Last Updated on December 20, 2022 by ThoughtsStained
We all know I love R.J. Barker’s work with how obsessed I am over his first trilogy. (See my reviews here, here and here.) So when he announced he was writing a trilogy, starting with The Bone Ships, featuring pirates that traveled on ships made of dragon bones? Fuck me, I’m in.
Thankfully, it did not disappoint!
An ARC copy was given to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Publisher: Orbit Books | Release Date: September 2019 | Pages: 512
Age Range: Adult | Genre: Fantasy | Format: Paperback | Source: ARC
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.
On the Page
Content warnings are written up by me, unless specified. Subject to being an incomplete list, though guided by referencing this list and trying to highlight as many as I can identify.
- The writing style. The way Barker writes is just so…different from anything I’ve ever read. Once, that style felt like a stumbling block that I had to get used to in King of Assassins. This time, it was like a welcome hug into something unique, yet familiar.
- Lucky Meas. Oh shit, do I love Lucky Meas. Did I have an uncertain, wavering reception to her at the beginning? Yes. Did she slowly and surely twist her way into my heart and then make me loyal to her? Yes. Would I die for her? Also, yes. Not only is she amazing as a character, but the character development in general (especially Joron’s) was fantastic. I hope to learn a lot more about her in book two!
- The slow build ensnarement. Tied to the above in a way, but I love how, like the crew, I slowly become more and more invested, until by the end of the story, I was practically begging for the next moment when I’d have time to read, so I could find out what happens next. Considering how it took me a little bit to get into it, I was surprised how utterly enamored I become at the end of it and how invested I am in this The Tide Child and his fate.
- The worldbuilding. I just thought so many elements–from the arakeesian and the wind talkers, to the bone ships themselves, to the way the society is run–were just so interesting. While it definitely had the perfect pirate or sea-story feel, it was definitely a unique fantasy world that was impossible not to become fascinated by and want to know more about it
- Slow to connect. I think this is largely tied to the following facts: a) I read this during 2020, b) I was in a reading slump and this book took me almost two months to read, when I would usually read it in about a week or less and c) I read it during 2020 right after the election. So, the fact that it took me a while to get into it is prolly due to factors of life and not the quality of the book, especially considering how much I loved it by the end.
No surprise that I give this book a positive rating! With solid worldbuilding, a Shipwife who I adore and a Deckhand who surprised me by having me grow to respect him, and the slow and steady buildup of emotional ensnarement, this book was a solid four out of five gems for me.