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.
The Call of the Bone Ships is part 2 in R.J. Barker’s The Tide Child Trilogy, and, in my opinion, while it does represent an expansion on the first book in the series, The Bone Ships, and presents some similarities it is also very different in a lot of ways. That being said, I still found it to be a very enjoyable read.
One of the aspects of that I loved of book 1 that is similar in book 2 is the fact that it is just so pirate-y. The dialogue contains a hard sea-faring dialect, which is so important because it permeates every conversation in every scene. This, along with all the bounty of nautical terms, makes for an atmosphere that transports the reader to ship. Honestly, it is so easy to get lost in this world, and that is a tribute to Barker’s writing. The author does a phenomenal job of immersing the reader through dialogue, world building, and description that The Tide Child Trilogy has become a wonderful piece of escapism.
The main characters are mostly the same as in the first book. There are a few differences, but nothing that changes the story significantly. Lucky Meas, Joron et al are back, so I am going to file this under “If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It”. In my opinion, this is a big plus. There is a lot of character growth in this book, though, and that bring some freshness to the character set. When I mention that feeling of being immersed and escaping into this world also means I have come to care for my fellow shipmates (and, yes, even my Deck Keeper and Shipwife), so I am happy to spend another (almost) 500 pages with them.
Now, this is where Call of the Bone Ships begins to diverge from The Bone Ships. In my opinion, Call is much more emotional. The characters that I have grown to love go through a lot of shit. So much that there are times when I began to really worry about them. And for every time I wanted to cry there were plenty times I would smile and laugh, too, be it out of sheer happiness or even relief. So, plot-wise it really runs the gamut emotionally. The plot also differs for me with the fact that Call does not feel as adventure-y to me as the first book. In The Bone Ships I was a pirate, sailing seas high and low hunting sea dragons. In Call there is much more politicking and problem solving than adventuring. This may be only my opinion and others may have found this book to be just as adventurous, but I did not. And I lament that a little.
All said, Call of the Bone Ships is another fantastic submission in The Tide Child Trilogy. With its pirate-y tone and emotional plot it was an absolute joy to read. I happily recommend this book to fans of fantasy, and particularly those that are for a story involving pirates and big bodies of water. And with the way this book ended, the wait for the third and final installment is going to be brutal.