“In turn he knew that whatever came, whatever happened, he would die before he let her down.”
Call of the Book Ships by R.J. Barker is the second book in the Tide Child Trilogy. Now I’m not going to lie, having had mixed reviews about the first book I was nervous at how I would feel about the second. I felt I was drowning from all the information in the first novel and that there was too much world building. Luckily enough however Call of the Bone Ships absolutely blew me away with how outstanding it was. It’s gritty, intense, and packs a collosal punch to your hull.
The story takes place a long while after the events of the first book. The legendary keyshans i.e. seadragons have made a valiant return to the world. Having been hunted for their bones for hundreds of years, Lucky Meas(captain) and the crew of th mighty Tide Child managed to let one get away. What this means is that war between the Gaunt Islanders and the Hundred Isles has been postponed. If they had taken down the seadragon then war would’ve continued. However, this has resulted in Lucky Meas being considered a traitor by her mother.
One day the Tide Child and it’s crew come across a badly damaged brownbone merchant vessel. Upon investigating aboard the ship they make a harrowing discovery and a stinky one at that. Inside the bowels of the ship they find decaying bodies and those on the brink of death due to sickness. An extremely pissed off Lucky Meas sets out to uncover why these people were taken away from their homes and where this cargo of death and stink originated from and where it is headed.
One of the main things that really grabbed me was the characters. As I said before, there was just far too much world building and less of a focus on the characters in The Bone Ships. However, I feel Barker turns it around in the sequel by balancing both the world building and the characters. They are all so different and complex which made for some fantastic reading. There are a wide range of characters such as Dinyl, Brekir, Coughlin, Farys, Cwell (absolute prick), and many more. It was so easy to tell apart who was who through the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters. I felt like I could picture them all in my head at times.
What also changed for me since reading the first book was that I cared about all of the characters emotionally! Especially, Joron (second in command) who is the main narrator of the story. There are many times where Joron and the crew face harrowing and heart in your mouth moments. These moments for me were the most intense! I sometimes felt Joron should be called “Bad luck Joron” because my god does this guy who through a lot of shit. But my overcoming these obstacles he manages to win the respect over many of the crew members. Even those people who despised him enough to want to gut him themselves.
I truly loved how Joron’s confidence grew and grew as the story went on. The prime reason for this in my opinion was definitely Lucky Meas who pushed Joron to be a better version of himself. Lucky Meas for me is such a brilliant character who you can’t help but love. Even though she’s brutal and scary, you can’t help but have admiration for her. She takes everything head on and gives zero f***s. Somehow she manages to win the loyalty of most of the crew and turn them from being men and women who were once nothing, to a crew who could take on the world.
“No storm could hold her words, no wind could steal them nor woman or man deny them. For she was Lucky Meas. She was the greatest shipwife who ever lived, and she would be a legend.”
One character who I feel definitely should be talked about is the Guillaume. As the story goes on, the bond between Guillaume and Joron grows and both of them essentially become good friends. For those who don’t know, Guillaume is basically a bird wizard who can control the wind. However, using this power makes it sick and the only cure is a windspire. Through the conversations with Guillaume and Joron, we are able to learn much more about the world, the creatures themselves i.e. a new variation of the bird, and prophecies.
I also absolutely loved the brutal and bloody action sequences. Throughout the story there are naval battles and battles on the sea. These action sequences were absolutely exhilarating! Like the build up to these were just phenomenal. I was on the edge as there are many nail biting moments where you think your favourite characters are going to die! Then out of nowhere the rest of the crew turn up to save the day. These moments for me were definitely my favourite. You could also feel th aftermath of every battle scene as many are characters are left with injuries, scars, and bloody soaked clothing.
“I did not expect this,” said Joron.
“I did not expect it either. But an hour ago I did not expect to survive at all,” said Meas. “Today has been a day of wonders. Let us hope there are no more.”
When considering the writing, R.J. Barker’s writing elevated my reading experience through his words and descriptions. I felt like I could picture everything happening in my mind as I read the story. Like I felt as if I was there on the ship hearing and watching orders being given and crew members rushing to get ready for battle.
“The keyshan fell, but the ocean rose; a massive wave trying. and failing to reach the great heights that the arakeesian had managed in its birthing pangs. Water roaring.”
The only slight issue I had was that some of the ship language was confusing and I sometimes forgot the meaning of certain things. Thankfully there was an appendix at the back which clarified some aspects.
Finally, the world building was superb. This was actually the first time I had read a series where much of the time is spent out at sea rather than on land. The world is built based on different islands and ports across the vast sea. Through The Tide Child we travel across to various locations such as Safe Harbour, Bernshulme, Rock Island, and many more secret locations. Although beautiful and vast, it is also extremely daunting because of how huge the world is. Like one wrong move or turn and you’ll be a goner for sure lol.
Overall, i absolutely loved this so much! Considering I almost gave up half way through the first book I am extremely happy that I gave this series a chance! It’s brutal, intense, full of action, mutinees, loss, monsters, betrayals, complex characters, and a world that will have you in awe. I am honestly so so so fricking excited for book 3 after that mind bending cliffhanger!!? Like holy shit!!! Thank you very much to Angela and Orbit for sending this to me!