.Then the dragons disappeared. But the battle for supremacy on the high seas persisted.When the first dragon in centuries is spotted in far-off waters, 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.Joron Twiner was raised a fisherman, but after seeing his father splattered between two boats and drunkenly skewering a dickhead noble, he is sentenced to captain a black ship, the Tide Child. It is a ship made of older and lower quality bone, one that receives no sacrifice when it is launched, that is considered to have no honour and whose crew’s only responsibility is to die in battle. Joron is a not a very good captain. He pretty much defaulted into the position in the first place and subsequently reached an easy truce with the men and women that live aboard his ship. They are never to ask or expect anything of each other and that way neither of them will be disappointed. It’s a shit way to run a ship so it is fortunate he is challenged for the position by a highly skilled but publicly disgraced Seawife known as Lucky Meas. It is also fortunate that Joron is up for the challenge placed before him and, discovering a long dormant shred of pride he begins the journey to live up to the dreams his father held for him. Meas is a character so bursting with heart and soul she cannot help but rub off a little on the reader. She is brilliantly written, life itself. Her love for flying through the ocean is palpable and the way she works her ship and her crew is inspiring. She has the empathy and integrity of Hermione Granger, the heart of Leia Organa and the charisma of Miranda Priestley. She is positively indomitable and you bet against her at you own peril.One of the most impressive things about this book is how the Barker keeps the action flowing and the story moving along. I mean what is more monotonous than being in the middle of the ocean? The view doesn’t change much, there’s no tv, even a giant sea dragon swimming alongside your boat is going to get a bit same same after a while right? Wrong. Whether it’s a change in environmental circumstances, a shift in the behaviour of a particular crew member, the discovery of cargo that should not be or a full scale 4 vs 1 naval battle there is always something going on that captures the attention.Now it’s not perfect. Despite my hilarious suggestion on twitter there is no class of sailor known as a “Boner”….Yeah that’s my only complaint.One of the finest nautical adventure fantasies I’ve ever had the immense pleasure to feel a part of. Upon finishing I had the sudden urge to go and sign up to crew aboard the biggest boat I could find, tell the captain the legend of an ancient sea dragon and suggest in no uncertain times that we should set out to find it and to hell with the consequences. It’s genuinely some of the most fun I’ve ever had whilst lost in a book and despite it being an unfamiliar world I slipped into it like a comfy pair of pyjamas thanks to an astonishing level of attention to detail and just plain fantastic writing. You need to read this.10/10The Bone Ships is published by Orbit Books and is due for release on September 24th 2019This review was originally published at http://fantasy-faction.com/
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  • The Captain
    January 1, 1970
    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .I had been meaning to check out this author's books for quite some time.  Well when I saw this gorgeous cover, I knew the day had come.  Sea dragons mateys!  I was not disappointed.This is a slow burn type of fantasy with a ton of world building.  The plot doesn't really pick up until about the half way mark.  But the ships!  The ships!  Ahoy there me mateys!  I received this fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  So here be me honest musings . . .I had been meaning to check out this author's books for quite some time.  Well when I saw this gorgeous cover, I knew the day had come.  Sea dragons mateys!  I was not disappointed.This is a slow burn type of fantasy with a ton of world building.  The plot doesn't really pick up until about the half way mark.  But the ships!  The ships!  They are made out of the bones of the sea dragons of long ago.  There be two opposing island nations that have been raiding and warring with each other for centuries.  At the center of that fight be the bone ships because whoever has the most ships has the upper-hand (Arrrrr!).  But each ship lost at sea be a huge travesty because there be no more dragons.  Bone and the bone ships be at the center of trade and politics.  Bone supplies be ever dwindling.Joron Twiner be the shipwife on a black bone ship called the Tide Child.  These black ships are crewed by the condemned whose lives are forfeit.  They crew the ship and fight for the navy until the Hag calls them home to the deep.  Joron is an unfit, dastardly drunken cur who fled his duty to both the ship and the navy.  He drowns in grog until one day Lucky Meas Gilbryn shows up to duel his ship away.  Joron doesn't stand a chance.  He believes his life is over but is surprised when Meas offers him a position as the deck keeper, basically the second in command, instead. The easy living is no more as Meas is a fierce shipwife who be determined to whip her unsavoury crew into shape.  But this be no simple task.  The ship has been severely neglected, the crew is sullen, and Joron is hardly great leadership material.  It should be a losing proposition.  But there are battles to be fought and when a potential sea dragon be sighted it's all hands on deck!  A storm be a brewin'.Personally I love fierce female captains (biased I know!) and I also love redemption stories.  Watching Meas whip her crew into shape and watching Joron learn and step into the role he has been given is delightful.  Meas is a crafty b*tch and I approve.  Give no quarter!!  I also particularly love the windtalker, a Gulliame, an avian magic creature who controls the winds.  I wish I could be friends with the Tide Child's windtalker and commandeer her to me own ship!While there be tons of naval terminology and history in this book which was well done and loved, I will admit that it did seem to take a bit too long for the sea dragon to make its appearance.  I was impatient.  The dragon also didn't get nearly enough page time.  But what ye did see of it be awesome.  The pace of this book was also a bit uneven despite the sea battles and such.  Overall the pace was slow, if engaging, and the scenes didn't always flow well.  But by the time I be finished, I certainly wanted to know what happens next!If ye like sea dragons (and who doesn't?) then I do suggest ye get yer greedy hands on a copy.  Heave ho, me hearties!  Yo ho!So lastly . . .Thank ye Orbit Books!Side note: I still be planning to read the author's Wounded Kingdom trilogy!
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  • The Nerd Book Review
    January 1, 1970
    Alrighty then I am having a hard time saying a full 4. So I’m going to break this down a bit. 4/5 for story first half, 5/5 second half, 5/5 for world building. 2/5 for implementation of said world building. Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a sailor. I come from Idaho in the US and I’m a long ways from any large body of water. Barker also creates a ton of sea creatures that don’t have counterparts in our world and he doesn’t use info dumps to explain these creatures. I spent an awful lot o Alrighty then I am having a hard time saying a full 4. So I’m going to break this down a bit. 4/5 for story first half, 5/5 second half, 5/5 for world building. 2/5 for implementation of said world building. Now I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a sailor. I come from Idaho in the US and I’m a long ways from any large body of water. Barker also creates a ton of sea creatures that don’t have counterparts in our world and he doesn’t use info dumps to explain these creatures. I spent an awful lot of time in the first half of the book breaking immersion to go look at the glossary. I drone on and on about that movie in my mind and I was kicked out of that repeatedly until about halfway through the book. 60% in and I was ready to give this book a 2/5 even though it would have killed me since I Loved the Wounded Kingdom trilogy and RJ is one of the coolest and nicest authors I know. I took a long break and then started reading again a couple of days ago and from there on the last 40% was amazing and I’m super excited to read book 2. Now that I understand the world the story is cool and a bit unique and has a cast of characters who are deep and have motivations that make sense. No one is really evil or entirely good in this novel and their motivations are influenced by the world around them. The world is definitely Grimdark but once again Barker has written a MC who is basically a good human being and who I cared a lot about. I would definitely recommend d reading this book and if you’re finding it tough going early on get through it and you’ll be rewarded with an action packed and fun adventure.
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  • Wol
    January 1, 1970
    Phenomenal. Some of the most compelling worldbuilding I've seen in ages. Bleak and yet filled with hope. I didn't want to leave!
  • Lashaan Balasingam (Bookidote)
    January 1, 1970
    You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think that some people are born to be leaders. With their charisma and their immutable sense of direction and ambition, they are able to steer any ship in any direction, convincing all of their followers than the mind rules on the body. Others prefer a life free of responsibilities and strive in the art of either listening to order or rotting in a corner. But one particular ship destined to encounter magnificent beasts You can find my review on my blog by clicking here.It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think that some people are born to be leaders. With their charisma and their immutable sense of direction and ambition, they are able to steer any ship in any direction, convincing all of their followers than the mind rules on the body. Others prefer a life free of responsibilities and strive in the art of either listening to order or rotting in a corner. But one particular ship destined to encounter magnificent beasts, when it least expects it, lies a crew chained to a penchant for despair and tragedy. What they are about to discover is a life where walking the plank is no more an inevitability but an option, a choice that they possess and believe in if guided by the proper captain. Following the magnificent success of his Wounded Kingdom trilogy, R.J. Barker now looks to embark on a new seagoing adventure with the first book of his Tide Child trilogy, The Bone Ships.What is The Bone Ships about? Set in the Hundred Isles, in the midst of a dreadful feud between two rival nations that have been at it for generations, the story follows the incompetent and hopeless Joron Twiner, shipwife (understood as the captain) of the Tide Child, a Black Ship, a vessel for the dead, carrying those whose faiths are set to roam the seas till death swallows them whole. Condemned to serve their nation on this ship with a crew of misfits and convicts, the putrid hate and lack of cohesion and structure lead Lucky Meas Gilbryn to challenge the captain to a duel with the status of shipwife as the ultimate prize. Her victory is followed by the fisherman Twiner’s demotion to second-in-command and sets them on a perilous hunt with news of an extinct sea dragon, known as an arakeesian, being spotted in the archipelago. With ships being built out of their bones and allowing crews around the world to establish their reputation and power based on their access to these bones, the chase fuels crews with a desire to reign victorious in the grand scheme of things. Now, who will shift the balance of power in their favour?R.J. Barker continues to deliver some of the best characterizations in the genre with his latest book. While the story kicks off with a protagonist that seems oddly uninspiring, you’re quickly brought to understand that he’s an observer who fumbles with his emotions as he witnesses a real shipwife, the same who spectacularly dethrones him, who vows to whip her crew into shape and bring glory and respect to those condemned to sail on the Tide Child. The dynamic between these two characters is golden, as you watch John Twiner dwell on his faith and reminisce about his father’s teachings while Lucky Meas Gilbryn unsheaths her bravery and brilliance, trying to tame the unsavoury crew by threatening them into giving her the respect she deserves. As almost polar opposites, you watch them grow and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, looking beyond their differences as they haul themselves into surviving the onslaught from the treacherous obstacles that the sea has to offer, whether it is the pirates or the sea dragons.While the story delves into the complexity of trust, loyalty, and respect among individuals in a society that essentially floats and fights within a bone-centric economy and politics, The Bone Ships was much heavier in world-building. R.J. Barker does an enthralling job at painting the seven seas with the right strokes of words, from his meticulous descriptions of sea-dragon bone ships to his insightful portrayal of this world’s history. Without immediately diving into the plot of the story—which might sink some readers as the pacing can be tempestuous—R.J. Barker scours the scenery, successfully depicting the foggy, hefty and turbulent atmosphere, allowing the reader to be fully immersed into a world where the sea reigns with deadly ships lurking in the horizon. To accompany this sea-faring spectacle are maritime action sequences that are brilliantly brought into existence with powerful and thrilling scenarios where the dread is almost palpable.The Bone Ships is a nautical exploration of the high seas, crawling with ancient sea dragons, with rival crews ransacking for the big loot that will have the tides on their side and set them on course towards conquering the war.Thank you to Orbit for sending me a copy for review!Yours truly,Lashaan | Blogger and Book ReviewerOfficial blog: https://bookidote.com/
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  • Nigel
    January 1, 1970
    In brief - Richly inventive and an enjoyable read. Very good for those with seafaring tastes I think. My immediate reaction reading this was that it was definitely different! Joron is the Shipwife of the Tide Child, a ship of the dead. It is a bone ship; that is to say it is made mostly from bone. "Lucky" Meas wants to take over the ship and become Shipwife and she does. She has a mission. Whether a somewhat decrepit ship crewed by criminals is likely to help her certainly seems a moot point. In brief - Richly inventive and an enjoyable read. Very good for those with seafaring tastes I think. My immediate reaction reading this was that it was definitely different! Joron is the Shipwife of the Tide Child, a ship of the dead. It is a bone ship; that is to say it is made mostly from bone. "Lucky" Meas wants to take over the ship and become Shipwife and she does. She has a mission. Whether a somewhat decrepit ship crewed by criminals is likely to help her certainly seems a moot point.In a sense this leaves the reader with far more questions than answers. Who are Meas and Joron? What is their backgrounds? What is the mission? How does all the new language work; Shipwife and calling ships "he" are minor compared to some of the ideas. I could go on. However if you like inventive writing you may decide that you would like to discover just what this is actually about. There are plenty of new things to find out about as we travel on Tide Child with Meas who decides she will allow Joron to take the post of Deckkeeper, her second in command.We see Meas and Joron coming to understand one another maybe. Many of the crew are the original criminals. Meas adds some colourful characters who were known to her before. Maybe it's just me but I liked Black Orris :). Others join the ship for its mission. To call them a colourful crew would be a little understating it!There is so much that is new and for me original here. The book has a small glossary at the back giving at least some of the naval terminology. However much of it you simply need to work out for yourself. This is not one of those fantasy book where everything is explained to you at or around the start and personally I like that.The characters really are generally rich and varied. Obviously Meas and Joron play fairly major roles here. However there are plenty more interesting characters who develop as the book progresses. The flora and fauna of this world are remarkable - it all adds to the inventiveness of this book.One of the aspects of this I really liked is the role of Windtalker or Gulliame. It's a great idea. These are birds who travel on the ships and can control the wind at least to a degree. The one who travels on Tide Child may well be my favourite characters of this book. Equally it is probably almost the deciding factor in me continuing to read this series.The writing here is very good. The characters and storylines are well worked. I guess at times I found the pace a little slow though it built up as the book progressed. There is much to discover here and that looks like it will continue in book 2. This is a very vivid tale which contains a great array of ideas, creatures, characters and the like. Fans of fantasy with a naval slant should find this an attractive read. Until about halfway I wasn't sure if I would want to read book 2 however the latter part of the book (& the Gulliame) convinced me.Note - I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair reviewhttps://viewson.org.uk/fantasy/the-bo...
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  • Bob
    January 1, 1970
    Immediately fascinating with its unorthodox boarding of Joron Twiner and Lucky Meas, only to flounder for a while in seemingly directionless seas, The Bone Ships does find its sea-legs in the second half, sailing into a satisfying conclusion.The first half of this book is, for the most part, character introductions and world-building. RJ Barker throws the reader right into the deepest seas of information and then douses us with words, terms, names, and details that often lack any cle Immediately fascinating with its unorthodox boarding of Joron Twiner and Lucky Meas, only to flounder for a while in seemingly directionless seas, The Bone Ships does find its sea-legs in the second half, sailing into a satisfying conclusion.The first half of this book is, for the most part, character introductions and world-building. RJ Barker throws the reader right into the deepest seas of information and then douses us with words, terms, names, and details that often lack any clear meaning until context comes along later. It’s a fascinating word, both from a cultural and geological perspective, and the the approach to dragons is excitingly original, but there is a lot to take in. It’s an ugly world, dangerous and full of dirty people with dirty ideas, and the crew of the Tide Child are its unwanted, unloved, forgotten outcasts. It’s the kind of crew where a strange woman can walk in, claim a hat, yell at a few people, knock a few heads, and simply assume command because, with one exception, nobody else wants it.The narrative here is a bit odd, reminiscent of a few grimdark sagas I’ve enjoyed, in that the hero, the protagonist, the main character is not the narrative point-of-view. Instead, it’s the deposed shipwife, Joron, who tells the tale, and its through his eyes that we witness the bold, brash, ballsy actions of Lucky Meas. He’s a decent character with some reasonable growth, who becomes less annoying as he becomes more familiar, but it was Lucky Meas who captained my imagination. She is so much fun to watch, a force of nature stronger than any sea-borne tempest, and as unrelenting as the storm-tossed waves. She’s a leader, through and through, and you can either accept it or get the hell out of her way.The other characters who intrigued me here were the monstrous, once-feathered, gullaime windtalker, the only member of the crew to give Lucky Meas serious pause; and the courser, Aelerin, neither woman nor man, and regarded with superstitious dread, although their role in the story comes largely in the second half.As for the story, what we have is a black ship of doomed souls in search of a legendary dragon – once commonplace enough to form the hulls of the bone ships, but hunted to near-extinction – hoping to redeem themselves with an act of heroic bravery. Of course, they are not the only ship in search of the legendary arakeesian, which makes for some suitably epic scenes of naval warfare between bone ships, especially since the Tide Child is the only ship looking to save the dragon. It’s exhilarating stuff, like the best scenes of a pirate tale, only with a little more magic and mayhem . . . and some terrifying beasts of the deep, just to keep everyone on their toes.For my first literary voyage with RJ Barker, The Bone Ships was a great one, and I’ll definitely be booking berth on the next tale to set sail.https://femledfantasy.home.blog/2019/...
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  • David Stewart
    January 1, 1970
    In an era where almost every new fantasy book is about a band of Dungeons and Dragons style adventurers bounding around a fully-built and populated world, along comes RJ Barker to completely buck this welcome trend and write a fantasy book that is also a high seas adventure in the vein of Patrick O'Brian and Dudley Pope but also about dragons and inexplicably post-apocalyptic in the most intriguing ways. It has a talking parrot, criminals abound, and also features some of the best naval warfare In an era where almost every new fantasy book is about a band of Dungeons and Dragons style adventurers bounding around a fully-built and populated world, along comes RJ Barker to completely buck this welcome trend and write a fantasy book that is also a high seas adventure in the vein of Patrick O'Brian and Dudley Pope but also about dragons and inexplicably post-apocalyptic in the most intriguing ways. It has a talking parrot, criminals abound, and also features some of the best naval warfare scenes that I've ever read in a book. The truth is, this review of Bone Ships is hard to write because I loved the book so damn much that all I really want to do is squeal like a middle-schooler and talk about how cool Gilbryn "Lucky" Meas is. But, let's do our job and review the thing. Setting: Bone Ships takes place on the high seas in a world where hardwood is seemingly non-existent. Instead, ships are built upon the bones of slain dragons, a species that was once abundant but is no longer. This makes ships incredibly valuable things, even beyond their value as modes of transportation in a land that is made up mostly of islands ranging in size and breadth. When I said that Bone Ships was inexplicably post-apocalyptic, I am making an educated guess as to the history only hinted at within the novel. Barker writes about a human population that is cursed with poor progeny. Most children are born with some sort of deformity, and it is the ones born whole that are considered blessed and allowed to rule. Barker's world is one of castes, a society where, if one is born without a foot, they are automatically pushed into the ironic profession of cobbler. If born without a hand, why, to the tailors with you! There is a might meets right specter hanging over all of the Hundred Isles, the main societal focus of Bone Ships, that is tragic even as it is practical. The Hundred Isles are ever at war with a different set of landmarks collectively known as the Gaunt Isles, and each society has entire mythos built around the evil atrocities committed by the other. The bone ships are the heart of this war, where nearly all conflict is fought upon the all-encompassing waters that surround everything. And Barker's sea isn't friendly, teeming with vicious creatures that could only come about through horrid imagination or perhaps some type of over-polluting of the natural waters. I read these nods to climate change and pollution as subtle suggestions towards what our current civilization is doing to the Earth, and fantasy is nothing if not a mirror to society. Plot: Amidst this background comes Lucky Meas, one of the most famous bone ship captains in the world. Stripped of her naval command for reasons unknown, Meas finds Joron Twiner, the hapless captain of a black ship. Black ships and their denizens are those condemned to man the seas and atone for their crimes. Unlike the much greater, both in purpose and size, white ships of the Hundred Isles navy, the black ships are shunned and looked down upon, even as they serve a vital role in roaming the waters. Lucky Meas whips Twiner in duel and takes command of the Tide Child, and in doing so initiates a change in every and woman aboard. Barker weaves in the myriad mysteries of each character throughout the novel, revealing enough to keep us wondering, while never really giving us all the answers. Before long, Meas is tasked by an old acquaintance high up in Hundred Isles society with hunting down and protecting a dragon. Yes, a dragon has been sighted, which hasn't happened for a long time, and there is only one thing that any nation or power will want with a dragon - its very bones. This sparks a hunt across the seas that is heart-racing and action-packed, but that tempers itself with moments of slower-paced character interactions that are as important to the story as its main focus. Barker manages to pack a variety of settings and scenarios into what would at first glance seem to be a rote and uninteresting landscape. There are sieges and spelunkings and strange, otherworldy artifacts whose nature can only really be guessed at. Behind all of this is the mythology of a great bird god whose purpose is hinted and who, if my own conjectures are near to mark, has to do with whatever apocalypse inflicted this made-up world. It is a dark world that RJ Barker has crafted, but one ripe with curiosity and a true sense of discovery that is near-required for a naval adventure tale. Character: Part of what makes the Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey and Maturin series so powerful, aside from its huge world-scoping adventure, is the relationship between its two main characters. It does not matter how good a ship battle is nor how majestic one's dragons are if the characters that we must read about from page to page are not likable and relatable in some way. As with nearly everything in Bone Ships, Barker nails down his characters and their relationships in ways that continue to mature throughout the book. Meas and Twiner have a fascinating dynamic, with Twiner hating Meas for stealing his ship, but slowly growing to respect her and the effect that she has on the rabble of his crew - a respect he never had. There is a bit of The Great Gatsby to the way in which Barker tells the story, with Lucky Meas as the protagonist of the book seen through the eyes of Joron Twiner, yet unlike Nick Carraway, Twiner's growth throughout is as important as his dynamic with Meas. Along for the ride are as rag tag a group of misfits as any sea captain could wish, a true pirate's den of vagabonds, the aforementioned talking parrot, and a bird-like creature that serves as a wind-mage for the ship and who becomes surprisingly important to both the novel's themes and the growth of Joron Twiner. Even beyond the arcs of each character, there is a group-growth that happens on the Tide Child, one spurred by the presence of Lucky Meas, and even when characters whose names we never learn are blasted apart by shipfire and tossed overboard, we can feel the impact it has on a crew that becomes tighter and tighter as the weave of the tale is cinched. I'll admit, most of the names and faces in Bone Ships, outside of its two main characters, are fairly forgettable and could even be called caricature-esque, but the book is no less for this and in some ways requires it for the development of Meas and Twiner. Parting Words: In my notes, after reading the first chapter, I wrote "this is the best first chapter I have read in a long time." I had fairly high expectations going into Bone Ships because, despite it not being published yet, it has been getting buzz. Well I am here to add to that buzz because it is an excellent book and one of the best I've read all year. The attention is well-deserved. There are moments in Bone Ships that left my skin tingling, one in particular that I don't think I will ever forget, and that is something that one so rarely gets with a novel or any form of entertainment media. I may be particularly susceptible to a fantasy naval adventure, I love the Liveship Traders series from Robin Hobb after all, and had my time with some of the more classic high seas adventures. However, I think anyone can love this book. The terminology is fairly unique - Barker makes up his own terms for the apparatus used on his ship because there really is no equivalent in our vernacular for some of the parts of a dragon that can be shaped into weapons and ship parts, and the writing is so good that it's simply a pleasure to read. Barker had fun writing this book, and it shows and is so good for that reason. I apologize for not having more negative things to say. I often do, and I'm not shy about saying what I think is wrong with a book (this is Fantasy Book Critic after all), and Bone Ships is not perfect. But it is exactly what it should be, and in that lies a sort of perfection that more fantasy novels, and books in general, should strive to match.
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  • K B
    January 1, 1970
    4.75 stars rounded up. Where do I even begin? The Bone Ships is, by far, one of the best fantasy books I have read this year. Why? Because it has absolutely everything you could want from the genre!I will outline the book, structure and core ideas (with minimal spoilers!) and then say what I thought!The Bone Ships is inspiringly original and incredibly intricate. RJ Barker has created a world that is dominated by the sea, rich in mythology and has an intricate caste systems tha 4.75 stars rounded up. Where do I even begin? The Bone Ships is, by far, one of the best fantasy books I have read this year. Why? Because it has absolutely everything you could want from the genre!I will outline the book, structure and core ideas (with minimal spoilers!) and then say what I thought!The Bone Ships is inspiringly original and incredibly intricate. RJ Barker has created a world that is dominated by the sea, rich in mythology and has an intricate caste systems that goes beyond the simple division of gender that dominates the fantasy genre. The Bone Ships has a very intricate system of power based on strength and ability. Firstly, if your mother survives giving birth to you and you are healthy then she is respected and seen as having a strong bloodline and her firstborn child is given as a sacrifice to become a ‘corpselight’ for the ships (something I won’t go into much detail about in order to avoid spoilers but shivers went down my spine!) Secondly, if your mother dies in childbirth or you are born with a form of deformity, disability or disfigurement you are seen as having a weak bloodline and so are not destined to be respected, become a ‘corpselight’, or even to become part of a ship’s crew. Instead you are given ironic jobs (i.e. if you have no arm you become a tailor) and are made to be ‘stonebound’ (land dweller-less respected than those who are crew.) Though women are often the more dominant in this society, with the mythology being led by goddesses (like the Mother and the Sea Hag) and women being the leaders (status depending on how many children they have had-their stretch-marks being a sign of power ) it goes much deeper than this and I loved it. Not only is the caste system intricate but so is the world itself. The Bone Ships revolves around an in-depth system of magic and mythology. The people believe in three key goddesses; the Maiden, the Mother and the Sea Hag. Each are respected but the Sea Hag is the dark goddess, the violent one that clutches the dead in the sea. However, the magic and mythology goes even deeper with Meas herself being considered lucky (hence the name ‘Lucky Meas’) as it is believed she is, in some way, favoured by the Goddesses. Moreover, the gullaime windtalker, a bird like creature, is incredibly important to the people of this world. Though seemingly unnatural and usually avoided unless needed, it is highly revered and people are incredibly superstitious in their beliefs towards it (for example, they will not hurt the guillame or even touch it as it is considered a gift from Skearith the Stormbird – God of all creation). The guillame can control the winds in order to aid the crew on their ships and so is crucial to the crew. The main guillame in the story is also an interesting character unto itself and, despite being an unnatural creature, you can help but connect with it and feel for it.The final key element of magic and mythology is dragons. The dragons were hunted by both the Hundred Isles and the Gaunt Islanders, they compete and war with each other, in order to build their ships. The ships are built in different sizes and a referred to by the number of rib bones used, the more used the bigger and sturdier the ships. The ships are a reflection of the Shipwife and crew and are usually kept clean and shining in order to show off and highlight their status. However, the dragons were all killed and ships were being made smaller or not at all due to the lack of bones available. This story, however, begins when a lone, last living dragon is sighted. Joron and Meas go on a voyage to find this dragon as whoever finds it first will receive glory, but could also end or fuel the war between the islands. I adored this concept and loved the mythology and magic that fuels this world. The intricate system, though confusing at first, is so interesting and influential that you can’t help but love it. Moreover, the ideas are masterfully executed and there are no dreaded info-dumps, instead you learn about the world naturally and organically through conversation and the characters personal beliefs and superstitions. Furthermore, the divide in power is original and unique due to its focus on ability (as well as gender), as a disabled person I thought this was incredibly interesting and I loved to see how it panned out and I adored the characters that openly disagreed with this or defied the belief they couldn’t be crew and went on to be shipwife (the Gaunt islanders do not necessarily follow the same idea as the Hundred islanders in regards to deformity and disability)- the concept of a divide based on gender but also physical ability is one many authors would be worried to tackle but RJ Barker has done it so masterfully that it is such a unique way to create a caste system and truly makes the book stand out in the genre. The story is interesting and engaging and the characters are well developed. The characters are easy to connect with (despite largely being criminals) and are so interesting that every time there was a fight or danger my heart leapt into my throat – these are characters you want to survive but you know that there is no guarantee. The characters are incredibly diverse in ability, looks and personality and are essential to the world-building and the story moves along with them. I will admit that initially it was difficult to get into The Bone Ships as there is a lot of terminology that I simply did not know because it was a sailing term or a term specific to the world in the book. However, DO NOT LET THIS PUT YOU OFF because boy oh boy is it worth it.The story is a perfect blend of mystery, suspense, action, fantasy, and even comedy (Black Orris anyone? You’ll love him.) With so many elements blending perfectly it is hard not to love it! This is so original and enjoyable-it is a true star amongst the fantasy genre. I have so many questions at the end of this book and absolutely cannot wait for the next one! *I received an advance digital copy from #netgalley (Little Brown Book Group UK - @Littlebrownuk - twitter) in exchange for an honest review*
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  • Justine
    January 1, 1970
    Originally posted to I Should Read ThatI received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.Earlier this summer I read and loved Barker’s debut novel, Age of Assassins, so I was extremely excited to have the chance to read and review his latest book. Not only does The Bone Ships have a stunning cover (and you know I’m a sucker for a good cover), it takes place on huge ships made of sea dragon bones. Basically, this book is Justine catnip and dove into Originally posted to I Should Read ThatI received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is a spoiler-free review.Earlier this summer I read and loved Barker’s debut novel, Age of Assassins, so I was extremely excited to have the chance to read and review his latest book. Not only does The Bone Ships have a stunning cover (and you know I’m a sucker for a good cover), it takes place on huge ships made of sea dragon bones. Basically, this book is Justine catnip and dove into it with extremely high expectations. I’m just going to start out this review by saying I absolutely loved this book. It was everything I could possibly want, and didn’t know I wanted, from a fantasy novel. Fun fact about me: I grew up near-ish to the ocean and used to sail regularly with my dad and my sister -- I could sail before I could drive. I’ve always had a strong connection to the sea and this book was such a delight to sink into. The atmosphere Barker creates was just so fantastic -- it sounds so cheesy to say but I could feel the wind on my face and the spray of the sea. This book pulled me into the happiest seafaring memories. There was also something so perfect about The Bone Ships that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I pondered and pondered until I saw Hiu from The Fantasy Inn say that this book has ‘an undercurrent of optimism.A belief that people are mostly good,’ and that’s exactly it. The Bone Ships is a book set in a grim and brutal world, however it still feels uplifting and optimistic through character actions.The world building in this book is just fantastic. One of my main worries going into The Bone Ships was that it would be a confusing and/or dense read, as many books set on ships are. You basically have to learn an entirely new vocabulary to figure out what’s going on (looking at you, Patrick O’Brian). However this wasn’t the case at all. The book is filled with nautical terms, but twisted to suit this world and in a way that’s easy for the reader to pick up on. A ship’s captain is a shipwife, the bow is the beak and the stern is the rump, the sails are wings, and so on. Something else I picked up on was the place of gender in this world -- ships are referred to with male pronouns rather than female ones, a shipwife is the captain’s title regardless of gender, and even the phrase ‘men and women’ is ‘women and men’. I found this incredibly effective not only for making sense of the world and the gender politics that are at play, In terms of plot, The Bone Ships feels like the opposite of Age of Assassins -- where Age of Assassins has a strong and pacey plot and lighter world building, The Bone Ships is lighter on plot, more closely examines the world and the characters, and is definitely a book to be savoured. If you’re a reader who prefers a plot-driven book then this might not be the one for you. However, readers who love character-driven books will delight in the deep insight into characters and their story arcs. I think this may be a dividing point among readers and wanted to point it out.Much of my love for this book also comes from Joron, our former shipwife of Tide Child who has his command taken by the famed Lucky Maes. Watching his story arc unfold was one of the most rewarding reading experiences I’ve had in ages. He is a deeply flawed character recovering from trauma -- he’s far from perfect, but that’s why I absolutely adored him. He’s a completely different person at the beginning of the book than he is at the end, which is always a favourite trope of mine. Much of the book’s optimistic undercurrent comes from Joron and his characterisation. I am also officially obsessed with Maes. She’s the seafaring badass leader of my dreams! I always love strong women, particularly older women, in fantasy. I’m always on the lookout for these characters in books and I feel I can really rely on Barker to deliver on this.The Bone Ships is an astonishing start to a new fantasy trilogy, and I cannot tell you how much I loved this book -- it is undoubtedly one of my favourites of the year. Barker is an incredibly talented writer who fills his stories with so much heart and a great sense adventure. If you’re looking for a unique fantasy world filled with fantastic characters, I urge you to pick up The Bone Ships. I cannot wait to read the next one!CW: Deformity, PTSD
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  • Christine Sandquist (eriophora)
    January 1, 1970
    RJ Barker’s world in The Bone Ships is a rich, vibrant tapestry. The reader is immersed from the start, drowned in the sheer audacity of the writing. Each sentence had a lot of love poured into it, and it comes across clear as a clarion. The prose is dense with strong slice-of-life elements and creates a sense of “otherness” without crossing over into inaccessible. The use of vernacular is masterful, neither too extreme nor too campy, contributing to the je ne sais quoi that pervades the novel a RJ Barker’s world in The Bone Ships is a rich, vibrant tapestry. The reader is immersed from the start, drowned in the sheer audacity of the writing. Each sentence had a lot of love poured into it, and it comes across clear as a clarion. The prose is dense with strong slice-of-life elements and creates a sense of “otherness” without crossing over into inaccessible. The use of vernacular is masterful, neither too extreme nor too campy, contributing to the je ne sais quoi that pervades the novel as a whole. The world is strange, disturbing, and filled with dangers the characters must navigate at every step… yet which is entirely normal to them in context.The book opens with Joron Twiner, son of a poor fisher, drunk on a beach. Joron is Shipwife (captain) to Tide Child – a black, dead ship manned with a crew of men and women condemned to die for their crimes. They live according to the Bernlaw, a set of rules for those at sea, as enforced by the Shipwife. Joron, however, is not fated to remain Shipwife for long when Lucky Meas, daughter of Thirteenbern Gilbryn, ruler of the Hundred Isles, appears before him in his drunken stupor and challenges him to a duel for the two-tailed hat he wears as symbol of his station.Lucky Meas, in a thoroughly unshocking twist, wins their duel… but breaks tradition by sparing Joron’s life and keeping him on Tide Child as her Deckkeeper (second in command). He’s a proud ship, Tide Child, made of Arakeesian bones – one of the last of the titular bone ships – but he’s been neglected through Joron’s inexperience and incompetence. Meas quickly and immediately assumes command, cleaning and organizing Tide Child as Joron never could. Meas was made for the sea and takes to command with a firm and steady hand. She balances the various factions aboard with competence and grace, viewing each as pieces on a gameboard ready to be put into play – Joron included.“Clean this deck,” she said, “coil the ropes, stack the shot and tie down the gallowbows. Get Tide Child ready to fly and fight, for that is what we will be doing, make no mistake about it. And I know you are a rough lot, so when the time comes” – her eyes roved around, settled on Kanvey, settled on Cwel, settled on Barlay – “that you feel the need to test me. Then do it like deckchilder, do it to my face.” She rested her hand on the hilt of her sword. “Because the Bern sought to give me to the ships as a light when I was a babe, even after the sea returned me. And in the ceremony the Mother came upon them, and she said I would not die then as sacrifice and I would not die in treachery, you hear? She said I’d die fighting. So unless you question the will of the Maiden or the Mother or the Hag, you’ll pull your blade to my face, ey?” Again her roving eye, her fierce, bird-of-prey features waiting for a reply that never came. Only silence faced her. “Well, to it then! Move!” And they did, and inside Joron something twisted, and he learned – in a moment of shock and revelation – how much he desired what she had, that easy command, the way she barely seemed to feel the weight of the two-tailed hat on her head. “Twiner” – she spat on the deck – “come with me to the great cabin.”Meas does not leave Joron to flounder and fail in his new role. Although she is a harsh taskmaster and will brook no incompetence, she is excellent at spotting potential. While Joron doesn’t have the skills of a leader yet, she knows how to foster the seed she sees in him. By placing Joron into situations where he must make a choice, by dropping small tidbits of advice, and by orchestrating favorable outcomes, she allows him to grow into the role of Deckkeeper and earn his place aboard the ship.In the beginning, Meas is focusing on developing the small crew she took from Joron as well as on getting them safely to land where she can augment their numbers. I’ve seen a few people mention this slow pace bothered them, and while that is understandable… I was so drawn in by the gorgeous prose and the fresh feel of the world that I would have happily devoured the full novel even if nothing of particular importance occurred in the whole thing. Even after the plot picks up in the second half, the writing continues to be wonderful. It is a style of writing which lends very well to slice of life, as showcased in the first half of the book. The Bone Ships is carried on the characters, the atmosphere, and the world the reader is thrust into with little explanation or hand-holding. It’s brilliant.While there is enough familiarity in the world for a reader to latch onto and avoid feeling completely adrift, it’s still a joy to discover more and more of the culture through small hints and off-hand comments throughout the books. It is a fundamentally different world with just enough parallels to echo our own conception of sea and society. Some passages are musing, commenting on aspects of the world from someone who lives in it. Some passages mention a new title, creature, or idea which hasn’t been touched on previously. I often felt as though I was watching the dust and grime of a long-interred fossil being slowly brushed away, word by word, revealing the shape beneath.We learn about the horrors of the sea – a writhing, fearsome thing in The Bone Ships. It is filled to the seething brim with faceless serpents, longthresh ready to devour you, stinging jellies, bone borers. Our own ocean is more of a threat than it is a death sentence. The sea of The Bone Ships is the more than a threat – it is a promise. To go into the water is to go to a terrible, painful death. That is the Sea Hag’s promise, and the only mercy she might show is that your death be quick."The sea was full of ugly creatures but beakwyrms were famously among the worst. They looked like the intestine of a kivelly when it was cut from the bird to make sausage: pink, glistening and shot through with blood. The creatures surfed the waves of foam that the boneships kicked up. Each was as thick as a big woman or man and about ten or fifteen paces long, not as big as he had seen but big enough. The wyrms ended bluntly, like fingers, and they had no eyes or nose or any way Joron could see for them to sense the world around them, but Hag knew they had teeth. When attacking, the whole end of a beakwyrm would draw back and reveal it was little more than mouth, row upon row of serrated teeth right back into the darkness of its throat, teeth that could chew through flesh and bone and so noisy to work few. Iridescent frills spiralled around the wyrms’ sickly pallid-pink flesh, propelling them forward in a twisting, shimmering dance through water and wave before the ship. They spun around one another as if they were lovers dancing."Even the friendlier beasts are strange and awful; the people of the Hundred Isles enslave the Gullaime, a race of bird-like creatures capable of controlling the wind. I am deeply curious about the origins of the Gullaime, which are hinted at but not revealed. Their magic exacts a high price and functions on somewhat mysterious principles, but I question whether even the Gullaime themselves truly understand what they are capable of or if they still have true knowledge of their history.“The closer Tide Child came to the creature, the more of it he could make out: the filth of its once-white robes, the bright colours of the leaf mask that covered the pits where its eyes had once been, the sharp and predatory curve of its beak. Underneath the robes was an inhuman body, three-toed feet with sharp claws, puckered pink skin tented against brittle bones and punctuated by the white quills of broken feathers. He did not know why the gullaime lost their feathers, only that they did, and he guessed it was due to the filth they chose to live in. The source of all lice and biting creatures on any ship was the windtalker, as any deckchild knew.”In addition to these more beastly touches, it’s always interesting to see matriarchies represented in SFF – especially ones which are flawed and gritty (a la Kameron Hurley’s Del Dame Apocrypha). The Bone Ships does not disappoint in this regard. Birth defects are common and passed down genetically, so when a child is born perfectly it’s a cause for celebration. Babes who are marked, missing limbs, or with other problems are called the Berncast, and occupy the lowest echelon of society. Women who are able to give birth successfully to children who are without flaw may be raised from the Berncast and to the Bern, their rank dictated by the number of successful, perfect births they’ve had. Thirteenbern Gilbryn has brought forth 13 children, more than any other woman, and by virtue of it rules all the Hundred Isles. She has men around her, the Kept, who were born perfect and give her a greater chance of bearing more perfect children. This is also reflected in the gods they revere. The Maiden, the Hag, and the Mother. This is a society ruled by fertility.“Beneath this web, bathed in light, sat Thirteenbern Gilbryn, proud of what she was. Her hair was grey now, and she wore no colour in it – a break with tradition, but she was a woman who did not feel the need to advertise her authority. She wore a skirt, and her flat breasts hung down to her navel, almost covering the stretch marks across her belly, which had been painted in bright colours, the scars of her battles there for all to see: the marks of her power. There was no denying the strength in the Thirteenbern’s body, and that was why she showed it. She flaunted her fertility. This woman was the bringer of thirteen perfect children to the isles and claimed title as mother of all. Her skirts were of iron, laced together with birdgut and enamelled with stylised fish which danced across her lap. Like Meas she wore long boots. Unlike Meas, who stood upon a ship of shame, she sat upon on the throne of tears, a seat of polished and bonded varisk carved into the semblance of firstborn children, each child weeping as they held up the weight of the Thirteenbern and through her carried the weight of the entire Hundred Isles.”This book was deeply impressive on all fronts. I can’t wait for the sequels, and I am incredibly excited to dive into RJ’s earlier books – how is it possible that I’ve been missing out on so much great writing for so long? Fortunately, that will no longer be the case! The Tide Child Trilogy is looking to be one of my favorite recent series, and it is one I fully intend to shout about long and hard. Highly, highly recommended.This review and others can be read on my blog, Black Forest Basilisks
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  • Hiu Gregg
    January 1, 1970
    Why haven't you read this yet?
  • Simi Sunny
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of the first book of The Tide Child series. The storyline intrigued me. This story revolves around Joron and his crew (well, mostly Joron). He was on a black ship, where people committed crimes and were sent to the seas. Everything changed when Lucky Meas came in and took in charge of the vessel, making Joron look like a fool. Although Meas declared he should be second in command, Joron felt ashamed. And it's not just him who was not comfortable with the role he was in, but als I received an ARC of the first book of The Tide Child series. The storyline intrigued me. This story revolves around Joron and his crew (well, mostly Joron). He was on a black ship, where people committed crimes and were sent to the seas. Everything changed when Lucky Meas came in and took in charge of the vessel, making Joron look like a fool. Although Meas declared he should be second in command, Joron felt ashamed. And it's not just him who was not comfortable with the role he was in, but also the crew. Beforehand, they're not used to being pushed around and doing their jobs. But eventually, both the crew and Joron were getting better while working as a team. Now, my reason why I gave this book a three-star review. From the first half of the story, I felt like it wasn't getting anywhere. I thought I was not the only one who felt like there was no direction to the story, but there were others who felt the same. Not only that, but I felt like the story should pick up the pace and get to where they need to go. Luckily, the second half of the story was getting somewhere, where Meas, Joron, and their crew were on land and were assigned to save then kill the sea dragon so that there won't be an eternal war. What's great about the book was that there was character development from Joron and his crew. Joron, though, I find his character growth more intriguing because before, he was weak and less bright. But thanks to Lucky Meas, he becomes stronger and smarter. Plus, he's able to take command and stay firm. And I admire Lucky Meas' personality, how she's powerful and takes in charge of her ship when things become bleak. And not only does she help change Joron's life, but also others on the ship. I do hope that the second book will be better, and maybe that it would change the pace a bit. I do want to read more of the story since it left me surprised.
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  • Jon Adams
    January 1, 1970
    I guess I can't leave a review until closer to publication date, but daaaamn.Thanks Netgalley.
  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    Check out this photo on Instagram You can also read my review here: https://devouringbooks2017.wordpress....The Bone Ships was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I was lucky enough to get a physical ARC and as soon as it showed up I started reading it. I am an absolute sucker for criminals in fantasy novels, so I was pretty sure that I was going to enjoy this book. The only thing I was worried about is that since it takes place on a ship that it would have tons of descriptions of the workings of a ship and I would get bored. Luckily forInstagram Check out this photo on Instagram You can also read my review here: https://devouringbooks2017.wordpress....The Bone Ships was one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I was lucky enough to get a physical ARC and as soon as it showed up I started reading it. I am an absolute sucker for criminals in fantasy novels, so I was pretty sure that I was going to enjoy this book. The only thing I was worried about is that since it takes place on a ship that it would have tons of descriptions of the workings of a ship and I would get bored. Luckily for me R.J. Barker did a great job giving you just enough information, but not boring the reader to death with the details.I absolutely loved the characters in this book. Joron was an interesting character and I loved how much he changed throughout the novel. In the beginning he was an alcoholic and when the ship, Tide Child, was in his care it was a messy disaster. Lucky Meas became captain and whipped the whole crew into shape. She was fierce, bold and brave. She inspired Joron and the crew to become brave as well. At times I swelled with pride at how far they came and the camaraderie between the crew. I also loved the gullimae. The gullimae was a bird-like creature that controlled the wind who Joron was tasked to befriend. When the two of them grew closer it just made me so happy. The gullimae was so well written and an excellent aspect of the book.The plot was so much fun. The hunt for the sea dragon was such an adventure and Tide Child had to fight several ships along the way. R.J. Barker's writing was full of action and never wasted words on filler scenes that would bore the reader. I loved the entire book so much. It felt like a cross between a fantasy quest and a pirate story. I also am really glad that R.J. Barker didn't try to shove a romance into this story. It didn't need one, but it's hard to find a book that doesn't have a romance in it lately.The Bone Ships was everything that I wanted it to be and more. The plot didn't have unexpected twists, but at the same time it didn't end the way I thought it would. After reading this I want to check out Age of Assassins, but I'm also psyched that there will be a sequel.
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  • Johnny Graham
    January 1, 1970
    I received this book from NetGalley for review. This book starts with a hard slog, you are thrust into the world of the main protagonist Joron Twiner, he's exiled on a black ship, he's drunk, he's young and his view(and ours) of everything around him is blinkered by his situation and inexperience. You are introduced into this new world with some confusing nautical terms and caste names, stick with it. This slow start is where perhaps the book does itself a big injustice for me, it's a misdirecti I received this book from NetGalley for review. This book starts with a hard slog, you are thrust into the world of the main protagonist Joron Twiner, he's exiled on a black ship, he's drunk, he's young and his view(and ours) of everything around him is blinkered by his situation and inexperience. You are introduced into this new world with some confusing nautical terms and caste names, stick with it. This slow start is where perhaps the book does itself a big injustice for me, it's a misdirection. Initially the almost longship like 'varisk' boats they used in addition to their mighty bone ships and low tech and mention of raiders I found myself settling into thinking I was joining a Vikingesque setting. This was wrong. As Joron's awareness of his situation increases the story instead blossoms into a setting inspired by Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey–Maturin series plus a heavy dose of Moby Dick with more nuance and world-building than the opening few chapters hint at. It has bone on bone ship fights, epic island raids, political intrigue, magic-using birds and HUGE sea dragons. Throw in the grim child sacrificed Dead Lights, offt. Brutal. I can't wait for the follow-up.In short, slow start, great finish.
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