The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker takes place in a universe where the two main seafaring regions in the world have been going back and forth with fighting each other for generations, and it doesn’t look likely to end anytime soon. It’s also a world in which ships are built and tailor-made using the bones of sea dragons aka Arakeesians. However, no sea dragons have been seen in hundreds of years which means ships made of dragon bones are priceless and the creme de la creme of the sea.Then all of a sudden, all hands are on deck when rumours begin to fly that a sea dragon has been sighted.
Thus, the race is on for both nations as whoever captures and kills the dragon not only claims the bones to build more ships, but also gains the upper hand in this never-ending war.Much of the story takes place on The Tide Child, which is basically a “Black Ship”. It’s the ship of the dead and it’s crew consists of convicts or individuals who crossed the line. The novel’s main characters are Joron Twinner who tells the story as an observer and the other character is Lucky Meas Gilbryn, the captain of the ship.
“Nineteen years on the sea and condemned to die. The world pulsed, the blurred sky darkening the edges”.
So my thoughts on this book are 50/50 if I’m being honest. I definitely struggled with it and almost gave up at page 60. Normally I like being eased in to a novel but this just threw me into the deep end without really having an understanding of what was going on. There was too much focus on the world building side of things rather than characterisation which personally draws me in more than world building. Because of this I didn’t care about the main character Joron Twinner at first. I found him to be all bones and no meat. Thankfully though, the characterisation element begins to sprout in the second half of the book when the dragon hunt begins. The captain of the ship, Lucky Meas for me was the star of the whole book. I enjoyee her charisma and valour, and the swagger she had was brilliant.
“A ship is a world , you understand? And this ship is mine now, my world, my rules. My word here is law to all who fly with us.”
Her dialogue with the crew of the ship and Joron was both as sharp as the tip of a cutlet but also uplifting and actually made me feel like she was talking to me at times on the ship lol. Joron also began to warm to me as I began to understand more about his situation and how he came to be on The Tide Child. I also really liked the fact that loyalty was a fundamental part of the story. The story really showed that without loyalty and honour, a ship and its crew could not function at all.
“Loyalty. That is what makes a ship work – ties of loyalty. To each other, to the ship. And every time we fight together, we are bound closer together.”
Even though the book was super heavy on world building, and I felt like I was drowning in too much information, I did like some things about the world. For example, the inclusion of the Gullaime, which is a creature that controls the wind that in turn allows the ship to speed up was interesting, especially considering its background. I did like the way the Arakeesian was portrayed as this huge formidable creature that had the crew gobsmacked of what they were up against. The naval warfare aspect was also really intense, although the lingo sometimes went over my head.
Overall, the first half of the book had me very close to not finishing it, and in all honesty this was a very dull read at times. Things did pick up in the second half as i began to get to know the characters much better. Although, i still feel that the book prioritised world building more than the characters. Had there been a balance of both of these things it would’ve been the perfect novel for me. Would I continue the series? Probably not because of how slow the first half was, and even though the second half picked up considerably, it was too little too late for me. I do feel however people who love pirates, and novels focused on heavy world building within the fantasy genre will love this.
🌟 🌟 🌟/5
Thank you to both Nazia and Orbit for sending me an early copy. The book will be oublished in the UK on the 24.09.19.