I was lucky to get my hands on an ARC of Call of the Bone Ships by RJ Barker via Netgalley. Thank you to Orbit and Nazia for granting me a copy.
|Series: The Tide Child #2||Genre: Fantasy, Nautical Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: November 24th 2020||Publisher: Orbit|
A 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.
“All was chaos in the dark. Joron saw vague shapes. Was it gion, was it a woman? Was it varisk, was it a man? Was it a sword, was it a branch? Was it? Was it? Was it?
As I picked a Thrice song for The Bone Ships, I decided to go with them again for Call of the Bone Ships. Eventually I went for In This Storm, mainly because of this part:
This weather is breaking my heart
This whirlwind of falling apart
So give me your hand
My double, my brother
Let’s make our way out of this rain
We can’t keep on living this way
Blind to the storm
Or blaming each other
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.