The Bone Ships by RJ Barker is quite simply a fantastic, swashbuckling adventure on the high seas of a world filled with magic, myth and monsters. It is fair to say I loved this book, however I’ll do my best to make sure that this review isn’t too gushy!
Our story really follows two central characters: Joron Twiner and Lucky Maes Gilbryn. Though we only actually see the world through Joron’s eyes, Maes is pretty much ever-present. With these two as our guides, we sail through an exotic world of exotic fauna and creatures scattered across numerous islands and archipelagos where two nations are locked in seemingly eternal war. The grind and attrition of war has devastated both sides natural resources and population, but most importantly, it is draining their stocks of sea dragon bones – the precious resource their warships are built from. However, a sea dragon has been spotted for the first time in centuries and Joron and Maes are intimately linked to the battle for this prize – a prize that could finally tip the balance in this war.
With this exciting, high stakes story, the world-building brings everything to life in a fresh, inventive way. Nothing about this setting feels stale or rehashed. The vast majority of fantasy out there feels a little like medieval Europe with magic, but this book does not fit that bill. I like traditional fantasy settings, obviously, but I do enjoy seeing something a bit different. The Bone Ships feels exciting, vibrant and exotic. We have dangerous and colourful fauna; vicious, terrifying creatures (including the awe-inspiring sea dragon and mysterious Guillaime) and a matriarchal society.
Aside from the amazing world-building, the relationship between Joron and Maes – think master and apprentice – is another real key to the success of this story. The interactions between these two, and how Joron views both Maes and himself, steadily evolve throughout the story into a proper friendship. And friendship is the order of the day with this story. No romances blossom, but instead our characters find their happiness and purpose in camaraderie and friendship. Joron’s journey in this regard, both with his mental health and physical capability, are perfectly mirrored in the crew of their ship.
The pace of this book is high from the off and I found myself powering through the pages. Sure, we have plenty of epic scenes that capture you imagination, such as devastating and bloody sea battles; tightly fought and claustrophobic tower sieges, and the emergence of the sea dragon from the sea (honestly, I was so excited when this happened!) but we also have slower scenes that hint at Maes mysterious past and build our knowledge of the world. And these scenes are just as engaging and quick to read as the more ‘exciting’ scenes thanks to the quality of Barker’s writing.
Overall, this is quite simply a great book about a breathtaking adventure and I would totally recommend it to anyone. I look forward to the sequel coming out next year next year (I believe) and I will probably be searching out some more of RJ Barker’s books. Can’t really say much more than that!
3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Bone Ships by RJ Barker”
Great review, thanks for sharing! 🙂
And if you have not read Barker’s Wounded Kingdom trilogy, I can emphatically recommend it. You will not be disappointed…
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I definitely plan on picking it up soon! Really enjoyed this book, so why not read his other works.
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