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The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

The Bone Ships by RJ Barker
Book Name: The Bone Ships
Author: RJ Barker
Publisher(s): Orbit (US)
Formatt: Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: September 24, 2019 (US) September 26, 2019 (UK)

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

Then the dragons disappeared. But the battle for supremacy on the high seas persisted.

When the first dragon in centuries is spotted in far-off waters, 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.

Joron Twiner was raised a fisherman, but after seeing his father splattered between two boats and then drunkenly skewers a dickhead noble, Joron is sentenced to captain a black ship, the Tide Child. It is a ship made of older and lower quality bone, one that receives no sacrifice when it is launched. The position is considered to have no honour and the crew’s only responsibility is to die in battle.

Joron is a not a very good captain. He pretty much defaulted into the position in the first place, and subsequently reached an easy truce with the men and women who live aboard his ship. They are never to ask or expect anything of each other and that way none of them will be disappointed. It’s a shit way to run a ship, so it is fortunate he is challenged for the position by a highly skilled but publicly disgraced Seawife known as Lucky Meas. It is also fortunate that Joron is up for the challenge placed before him and, discovering a long dormant shred of pride he begins the journey to live up to the dreams his father held for him.

Meas is a character so bursting with heart and soul she cannot help but rub off a little on the reader. She is brilliantly written, life itself. Her love for flying through the ocean is palpable and the way she works her ship and her crew is inspiring. She has the empathy and integrity of Hermione Granger, the heart of Leia Organa and the charisma of Miranda Priestley. She is positively indomitable, and you bet against her at you own peril.

One of the most impressive things about this book is how Barker keeps the action flowing and the story moving along. I mean what is more monotonous than being in the middle of the ocean? The view doesn’t change much, there’s no tv, even a giant sea dragon swimming alongside your boat is going to get a bit same-same after a while, right? Wrong. Whether it’s a change in environmental circumstances, a shift in the behaviour of a particular crewmember, the discovery of cargo that should not be, or a full scale 4 vs 1 naval battle, there is always something going on that captures the attention.

Now it’s not perfect. Despite my hilarious suggestion on Twitter, there is no class of sailor known as a “Boner”. Yeah, that’s my only complaint.

One of the finest nautical adventure fantasies I’ve ever had the immense pleasure to feel a part of. Upon finishing I had the sudden urge to go and sign up to crew aboard the biggest boat I could find, tell the captain the legend of an ancient sea dragon and suggest in no uncertain terms that we should set out to find it and to hell with the consequences. It’s genuinely some of the most fun I’ve ever had whilst lost in a book. And despite it being an unfamiliar world, I slipped into it like a comfy pair of pyjamas thanks to an astonishing level of attention to detail and just plain fantastic writing. You need to read this.

The Bone Ships is published by Orbit Books and is due for release September 24, 2019 in the US and September 26, 2019 in the UK.


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