Call of the Bone Ships by RJ Barker (The Tide Child #2)

CallofFive Word TL:DR Review: I’m not crying, you’re crying.

Dear Hag what is going on?  This book has left me an emotional wreck.  I just don’t understand what is going on in the tiny spaces of my brain because I’m all over the place.  I want to cry and this just doesn’t happen, I’m a tough cookie, I taught hard nails a thing or two, I didn’t cry for Lassie.  I don’t cry.  But I so want to do so right now and it’s brilliant and unexpected and inexplicable.  Frankly, any book that gives me all the feelings is a winner.

I would mention at this point two things.  Firstly this is a second book in series and I do not think you can jump in at this point – and why would you anyway, the first is not only essential to understanding this world but is also damn fine so ‘how very dare you’ think of bypassing it.  Secondly, beware of spoilers – I don’t believe I’ve included any but who knows – you have been warned.

To be honest, and sorry for this, but this second instalment blows the first book totally out of the water (I know – but I couldn’t resist).  To be clear, I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, I really did, and I wondered if this would suffer maybe from second book syndrome, and, whilst there may be a slight set up for the final instalment going on here, this book is definitely not a suffering from any type of middle book sickness.  It works well, the characters grow, the author is bloody ruthless, there are skirmishes on land and on the high seas, it seems like the dragons have not perished or declined after all and there are prophecies afoot, oh my.

I am going to write nothing of the plot other than to say that Meas and her crew make a terrible discovery and are forced to throw everything they know into a heroic rescue type of mission that will leave many dead.  That is all I’m going for here so pick up the book and discover everything with fresh eyes for yourself.

This second instalment really takes us around the Hundred Isles.  The fights take place on land and on the sea.  There are huge kraken style monsters, so enormous that they cause Tsunami size waves and chaos in their wake.  There are islands where foul deeds take place and there be rescues.

In terms of the characters.  Well, Joren has come a long way by the time this book concludes.  I could say it’s exhausting watching his struggles, and it is to be honest, but it’s also satisfying.  Not everything goes according to plan, and Joren definitely goes through the wringer here but I loved all the gut wrenching emotion and the dramatic quests.  Meas, well, she is an enigma.  There’s something comforting about her presence whenever she appears on the page.  I was just like ‘please tell everyone what to do and save the day’, but of course, every now and again there are little cracks in the facade and she clearly fears her mother – so, Contrary Mary that I am – I cannot wait to meet her.

Why the emotion.  I can’t really pin it down to be honest.  I just fell for the characters.  There’s such a depth to them all and Joron experiences one of the most incredible story arcs.  There’s this whole feeling of acceptance,.  He’s not perfect, he may have disliked people for all the wrong reasons, but this books shows him prepared to learn, to find out about differences and to overcome things he never thought he would have to.  This is an author that can write all these little light bulb moments into a book but they’re so subtle that you feel like you’re turning on the switch yourself.  On top of this I feel like this is an author who has grown in style and confidence.

In terms of criticisms.  Stop killing people I like.  Please.  I will send cake.  Okay, not really a criticism but seriously I have nothing.  I would mention that this is not a quick read.  You need to sit down and pay it the respect it deserves but that’s not really asking too much is it?  Although, I would just mention, cliffhanger – but, oh what a cliffhanger.  Give me the next book soon for the love of the Hag.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 5 of 5 stars.

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Call of the Bone Ships by R.J. Barker

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Call of the Bone Ships by RJ Barker.  I loved The Bone Ships and can’t wait to tuck into this one.  Check out the description and the fabulous cover:

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

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

Expected publication : November 2020

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

TheBone ShipsI have to say that I loved The Bone Ships, it was just chock to the brim full with all the goodness that really rocks my boat (sorry)!  The world building is excellent, the characters even better and this is a story predominantly set on the high seas with plenty of action.  It’s an excellent read and one that clearly demonstrates the confidence the author feels in being able to take the time to establish the people and place in such a way that they come away fully rooted in the reader’s mind.  Very impressive.  I will try to show restraint but there may be gushing.

The story gets off to an immediate start.  We meet Joren, who will in effect become the storyteller.  Joren is a Shipwife aboard the Tide’s Child.  The Tide’s Child is a black bone ship which effectively means it’s sailed and manned by those convicts sentenced to death.  They sail on the sea and go where commanded, no matter how risky, until they die and the sea hag claims them for one of her own.  A stay of execution if you will but a death sentence all the same.

Anyway, I say that Joren is a Shipwife but that role is a very short lived one for him as his command his challenged, and taken, by a newcomer, Meas Gilbryn or Lucky Meas as she is more often known.  Now, at this point we know little of Meas or her motivations but all will be revealed as the story progresses. The one thing we do know about her is that she has confidence, skill and knowledge and coupled with a certain privileged self belief in her own worth and substance she’s a character that is difficult to ignore.  All of this is just as well because getting this bunch of reprobates, that currently pass as crew aboard the Tide’s Child, ship shape will not be easy.

So, Meas selects Joron as her second and immediately embarks on making the ship ready to sail.  At this point we discover exactly what it is that Meas seeks to achieve and it’s no small feat, it’s also a mission that demands secrecy and so there will be no spoilers here.

I’m not going to go too much further into the plot.  Suffice to say that there is a good deal of fighting caused primarily by the desirability of dragon bones.   Those ships made from bones are stronger and faster and the disappearance of the dragons has caused a shortage of materials to work with causing a rift and constant wars between the two nations at play here.  It’s one of those vicious circles, each nation craves the bones to make their ships the best, so that they can win the wars caused by the desire to own the bones in the first place!

The world building here is really quite something.  We have the (almost) extinct dragons and the whole supply and demand market that their extinction has driven.  On top of that this is a world where certain needs have created a harsh class system.  I’m not sure exactly the history or whether I missed something, but this is a place where women who have proved themselves capable of birthing healthy children become revered and are looked after in comfort – although to be honest, they’re really little more than breeding machines by all accounts.  The Kept are similarly those males of society who are perfect specimens and are also kept in relative comfort awaiting selection as ‘mates’ by the women.  Joren’s mother, for example, died in childbirth therefore meaning that Joren became the lowest of the low.  There is so much more to this world, the climbers, the politics, the in-family fighting for superiority and the reasons why these two nations are constantly at war but, again, these things are best discovered by the reader for themselves.

For me, this is a great adventure on the open seas.  There is very little land action although occasionally the Tide’s Child does put into port.  I loved all the seafaring adventures though and I particularly enjoyed seeing the crew and the characters change as the story progressed.  The bonding and pride that started to grow as each person started to gain self-worth.  Joren in particular has a great character arc in which he goes from resentment and scheming to gratitude and an ability to forgive.  Meas – well, she’s a great character and I absolutely loved her.  I couldn’t help it.  She’s just so self assured, she pulls this crew together in a way that was almost unbelievable and she just has this swagger that could be annoying but actually is endearing.

And, lets not forget the sea dragon – wow.  I loved this beast.  Loved.  It.

If you’ve read RJ Barker before then you will probably expect to find characters that you can love and similar to the Wounded Kingdom we have a very strong female lead who acts almost like a mentor to Joren.  We also have a critter to fall in love with that may not have antlers but does have sea horns.  The similarity ends there though.  This is a totally new world and the characters themselves are also unique and stand proudly on their own.

In terms of criticisms.  I didn’t really have anything but I will point out that the story, the world and the abundance of characters and seafaring do take some time to get underway.  In some respects it feels like we’re thrown head first into the world but then at the same time it feels like the oars are raised and the ship is at sea waiting for a strong wind.  Personally, I loved that the story took a little time to develop because it gave me time to build my own relationships with the characters and to become familiar with everything else.  I only mention this as a small warning to temper expectations.  Like I said, I loved the build up and thought it was necessary.

What more can I say, sometimes you just read a book and it fits.  It feels right.  You sink into the world and you have difficulty stopping reading and returning to reality.  This book just took me on a really immersive journey.  It had whisperings from the classics, particularly as crew members muttered and conspired to mutiny and also in terms of the sea dragon and the intelligence it seemed to demonstrate.  Reading this I could almost feel the author’s love of adventure and it took me back to some of my younger reads although I will say that this book does not attempt to mimic anything that has come before but stands admirably on it’s own merit.

I just loved this world and the characters and can’t wait to see where the author takes us next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

I would rate this 4.5 of 5 stars.


Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Bone Ships (The Tide Child #1) by R.J. Barker


Today is the start of Wyrd and Wonder – a month long event that is a celebration of fantasy.  Check out the details here and join in the fun in whatever way you would like to do so.

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking Can't waitthe Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is :  The Bone Ships (The Tide Child #1) by R.J. Barker – could there be a better way to kick off my first post for W&W?  Check it out:

BoneShipsA crew of condemned criminals embark on a suicide mission to hunt the first sea dragon seen in centuries in the first book of this adventure fantasy trilogy.

Violent raids plague the divided isles of the Scattered Archipelago. Fleets constantly battle for dominance and glory, and no commander stands higher among them than “Lucky” Meas Gilbryn.

But betrayed and condemned to command a ship of criminals, Meas is forced on suicide mission to hunt the first living sea-dragon in generations. Everyone wants it, but Meas Gilbryn has her own ideas about the great beast. In the Scattered Archipelago, a dragon’s life, like all lives, is bound in blood, death and treachery.

Due for publication : September 2019

Blood of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom #2) by R.J. Barker

blood of assassinsOnly a couple of weeks ago I read Age of Assassins (review here) and loved it so much that I jumped in eagerly with Blood of Assassins.  The first book in the series was an absolute success, I loved it and the characters that it introduced.  It can be difficult to follow up such a compelling read and yet the second book in the series does not disappoint in fact far from having ‘middle book’ syndrome I would say that Blood of Assassins surpasses the first.  If you haven’t yet read Age of Assassins then I urge you to do so, and I would also caution you about reading this review as it may contain spoilers for the first book.

Girton and his master have been away from Maniyadoc for five years.  They’ve been working as mercenaries and trying to avoid retribution from the assassins guild that placed a price on their heads following events in Age of Assassins.  The Tired Lands that the pair return to are indeed very aptly named at this point and are barely recognisable.  War has taken its toll and left the landscape and people destitute.  The three rivals to the throne have been battling it out, each determined to win the crown.  Rufra and Tomas are the main contenders although Aydor still plays a part and the biggest fear is of him aligning with one of the forces and giving them an advantage.  Returning to see his old friend Rufra, Girton is once again called on to help solve a mystery.  It seems that there is a spy in Rufra’s camp and Girton is going to need his wits to solve the puzzle of who the betrayer is before it’s too late.

I think what really came across for me in this second book is the character growth.  Things have indeed moved on and war and constant strife have changed the people and landscape that we were previously introduced to.  Girton himself is definitely a conflicted individual.  He and Merela still share a strong bond but there is undoubtedly some resentment between the two that is never really broached and there is a simmering of emotions that threatens to bubble over on an almost constant basis.  Girton has practically abandoned his skill as an assassin preferring instead to wield a huge ass war hammer that most people would struggle to hoist.  He has something of an advantage in that people generally underestimate him due to his club foot and yet his anger seems to give him added strength.  He hasn’t lost his ability to mentally cogitate a problem but he constantly lets his emotions get the better of him and generally his frustrated annoyance and fear of losing both his friend and master more often than not win the day and cloud his judgement.  He makes some dreadful mistakes in this book that just had me grasping my head with sheer disbelief but at the same time I wanted to just hug him and promise that everything would be okay.  On top of this Girton spends virtually every day with the fear that his magic will simply overwhelm him and he will be sentenced to a bloody death.  It doesn’t help that in assisting his friend he must now mix with the very people who seek out and kill those with any magical ability, the Landsmen.

Two things, relatively simple on the face of it, but that manage to change the complexion of this book and give it a different feel to the first.  Merela is incapacitated fairly early on and spends a good deal of the story seriously ill.  Now, whilst I love reading of Merela this is, strictly speaking, the ‘Girton show’ and restricting her physical and mental assistance pushed Girton out of his comfort zone and forced him to rely on his own abilities.  On top of that, and again as much as I loved the castle setting in the first book, the majority of the action is taken outside of the walls and this is a remarkably easy and yet effective way of providing a new setting and giving us the opportunity to see more of the Tired Lands.  Rufra and his army have camped outside the protection of the castle walls in a bid to tempt Tomas into an attack.  Of course, Tomas isn’t so easily swayed and instead quite often succeeds himself in drawing Rufra out into the open where smaller scale battles ensue.

In this way we spend more time with the common people, hungry and tired of war.  To be honest, life in the Tired Lands sounds simply exhausting.  There is the blight caused by previous sorcery that gave rise to the fear of any type of magic.  Nothing grows in the soured soil and keeping hunger at bay is hard when there simply isn’t enough land on which to grow crops.  On top of that, living outside of the law are the Nonmen.  Brutal and bloodthirsty they seem to have aligned themselves with Tomas and think nothing of attacking villages and killing with abandon any that they believe assist Rufra.  If that wasn’t enough there’s the threat posed by wild hogs – I kid you not – you wouldn’t want to be caught alone and left to their tender mercy.

There is plenty of bloodshed and fast paced fighting.  In particular a siege that takes place at an outlying village and is breathtakingly realistic.  A small contingent of Rufra’s army, including Girton, become trapped behind the walls by a much larger force of Nonmen.  The description of the fighting that ensues is absolutely gripping.  In fact all of the action scenes are described to perfection.  It’s an element of fantasy that I admit I don’t always enjoy – simply because sometimes I lose the plot a little with the descriptions or my focus drifts.  I can say with complete conviction that I didn’t have any such feelings reading the action sequences in this book.  They were riveting and the fact that I had formed such strong attachments to some of the characters only served to crank up the tension.

I could probably wax lyrical for a little longer but I think it’s time to wrap things up.  I would give a little shout out to Xus who plays a fantastic role and makes me long for an antlered mount of my own.

Blood of Assassins was the perfect follow up.  It successfully develops the characters in a way that is believable, it delivers another strong plot and it makes for compelling reading.  Girton is far from perfect, he makes mistakes aplenty, but he’s relatable and his emotions have a simple honesty that endears him to you.  Frankly I can’t wait to read more.

I received a copy, through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


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