Book Haul – 23 September 2021

I have been having an absolutely fantastic couple of week for books, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  As I am anticipating getting some more books in the near future, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of the recent releases I have received before my new book pile got too big.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time.  I am extremely keen to read all of the books below and I cannot wait to check them out.

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie (Trade Paperback)

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

The first book in this haul is one of my most anticipated reads for the year, The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie.  The third and final novel in The Age of Madness series, The Wisdom of Crowds continues the epic story started in A Little Hatred (one of the best books of 2019) and continued in The Trouble with Peace (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020), bringing the entire series towards a dark and deadly conclusion.  I am reading this book at the moment, and so far it is pretty exceptional.  I cannot wait to see how it ends and I already know that this is going to be one of the top books of 2021.

 

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield (Trade Paperback)

The Apollo Murders Cover

Next on this list we have the awesome and compelling space thriller, The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield. This cool book is set in 1973 and follows a top-secret space mission to the Moon, filled with murder, espionage and a ton of technical detail.  I really like the sound of this novel and I am very excited to check it out.

 

The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker (Trade Paperback)

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

I was lucky enough to receive The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker, another outstanding novel that I have been looking forward to for ages.  Written by one of the fastest rising authors of dark fantasy fiction, The Bone Ship’s Wake is the third and final novel in The Tide Child trilogy, which follows the condemned crew of a ship made out of dragon bone.  The previous two novels in this series, The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships, have both been epic five-star reads and I have extremely high hopes for this amazing novel.

 

Viral by Robin Cook (Trade Paperback)

Viral Cover

I also received a copy of Viral, a novel about a pandemic by acclaimed medical thriller author Robin Cook.  Containing a very topical narrative, Viral sounds like a fascinating and powerful thriller, and it should prove to be quite an intriguing read.

 

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (Trade Paperback)

The Jasmine Throne Cover

Bestselling fantasy author Tasha Suri returns with the first entry in a brand new trilogy, The Jasmine Throne.  This compelling and exciting new fantasy novel has an interesting sounding narrative filled with magic, wars and complex characters, and I look forward to seeing what awesome ideas Suri fits into this novel.

 

Lies like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez (Trade Paperback)

Lies Like Wildfire Cover

One of the books I recently received that I am particularly curious about is the young adult novel Lies like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez.  This book follows a group of teenagers who accidently start a deadly forest fire and then attempt to cover it up.  I really like the sound of this thrilling and dramatic novel, and I have a feeling that I am going to have a great time reading it.

 

Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer (Trade Paperback)

Treasure & Dirt Cover

The final book I received was the new thriller novel from Australian author Chris Hammer, Treasure & DirtTreasure & Dirt is another fantastic sounding outback thriller, which examines a brutal murder in a corrupt mining town.  This sounds like a very fun read and I look forward to seeing what awesome story Hammer has come up with.

 

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.

Waiting on Wednesday – The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For my latest Waiting on Wednesday I take a look at one of my most anticipated reads for the second half of 2021, The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker, the final book in The Tide Child trilogy.

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

Most fantasy readers will be familiar with the incredible talent that is R. J. Barker, especially as the author has been one of the leading authors in the genre since their debut in 2017.  I have been a major fan of Barker’s ever since I read the first book in his The Wounded Kingdom series.  This first book, Age of Assassins, was a great read that focused on an intriguing pair of assassins in a dark fantasy world.  I had a fantastic time reading Age of Assassins, and Barker swiftly followed his debut with Blood of Assassins and King of Assassins, both of which were better than the last.  I deeply enjoyed The Wounded Kingdom novels, and Barker made sure to capitalise on this success by releasing another amazing series the following year.

This second series was the outstanding and impressive The Tide Child trilogy.  Set in another unique dark fantasy world, The Tide Child novels follow a condemned crew who are forced to serve aboard black ships made from the bones of sea dragons and fight in a deadly, long running war.  The first novel in this series, The Bone Ships, introduced the central characters and set the crew on an epic quest to find and kill the last dragon.  This was an incredible and outstanding novel, as Barker was able to produce a powerful and compelling read that made full use of its nautical setting and features.  The Bone Ships was one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2019 and is a very highly recommended read.  Its sequel, Call of the Bone Ships, was another five-star read that was a particularly strong 2020 novel.  This second Tide Child novel had a great plot, which saw the crew, particularly its Shipwife, Meas Gillbryn and main character, Joron Twiner, start a rebellion in order to end the war and save the returning dragons.  Call of the Bone Ships ended on a fantastic cliffhanger, which leads us into the final book, The Bone Ship’s Wake.

The Bone Ship’s Wake, which is currently set for release on 28 September 2021, has an amazing amount of potential and I already know that it is going to be one of the better fantasy books of the year.  I have been hoping to feature this novel in a Waiting on Wednesday article for a while, but I had to wait for the cover to be revealed.  The wait was worth it however, as the new cover looks pretty damn impressive (all The Tide Child novel’s covers have been exceptionally cool).  In addition, we also have a brief synopsis, which provides some intriguing hints about what is going to happen with this final book.

Synopsis:

Discover a brilliantly imagined epic fantasy of honor, glory, and warfare in this action-packed conclusion to the David Gemmell Award-nominated trilogy.

Joron Twiner’s dreams of freedom lay shattered. His Shipwife is gone and all he has left is revenge. Leading the black fleet from the deck of Tide Child, he takes every opportunity to hurt the Hundred Isles he is given. But his time is limited.

His fleet is shrinking, the Keyshan’s Rot is running through his body, and he hiding from a prophecy that says he and the avian sorcerer, the Windseer will end the entire world.

But the Sea Dragons have returned, a miracle in itself, and who is to say that if you can have one miracle, there cannot be another?

Whelp, I know that I am excited for this.  It looks like Barker plans to end his trilogy on a massive high note, with lead character, Jordan Twiner, continuing the rebellion that was started in the previous book.  It will be very interesting to see how the entire story unfolds, especially as Twiner is dying from a disease, is missing the guiding influence of his Shipwife (captain) who sacrificed herself for her crew, and is also an apparent prophesised world destroyer.  There are so many awesome storylines that need to be wrapped up from the previous novel, and I cannot wait to see what Barker has planned for this final novel.  You have to know that there are going to be some major moments and twists featured in this final book, and I am expecting a particularly large and impressive naval battle at some point (I’m picturing rebel ships and dragons versus everyone else).  There is also likely to be a lot of painful and moving character development, especially as Twiner gets closer to either his death or achieving his unwanted destiny.  It will also be great to see what happens to some of the various side characters, as you become rather attached to several in the previous two books.  All of this should be pretty epic, and I am dying to see how it all comes together.

As you can probably tell from the above, I am pretty keen for this final novel in The Tide Child trilogy.  Barker is an exceptional author, and based on all his prior works, I know that this will be an incredible and captivating novel.  The Bone Ship’s Wake has nearly unlimited potential and I have no doubt that Barker will write one of his best novels yet.  This will be one of the best fantasy books of there year, and if you have not explored The Tide Child trilogy yet, you are missing out.

Call of the Bone Ships by RJ Barker

Call of the Bone Ships Cover

Publisher: Orbit (Trade Paperback – 24 November 2020)

Series: The Tide Child – Book Two

Length: 491 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the biggest rising stars in fantasy fiction, the always impressive RJ Barker, returns with the second novel in The Tide Child trilogy, Call of the Bone Ships, an epic read that was one of the best fantasy releases of 2020.

Welcome back to the boneship known as Tide Child, a black ship of the damned crewed by those condemned to death for various crimes in the Hundred Isles and tasked with fighting in a war against their nation’s rivals, the Gaunt Islanders.  Following their first grand adventure, which saw Tide Child save the last of the vast sea dragons from whose bones the powerful ships are made, much has changed in the world.  The Shipwife of Tide Child, Lucky Meas Gilbryn, seeks to undermine her mother, the ruler of the Hundred Isles, by working with black ships of both nations to create a new settlement outside of their tyrannical controls.  However, their previous decision to save the last dragon has had unexpected consequences, and soon the ocean is alive with the news that more dragons have returned.  With their return comes the battle to kill the creatures and harvest their bones to create more ships, as the nation with the most ships will rule the waves.  However, the crew of Tide Child find themselves drawn into a different conflict when they chance upon a damaged ship with a hold full of dead or dying prisoners.

Attempting to find out more about the mysterious cargo, Meas and Tide Childs’ Deckkeeper, Joron Twiner, try to follow it to its original destination, only to discover that their new island sanctuary has been destroyed and its people carried off for a nefarious purpose.  As they start to fight back against their former comrades in the Hundred Isles, Tide Child finds itself in the midst of a dark conspiracy which will push the entire world into chaos and conflict.  A new war is coming to the oceans, and no-one is safe from its deadly consequences.

Well damn, how does Barker keep on doing it?  Over the last few years, RJ Barker has been one of the most consistent and outstanding fantasy fiction writers out there, producing several incredible and deeply enjoyable novels.  I was a major fan of his debut, The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, as all three novels, Age of Assassins, Blood of Assassins and King of Assassins were amazing reads, with each one being better than the last.  However, Barker’s writing was on a whole other level in 2019 when he published the first entry in The Tide Child trilogy, The Bone Ships, an epic read that detailed the trials and tribulations of a condemned crew aboard a ship made from dragon bones.  I absolutely loved The Bone Ships and it was one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2019.  Needless to say, I was extremely eager to receive my copy of Call of the Bone Ships, and it was one of my most anticipated reads for the second half of 2020.  Unfortunately, circumstances forced me to hold off reading this novel until the end of the year, which I deeply regret as this was another awesome novel from Barker that got an easy five-star rating from me.

For Call of the Bone Ships, Barker has come up with another exciting and amazing narrative which follows a unique group of protagonists on a deadly adventure through a dark fantasy world.  Told primarily from the point of view of Tide Child’s Deckkeeper (first mate), Jordon Twiner, this is a massive character-driven story filled with action, intrigue, and betrayal.  While the first novel in this series focused on a wild adventure as a ship followed their new captain on a quest to find a sea dragon, this second novel focuses more on the politics of the Hundred Isles, as the Tide Child and their allies attacking as undercover rebels to undermine the cruel ruling hierarchy and determine what their plans are.  After an intriguing introduction, Call of the Bone Ships swiftly devolves into a war novel, as Meas and her crew begin to fight back against the oppressive Hundred Islanders who oppose them.  At the same time, Joron is forced to deal with a number of personal issues aboard the ship as he finds himself thrust into the midst of danger and betrayal as everything in his life goes to hell around him.  The plot of Call of the Bone Ships goes into some dark but captivating directions, and the Tide Child crew are hit with some major curveballs and tragic events.  All of this leads up to an impressive conclusion which is highlighted by a major and dramatic cliff-hanger that is going to require any reader of this book to desperately wait for the final entry in this series to be released.  While this book was a tad slow to start, especially if you were unfamiliar or somewhat forgetful of the events of The Bone Ships, it eventually resulted in a truly epic and outstanding story that proves impossible to put down once you get wrapped in its intense and captivating narrative.  The plot of Call of the Bone Ships has a fantastic flow on from the previous entry in the series and served as an excellent sequel, making great use of several of the story elements introduced in The Bone Ships and more than living up to the hype Barker established with the first The Tide Child novel.

One of the things that I have been most impressed with for this series is the author’s ability to create a gripping and consistently well-written maritime story.  Narratives that are primarily set aboard boats are notoriously hard to write, but Barker has risen to the challenge, writing a novel rich in naval and maritime detail, with a major fantasy fiction edge to it.  Call of the Bone Ships contains an intense amount of intriguing detail about the coming and goings aboard the ship out at sea and Barker does an amazing job highlighting the various day-to-day actions a crew are expected to undertake, as well as all the unique features that makes a ship in this fantasy universe different from real-world ships.  This impressive attention to detail translates extremely well into several naval battles and combat sequences, and it was cool to see the Tide Child engage in battle with other ships in some outstanding and beautifully written sequences.  In addition, Barker ensures that every major character in this novel had a real nautical feel to them.  Everything about these characters, from the way they spoke to how they act or think aboard the ship made you think of old sea-salts who had spent a lifetime on the waves, which helps to bring an interesting ring of realism to the story.  I also really love the intense and encapsulating atmospheres that Barker creates with his excellent writing ability, and you get a real sense of the moods of the entire ship throughout the novel, whether it be despair at something bad that has befallen the ship, or the sense of repetitive boredom that arrives from the ship doing the same action day after day with no break in routine.  All of this helps to produce a truly exceptional narrative, and I cannot emphasise how impressive the author’s various nautical inclusions are.

While the series is nominally about the dangerous events that the Tide Child finds itself involved with, in many ways its plot is driven by the growth and development of the main protagonist and point-of-view character Joron Twiner.  At the start of this series, Joron was a depressed and embittered young man who was unjustly forced aboard the black ship and made its Shipwife due to his lack of courage and determination.  But after meeting Meas and beginning to serve under her, Joron has become a competent officer who has the respect of most of his crew and who is now dedicated to Meas and her mission.  Call of the Bone Ships turns out to be a major novel for Joron as he participates in several adventures and battles, showing his skill as a commander, warrior and leader throughout the novel.  However, participation in these adventures has severe consequences as Joron gets beaten down and broken apart multiple times from injuries, betrayal and personal tragedy.  Watching Joron suffer is quite a hard part of this novel as the reader becomes extremely attached to him due to his likeable personality and sheer determination.  However, it is worth it to see Joron rise again as a stronger and much more developed person, and this ended up being a fantastic part of his personal story arc.  A lot of this book is also dedicated to Joron’s mysterious ability as the caller, someone who is prophesied by the Gullaime (the enslaved avian wind mystics who provide power to the ships) as a great saviour.  Joron, who first experienced these powers while calling a sea dragon to his aid, continues to develop certain abilities which prove to be rather effective and spectacular throughout the novel and opens up a lot of opportunities for the character.  The end of Call of the Bone Ships leaves Joron in an extremely intriguing position, and I am deeply curious about how his story will end in the final novel.

In addition to his complex protagonist, Barker also includes a literal raft of impressive and captivating characters, most of whom serve as members of Tide Child’s crew.  These great characters each have distinctive personalities and add a great deal to the narrative.  The main side character is easily Lucky Meas, the Shipwife of Tide Child who has turned her ship from a bastion of reprobates to a group of heroes with a noble purpose (mostly).  Meas is a truly inspirational character who has served as a close mentor to Joron and who continues to lead her crew with wisdom, experience, and humility.  Meas was a little less utilised in this novel than in the first book, with Joron taking more of a lead now that he has some command experience.  She was still a fantastic and distinctive character within this latest novel, and I really enjoyed where her personal story arc went, even though we still do not have that much information about her backstory.  Another great character was Tide Child’s ultra-powerful Gullaime, who continues to work along the crew, especially Joron, who has a special connection to the creature.  The Gullaime also has a rather intriguing arc in this novel, and it is clear that he will play a rather substantial role in the ending of the overall series.  The mysterious bird creature also develops a lot more as a character in this novel, especially after encountering different members of his species, although he continues to provide his entertaining tirades of broken speech to the crew.  The rest of the crew prove to be extremely compelling, and I liked the fact that Barker spent time expanding out the roles and personalities of a huge number of side characters, including giving several of them brief point-of-view chapters.  However, in some of these cases it did seem that the author only gave these characters more of a role so that he could then brutally kill them off, much to the heartbreak of the reader.  A number of these characters do get some rather substantial and enjoyable story arcs, and it will be interesting to see where the remaining members of the crew end up in the final book.

I have a lot of love for the dark and elaborate fantasy worlds that Barker creates in his novels, and the one featured in The Tide Child series is particularly amazing.  I deeply enjoyed this harsh and cruel world of small islands, deadly seas and warring nations, especially with the cool gender-bent world (for example, captains are known as Shipwives, while boats are referred to as him).  I really enjoyed returning to this amazing and creative world, especially as it proves to be an incredibly rich setting for the novel’s awesome and addictive narrative.  Barker does some excellent world-building in this second entry in the series, and you get some cool features, such as different groups of Gullaimes who lack wind powers but serve as jailers for their powered brethren, some new powers for the characters and some intriguing new locations.  All of this helped to create a more elaborate and impressive narrative and it is always cool to see more of this grim and deadly fantasy universe, especially as Barker’s awesome writing bring so many of the more impressive elements, such as the giant dragons, to life in such epic fashion.

The final thing I wanted to praise about Call of the Bone Ships were all the little details featured within the paperback version of the novel, that I would have previously missed in the first The Tide Child novel due to me checking out The Bone Ships in audiobook format.  I definitely have to highlight the impressive and intricate cover above, which was drawn by talented artist Edward Bettison.  The covers for this series are extremely cool, and I cannot wait to see what amazing design the artist comes up for the final entry in the series.  I also really liked the awesome artwork that was featured within the novel.  Not only is there a fantastic and detailed map at the very front of the book but there is also some sweet artwork at the start of each chapter, which depicts locations, creatures and characters from within the book.  Barker has also featured a short index at the end of the novel which contains some of the crew titles that were created for the series, detailing what each crew member is supposed to do.  All of these details are great and eye-catching inclusions to the novel, and I felt that it made Call of the Bone Ships just a little bit more special.

Call of the Bone Ships by RJ Barker was another epic and outstanding novel that shows why Barker is one of the most impressive new fantasy talents in recent years.  This incredible sequel to 2019’s The Bone Ships contains an exceptional and addictive story at sea, featuring rich and complex characters and all set within a creative and vibrantly dark fantasy world.  The combination of these awesome elements helps to create a captivating and powerful read which turned out to be one of the best books of the year.  I cannot recommend this novel enough.  If you have not found out about RJ Barker yet, you are really missing out!

WWW Wednesday – 30 December 2020

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?


It has been a bit of a slow reading week for me, which I am choosing to blame on all the holiday excitement.  While I have made a bit of progress on the books that I was reading last week (see below), I have not finished anything off.  That being said, both of the below books are pretty amazing and I should hopefully knock them off soon.

 

Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker (Trade Paperback)

Call of the Bone Ships Cover


Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas (Audiobook)

Cyber Shogun Revolution

What do you think you’ll read next?

Fool Me Twice by Jeff Lindsay (Trade Paperback)

Fool Me Twice Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Quick Review – King of Assassins by R. J. Barker

king of assassins cover

Publisher: Hachette Audio (Audiobook – 7 August 2018)

Series: The Wounded Kingdom – Book Three

Length: 17 hours and 17 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I recently received a copy of R. J. Barker’s latest epic fantasy novel, Call of the Bone Ships, but before I dive into that I figured I would finally review for the third and final novel in Barker’s The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, King of Assassins.

Barker is a talented fantasy author who has been absolutely killing it over the last couple of years, creating several outstanding fantasy novels since his 2017 debut, Age of Assassins.  I was lucky enough to receive Age of Assassins, which is also the first book in The Wounded Kingdom series, when it first came out and had a fantastic time reading it.  I also really enjoyed the sequel, Blood of Assassins, which continued the excellent storylines from the first book in epic fashion.  I was quite keen to read the third book, King of Assassins, when it first came out, but I did not get a chance to read it back in 2018, which I had deep regrets about.  I did  manage to read it late last year, but I then completely failed to review it, even after I enjoyed Barker’s new novel, The Bone Ships.  So it is high time I got off my ass and pulled something together for it, especially as King of Assassins was a particularly amazing novel that gets a full five-star rating from me.

Synopsis:

The King is dead, long live the King….

Many years of peace have passed in Maniyadoc, years of relative calm for the assassin Girton Club-Foot. Even the Forgetting Plague, which ravaged the rest of the kingdoms, seemed to pass them by. But now Rufra ap Vthyr eyes the vacant High-King’s throne and will take his court to the capital, a rat’s nest of intrigue and murder, where every enemy he has ever made will gather and the endgame of 20 years of politics and murder will be played out in his bid to become the King of all Kings.

Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and the god of death, Xus the Unseen, stands closer than ever – casting his shadow over everything most dear to Girton.

One of the things that I really enjoy about Barker is the way in which he significantly improves as an author with every single book that he writes.  King of Assassins is a particularly great example of this, as the author does an impressive job expanding and enhancing his already amazing series in this novel, presenting the reader with an incredible story that makes excellent use of its dark setting and exceptional characters.  The result is an awesome and deeply captivating read that was easily my favourite book in the entire trilogy, which is saying a bit considering how good the first two entries were.

At the centre of this novel is an outstanding dark fantasy narrative which sees the assassin, Girton Club-Foot, accompany his lord, Rufra ap Vthyr, into the dangerous capital of the broken and war-ravished kingdom this series is set in.  This results in Girton and his companions stuck in the middle of a dark and crumbling citadel, surrounded by nearly every enemy and manipulator that they have encountered throughout the course of the series, as well as several new ones who pop up in this book.  As Rufra attempts to politic his way into becoming High-King, Girton navigates his way through the many dangers of the citadel, attempting to uncover the hidden motives and plans of his enemies.  Unsurprisingly, nearly every other player gathered in the citadel has plans to either kill Girton and Rufra or manipulate them for their own advantage.  As a result, King of Assassins quickly turns into an intense and exciting narrative, as the characters must unravel every plot and conspiracy in the fortress to find out everyone working against them and what their ultimate goals are.  These leads to several amazing storylines and impressive reveals throughout the course of the book, as Girton desperately attempts to save his friends while also protecting his darkest secret.  All of this comes together in an amazing conclusion which will not only satisfy fans of the series but which also delivers some clever and surprising twists that will leave the reader breathless.

There is a bit of a significant time skip between the events of this book and the preceding Blood of Assassins, which Barker works into the story very well, allowing for some subsequent changes in relationships and the simmering of old grudges.  The author also spends a substantial amount of time wrapping up some of the storylines and character arcs from the previous novels in the series, which really helped to give the novel a sense of completeness while also resulting in some big moments for the various characters.  I also really must highlight the dark, foreboding setting in which the characters find themselves in.  Not only has Barker created a great location for treachery, betrayal, and bloodshed, but he installed an extremely dark and oppressive atmosphere into it that the reader can taste as they read/listen to the book.  The sense of dread and despair that washes over the reader as they have the castle and its people described to them really enhances the story and ensures that they are eagerly waiting for the protagonists to prevail and rid the world of darkness.  All in all, this was an extremely well-written and utterly compelling narrative, and readers will quickly find themselves enthralled within it.

Among the main things I liked about King of Assassins were the impressive characters, most of whom have appeared in some of the previous novels in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy.  Barker has done an awesome job of developing each of these characters throughout the course of the series, and in this final book they all reach the conclusion of their individual or joint arcs.  While this does result in a bit of heartbreak and betrayal for some characters, one or two are quite nice, and I think those readers who have read the earlier entries in the series will be quite satisfied by where each character ends up.  The focus of the book is naturally on the point-of-view character Girton, who has gone through a lot throughout the course of the series.  Girton continues to battle his demons in this book, including his hidden and dangerous magical ability, and he must come to terms with several betrayals and old wounds from the previous books.  A major focus of the series has been the friendship between Girton and Rufra, as their lives have become inexorably bound together.  While their friendship had some ups in downs in the past, by the start of this book relationship has become a lot more strained due to differences in opinions about certain events.  Despite this the two constantly attempt to reconcile throughout the course of the novel, often unsuccessfully, but the power and complexity of their friendship is a key cornerstone of the book’s plot.  However, their joint character arc has a major twist into it near the end of the book, and the devastated feelings that result make for quite an epic and heartfelt conclusion to their narrative.  I also quite liked how the character of Aydor was featured in this book.  Aydor was one of the main antagonists of the first novel who eventually morphed into a reluctant ally in the second book.  However, in King of Assassins, after the time-skip he has become one of Girton’s closest friends and confidants.  I loved this gradual and excellent change in personality for Aydor, especially as he becomes one the nicest and warmest people in the entire novel and it was fantastic to see his relationship with Girton change throughout the series.  I ended up really loving all the amazing character arcs that concluded in King of Assassins and each of them added a strong, emotionally rich pillar to the overall narrative.

I ended up listening to King of Assassins on audiobook, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this format to anyone interested in checking out this excellent fantasy novel.  The King of Assassins audiobook is narrated by the talented Joe Jameson and has a run time of 17 hours and 17 minutes.  I had an amazing time listening to this audiobook, not only because the format helped me dive into the narrative but because of Jameson’s impressive narration.  Jameson did a fantastic job bringing the various characters to life in this book and his voice works extremely well for the first-person narration that Barker uses for his novels.  I personally found that Jameson’s narration helped to enhance the dark atmosphere that the author created with his writing and this made for an outstanding listen.  At just over 17 hours in length, this is a somewhat more substantial audiobook listen, but I found myself getting through it in an extremely short amount of time as it proved very hard to turn off.  This is an overall awesome audiobook and an excellent way to enjoy this great novel.

King of Assassins by R. J. Barker is an exceptional and captivating novel which takes the reader on an exciting and addictive ride.  This is an extremely well-written and impressive book that serves as an excellent conclusion to the fantastic The Wounded Kingdom trilogy.  This was honestly one of the better fantasy novels of 2018 and this review is a long-time coming.  King of Assassins is an outstanding book, and I am looking forward to checking out Barker’s latest novel, Call of the Bone Ships, in the next week or so.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I loved but Never Reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  As part of the latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list their top ten books that they loved but never reviewed.  This is a rather intriguing topic and it is one that I instantly related to as there are quite a few incredible novels that I have read which I never got around to reviewing.

Now, if I am going to be honest the number of books that I have read throughout my life heavily outweighs the total number of reviews that I have written.  This is mostly because I only started reviewing books a few years ago, but I have been reading pretty much my entire life.  Indeed, it has only been since I have started writing this blog that I really began reviewing every book that I read, and even then, I do miss a few.  As a result, there are quite a few books that I read pre-2018 which I never got around to reviewing, including several novels and series I consider to be my most favourite books of all time.  While I have managed to go back and review several key series that I loved when I was younger, such as The Inheritance Cycle, the Tomorrow series and the Empire trilogy, I have not had the chance to write anything about some truly amazing series and novels I previously read.  While I hope to rectify that in the future, for the moment my lack of action allows me to include these novels in this Top Ten list.

It honestly did not take me long to come up with the ten entries for this article, as several key books have been floating in my mind since I saw this topic.  I have cheated a little and included several series as entries rather than individual novels.  However, I think that this better highlights how much I enjoyed these books, plus if I review one book in the series, I will try my hardest to review all of them.  The list that I came up with contains quite a few major series and authors, including several of my absolute favourite authors and these represent some pretty substantial gaps in my reviewer credentials.  Still, I like how the list turned out, even if it is a bit fantasy heavy, and I feel that it accurately represents which books I most want to go back and review.

Top Ten List:


The Kingkiller Chronicles
by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind Cover

The first entry on this list is the amazing Kingkiller Chronicles from the exceedingly talented Patrick Rothfuss.  I only got around to reading these books a few years ago, but in my opinion they are some of the greatest, if not the absolute best, fantasy novels of all time.  I had an absolutely incredible time reading both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and I have been eagerly awaiting the third novel in the series (currently titled The Doors of Stone) ever since I finished the first two books.  While I adore both books in the series, writing a review for them now is somewhat problematic due to how much intricate detail and clever storytelling that Rothfuss fit into these novels.  In order to do a proper review, I really need to do a reread of these books, which, due to their length, is rather hard to fit into my reading schedule.  Still, I really should make the time to have another read of them in the near future, especially before the third book comes out.


Harry Potter
series by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Cover

My second entry on this list is a series that truly needs no introduction.  Like everyone of a certain age, I read all seven of these books when they first came out, and I have also done a huge number of rereads of all of them over the years.  While I could easily do a review of any of them from memory alone, I have been hesitant about writing anything about the Harry Potter books, due to the sheer amount of reviews and discussions that have already occurred.  Let us face it, pretty much everyone has read these books since they came out and there are already innumerable reviews about them all over the place.  I honestly cannot think of anything new or original that I could say that would differentiate anything I wrote from what already exists, so it seems a little pointless to do so.


Gentleman Bastards
series by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

This is another incredible fantasy series that I only got to reading a few years ago but which I absolutely loved.  The Gentleman Bastards books are an extraordinary fantasy series that sets a group of clever conmen against some of the most dangerous people in a chaotic fantasy world.  All three of the books in this series have been top rate reads, and I cannot wait for the fourth novel to come out.  This is another series chock full of detailed and complex storylines and I really need to do a reread before I can talk about all the clever twists and turns that occur throughout the story.


Most of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett

The Colour of Magic Cover

Based on the name of blog, it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett’s iconic, hilarious and exceedingly clever Discworld series.  I have loved these books since I was a child, and I have read them all so many times I could probably review them from memory alone.  However, so far I have only reviewed one of them, Moving Pictures.  I have always intended to review the rest of these books as part of my Throwback Thursday series, but I have so far failed to do so.  Hopefully, I will manage to write some stuff for them up in the future as these are all great books to read.


The First Law
series by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself

The First Law series is a trilogy of impressive dark fantasy novels that I really enjoyed.  This is such an amazing series and I have plans to review it at some point in the future, especially as I loved its compelling and violent story, as well as its various complex and flawed characters.  In the meantime, make sure to check out my review for the first book in the sequel series, A Little Hatred.


A Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones Cover

This is another world-famous book which I have held off reviewing as every man and their dog has already said something about it, or its associated television show.  I did really enjoy this first novel, which is unsurprising considering how similar it is to the show, although I really need to read it again in order to note all its complexities.  I have been considering doing a big A Song of Ice and Fire reading marathon now that the show is finished, but that would take up a huge amount of reading time that I honestly just do not have.  Still, it is something to consider for the future, and maybe I could do it before the next novel in the series comes out.


Magician
by Raymond E. Feist

Magician Cover

I could have featured any of the fun fantasy novels in Feist’s long-running Riftwar Cycle on this list due to how much I enjoyed them, but I decided to only include his debut novel, Magician.  Not only is Magician one of the most impressive novels that Feist ever wrote, but it is actually the Riftwar Cycle novel I have the best memory of as I reread it a couple of years ago.  I will probably try and read this book a third time before I write anything up for it, especially as I can use that as a jumping off point to go back and check out the rest of the books in the Riftwar Cycle after that.


The Dark Elf
trilogy by R. A. Salvatore

Homeland Cover

I have read a huge amount of novels from fantasy legend R. A. Salvatore and while I have reviewed a lot of his recent stuff I have not yet had a chance to go back and review some of his earlier work. This includes The Dark Elf trilogy, which I consider to be his strongest and most impressive series of books.  These three novels are extremely good, especially as they contain the background story for one of the most complex and iconic high fantasy characters of all time, the Dark Elf ranger Drizzt Do’Urden.  I have read these books a few times, but I will probably need to do another reread in order to capture them completely.  Luckily, these books are not too long, so it would be a somewhat easier prospect to go back and read them than some of the other entries on this list.  I will probably consider doing this soon once I get my hands on the next upcoming book from Salvatore, Relentless, so this might happen soon.


King of Assassins
by RJ Barker

king of assassins cover

King of Assassins was a 2018 release from new fantasy author RJ Barker that I listened to halfway through last year.  Serving as the final novel in The Wounded Kingdom series, which followed on from Age of Assassins and Blood of Assassins, King of Assassins was an amazing read and it was probably the best entry in the entire trilogy.  Due to other reviews and conflicting priorities, I completely failed to write any sort of review for this book, which was a real shame because this is an amazing five-star read.  I really need to write something for this before all the details slip out of my mind, and even a short review would be better than nothing.


Recursion
by Blake Crouch

Recursion Cover

This is another book I read last year which I completely failed to finish reviewing.  Recursion is a really clever science fiction thriller that I had an awesome time reading.  I actually started a quick review for this book at some point, but I never got around to finalising it.  This was easily one of my favourite books of 2019, so I should probably finish off this review some point soon.

 

Well, that is the end of that top ten list.  As you can see, I have a ton of really impressive novels that I need to review at some point, and I foresee a lot of rereads in my future.  Still, it should be worth as each of the above books is pretty damn awesome and I know I can do a great review for each of them.  Despite my lack of writing about them, all of the above novels and series are amazing reads, and each of them come highly recommended, especially if you want to see how incredible the fantasy genre can be.  Meanwhile, make sure to let me know which of the above series/books are your favourites in the comments below.

The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ships Cover

Publisher: Hachette Audio (Audiobook – 24 September 2019)

Series: The Tide Child – Book One

Length: 17 hours and 2 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From one of the brightest new stars in fantasy fiction, R. J. Barker, comes The Bone Ships, a remarkable and extremely captivating new adventure that can be described as Gaunt’s Ghosts meets Moby Dick in an incredibly inventive new fantasy world.

Barker has been making some serious waves in the fantasy genre over the last couple of years, ever since bursting onto the scene in 2017 with his debut novel, Age of Assassins, which started The Wounded Kingdom trilogy. He quickly followed this up in 2018, when he released the second and third books in this trilogy, Blood of Assassins and King of Assassins. I absolutely loved all three books in this trilogy, although I haven’t yet reviewed King of Assassins. Spoiler: it does get five out of five stars from me and recently made my Top Ten pre-2019 Books list.

As a result, I was very excited earlier in the year when I found out that Barker was writing a whole new series. The Bone Ships is the first book in The Tide Child series, and it has been pretty high up on my to-read list for a while, as I have featured it on both my Top Ten Most Anticipated July-December 2019 Releases and my Top Ten Books I Would Like to Read by the End of 2019 lists. I ended up listening to the audiobook version of The Bone Ships, narrated by Jude Owusu, and what I found was an excellent and inventive fantasy read that might just be one of my favourite books of 2019.

For generations the rival nations of the Hundred Isles and the Gaunt Islands have been fighting each other for dominance of the vast oceans that make up their world. In order to fight this bitter conflict, great ships of war were constructed using the bones of the giant sea dragons, the arakeesian, as only these boneships could withstand the rigours of battle and all the horrors the seas contain. However, years of warfare and shipbuilding has taken a terrible toll, as the arakeesian are now all extinct, and both sides’ supplies of dragon bone are nearing their end.

Of all the remaining boneships in the Hundred Isles fleet, none are considered lower than a black ship. Black ships are ships of the dead, where every crewmember aboard has been condemned to die in shame, unless they can redeem themselves through some great act of bravery. However, the crew of the black ship Tide Child have no intention of performing any acts of bravery, and they and their shipwife, Joron Twiner, are content to drink themselves into oblivion—that is, until the arrival of “Lucky” Meas Gillbryn.

Meas is one of the most respected and feared commanders in all the Hundred Isles, but she has recently been disgraced and banished to Tide Child. Quickly taking control of the ship from Joron, Meas works to turn Tide Child and its crew around and make it into an efficient and proud crew of sailors, because they have a dangerous mission to undertake. The first sea dragon in a generation has been spotted, and whichever side hunts it down and claims its bones will gain a distinct advantage in the war. However, Meas has a different plan in mind, and sets out to protect the dragon from all who want it. Facing off against rival ships, raiders, pirates and treachery from within, can the crew of Tide Child survive to become the stuff of legend, or will their death sentence finally be carried out?

Well damn! Now that was a pretty awesome read! This latest offering from Barker was a superb and elaborate tale of redemption, adversity, camaraderie and adventure on the high seas. Not only is it based on an inventive premise and an elaborate new fantasy world but it contains a first-rate and compelling story that I absolutely loved. This is an absolutely fantastic story which is paced out extremely well and, after the necessary introductions, quickly turns into an addictive yarn with a number of clever elements to it. The end result is a powerful and enjoyable tale which is a wonderful self-contained story but which also sets up some intriguing storylines for any future instalments of this new series.

At the heart of The Bone Ships is an excellent story of camaraderie, respect and selfish people coming together to be part of something bigger. The main setting for the book, the boneship Tide Child, is completely crewed by condemned men and women, most of whom have given up on any form of redemption and are more concerned with petty crime and getting drunk. However, when Meas enters the picture, she quickly turns them into an efficient crew and reignites their pride as sailors and soldiers for their nation. This evolves into a really good redemption arc, as the entire crew really starts to come together as a close-knit team and are eventually given a task which could make them all heroes. The vast majority of the crew subsequently rise to the challenge, so much so that their usually hard-as-nails and determined shipwife is at one point willing to sacrifice everything to save them. This is a pretty fun and amazing part of the story, and it helps that Barker spends time introducing a number of key members of the crew and building them up as likeable characters. There are quite a few fantastic and enjoyable characters scattered throughout the story, and their inclusion really helps the reader grow to care about the people on the ship.

The best character relationship in the book can be seen between the two main characters, Joron Twiner and Meas. Joron is book’s point-of-view character and starts the story off as a drunken, apathetic wreck. Upon losing the position of shipwife to Meas, he expects to be placed at the bottom of the ship’s pecking order, but Meas keeps him on as her deckkeeper (first mate), despite her evident low opinion of him. Throughout the course of the book, these two characters grow closer and eventually become something closer to friends, while at the same time they both show considerable growth as characters. Meas spends a lot of time mentoring Joron, and he slowly moves on from his personal despair to become a respected and capable officer on the ship. Moreover, Joron slowly begins to lose the resentment he holds for Meas for taking his position as shipwife, and starts to really respect her, and see why she is a better commander of the ship. At the same time, Joron also starts to better understand what drives Meas, and why she is so determined to succeed in her mission. The two make for a wonderful partnership, and I think that Barker did a particularly fantastic job with the character of Meas, and I loved his portrayal of her as a rough, tough captain with a secret heart of gold.

While all the character elements I mention above are pretty spectacular, to my mind, one of the most striking and enjoyable things about The Bone Ships is the excellent nautical elements that the author was able to work into the story. I have to say that I was very impressed that Barker, whose previous series was set entirely on land, was able to come up with a detailed and exciting story set mostly aboard a ship, especially as he was utilising these elements for the first time in this book. The author installs a huge amount of nautical detail into his story, and the depictions of life and work aboard a ship of war was pretty amazing, so much so that at times, the reader feels like they are actually aboard this ship. I felt that Barker did an amazing job of combining these cool nautical details with the new fantasy elements he introduced in this book to produce a truly unique adventure on the high seas. I also loved all the shipboard action and combat that occurred throughout the course of the book. There were some really elaborate battles set throughout the story, from an attack on the Tide Child from a flotilla of smaller boats, to a wide-ranging battle between opposing groups of larger ships. The utilisation of unique tactics and fantasy elements, such as powerful crossbows, wind magic and the fact that they are fighting above a giant sea dragon, make for some truly thrilling and exciting battle sequences, which were an absolute treat to read. I am so glad that Barker decided to set this story on the open seas, as it made for truly amazing novel.

One of the other things that I liked about The Bone Ships was the excellent new dark fantasy world that Barker created for this new series. Barker has a real talent for this, as seen in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, and he did it again for this latest book, where the reader is given a fascinating glimpse into a large, ocean dominated world, with all manner of unique fantasy elements in it. This new world is a harsh and deadly place, filled with a huge number of deadly sea beasts that can kill a man in a number of gruesome ways. Into this, Barker also introduces a fun new ship-based culture, complete with a matriarchal society, an intriguing religion and enslaved wind-controlling bird-people. In addition, the two nations that are showcased in this first book are locked in a massive, generations-old conflict, which has completely consumed their societies. I felt that the author did a good job of introducing all the elements of his new world to the reader in a timely and complete manner, and there was never any deficit of knowledge that reduces the reader’s enjoyment of the book. There are so many tiny details that Barker installs in this world, such as the use of paint for good luck, the rarity of metals (island nations, not much room for mines) and the gender bending of ship names and titles (ships are thought of as male, while the captain is called shipwife, no matter their actual gender). All of this, as well as the cool new fantasy elements that Barker comes up with for the story, such as the giant sea-dragons whose bones are used for shipbuilding (what a concept!), make for an exceedingly fascinating background for this fun story.

As I mentioned above, I chose to listen to the audiobook version The Bone Ships, narrated by the talented Jude Owusu. It ran for just over 17 hours in length, which I was able to power through extremely quickly, especially once the story really got going. I have to say that I was really glad that I decided to utilise the audiobook format, as I felt that it helped me visualise all the cool action and excitement that was occurring aboard Tide Child. In addition, I always find that the audiobook format helps me appreciate all the details of a story’s universe, and this was definitely true for The Bone Ships, as I was really able to dive in and fully experience the great new fantasy world in all its glory.

I also have to say how impressed I was with Jude Owusu’s excellent narration of this audiobook. Owusu has a fantastic voice, which I felt really fit into the nautical theme of the entire book. He also comes up with some very distinctive and fitting voices for the various characters that feature within the book, which I felt helped bring out many of these characters personalities. I was particularly impressed with the harsh and commanding voice that he utilised for Meas, and the various sequences where she was barking out orders and threats aboard the ship were a real treat to listen to, as it perfectly encapsulated the shipwife. Other standout characters that Owusu brought to life include Mevans, who the narrator gifted with an exceedingly cheerful voice which fit his personality perfectly, and the mysterious Gullaime, whose narration contained a certain birdy quality to. I also have to commend the real and obvious enthusiasm that Owusu brought to the role. I have always found that enthusiastic narrators can make an audiobook truly come to life, and Owusu was a really good example of this. Not only did his voice contain some noticeable excitement when he narrated the various action sequences throughout the book, but he really got into voicing elements of the story, such as the various shanty-like rhymes that Barker installed throughout the story, or the various nautical response of the crew. The way that he shouted out “Ey” (the sailor’s way of saying yes) multiple times throughout the book was a lot of fun, and I could feel the infectious enthusiasm of the crew while he did this. The sheer passion and vocal skill that Owusu puts into this audiobook is just fantastic, and I cannot recommend this format enough, as it was an amazing way to enjoy this epic book.

The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker is an absolutely outstanding read that I cannot recommend enough. Barker is quickly becoming one of the most impressive new fantasy authors out there, and he honestly gets better with every book he writes. The Bone Ships had so many cool elements to it, and any readers who check it out will be quickly hooked by its captivating story and bold adventure. I cannot wait to see where Barker will take this story next, and I would strongly encourage any reader looking for their next amazing fantasy tale, to check out this great new book. Also, how awesome is the cover for this book!!

Waiting on Wednesday – The Bone Ships by RJ Barker

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.

The Bone Ships Cover.jpg
For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, I check out the new upcoming book from one of the fastest rising stars in fantasy fiction, RJ Barker.  Barker shot to prominence in 2017 with his debut novel, Age of Assassins, which was quite an impressive piece of fantasy fiction.  Age of Assassins was the first book in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, and the rest of the trilogy, made up of Blood of Assassins and King of Assassins, were released to high critical acclaim in quite a remarkably short time period.  With The Wounded Kingdom trilogy finished, Barker has moved on to a brand new series with The Bone Ships, the first book in his planned The Tide Child series, which is set to be released in September 2019.

I really enjoyed Barker’s The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, with Age of Assassins and Blood of Assassins being among the top fantasy books I read in 2017 and 2018 respectfully.  I still have to read King of Assassins, even after featuring it on my Books I Wish I Read in 2018 Top Ten list.  Despite not getting around to reading it yet, King of Assassins is still quite high up on my must-read list, especially as I have heard that it is the strongest book in this inventive and exciting trilogy.  I hope that I will get a chance to read it in the next few months, and I would like to read it before I look at Barker’s upcoming book.

A number of details about The Bone Ships have already been released.  The book’s amazing cover has been out for some time, and plot details about the book are available on Goodreads.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A crew of condemned criminals embark on a suicide mission to hunt the first sea dragon seen in centuries in the first book of this adventure fantasy trilogy.

Violent raids plague the divided isles of the Scattered Archipelago. Fleets constantly battle for dominance and glory, and no commander stands higher among them than “Lucky” Meas Gilbryn.

But betrayed and condemned to command a ship of criminals, Meas is forced on suicide mission to hunt the first living sea-dragon in generations. Everyone wants it, but Meas Gilbryn has her own ideas about the great beast. In the Scattered Archipelago, a dragon’s life, like all lives, is bound in blood, death and treachery.

The above summary sounds like The Bone Ships is going to be a lot of fun, as Barker goes from a trilogy about assassins to a book that focuses on a suicide squad of pirates as they attempt to kill a dragon.  I mean, that is just plain awesome: pirates fighting dragons!  Even if I weren’t already familiar with Barker’s ability as a fantasy author, I would already be trying to get a copy of this book.  With Baker at the helm of this epic-sounding story, I have no doubts that this book will an absolute joy to read, and I am really looking forward to it.

The Bone Ships has real potential to be one of the best fantasy books of 2019, and no doubt it will be one of the most sought-after releases this September.  I am quite excited for this latest novel from Barker, and I am sure it will prove to be an interesting book to review.