Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker – A Book Review

Call of 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.

Author: R. J. Barker

Publisher: Orbit

Release Date: 24/11/2020

Pages 529

Series: Tide Child Trilogy #2

Genre: Fantasy

My Chosen Format: Kindle

My Rating of ‘Call of the Bone Ships’: 5 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon UKAmazon USAudible UKAudible US


I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Just a quick query to anyone who regularly reads Orbit books via Netgalley: Are they, hands down, the worst publisher for you as far as formatting goes on Netgalley? This was, at times, formatted like a novel (not particularly well-formatted, but an attempt was made) and at others it looked like someone had read a poetry book one time and thought ‘yea, I’ll have some of that’.

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.

27 thoughts on “Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker – A Book Review

  1. Sigh….Here I was thinking I could avoid adding more books to my to read list, finally making a few dents here and there in my comics, manga and book collection. But nooooo….of course you have to write an incredibly enthusiastic review for this one, that has me putting it on that overburdoned list of mine. Great….😢😢😢
    Seriously! This sound terrific! I’m finally diving into some fantasy myself at the moment, having taken a (short) break from Horus and his band of not so merry man😊 Don’t know when I’ll be able to read this one, but I will definitely try to do so😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review! I loved this one even more than its predecessor and I agree when you say that these characters burrow in your mind and stay firmly there (not that I mind…). As for the next one in line, reading Barker’s sentence about book 3 being in its finishing stages as this one hit the shelves makes me very optimistic for the waiting time until the conclusion.
    Oh, and… Team Gullaime all the way! 🙂

    About the formatting: I never encountered any issues with Orbit as far as the .epub format is concerned, while I had to deal with this kind of problem with another publisher when they make only Kindle format available, and the book’s formatting is all over the place. Until now I thought it was an issue due to the fact that I read Kindle books via the dedicated app on my tablet since I don’t own a Kindle, but now I’m wondering…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was reading on a kindle, so I think it’s just a lack of kindle formatting effort. Maybe they simply copy the epub over and the formatting doesn’t gel.

      Yea, I can only hope. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes peeled. A delay for the final installment would surely be met with cries of ‘Not want! Not want!’

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I absolutely loved this book too! It was just SO good. I didnt think it could be as good as the sequel but somehow it was even better!

    And how fitting for the world we live in. Just the strength of character during times of adversity. Ugh this book!

    I will say its definitely one of my favorites of the year but actually I think my favorite of the year is The Bone Shard Daughter. I wound up reading the two back to back and now I cant talk about one without recommending the other. Both books are the type of fantasies that I spend ages searching for, yet rarely find.

    Amazing review! If you have a recommendation of anything even semi similar I’d love to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually haven’t read The Bone Shard Daughter. It’s on my list to get to at some point 🙂

      This is easily my favourite fantasy of the year. Probably one of my all-time favourites. Certainly up there with Robin Hobbs’ many series. Have you read any of those?


      1. Omg what are you waiting for??? Read The Bone Shard Daughter!!! Hands down my favorite read of the year and Call of the Bone Ships is my second favorite. The Bone Shard Daughter was AMAZING! Like I can’t even put into words how much I loved that book.

        I actually havent read any by Robin Hobb. I did buy a copy of Assassin’s Apprentice. But lately I’ve really been into sea adventures, so part of me wanted to try the Liveship Traders. But I also worry that they’ll be too… classic fantasy? Idk how to explain what I mean by that

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I was in the midst of a fantasy slump when all of the fanfare for The Bone Shard Daughter was going around and have only recently just came out of it. Sadly there’s a few things I need to get to before it 😦

        I really enjoyed the Liveship Traders (but then I am a sucker for anything nautical). It’s all set in the same world as the rest of her books but, I THINK, you can read it without having read the Farseer trilogy. Can’t remember as it was aaaages ago that I read all of her stuff.


      3. Hopefully you get to read The Bone Shard Daughter soon. It does have some nautical travels!

        I will have to see if you can read Liveship Traders as a stand alone because I think it would be a good place for me to start because I’ve also loved all things nautical lately!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. If I come across other nautical delights I will make sure to drop you a message 🙂

        Master and Commander is a good, incredibly accurate depiction of life on a naval ship back in the day. Sadly, it can be quite slow going and hard to keep up with if not used to the language of the time period.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. When I was younger, I rated it five stars … now that I’m older I see the inconsistencies. The ‘written for a younger audience’ writing style doesn’t gel well with me either.


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