Cover Image: Call of the Bone Ships

Call of the Bone Ships

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Member Reviews

Thank you Netgalley for the e-arc

I love reading about sea adventures so this series was on my radar. but I didnt expect them to be so good.
I love the whole concept and characters I cant wait for the third one
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Synopsis: The Keyshans are back, no longer believed to be extinct, and people wish to hunt them again. But something more sinister is occurring in the Hundred Isles, people are going missing and Shipwife ‘Lucky’ Meas, Deckkeeper Joron, and the Tide Child crew are determined to find out why.

CW/TW: Violence/Gore/Death/Sacrifice/Slavery/Ableism/other’s associated with fantasy may be present.

Spoiler Warning: This review may contain spoilers for book in this series: The Bone Ships, by RJ Barker

This book was an anticipated release of mine (despite the delayed review…..) because book 1 was a GLORIOUS seafaring adventure! And let me tell you, book 2 lived up to the charm of book 1 and was even more thrilling and dangerous, and I LOVED IT!

RJ Barker continues to impress with this sequel. Another atmospheric and absorbing read with an immersive and engaging narrative, beautiful, comical and realistic prose and a gripping and challenging plot that will keep you up way past your bedtime!

Book 1 introduces us to The Hundred Isle’s, their people, their societal system and, most importantly, to our beloved Tide Child Crew. It kicks off the epic adventure of the Black Ship and starts off the mystery of the Keyshans and Book 2 takes these mysteries and everything you thought you knew and takes you on a WILD ride! The Keyshans are back, people are going missing and it seems the Maiden, Mother and Hag all have it out for Joron.

It is hard to write this review without spoiling the book but i’ll do my best. So, at the end of book 1 Joron seems to have called a Keyshan to help him and the crew, alluding to his title of Caller. Book 2 gives a little more information into whether Joron actually called the sea dragon or not, and gives us more insight into the title of Caller. Now I can’t say too much about what this all means and what we learn in this brilliant book, but I can tell you that it firstly, sounds like an epic prophecy that turns the tails on the prophecy trope. Secondly, it adds wonderfully to the worldbuilding and magic systems in place in this world. Thirdly, what we learn literally still leaves me in the dark because RJ Barker has an impressive ability to hit you with plot twists and subvert expectations and so I don’t even know if this prophecy will come about (You’ll understand what I mean when Meas and Joron have an intriguing conversation!). So RJ Barker really blew the bone ship out of the water with this element of the story, because it answers questions posed in book 1, but maintains and creates a suspenseful new mystery ready for book 3. Did I love it? Yes I DID!

Now, the main plot point of this book is the missing people. Shipwife Meas, Deckkeeper Joron, and crew make a disturbing and horrifying discovery, and Meas suffers a devastating blow. Both of these events lead to Shipwife Meas and crew on a mission to find their missing people and uncover why they are being taken. At first glance this plot seems random, but RJ Barker masterfully weaves a mysterious and horrifying tale that adds to the larger picture of the whole series – and it was done very well, I did not anticipate the reveals at all! I really loved the plot of this book because it was so well crafted. The characters had to work to get answers, and they did not succeed with every plan they made, and some go in a completely different direction to what was planned. I Loved this because when they did have failed plans it forced the characters to choose another route, the plan did not magically fall into place in spite of the obstacles. The book has multiple plans and plots throughout all for scraps of information, almost like the pirate treasure hunt games you play with your family or on holidays to find hints leading to different locations (of course this was much more deadly but that’s where the fun lies no?) The structure, the complex plot, the plethora of plans – it all fell together so nicely and naturally, making the story an epic adventure full of action (and it avoiding the sequential repetition other series fall victim to when they need more obstacles because each plan was essential for different reasons and let you try to fill in the larger mystery.)

Each plot/plan was a delight to read about because, the characters actually split into helpful and skilled groups to carry them out, and it was fun to watch them succeed, or fail and find another way. It keeps you on your toes! Not only that the risks in this book are real – I’M ACTUALLY HEARTBROKEN at some of the consequences in this book (How dare you make me hate then love this person – when you read this book you will know exactly what I mean). RJ Barker manages to create something extraordinary here- because,as in book 1, characters are not magically protected from harm or death regardless of how much they appear – so when there are battles and fights you actually fear for the characters and suffer with the crew when the consequences hit. As much as it pains me when the risks are real, it also makes the book more enjoyable because it adds suspense, evokes that essential pathos and adds a sense of realism to this fantasy world making it more immersive.

I also have to say that Barker really puts Joron through his paces in this novel. He is the main character so he is our narrator (mostly) so we know he is likely (though I’m afraid to actually say this) to survive most things … But that does not stop Barker from making me absolutely terrified everytime he goes into battle, or enacts a secret plan because the poor man gets a BEAT DOWN in this novel. But, I have to admit, I really liked this because it is not often our main characters suffer to this extent (AND OMG IT HAPPENED – as soon as I heard pirates in association with this book, I have waited and waited for something very specific associated with pirates to happen – AND IT DID in this book – Guillame: “Good ** Bad ***”, “like mine!” -> When you know you know.) Felt bad for Joron, but it added a lot to the story.

When Meas, who is as awesome in this book as she is in book 1 (Though I like that we see a more raw side of her here), and crew find out the truth behind the people going missing it was a shock, a great one! Everything from the execution to the shock reveals were done perfectly, it was unpredictable and unique.

Another absolutely favourite thing of mine in this book was the characterisation and story of the Guillame and his kind. (I also need to get a nod in here to Black Orris – I absolutely love RJ Barker for keeping the foul mouthed bird and continuing his rude interjections because, I don’t know why, it just brings the story to life for me- and I love a chucle at his input). Anyway, the Guillame play a big part in this book – I loved the Tide Child's one a lot in book 1 and I love him even more here- but I also really liked that we saw more of them including the Windshorn. Firstly, Guillame is hilarious in this book, he has SO much character that you will definitely feel he is part of the crew, and it added such a brilliant dynamic to the story – especially his relationship with Joron. But I also love how we see him integrate with the crew, and actually wander around deck being a little demon – I cannot explain my love for this. But I also like how we learn more about him, his story and his determination to help Joron. Secondly, the Windshorn were an interesting addition to the story, and the book’s world. We meet two main Windshorn in this book (a type of Guillame), the first one is timid but has a fun dynamic with our Guillame – the hissing gets me every time. The second is sarcastic and hilarious. The addition of them adds comedy to the story, but also so much more – it adds depth and mystery and sets up for an interesting third installment. The wider story surround the Guillame as a whole in this book was intertwined well with the missing people and adding a new layer to an already amazing plot.

The crew are another absolutely delightful thing in this book. The relationships between them all a real, natural and dynamic. Those who often go with Joron on his plans are absolutely hilarious (wait until you get to THE scene where they talk in hypotheticals – had to chuckle). But I also liked the tension and conflict. Book 1 establishes some bad blood between some crew members and book2 we get to see it play out. You will hate, and love so many of the crew members it is done so well. I love how they are all human and flawed, how the conflicts blow up and are resolved – everything that happens is executed so well.

Meas – I have to talk about our brilliant Shipwife. Meas in this book has a lot more to her. We see her strong, charming, can do anything side, but we get a more raw and human side of her here too. We get a little more of her story, and we get a Meas who has purpose and passion for her people. An outstanding and strong female lead character who is just so well written.

The ending. This book ends perfectly, setting up book 3 in a fascinating way. Am I mad about the ending? yes. But was it good? HECK YEAH! This book has a fantastic ending that will have you scrambling in desperation for the next book – my eyes are peeled and waiting for Book 3!

Finally the world. In my review for book 1 I said how much I loved this world, its society, its magic and the idea of the female dominated society and ‘Goddesses’, I also found the idea of the Berncast, and disability to be explored in such a unique way. Let me tell you book2 keeps this up, the world, now we know it, is phenomenal as we learn more and more details about it all adding to the larger epic picture. The female dominated society still continues to fascinate, and has some unexpected consequences for the plot that I found absolutely incredible. Finally, disability (particularly physical) comes into play again here, and a little more prominently as the book goes on – the society is ableist, but Meas and her crew are not and I love watching them prove that the disabled characters are capable, Meas being a strong voice for seeing people’s worth beyond their physical appearance – It delights me so much. Finally, RJ Barker also tackles the notion of gender as a spectrum, very slightly but very naturally – with having a character (Who I adore -they are the sweetest) who seems to fall on the spectrum around the non-binary sort of area. RJ Barker’s characters are diverse and real, with a few being LGBTQ+ as well, and the cast being heavily POC. The diversity (SPOILER>>>>>> Especially including Joron now as a disabled mc >>>>>> SPOILER OVER) is so naturally included and I love it, especially as a disabled reader, but the other forms of diversity are equally fantastic to read about.

There is so much more I could talk about in this review but SPOILERS! So I’ll leave it here.

This was a very rambly review… I apologise but I LOVED this book so much and thought it was a fantastic sequel to an epic first book. RJ Barker truly impresses with this imaginative series which is beyon unique, it is such a dynamic story with excellent actions, characters, settings and plots that it just hits every mark. We need more fantasy like this because it simply blows my mind!

If you have read book 1 I HIGHLY recommend diving into this one because it has everything book 1 has to offer and more. I would also recommend this to anyone who loves epichigh fantasy, or a good seafaring adventured littered with danger, dragons and sassy birds!

*I received an eARC from #Netgalley in exchange for an honest review – Thankyou!! *
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After his Wounded Kingdoms series, I thought Barker was one of the most talented new authors around. That’s still true, but I’ve had to face up to the fact that what he’s trying to do with the Bone Ships series simply isn’t for me. Maybe the extent to which I can’t really remember the supporting cast is me not connecting with his execution rather than his vision, but the extent to which this is about Joron’s flaws over and over is vision, and I just don’t get enough entertainment from such stories. So I’m sadly DNFing this and hoping the next series is more to my taste.
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Please note, Call of the Bones Ships is a direct sequel to The Bone Ships and if you have not read the first book in the Tide Child trilogy then it is likely what follows may contain some minor spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!

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.

Ahoy me hearties, tis time for us to set sail once again on the good ship Tide Child. R J Barker is back with Call of The Bone Ships so prepare yourself for more fantastical adventures on the high seas. Ok, I’ll admit it. I have been looking forward to this book for ages. C’mon, we’re talking sea dragons, skeletal pirate ships and more swash than you can shake a buckle at for goodness sake. How could you not be excited about that?

Joron Twiner has come a long way since the end of book one. Before his tenure on the Tide Child, he was a good for nothing layabout. Life on the ocean has changed him. The boneship has become his home and the crew his family. Ok, they are a mite maladjusted, prone to violent tendencies and would turn on you if there was a profit to be had in it, but they are still family all the same. The wanderlust is in Joron’s blood and the Tide Child gives him the life of excitement that he realises he has always craved. In many respects the evolution of Joron’s character is the backbone of the entire narrative.

Lucky Meas returns cutting a bloody swath through everything the comes before her. The formidable Shipwife* of the Tide Child remains a force to be reckoned with. I love Meas, her brazen attitude is so damned infectious. She is beholden to no-one and does not suffer fools gladly. Chances are pretty good that if Meas thought you were messing her around, you’d be thrown overboard. She is nothing if not pragmatic. Meas has decided she will live free, and if that means war, then so be it. Conflict between the Hundred Isles and the Gaunt Islands is nothing new but Meas believes there is a third option, a better way. The only downside to her plan is she is now surrounded by enemies on all sides. Just is well Meas is an expert at staying one step ahead of her rivals.

The crew of the Tide Child are a rogue’s gallery of knaves and ner-do-wells, cutpurses and killers. In this novel Barker explores the back story to some of these marauders and it made me love them all the more. Solemn Muffaz, Cwell, Mevans, Farys, Dinyl and Coughlin all get the opportunity to step into the spotlight. It almost goes without saying that Black Orris also remains a firm favourite. His fearlessly honest insight cuts to the very heart of everything. He doesn’t say much but when he does you can’t help but listen.

As an aside, I think I’d quite enjoy being a crew member on the Tide Child. I think my ridiculously large beard, earrings and multiple tattoos mean I’d at least look the part. Hmm, come to think of it, I don’t have the greatest sea legs and my sense of direction isn’t brilliant. Perhaps a life on the ocean waves is not for me after all. I’ll just have to content myself living vicariously through Lucky Meas’ exploits.

There is always a worry that the second book in a trilogy can never hope to capture the imagination in the same way its predecessor may have. No such qualms here, Call of the Bone Ships has all the skulduggery, treachery and action you could wish for. Barker expands on the premise of The Bone Ships and sets things up for what I expect is going to be an epically glorious payoff. It warms the cockles of this salty old sea-dog’s heart. The crew of the Tide Child are back, Hag’s tits! How I’ve missed them.

Call of the Bone Ships if published by Orbit and is available now. Highly recommended.

I have a couple of choices for you regarding my musical recommendations to accompany Call of the Bone Ships. You could go with the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s safe and suitably piratical. You’ll be humming the theme to the movie before you know it. If, however you are looking for something a bit more chaotic and full-on can I suggest anything from Alestorm’s back catalogue. You can’t beat a bit of high-octane pirate metal in my opinion. From Captain Morgan’s Revenge through to The Curse of the Crystal Coconut they are the leading exponents of the genre.

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The Bone Ships was a fantastic read. The Call of the Bone Ships is a spectacular read. Perhaps because the first book had taken the time and effort to lay an extraordinarily strong foundation for the world and characters, this second book caught the wind from the very first page and didn’t slow down until that ending that has left me staring off into the distance and desperately wanting the next book right now.
This was not quite the second book I had been expecting, as it started quite some time after the events in the first book and taking everything and everyone that we thought we knew and shaking them up and pushing them forward. This is a middle book only in terms of moving the plot forward, and leaving us needing that final concluding part, because The Call of the Bone Ships does not suffer the weakness that sometimes come from being the middle book and instead, it has raised the stakes completely while also steering the series into new, more dangerous waters.
It was simply a joy to return to this world, and to see Barker expanding the world-building as we learn more about the politics of the Hundred Isles, visit more locations, and get to see the world of the Bone Ships unfold alongside the events. Even more, it was a delight to return to the cast of the Tide Child and sail with them once more, although it has to be said that Barker puts his cast through the ringer in more ways than one, especially Joron. As with the world, we get to see the characters growing and changing, shaped by the events they are experiencing, and as much as I love Joron as a character, I love the moments that we get to spend with the rest of the crew, and with Maes who remains a staunch favourite.
Fast paced, action packed, this was an incredible book from start to finish, and has firmly made this series one of my favourites and that ending!!! Barker’s writing is so vivid, his characters so engaging that you can’t help but be pulled into the narrative, and I for one will be waiting on tenterhooks until the third book comes out, because I need to know how it will be resolved.
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Having absolutely adored The Bone Ships when I read it last year, Call of the Bone Ships was one of my most anticipated books of 2020. I'm so pleased (and totally unsurprised) to say that it lived up to my expectations 

Barker continues to create a beautifully atmospheric world that is gritty, yet hopeful. As Meas and her crew continue to try to avert war, we learn more about the politics of the Hundred Isles and the gullaime, as well as see more locations within the world. He takes the already interesting world and expands it even wider, giving the reader more room to imagine and explore.

Poor Joron really gets put through the ringer in Call of the Bone Ships, but it's fascinating and wonderful to see him grow as a character in spite of his troubles. He continually fights against self doubt and begins to gain more confidence and authority after the events of The Bone Ships, yet he remains a flawed and wonderful character.

Bring tissues, this one will make you cry.
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And he felt the song within, the beat of his heart, the high-pitched passage of blood through veins, the cymbal-spatter of thoughts, the crack of muscles and the groan of tendons and it was beautiful. Behind it all was some meaning, and although he could not quite fathom it he felt sure of it it, felt certain that this meaning was only a moment away from him.

I'll confess, this sequel did not take me in any of the directions I was expecting at the end of The Bone Ships. I had thought we'd jump straight into the action, calling up the Arakeesians and taking down the Thirteenbern.

Instead, I've been given a tale steeped in espionage and cunning. The stakes have been raised, and the winds are changing. Joron will find himself flensed to the bone, losing everything he holds dear. He will be hammered and tempered into steel before he can live out his destiny... or reject it entirely and shape a different future from what has been foretold.

The moment the realization of just what was being risked hit me was singularly profound, and I am deeply, deeply curious how Barker will work all this out in the trilogy's final book. The Hundred Isles are not what they seem, and the stakes are higher than I ever could have guessed. The implications hinted at in the events of Call of the Bone Ships are grand and epic in scale even as the cast remains small and focused.

Written in the same flowing, descriptive voice as The Bone Ships, you can be well assured you're in excellent narrative hands. Barker explores themes such as waste, ableism, and the basic assumptions of societies. By setting his epic naval fantasy in a world steeped in perfectionism, matriarchy, and distrust, he creates a world that is engaging and refreshing. He is casual in the extreme as he subverts gender roles and expectations, allowing women readers to experience the same relaxed set of assumptions that male readers tend to enjoy in most fantasy settings.
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A great sequel to an excellent book.

Middle book of a trilogy, it's always a hard one. You have to keep the reader interested, remind them of the characters, have something happen but not tie up all the threads, so as to save something for the finale. 

The problem with Call is that the first book was so good, it's hard to live up to. I think the writing itself is probably better, but the story is a bit action heavy. There's good character development for some of the cast, but a little lacking for Shipwife Meas I think. No-one should read this stand alone anyway, but it wouldn't be easy to understand if you did.

I read this in a couple of days and was happy to pick it up again, it didn't get boring. I want to know what happens next, I want to hear more from the characters and visualise these ships some more.
RJB is a very capable author and I've read all his books and will probably read all the rest he publishes. Where Bone Ships is a 9 or 9.5, this is probably an 8 or 8.5. Still strongly recommend this series.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an impartial review.
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4.5 stars

Wow. Just wow. This book started going on page one and was just relentless until the end. Emotional blow after emotional blow. How is anyone expected to be okay after that T_T

This book follows on a couple of years after book one, the crew of the Tide Child is now established and Joron has settled comfortably into his role as deckkeeper. This book takes a turn when the crew of the tide child come across a mysterious ship bearing a bunch of half dead prisoners and gullaime. The book follows on unravels the mysteries around the missing people and Meas and Joron rescuing them.

Joron grew on me so much throughout reading book 1, and now after reading this one I'm ready to lay it all down for him. He is a very interesting and complex character, wanting what is best for his crew and showing the classic fantasy heroism but also being pretty flawed and self-doubting, which I think is how a lot of us would feel/do feel. He just feels like such a real character and I just want happiness for him. He goes through so much in the book and watching him grow and learn, as well as watch his developing relationships with others was so great to read about. 

I adore the setting of this series, it all feels so well researched and you really feel like you are out at sea with them. The writing is also incredibly vivid (spoiler - there was one scene where they are stranded out at sea with no food and water and I was so anxious reading that, I think a testament to how well it was written).

Okay, onto my favorutie part of teh book - the Gullaime!!! We follow the gullaime we know and love from book 1, who is such a great character and every interaction with Joron is so precious uwu. We also get to meet some new gullaime, who are slightly different and known as windshorn, who we meet when Joron and crew discover the ship with prisoner on. One of the windshor, who becomes known as Shorn, stays with the crew of the TIde Child to guard the gullaime (who very much doesn't appreciate shorn). This relationship was so well done, a very complex power dynamic and it completely broke my heart at the end. Shorn is my precious baby T_T

Like the first book this one is filled with so much action and shipwise political drama, as well as characters who have very grey morality and unclear motivations. Joron has to figure out who to trust, which leads to some very sticky (and painful for the reader T_T) scenarios. It was also interetsing to get to know some of the side characters and crew of the TIde Child a bit more, especially Dinyl (his character was very interesting after the events of book 1) and Aelerin (they are now one of my favourites :')). 

In conclusion this is a fantastic sequel, filled with plenty of shocking plot twists and reveals, whilst expanding beautifully on the lore of the world and growing the characters arc in a very emotionally compelling way.
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Synopsis: This second volume of the Tild Child Trilogy is set a good while after the first book. Shipwife (Captain) Lucky Meas and her First Officer Joron run petty jobs for their home country on board of the bone ship Tild Child. They hit on a ship full of dying people, and a mystery starts which they want to end: who is in charge of this cruel deed, and what would they want to achieve? They are sure that it has to do with the sea dragons, and suspect someone from their Home town behind it. Their search leads them across the map through storms, fights, torture and injuries. 

Review: If you don‘t like huge cliffhangers, then wait until the final book will be published before diving into this one. It is well separated from the first book which can be read as a standalone. And surely connected to the last book where the blatantly bad ending of this book will hopefully be resolved in a meaningful way. I won‘t discuss the details, but you surely don’t want to wait a year for it.

While I liked this book overall, with its colorful characters and a wonderful, dangerous world, the second book emphasizes deficits from the first book and adds a few. 

First of all, the setting isn’t much extended - we see storms, yet another island, sea battles, and even a mutiny. But neither the map brings fresh locations, nor is the magic system enhanced. Even the characters are mostly the same. In summary, the given scenery is just the same, and the given relations between characters meander their way forward in expected ways.

Plot resolutions are often resolved by deus ex machina, and the evolving mystery didn’t draw my attention.

The authors tendency to repetitions and staccato sentences kept on bothering me. Why does everything need its very own different term - like deckchild‘s sickness instead of scurvy? A good measure of replaced terms transport the concept of a foreign world well enough, but here it‘s taken to extremes and I constantly have to check where landwards and seawards is and who’s more important: deckkeeper or deckholder? Glancing over those terms doesn’t help, because the next one waits in the next sentence. And that’s the state after having read both books back to back. I can’t imagine how one feels after a year. 

I recommend waiting another year and read the rest of the trilogy in one go. I just hope that there’s more awe in the last volume. This is a weak three stars.
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The book immediately jumps straight into action as the crew of the Tide Child step in to rescue a ship stuck in shallow water. It is quickly discovered that even a simple rescue is not as straightforward as it looks. Following the events of the first book, Meas has been kept at arms length from Bernshulme by her mother and her spymaster. That doesn't stop her from getting involved as she uncovers secrets others would rather stay unnoticed.

I praised the world building in my review of book one and I can happily say that the depth of field we got in this sequel measured up to my high expectations. I would even say that my immersion and enjoyment of the world building increased this time around as I had a much stronger footing in the world. I also found that this book built on the fundamentals established in the first book without adding too many unfamiliar words. 

The sea about them was grey and eternal, a continuous shifting of waves that gently jostled the little boat as it coasted across the sea, wings full of the storm's gift and the sky above as blue as promises.

However, it was the characters who had me so attached to this book from the start. The Bone Ships had taken two main characters that I did not feel any attachment or admiration for and created two individuals I came to love. I also was on the edge of my seat throughout the book waiting to see how relationships developed between different members of the crew. All without a focus on a romantic plot line. By the time the end of the first book came around I was emotionally wrought and worn out. 

In book two, Joron in particular has built up several relationships (positive and negative) that I was already invested in. I was especially elated to get more progress of the bond and trust developing between him and Meas. I said previously that some of the "second tier" crew were hard to pick out individually and keep track of, but this was much improved on in this book as Joron developed stronger ties to the crew and spent more time with them. 

Meas was also given more of a spotlight and we saw sides to her character that were previously unknown. I found in both books I was impressed by how she can remain a mystery and person of legend and still have a real humanity to her character.

The plot of this one did not let up for a second. It is a testament to RJ Barker's skill with a pen that they can cram in enough plot to feel like I've read multiple books but still manage to build such fully realised worlds and characters along the way.

"That is indeed right and proper what we were ordered," said Mevans, for as said, he had particular and certain beliefs. "But he did not say to us that we should do it with all speed.

The Call of the Bone Ships was all engrossing, captivating read that blew my socks off. I was loving the read so much that despite incurring eyestrain and a headache, I didn't put the book down for eight hours. I think the plot is jam pack, the world building is fully realised and three dimensional. But it is the characters that steal the show and my heart. A full 5/5 stars from me, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
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Call of the Bone Ships takes us back to Barker's fantasy archipelago, divided into two warring nations - the Hundred Isles and the Gaunt Islands. In the previous book we saw Joron Twiner, a desperate drunk heading to the bad, rescued by Shipwife "Lucky" Meas Gilbryn together with the ship of which he had titular command, Tide Child. It was a ship of convicts, of outcasts, but Meas built it and them into a potent element of the Fleet - for her own purposes, revealed at the end of the book.

In Call of the Bone Ships, we see the consequences. No longer a loyal ship of the Fleet, Tide Child makes a shocking discovery which reveals a vile trade apparently flourishing under the eyes of Meas's estranged mother, who rules the Hundred Isles. Investigating, and seeking to end, it sets Meas up for a conflict with the entire Fleet and makes her and her crew the enemy of the Hundred Isles.

I'm being circumspect about just what happens here and (I hope) not spoiling the first book for any reader who hasn't opened it yet (my advice: you must read it, and quickly). The plot here is action-filled, full of twists ands turns, feats of arms and rending loss, and you don't want to know the details in advance because Barker's telling of them is superb and frequently shocking. Like its forerunner, Call of the Bone Ships scratches all the same itches as CS Forester or Patrick O'Brian except in a fantasy world with magic, great sea beasts called Arakeesians and a matriarchal society. There is shattering, sudden combat. There is the unease of a sailor, forced to trust to the land. There is the fellowship and web of relationships aboard ship. Above all there is the restless, heaving sea.

But - and because this is an RJ Barker book I was expecting this - there is more. A story filled with scrapes and chases would be fun, but Barker's fiction has heart besides. In the first book we saw Joron grow and come into his own as a sailor and as a human. We saw him discover a strange gift - the ability to call the Arakeesian. We saw him make friends, and enemies. 

Here, every scrap of what Joron became is put to work, is tested, against enormous odds. His trust in Meas (and hers in him), his bond with his crew, his friendship with the strange creature the Gullaime. (Note to author: can we have a series of gullaime spinoff stories please? I just loved its rudeness, its self-possession and its liking for colourful scraps and bric-a-brac). Joron is no longer learning to be who he is, rather he's learning what that person can do, and working out what they should do. And what price he's prepared to pay for that, what he must give up. 

In some respects it is a very dark book indeed. The plot which the crew of Tide Child confront is bad enough, but there are also woeful discoveries about the history of Barker's world, about how the Arakeesians were hunted, discoveries that taint all with an age old guilt. And there is a threat in the future too which no doubt we'll hear more of in the next book. Joron has many low moments - Barker doesn't spare his reader and there were many occasions reading this book that I felt, no, not that, don't do that. AND RJ ALWAYS DOES IT! However, the darkness is never all there is. There is trust and loyalty. There is friendship. There are songs - Barker's sea shanties roll in with the tang of salt and carry the rhythms of waves and tides. There is terrific, rich worldbuilding, glorious passages of prose and deep, well realised characters at every hand. 

I could write that this book blew me away, and that's true, but I have to add, yes, it blew me away and dropped me in the heaving sea, where my flesh was gnawed by sea beasts, it cast my bones on a far shore to be ground by the tides. It is a book of combat and action, yes, but beneath it is a book of deep, deep feelings.

If you'd asked me before I read this I would have said it would be hard for Barker to match, let alone surpass, The Bone Ships, yet here we are, I think he has. Both books are superb, but this one - well, this one just flies. It's just superb writing, and feels so real, so human and moving. 

I am, as you may have worked out, strongly recommending this one.
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Five 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.
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So it is, with any reviewer that we read books, and then we move on. In most cases, we love the books that we read. In some cases we don't, but above all we remember that the words that have been put in front of us are something that someone has put time and effort into. However, sometimes there is that special book. The one that touches you in some way. The one that captures your imagination or pulls at your emotions. When I started my journey with the Bone Ships by RJ Barker, I was caught up in the imagination of the world that he describes. This brave new world with strange creatures such as the Gullaimes or the Arakeesians. A world that is filled with steel woven characters who are at once harsh and unforgiving, and yet can show tenderness and belief in others. So how could this be followed? 

Could this be bettered? Could the world be expanded and what would happen next on the journey of Joron Twiner and the crew of The Tide Child.

 Let me tell you, I did not expect this!

In Call of The Bone Ships, RJ Barker raises the sails of The Tide Child and takes us on a completely different path than the one you would expect. My goodness, this book is harsh! I simply couldn't believe what Barker puts his characters through in Call of the Bone Ships. He takes them through ferocious maelstroms and my goodness, when they come out, they come out as different people.

With most of the world building done in the first book, Barker gives himself the freedom to hit the ground running with the second book and the pace never lets up from there. We are immediately thrust into the narrative of the story and are placed into a tale that is full of high crested waves. Barker chucks everything at you with as much ferocity as the seas that The Tide Child sails in, leaving you just enough time to breathe before the next wave takes your breath away.

It is very difficult to discuss the plot as to do so would take away the enjoyment that you experience as you plough your way through Call of The Bone Ships, but my goodness, this is such a masterfully crafted tale that Barker tells. So much happens in the book it is difficult to recall how many things are going on. And that is the beauty of the book.

Barker doesn't explain every little detail, he trusts that you will keep the pace and that you will keep up with him as events happen one after the other. 

Of the many things that occur in this book, we must talk about the structure of the book. There are so many things structurally that had me exclaiming 'Oh that's clever'. 

In The Bone Ships, the story is told through Joron Twiners eyes. However, in Call of the Bone Ships, Barker introduces other points of view and he phrases them as little Vignettes within the story, such as telling the story of the Courser Aelleren, and how they were condemned to the the black ship, or when Lucky Meas undertakes a seperate mission and he describes the events that happen on diary format. It works so well.

And at other points he will use repetition as a device to increase tension, employing the same phrase repeatedly to convey a sense of urgency to the situation. 

The book is just gorgeous (you'll have to excuse, I have just finished the book and I seem be having an attack of the emotions after finishing), but be prepared. Call of the Bone Ships is hard, really hard. I don't mean in the reading sense, but in the emotions that the book evokes. Barker pulls no punches in Call of the Bone Ships. I found myself regularly fluctuating between shock and awe, between  utter elation to the lowest doldrums as the story unfurls like the sails of a ship, and once the story catches the wind it glides through the pages of the book happily stealing the hours as I became completely engrossed in the book.

There is a fantastic quote by the great film critic, Roger Ebert that states that 'movies are like a machine that generates empathy, it lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us'. 

The same notion, for me is applied to books, and this book certainly generated the emotions and empathy akin to watching a summer blockbuster, feeling the swell of excitement or the feeling of having the ground tilted at an angle so that you are completely blindsided by unexpected events. For me, this book is simply brilliant.
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The middle book in a trilogy carries more than it's fair share of weight, readers are more familiar with the world and are less forgiving, there is an expectation that it will not only be a complete and satisfying story in its own right, it will also significantly move the overarching story on and it has to deliver enough promise of things to come to keep readers coming back.  

Call of the Bone Ships delivers on all of these elements superbly.  

I think it is a little deeper, darker and bleaker than the first book which really works. 

I thought the character development was phenomenal. 

The plot is really intricate and engaging and it went off on some twists that I did not see coming which is always good :) 

Really looking forward to book 3, this is shaping up to be one of my all time favourite trilogies.
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Call of the Bone Ships was a thrilling read. The Bone Ships was one of my favorite reads last year and it would be an understatement to say I’ve been awaiting this sequel enthusiastically ever since. In preparation, I’d even decided to do an audiobook reread of the first book right before starting this one just so I could get fully immersed back in the world of the archipelago. My expectations were sky high and I was certainly not let down.

We rejoin captain (“Shipwife”) Meas Gilbryn, her second (“Deckkeeper”) Joron Twiner and the rest of the crew of the Tide Child about a year after their mission to save the keyshan. Since the end of this fated adventure, their ship has been sent on numerous isolated missions that seems intended more to keep them away from the seat of power in Bernshulme and the Thirteenbern’s plans than anything else. After all, Meas is still considered a traitor to the Hundred Isles and her crew no more than a pack of criminals. But her continued banishment doesn’t deter Meas in the slightest from her goal to one day unite the Hundred Isles and the Gaunt Islands to create a world where they can live without continuous war.

This goal grows more challenging than ever when she and Joron discover that the keyshan they once protected was not the last remaining arakeesian after all. Three more arakeesians have recently been spotted and the news has travelled more quickly than they’d like. Now, The Hundred Isles and Gaunt Islanders are gearing up for further bloodshed in their ceaseless competition to hunt the sea dragons for their bone once again.

Matters are made worse by a gruesome discovery the Tide Child comes across in a suspicious ship they take over. For unknown reasons, the ship is found to be transporting half-dead captives who were evidently being treated like human cargo. An incensed Meas is determined to investigate this cruel operation, especially when it emerges that those under her protection have been taken by another such ship for the same nefarious purpose. Meas and Joron’s urgency to stop the perpetrators becomes only more urgent as they realize the aim of these slavers and the hunters of the arakeesian may be one and the same.

Suffice to say, the seas of the Scattered Archipelago are harsher and bloodier than ever before. It’s been clear that this world is grim and near-inhospitable since the first book, but some of the terrible lengths the villains in this book are willing to stoop to in the name of their greed just makes it even darker. Danger has always been the eternal companion of the Tide Child but now the threats they face are truly taken up a notch. No character ever seems truly safe, least of all Joron and Meas, and they are forced to make their own sacrifices and terrible decisions in turn to fight their enemies. I found it so difficult to put this down because I always had to know what would happen next and how they would escape their most current peril.

There are also some new and fascinating revelations that come to light about the gullaime and Joron. The faint song that Joron can always hear near wind spires and in his own head, as well as the title of 'caller' that was previously bestowed upon him, gets much more explanation in this book. Joron continues to be a compelling main character in general who never stops growing through his hardships. He managed to build himself up in the last book – with help from the crew – from a lost and wayward boy to a leader in his own right, but in this book he suffers in ways that could easily have broken him back down again. I always have to root for him and how he keeps pulling himself back to his feet, even when he fears he cannot.

There’s fantastic character work here with the rest of the cast as well. Every member of the crew has their own memorable personalities and distinct presence on the Tide Child. You can't help but appreciate them the way Joron and Meas do. The fast pace of the plot does mean that there isn’t time to truly flesh out individuals besides the main characters, but that doesn’t mean the some of the others don't get their moments to shine. Certain side characters such as Aelerin, Mevans and Coughlin get entire chapter segments to themselves – bringing their own unique narrative voices to the events around them. Even Joron’s least favourite person on board, the antagonistic Cwell, gets an expanded role that certainly keeps the reader on their toes.

And the gullaime! The gullaime is my favourite once again. During the bleakest moments, it was always some unexpected comment from the gullaime that lightened the mood in ways that never felt jarring or out of place. Its obstinacy at the most inopportune moments always amused me. But it’s so much more than its moments of comedic relief. There’s still something hauntingly sad about the gullaime that draws you in and makes you wonder how much it knows that the others do not.

I suppose my only regret now is that I’ll have to wait once again for the next book. My anticipation will be boundless, but in my defense, that ending definitely warrants it.

Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Orbit for providing the free eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Last year I read The Bone Ships and was not quite as taken with it as others around me. Regardless in the last 25%  I saw so much potential for a continued series that I was excited for its sequel. And Call of the Bone Ships lived up to this. 

What draws me to this installment and the series as a whole is the focus on the characters on the Tide Child and this sense of something bigger lurking with them. With the wind talker and Joron. The sea dragons that are rising, waking in the sea. There is a lot that we don't know. That our characters don't know and we figure it out with them along the way. 

Joron, our main character, will never be my favorite. But where he was very jarring to me in the first book, he has grown a little since then. I also knew what I was getting into with this book and Joron, and that helped. 

But I love what surrounds him. The Bone Ship, the guillauime, Meas, the sea dragons, the singing, the other deckchilders. There is such a sense of loyalty and of being a crew that you feel as you are pitching along on their fight as a crew member. That is quite a feat.
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In Call of the Bone Ships, Barker takes his characters Joron and Shipwife Meas through some incredible character development. From the very first page, I was hooked. Barker gives plenty of time to both minor characters Dinyl and Cwell, they, in turn, go through their own personal journeys, even as minor characters, Barker’s development pays off.

The majority of the action takes place at sea on a ship made of dragon bone. 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. When Joron and Meas discover a ship slave trading. They unquestionably decide to take action and force a series of events that changes everything they have ever known or experienced.

Call of the Bone Ships was an exciting sea adventure that took me through a roller coaster of reading emotions I’ve not experienced very often in a book, certainly in recent years. Such is the testament to Barker’s deft skill at writing stories with atmosphere and creating well-developed characters you can care about. Tensions are raised on a journey full of heartache and action both for the characters and the reader.

The writing was vivid, Barker made me feel like I could almost taste the sea salt and feel the wind breeze in my hair. The pacing throughout the book was spot on, I was constantly on the edge of my seat, nerves frayed. This was one journey I didn’t want to end.

Call of the Bone Ships, was a tale about duty and honour on the high seas, told very vividly with lots of swash and buckle. Twisty plots, dragons, strong female lead character, what’s not to love. Finally, Barker has created a unique and original world that just screams for more stories to be told. We have the final book to come and oh boy…the anticipation is too much.

Call of the Bone Ships is a fantastic second book, definitely one of my books of the year! 
Thanks to #NetGalley and #OrbitBooks for an e-arc, all opinions are my own.
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I'll start my review by saying that this was, without a doubt, the best fantasy novel I have read this year. Barker looked back at the story from the first book and obviously thought 'that was great, but I can break the laws of impossibility and write a sequel that will make the first one look bland in comparison.' And a bloody good job he did of that.

In the first fifty percent I felt there was more action, more story, more fast-moving parts in the world surrounding the story, than I got in any other novel I've read this year. It had me excited for the second half of the book in ways I'm not normally excited about a book.

Barker's strength in this world is the characters. He does a sublime job of writing characters that you can't help but to love or hate and, if he fancies it, he'll make second-guess yourself on occasion and love certain characters you never thought you could. If anyone who has read this says they do not like the gullaime, or that they would not move heaven and earth to have a gullaime of their own, then that's just proof that not everyone tells the truth.

It's rare that I'm constantly thinking about characters, their motives, what they might be doing next etc ... as most novels feature characters that telegraph any particular turn from good to bad/bad to good/ one or the other to grey etc ...  well in advance, but the characters in this trilogy are so well written that you just can't tell. They are humans, with the same thoughts as you or I, but they live in a world entirely alien to our own and I think that bleeds through into their personalities and makes them very difficult to predict. If only every book I read kept me as enthralled with the characters as this one did.

I'm a huge lover of nautical novels and this series, being set on the ocean, delivers in ways that a lot of other ones haven't for me. The attention to detail as far as the world outside of the ship is concerned really helps, along with the intriguing creatures that inhabit the seas beneath the ship. All in all, it creates a wonderful atmosphere that had me forgetting I was reading a fantasy at times.

The end has been set up perfectly well, leaving the reader wanting to dive straight into book three, a tad frustrating considering book 2 is only just being released this month. A good kind of frustration, though, as it'll make getting my hands on the final instalment all the more enjoyable for having waited.

It's a little early to say, seeing as how book three is a year or more off, but this quite easily could be my favourite fantasy trilogy to date. I can't wait to see what Barker does with the final book, nor can I wait to see what world he turns his pen to after all is said and done with the Tide Child Trilogy.

The long and the short of this review is: buy this book. Unless you haven't already read the first book. In that case, buy both books.
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You have to feel sorry for poor Joron in Call of the Bone Ships. He really gets put through the wringer in this one. He’s physically and emotionally tormented multiple times throughout the entire novel and, as you should all know by now, I loved every minute of it. I always really enjoy it when authors make their characters suffer because it makes the time when they eventually do succeed all the sweeter.

There are so many betrayals, back stabbings and even a mutiny in Call of the Bone Ships so there is plenty of exciting things to push the story forward. Maes’ mother wants her badly and will do anything to get her hands on her, which leaves the novel on quite the cliff hanger just to make you very excited for the final book of the series.

The characters are great to read. Joron goes through the wringer in this book but it only serves to make him a stronger person by the end. Maes is always a badass character to read, and I enjoy her relationship with Joron, but she definitely takes more of a back seat in this book until the end so I look forward to see what happens to her in book three, especially with the cliff hanger.

I really enjoyed reading Call of the Bone Ships. It progressed the story started in book one and set up the final chapter of book three. It was well paced with lots of action and some great character moments. I love Joron, he makes a great protagonist and I adore his relationship with the Gullaime. It’s very sweet. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the story ends.
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