Cover Image: Call of the Bone Ships

Call of the Bone Ships

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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.
Was this review helpful?
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.
Was this review helpful?
Call of the Bone Ships was one of my most anticipated books in 2020, and for a good reason. I really loved its sequel, The Bone Ships and I was pretty sure I’m not going to be disappointed. And hoo boy, I was not. It’s been a while I was so emotionally impacted by a book. RJ Barker absolutely destroyed me.

We are about a year after the events in The Bone Ships. Lucky Meas and her crew happen to come upon a brownbone ship whose holder is packed to the brim with people, most of them dead. Furious, Meas wants to find out where these people came from and where they were supposed to go and why. And so the investigation begins which brings betrayal, bloody battles, sorrow and sacrifices.

While The Bone Ships had a slower start as it was building up, Call of the Bone Ships does not hold back, jumps to action right at the start. And it never lets up until the very end. Actually, it keeps increasing as the plot goes ahead. Then starts throwing punches around the 75% mark. Now, I was lucky to meet Barker at the WorldCon in Dublin, and he is generally a really nice and friendly person. Unless you are called Joron Twiner, because then the Hag help you. Not that she will. At one point I just had to walk away, not long before the end game, as I knew I couldn’t take any more. The fact that it was 1 in the night had nothing to do with my decision. And it wasn’t the only night I was unable to put it down in a reasonable time either. Who needs sleep when there is a good book to read, am I right?

And of course I was right. As I was sitting there, staring at the last words of Call of the Bone Ships, all I could do was scream “noooooo” in my head. Partly because of the ending and partly because I realized that we have a year waiting ahead of us until the next book. And that’s just so goddamn unfair. But hey, I can torture myself with a reread (or a relisten more like, especially if Call of the Bone Ships will have the same narrator, who I’m sure will just put the book on a whole another level and I swear I’m damn excited to get my heart broken all over again by his voice).

Anyway, the book. Joron definitely came a long way since the first pages of The Bone Ships and he has still a long way to go. It’s amazing how much he grows as a character, even as Barker puts him through hell over and over again. I didn’t even realize how much he grew on me until my heart started to break for him. Then again, we know how great Barker is in characterization. All of his characters are complex and you can’t help feeling they could step out of the pages at any time. My favorite still remains to be the gullaime though. As much as I love Joron and Meas and the whole crew, there is just something special about the gullaime. Both the one serving on Tide Child and the whole species we get to know a bit more about in this book.

Barker constantly amazes with not only his characterization but his plot and worldbuilding as well. I know I said this before, but Nautical Fantasy is really not my jam, but when you get to read a series like The Tide Child, that makes you question your preferences. As well as your own morals, because as you are reading about the struggles of these characters and the choices they make, you can’t help but wonder “how I would act in this situation?”. And when it comes to Joron, you just watch in awe as he struggles on, makes difficult decisions, gets punched over and over, and still keeps standing. And you think “wow, now that’s a person I would gladly fight for when it comes down to it”. He is the kind of character who quietly awes and inspires others around him. Or you just would like to go up to him and give him a big enveloping hug. Which probably would earn you a few odd looks.

One thing that threw me off a bit in the first 15% or so was Joron repeatedly lamenting about Dinyl. Partly because of the repetition, and partly because their closeness flew over my head in The Bone Ships. It felt a bit like a later addition which didn’t transit well, but once you finish reading it makes much more sense. So I mostly blame this on my ignorance of the real meaning of shipfriend.

Call of the Bone Ships raises the stakes even higher, new bonds are formed, and you better keep your eyes peeled because you can just never know when something unexpected will happen. And if you are like me, you’ll be cursing Barker along the way whether because he ends a chapter in a way that you can’t help but read on, or because of all of the emotions he’ll put you and his characters through. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Call of the Bone Ships deserves all the stars for being one of the best books I’ve read in 2020 and for making me all emotional on this journey. If you haven’t started reading this series yet, I honestly don’t know what are you even doing with your life. A world full of wonders, as myths come to life again; a path sprayed by blood and sweat and tears; and characters who will rip your heart out whether you like it or not. Who would not want that?!

And now excuse me, but I have to go hug my emotional support panda.
Was this review helpful?
I’m having a bumper year for sequels, it must be said! This was my second-most-anticipated one, partly because I only had to wait half as long for it, and having read it I find myself even more impatient for book three.

Because, fair warning, Call of the Bone Ships is very much a “middle book” sort of sequel - not a sequel like Hollow Empire that looks to “repeat the trick”, taking the characters, settings, and themes of book one and re-running them in a new context to tell another fairly standalone episode. Rather, Call takes the setup, the origin story of the first book - a rousing tale of nautical adventure in a bleak, unforgiving, and very alien world - and shakes and smashes it up, along with the characters we’ve grown to love, while also moving the trilogy forwards at pace towards a climactic final book.

Call begins quite some time after book one, skipping over the gentler second book you might have had in a longer series, of the growth of Lucky Maes Gilbryn’s revolution against the oppressive and brutal society of the Hundred Isles (and its neighbouring Gaunt Islands), of the founding of the sanctuary port where they are trying to build their better alternative, of the continued training and growth of Joron Twiner and the rest of the crew of Tide Child into a confident and (mostly) cohesive unit. The chase of the last arakeesian sea-dragon, so vital to the arc of the first book, is almost forgotten and (slight spoiler) somewhat irrelevant. 

No, now there is something even worse afoot, and the opening scenes open up this new mystery, sending Joron and the crew on a new (if related) quest, and into greater peril - and more frequently - than they did in book one (and there were quite some battles in that!). This isn’t to say that the change of course, as it were, in this book comes out of the blue. The first book had only begun to uncover elements of the larger plot - in a way, establishing who and what the series would be about, but leaving the question of how they would tackle the challenge unsettled (no council at Rivendell here). So, having hooked us with book one, Call of the Bone Ships was always going to be the book that set the course for the rest of the series.

And wow, does it ever.

The series has always promised a blend of nautical adventure and Epic Fantasy, two things that are perhaps infrequently combined (certainly not often enough for me!), and I was lulled by the tropes of the former into expecting something more like an episode in those lengthy naval sagas, where each book follows a fairly standard pattern and advances the overall plot (such as there is) very little. I was very forcefully reminded this is not only a trilogy, but an epic fantasy trilogy - and that’s not a bad thing. The author has pulled off quite a feat in blending those two so that fans of either will get a lot out of this, while fans of both (like me) will be in bookish heaven (even if I did want a few more sea-battles).

Having begun with the shocking revelation, the book barely lets up as the shipwife and crew of Tide Child chase answers - and vengeance. And of course, all is not straightforward or smooth sailing, sending the ship hither and thither across the seas, tossed by storm and setbacks. There’s plenty of action, a good dose of subterfuge, and a few more sea dragons to boot. The pace is fairly relentless, the pattern of the book a series of sharp peaks rather than a slow build towards a single climax (like in book one), and some moments that should be impactful get a bit lost in the drive to the next goal or revelation. But there is still an assured hand at the helm through these rough seas, which you trust are by design.

The travails are particularly hard on (as you might expect) our Joron Twiner, but also on the previously unshakeable Lucky Maes. Her role is somewhat diminished here, however, as Joron now has more independence, and grows as a protagonist. This space also allows some of the supporting characters, old and new, more time to shine, enriching the narrative and even (in several sections that skillfully dip into other POVs) stealing the spotlight for a while. However, as some come to the fore, others recede - and even die, because life, let alone war, in the Hundred Isles is brutal and unforgiving. But there are also delights, like getting to know the bird-like gullaime - and some of its kin - better. The worldbuilding continues to be truly spectacular, it must be said.

And then, all too soon, it ends - and, second warning, if not exactly on a cliffhanger, then at a point where a lot is in the balance and book three* can’t come soon enough. But that's more an occupational hazard than a criticism! 

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC. 

* Book three is apparently called The Bone Ship’s Wake and honestly that title should be enough to make you want to read the first two right now, who needs reviews?
Was this review helpful?
More boneships! More gullaime! More keyshan! More everything!

Oh yeah, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was made aware of this series by Robin Hobb, after reading her review of book 1 (The Bone Ships). I was so intrigued, so bought immediately and devoured within a couple of days.

Book 2 was no different. I love Joron and Meas's relationship, and this story expands on that relationship along with more adventure, more fighting and more background into more characters. I've also realised that my favourite characters in all my favourite series are animals (Black Orris, Nighteyes, Oberon, to name three without having to think about it!)

Tide Child and crew have said goodbye to the keyshan they were escorting, and find themselves out on the open waters knowing Meas's mother is still baying for blood.

I don't really want to go into too much detail, as I hate any kind of spoiler (including 'that twist at the end was amazing and I never saw it coming!' ... thanks for that, now I see it coming... :/) (Just to clarify, I was just making a point - don't read anything into it, I'm just ranting) so I'll let you read the synopsis at the top of the page and leave it there.

I loved this book, and I'm so excited for the conclusion. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys sea-faring fantasy and fully rounded-out characters with true depth and fantastic world-building. Bring on book 3!!!
Was this review helpful?
The Call of the Boneships is the second in the Tide Child series and we are back with Joron, Meas and the motley crew of the good ship Tide Child. I read the first book a while ago so it took me a while to get back into this one and remember all the jargon and who everybody was so it was just as well nothing really happened for the first third of the book and it didn’t really get going until more than half way through. It’s a bit ponderous, which I think I thought about the first one too. I kind of just wanted to get on with things after a while. 
The book is told through Joron and Joron is a very sympathetic character, I like him mostly because the he is Good. He has failed and come back from it, he has stuck up for what he believes in and he is loyal to his captain. It’s just as well I do like Joron because we don’t get to see much of any other character, even Meas is kept at arms length as well as Dinyl. So when what happens to him happens I struggled to care and only knew the depths of Joron’s feelings after the fact. I think they had about two conversations in the whole book consisting of about five lines. The most significant relationship Joron has is with the Gullaime. The Guilliame’s are the best most interesting characters by far and their part in the story is becoming central to the series as Joron starts to become “the Caller” whatever that may be.. 
I do however find it intensely irritating that the writer seems to swerve using a collective, the phrase “women and men” was done to death. What’s wrong with using people or crew? 
Anyway the long-windedness aside, I like being on the Tide Child, I like Joron and Meas and Gullaime, The politics are coming along and the Caller plot being seeded is enough to keep things interesting. And sea dragons born from islands is pretty cool it has to be said and also who doesn’t like prophecy’s of death and destruction? Sure I’ll take it all.
Was this review helpful?
R.J. Barker’s work has been a breath of cool, fresh air across the fantasy scene for years. Their latest in the Tide Child series, Call of the Bone Ships, has a lot to love about it. Some eldritch, weird magic that seems to stand just at the edge of human understanding. Majestic and lethal cryptids. The sort of complex characterisation that will have you laugh out loud with a character one minute, and feel the steel barbs of their sorrowful tears in the next. A world filled with odd corners, intricate details, and soaring descriptions of wine-dark seas, thunderous waves and glorious, terrible craft that sail upon them. Yeah. The tl;dr right here is that if you read The Bone Ships and wondered if the sequel held up to the already very high standards of its predecessor - yes. The answer is yes. This is a story of blood in the water, of piratical boardings, of fights that start blade to blade and end edge to edge, one inch from disaster. It’s a story that reminds us that you can lose everything. That heroism has a price. But also of the necessity of virtue, the strength of it, and the value of pride and loyalty. If the ice-soaked sea is the stage, still it’s those upon it that make the story sing. 
And sing it does. A full throated roar in harmony, a melody that wraps compassion around friendship and sacrifice. This is a book that will grab you by the heart and by the guts, and not let go until it’s done. 

Our main perspective on this world come from Joron, a man who spent much of the previous book finding out how far it was to rock bottom, and then starting the long climb back up to the person he wants to be, inspired by the leadership of a Captain who gave him the opportunity to earn respect, earn trust, and change the world. Joron here is wiser, kinder, perhaps a bit more settled in his sense of self. The growing bonds between Joron and the crew whom he helps oversee are a delight to watch, built on countless small acts of humanity and friendship, backed by moments of heroism and heart-stopping action. Joron still carries his scars, but is learning to bear them a little better.  Still, the price of this is that now he has attachments, has people he cares about. Wher ebefore he might have simply accepted the worst under the black dog of depression, now he cares, wants respect, wants to build a life. And in becoming a better person, or at least one more whole, he’s also become more vulnerable. THe portrayal of a man damaged, often in over his head, and struggling with the vagaries of circumstance is beautifully done. It has the emotional rawness that makes it feel genuine, and a certain truth sears through the pain and the trust, the faith of Joron in his people and their acceptance of him. Mind you, it’s not all good news - Joron is going to find out the hard way that now he has more to lose, and this is a world quite keen to take it from him.

Speaking of which, the world remains as vivid as ever, as marvellous as ever, as terrifying and strange and wondrous as ever. There are still dragons stalking the crashing waves of a space defined by the spaces between islands. Humanity is still (with apologies to Pratchett) barely on the right side of the rising ape. Those who bear children not marked by the poisonous environment are still an aristocracy, and like any aristocracy, they still hold to their system of power. There’s oppression, and war, and, worst of all, politics. Oh yes, Joron has stepped into a (metaphorical) whirlpool.  Because this is a story filled with quiet intrigues. With betrayals. He’s a man whose seemingly sound footing in the world may be swept away, as we uncover the secrets, half truths and bloody bargains that help the Bern keep their iron grip on the levers of power. As we see how the powerless fare in a society structured to discard them. As the Guillaume, avian masters of magic, and mutilated slaves, reveal a little more of their secrets. As the dragons roar in the deep.

It’s hard, so very hard to talk about this book without spoiling it. So, forgive that digression. But think on this. The world drawn here is, at turns, one capable of displaying appalling atrocity and evoking true wonder. The people - Joron, and the crew of the Tide Child, misfits, miscreants, rebels all - are fiercely, searingly human. They live, love, hurt, bleed, and hope. They live the comedy and tragedy of our lives, cast upon an ocean swept by storms of magic. The same, but different. Different, but the same. They’re people, and damn good ones, at that (well...some of them!). And the story, well, it has its twists, and its turns, and you’ll be torn between inhaling each page to see what happens next,, and not wanting the book to end. It’s got everything - the grand, sweeping elements of an epic tale. Sea shanties. Boarding actions. Blood on the decks, and in the water. New secrets and old magic. But it’s also devastatingly, beautifully personal - with quiet moments, moments of honesty, moments of epiphany, times of betrayal and times of quietly powerful love. It’s a story that, once again, will not let you go - and one you won’t want to put down until it’s done

I certainly couldn’t. I miss the Tide Child and its crew already. I can only suggest that you join them on their journey. You won’t regret it.
Was this review helpful?
I did not expect the sequel to Bone Ships to turn out the way it did. How did the crew of a black bone ship end up leading a revolution against the Thirteenbern? At the same time, it is so much more than your generic story of piracy, even though the author most likely took a lot of inspirations from it. Joron's character development throughout the book is amazing, and it shows how much the perception of one's self can influence your actions and the people around you.

I was a bit skeptical after reading the first book, but Call of the Bone Ships has full one hooked me forever. When is the sequel coming out?
Was this review helpful?
First things first – is a reread necessary? I personally went back and reread The Bone Ships because I knew I needed a refresh – I think you would get enough of a sense of what’s going on if you just leaped into book two – but there is a lot of specialised terminology in this world and you might need to rely heavily on the glossary at the back. So re-read if you can and if not just expect a little bit of a tougher time getting into it.

Those expecting book two to pick up right where The Bone Ships left off – well that’s not what you’re going to get. Some time has passed between the two books and honestly this story goes to places I genuinely don’t think you’ll be expecting. I say that as someone who has a fair knack for predicting the endings of books before they happen – the path this book takes is neither straight nor narrow. Be prepared for an adventure. I won’t go into any real detail because it’s book two after all but suffice to say IT LIVES UP TO BOOK ONE.

The setting continues to be phenomenal. I mentioned specialised terminology – it’s there because Barker has really created a world with such specific religious ideas and rules that it needs a whole other set of jargon to talk about it. In this book that is particularly interesting as we see more of a clash of ideas and you see how deep set some of the prejudices and ideologies these characters hold are. If you’re looking for rich detailed world building this is a great series to go for!

While the book is still primarily focused on Joron one of the things that I absolutely loved was that we got to know some of the side characters even better in this book. Don’t get me wrong, seeing Joron’s development across the book – especially if you’re reading straight on from the end of book one – is truly impressive and he’s a remarkably likeable character. But it’s the side characters that truly made this book for me. I will forever love Gullaime – so much, Meas is an inspiration and on top of that there are oodles of other characters with whom one can fall in love in this story. This book even more than the last really had the sense of a crew and all the difficult dynamics that has. There’s found family in there but also that thread of ‘what is it to be responsible for a ship and for its crew’ which is profoundly great.

That being said, beware, for this book might just wreck you – pun intended. There were moments so emotional that I woke up my wife because I was so upset for these characters. I may have neglected to mention that I ended up staying up until a ludicrous hour reading this book because I needed to know what happened. Yeah, maybe read in the spare room if reading at night. I personally love a book that can make me feel things and this book does it masterfully well. The only other story I’ve experienced that with this year was Empire of Gold and I do not make comparisons to Daevabad lightly.

Put simply, this book is exceptional. This series is wondrous. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I absolutely cannot wait to hear what happens next and for my heart to be ripped apart yet again. It’s phenomenal. Go read it now.

My rating: 5/5 stars

I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Call of the Bone Ships is out November 26th!
Was this review helpful?