Review: The Bone Ships (The Tide Child #1) by R.J. Barker

Rating: ★★★★☆


A brilliantly imagined saga of honor, glory, and warfare, The Bone Ships is the epic launch of a new fantasy from David Gemmell Award-nominated RJ Barker.

Two nations at war. A prize beyond compare.

For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.

The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.

Now the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favour. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory, but the war.


Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of The Bone Ships (The Tide Child #1) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

A modern-day Moby Dick, Barker’s The Bone Ships takes sail on the high seas and gives readers a swash-buckling adventure they will never forget. Though no Girton and Merela, Barker introduces us to another unlikely duo in Joran and Lucky Meas that will delight fans of his previous trilogy and new ones alike. There’s naval warfare, coarse language, plenty of rum drinking, and, of course, a sea dragon. What more could you want?

Yo Ho Ho, and get me that dragon’s bum!

I have to start off my full review by stating how much I simply love RJ Barker. His Wounded Kingdom trilogy, still to this day (over a year after King’s release), stands as one of my – if not my – favorite trilogies EVER. Girton Club-foot is hands-down one of the best protagonists I have ever had the pleasure of reading and adventuring with, and Barker’s prose is simply stunning.

Now, in regard to The Bone Ships, Barker gives us a completely different story, environment, cast of characters, and mood. In all honesty, this is a vastly different book than Age of Assassins was because the author is now well seasoned in his writing style and his originality is, once again, on full display: ships made out of dragon bones, carrying giant crossbows and crews made from prisoners, traitors, and exiles, and a giant prize in sight that could bring power to the ones ready to yield it, cross-threaded with a fresh take on “pirates”, their language, motivations, and fighting techniques gives even the casual fantasy fan plenty of love.

I thought Barker’s world-building was sensational, and the descriptions throughout had me feeling a little seasick and covered in seaspray if you catch my meaning. From the ships themselves to the seaside towns, the dense forests to the high seas, every bit felt real and fully fleshed to immerse the reader as deep as the bowels of the dragon.

I haven’t read many high seas adventures, but I know Rob Hayes is the most recent I have seen with his SPFBO hit, Where Loyalties Lie. I really wish there were more that would come across my lap as I wholly enjoyed reading The Bone Ships after growing up with fondness for Pirates of the Caribbean and Hook. I don’t feel that is a trope that is overdone in the least and Barker’s latest has me excited for Book 2 and on.

Though a bit heavy on the world-building in the beginning, Barker makes the wait wholly worth the while with an immersive seafaring adventure full of massive naval battles, a giant sea dragon, and enough witty banter to tide (pun intended) you over until the sequel hits in Fall of 2020.

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