Review – The Bone Ships by 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.

The Bone Ships tells the story of Joron Twiner, the first mate on a black ship which carries a crew which has been condemned to serve their life on the ship. Their ship, The Tide Child, is sent on a journey to go after the first dragon spotted in centuries in an effort to stop the ongoing war. This book was phenomenal. Easily my favorite read of the year so far. I loved pretty much every aspect of this book so this review is going to be just me gushing for a few paragraphs.

First off, the characters. Most of the time in this book spent on characters was focused on our two main characters, Meas and Joron. I loved Joron’s arc. We get to watch Joron grow from the ‘woe is me’ and uncaring man he is at the beginning into the self assure and vibrant man he becomes by the end. Barker did a wonderful job showing this transition both in Joron’s own thoughts but also in Joron’s changing perception of the crew around him. I also went into this book excepting Meas, as the captain (shipmother as they are called in the book) of the ship, to be our narrator and was surprised when Joron ended up being our narrator. Being able to see Meas’s ability as an effective shipmother through Joron’s thoughts on her as well as his observation in the changing attitudes of his former crew was a much more impactful way to show her skill than telling us through her eyes would have been and I greatly appreciated that narrative choice in the end.

Now that we have a strong base with our two main character I am especially excited to explore some of our secondary characters more in the upcoming installments in this series. I am especially intrigued by the guillaime, Dinyl, and Farys.

The second main point I want to talk about is the world building. The world in this book was incredibly well done. The society is a matriarchal society with two class standings based on whether or not you have deformities when you are born. The way Barker dropped bits of knowledge about the world and society was for a me perfectly done. It never once felt like an info dump, but I also never felt overly confused by being introduced to things with too little explanation. I especially appreciated this slow burn of world building discovery because the plot was slower in the first half of the book so the discovery of the world was what hooked me at first until the plot picked up.

This book was an easy 5 star rating for me. I’ve been wanting to read more nautical fantasy because I love nautical settings and this was a wonderful addition to that sub genre. I cannot wait until book two comes out at the end of this year.

One last comment I held until the end as it has some minor spoilers is my favorite moment in the book. When towards the end Joron says “Meas is not a traitor” I felt it was really just the cherry on top for his character growth.

4 thoughts on “Review – The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

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