Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Literary Trilogies

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  While the official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday required participants to list the 10 characters they would love an update on, I have decided to do something a little different, and instead will be listening my favourite literary trilogies.

Trilogies in literature are a long-running and deeply fun tradition that packs an epic connected tale, into three consecutive novels.  There are some truly amazing trilogies out there, from the classics, like The Lord of the Rings, to some recent trilogies that I have been deeply enjoying.  Indeed, 2021 alone has seen the end of several epic and outstanding literary trilogies.  I just finished one particularly incredible trilogy, and it got me thinking about some of the other amazing three-book series I have read.  That inspired me and I thought I would take this opportunity to try and list my 10 favourite novel trilogies of all time.  I have had the great pleasure of reading some truly awesome and exciting trilogies over the years, and I feel this is the perfect time to highlight them, especially if anyone is looking for a new trilogy/series to get addicted to.

This proved to be a fun list to pull together, especially as I had a great wealth of potential trilogies to feature on this list.  To be eligible for this list, the proposed trilogy must consist of three, inter-connected novels.  I only included series that were intended to end after three novels, rather than by happenstance, so that means that series like The Gentleman Bastards will not be featured (it technically has a fourth novel on the way).  I also excluded trilogies that I have not yet completed, even if I have already read and deeply enjoyed the first two novels.  This is because I really need to see how the third book turns out, as a bad third entry can easily spoil a trilogy that starts out with some fantastic novels.

Even with these restrictions, I ended up with a descent list of trilogies, which took me a little while to cull down and which resulted in a good honourable mentions section.  I am judging these trilogies on several factors, including how complete their story is, how well connected the novels are, and whether the component novels provide good introductions, conclusions and connections to the other books in the trilogy.  I am pretty happy with how this latest Top Ten Tuesday turned out, and I think that perfectly represents the best trilogies that I have so far finished.

Honourable Mentions:

The Wounded Kingdom trilogy by R. J. Barker

Wounded Kingdom Trilogy

A fun and awesome dark fantasy trilogy that follows an assassin as he finds himself fighting for the future of a kingdom.  Featuring a great first novel (Age of Assassins), a powerful middle entry (Blood of Assassins) and an epic ending (King of Assassins), this debut series from R. J. Barker was pretty damn awesome and really worth a read.

 

DiscworldMoist von Lipwig trilogy by Terry Pratchett

Moist von Lipwig Trilogy

Terry Pratchett’s exceptional Discworld series featured several interconnected sub-series and standalone reads, but only the Moist von Lipwig books can really be considered a trilogy.  Made up of Going Postal, Making Money and Raising Steam, these are some of Pratchett’s final books, and have a different, but still entertaining, writing stye to them.  While I love these three novels, I have decided to leave this trilogy as an honourable mention due to its potential premature ending and its complex status within the larger Discworld series.

 

Royal Bastards trilogy by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards Cover

A fantastic and clever young adult fantasy series that followed the illegitimate children of treacherous nobles as they try to right the wrongs of their parents.  Consisting of Royal Bastards, City of Bastards and War of the Bastards, this is an impressive and captivating trilogy with some dark storylines and complex characters.

 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games Trilogy

I had to include the iconic Hunger Games novels by Suzanne Collins on this list.  Made up of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, this is a great and fast-paced dystopian series that I have read a few times now.  All three novels are a lot of fun, although the first book is probably the best.  A recent prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes came out last year and is also worth a read.

Top Ten List:

The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

First Law Trilogy

Let us start this list off with the dark fantasy masterpiece that is Joe Abercrombie’s epic and exceptional The First Law trilogy.  Consisting of The Blade Itself, Before they are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings, this amazing trilogy follows a group of extremely complex and damaged characters as they attempt to navigate a dark world filled with betrayal, uncontrolled ambition, and all manner of monsters.  All three books are pretty incredible, with The Blade Itself providing an outstanding introduction, while Last Argument of Kings wraps everything up perfectly and leaves the reader with a troubling but memorable conclusion.  I powered through this trilogy in a very short time, and it remains one of my all-time favourite pieces of fantasy fiction.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Trilogy

Next, we have an amazing and complex Star Wars series by the legendary Timothy Zahn, who brings back his iconic extended universe character, Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Based in the new Disney canon, the Thrawn trilogy seeks to expand on the character’s appearances in Star Wars: Rebels and presents a complex and intriguing picture of this master tactician.  Featuring Thrawn, Alliances and Treason, this is a very well balanced and fascinating trilogy that is a must read for all Star Wars fans and is probably worth checking out before the character’s live action debut next year.  I was also tempted to include Zahn’s Thrawn Ascendancy novels (made up of Chaos Rising, Greater Good and Lesser Evil), but I am only halfway through the final book, and I really want to see how it concludes first.

 

The Icewind Dale trilogy by R. A. Salvatore

Icewind Dale Trilogy

Iconic fantasy author, R. A. Salvatore, has made a career out of writing trilogies, and there were several I could have included, especially his Dark Elf trilogy.  However, I think that his debut Icewind Dale series, is his most consistently impressive trilogy.  While the first novel, The Crystal Shard is a tad rough, the second and third books, Streams of Silver and The Halfling’s Gem, more than make up for it, and produce a brilliant overall story.  This series expertly introduces several of Salvatore’s key protagonists (who he is still writing about to this day) and sets up some outstanding plot points.  High fantasy at its very best, The Icewind Dale trilogy is an intense, classic trilogy that I can read again and again.

 

The Century trilogy by Ken Follett

Century Trilogy

Another author with some big series under his belt is talented thriller and historical fiction author Ken Follett.  My personal favourite Follett series is The Century trilogy, a massive and comprehensive historical fiction trilogy, made up of Fall of Giants, Winter of the World and Edge of Eternity.  This book takes place throughout the 20th century and follows three generations of several families as they navigate the century’s big historical events, including two world wars and the Cold War.  Some of the best historical fiction writing you are ever likely to see; this is a powerful and captivating series.

 

The Tide Child trilogy by R. J. Barker

The Tide Child Trilogy

The trilogy that inspired me to write this list was the exceptional The Tide Child trilogy by rising fantasy fiction start R. J. Barker.  Barker did some incredible work here producing an intense and addictive dark fantasy series that takes place primarily on a naval vessel made from dragon bones.  With some exceptional character work, beautifully written scenes, and some truly unique fantasy features, The Tide Child series is one of the absolute best fantasy trilogies out there.  All three novels, The Bone Ships (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2019), Call of the Bone Ships, and The Bone Ship’s Wake, are exceptional and enchanting reads, which come together to form a brilliant and highly recommend trilogy.

 

Planetside trilogy by Michael Mammay

Planetside Cover

Another great trilogy I finished this year was Michael Mammay’s outstanding Planetside science fiction thriller trilogy.  Consisting of Planetside (one of the best books of 2018), Spaceside and Colonyside (one of the best books and audiobooks from the first half of this year), this epic trilogy follows a cynical military veteran who is dragged in to investigate a series of conspiracies, which continually forces him to commit genocide.  One of the cleverest series I have read in recent years, Mammay is an exceptional author, and I had a lot of fun getting through this trilogy.

 

The Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Age of Madness Trilogy

Not content with only having one exceptional fantasy trilogy, Joe Abercrombie had to double down and write the epic sequel trilogy, The Age of Madness.  Set a generation after The First Law trilogy, the three Age of Madness novels, A Little Hatred, The Trouble with Peace and The Wisdom of Crowds, contains another outstanding dark fantasy tale following a whole new group of complex and troubled protagonists.  This brilliant trilogy has only just come to an end and featured three outstanding five-star reads.  These amazing novels form a deeply thrilling and powerful trilogy, and The Age of Madness books are some of the best pieces of fantasy fiction of the last three years.

 

The Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

The Empire Trilogy Cover

I was spoiled for choice when it came to Raymond E. Feist and his multitude of great trilogies, from his iconic Riftwar Saga to his current The Fireman Saga (King of Ashes and Queen of Storms).  However, I think his most consistent and impressive trilogy was The Empire trilogy he cowrote with Janny Wurts.  Set at the same time as the Riftwar Saga, this trilogy explored an alien fantasy world with some major Japanese influences.  An intense and action-packed fantasy trilogy loaded with political intrigue, family feuds and a female ruler battling for control in a male-dominated world, The Empire books, Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire and Mistress of the Empire, form an exceptional trilogy that is really worth reading.

 

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron trilogy by Alexander Freed

Alphabet Squadron Cover

Another exceptional trilogy that finished this year was the amazing Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron series by Alexander Freed.  Made up of Alphabet Squadron, Shadow Fall and Victory’s Price, this trilogy followed a group of pilots in the immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi, as they continue to fight the brutal war to claim the universe.  This trilogy combined a gritty and complex war story with the iconic Star Wars universe to create three impressive novels that work brilliantly as an overarching series.  All three books are really good, although Victory’s Price proved to be an exceptional conclusion that brought everything together perfectly.  A great read for Star Wars fans looking for some darker tie-in content.

 

Swords and Fire trilogy by Melissa Caruso

Swords and Fire Trilogy

The final entry on this list is the debut trilogy from talented fantasy author Melissa Caruso.  Featuring The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir, and The Unbound Empire, the Swords and Fire trilogy tells the tale of the unlikely partnership of an ambitious noble and a reckless, ultra-powerful mage, whose fates are literally bound together.  This is an amazing and inventive fantasy trilogy that pits this duo against conspiracies, a nation of terrifying magical users, and their own substantial personal issues.  I deeply enjoyed this cool trilogy and I really need to start reading the sequel series Caruso is currently working on.

 

 

Well, that’s the end of this list.  As you can see, I have read some awesome trilogies over the years, and I think this list does a great job highlighting them all.  I will probably end up coming back to this list at some point in the future, especially as there are some outstanding trilogies, I am currently in the middle of that will easy make this list in the future.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite trilogies are in the comments below.

The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

Publisher: Orbit/Hachette Audio (Audiobook – 28 September 2021)

Series: The Tide Child Trilogy – Book Three

Length: 20 hours and 49 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the fastest rising fantasy authors in the world today, the brilliant and exceedingly talented R. J. Barker, brings The Tide Child trilogy to an end in epic fashion with the exceptional and powerful The Bone Ship’s Wake, one of the best fantasy reads of 2021.

There have been some really impressive fantasy authors producing great reads over the last few years, but in my opinion none have been as consistently amazing and addictive as R. J. Barker.  Barker burst onto the scene in 2017 with Age of Assassins, the first book in The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, and soon followed it up with two additional outstanding reads, Blood of Assassins and King of Assassins.  While I have a lot of love for this brilliant trilogy, especially the final novel King of Assassins, Barker has since eclipsed it with his second series, The Tide Child trilogy.

The Tide Child trilogy is a grim and powerful series that follows a unique set of characters in an exceptional, character driven, adventure tale.  The Tide Child books are set in a dark fantasy world, primarily made up of deadly oceans and seas which have produced a harsh breed of warring humans.  The inhabitants of this world traverse these oceans in ships made of the harvested bones of sea dragons, known as the keyshans, the creation of which led to the mass extinction of these dragons.  The first novel in this series, The Bone Ships, set the scene for this great series and introduced the primary characters as they set out on an epic quest to hunt the last sea dragon aboard the boneship, Tide Child.  This was an exceptional read that ended up being one of the best books and audiobooks of 2019.  Barker followed this up in 2020 with Call of the Bone Ships, a great sequel that saw the crew of Tide Child engage in a rebellion against the established order.  Call of the Bone Ships ended on a pretty massive cliffhanger that set the scene for an exceptional and stunning conclusion.  As such, the final entry in this trilogy, The Bone Ship’s Wake, was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021, and Barker did not disappoint here, as he produced an epic and captivating read.

It has been a year since the climactic battle that saw the boneship Tide Child and the rebel fleet barely escape the wrath of the Hundred Isles after being forced to abandon shipwife Meas Gilbryn.  In that time, loyal deck keeper Joron Twiner has taken on the mantle of leadership for the rebel black ships and turned them into a fleet of marauding pirates.  Now known by all as the feared Black Pirate, Joron constantly raids the Hundred Isles, determined to weaken its fleet and devastate its defences for an invasion from the rival Gaunt Islands, Joron’s only true priority is to discover the location of his lost commander and rescue her.

After a particularly vicious raid nearly sees the destruction of Tide Child, Joron is only more determined to find the shipwife before the entire fleet is lost.  With time running out for Joron thanks to the insidious keyshan’s rot that is slowly eating away at his body, Joron embarks on an ambitious plan to find and rescue Meas by returning to the most dangerous place in the world, the capital city of the Hundred Isles.

Accompanied by a small crew, Joron hopes to infiltrate the city and force Meas’s location from the ruthless rule of the Hundred Isles, Meas’ estranged mother.  However, all Joron will discover is blood and betrayal, as dangerous forces seek to take control of the oceans for their own nefarious ends.  Worse, Joron must continue to struggle with the dangerous legacy of the magical gullaimes, who believe that he is the Caller, the man who can sing up the keyshans and use them to destroy the world.  Will Joron and his crew succeed against impossible odds, or will the final voyage of the Tide Child result only in the death of everyone and everything Joron loves and cares about?

Well damn, now that was an incredibly awesome book.  I have said time and time again that Barker seems to get better with every book he writes, and I honestly believe that The Bone Ship’s Wake is the very best so far.  The Bone Ship’s Wake has an exceptional narrative filled with emotion, tragedy and powerful action on the high seas, which perfectly wraps up this epic series and provides the reader with an emotional and captivating goodbye.  Easily one of the best books of the year, The Bone Ship’s Wake gets a full five-star rating from me.

This final entry in The Tide Child trilogy has an extremely powerful, character-driven narrative to it, which perfectly continues the epic tales told in the preceding novels while also providing an extremely satisfying and moving conclusion to the entire series.  Told nearly exclusively from the perspective of central protagonist Joron Twiner, The Bone Ship’s Wake starts one year after Call of the Bone Ships, with some major changes occurring to the world and the characters during this period.  Told in three parts, this book has a bit of a slower introduction, which Barker uses to full effect to highlight the situation the characters find themselves in, while also reintroducing all the key elements of the fantasy world.  The first part of the novel is primarily used to show how far Joron has come, placing him in command of a ship as he faces off against his enemies.  This outstanding introduction sets up several key storylines while also featuring a tense and detailed chase out on the seas, with deadly and monstrous consequences.  The second part of the novel follows a desperate Joron, after leaving his ship and most of his crew behind, as he embarks on a dangerous all-or-nothing quest to save his shipwife and bring her back to the fleet.  This second part is loaded with some major dramatic moments, intrigue, treachery, and politics, which does an outstanding job expanding the already captivating storylines, while also serving as a great buffer from the nautical heavy start and end of the novel.  The story goes in some amazing directions here, and Barker throws in some captivating and surprising twists that alter everything you thought about how the story would end.

All this leads up to the conclusion of the novel, which sees the surviving primary characters caught in a desperate situation on the high seas.  After some daring actions and clever plans which have some unfortunate costs, all the characters are perfectly set up for their final places the series’ brilliant storyline.  This last part of the novel is deeply thrilling and powerful, and it honestly proves impossible to put it down as you wait to see how everything comes to an end.  Barker really amps up the desperation and hopelessness during this part of The Bone Ship’s Wake, as the crew of Tide Child and its allies are pressed in some destructive naval actions.  It all leads up to one final gambit, with the lives and the hopes of the survivors held in the balance.  This epic conclusion is extremely dramatic and powerful, with some big sacrifices and major character moments that will leave you breathless and deeply moved.  I thought that this amazing conclusion perfectly wrapped up the entire series, with all the key storylines and character arcs coming to a very satisfying and emotional end.  I loved every single second I spent getting through this exceptional story, and every brilliant turn, clever revelation and powerful character moment is still firmly engrained in my mind.

I really need to highlight Barker’s fantastic writing style, which brings this brilliant story to life.  It has been an absolute pleasure to see Barker grow as an author throughout the last few years, especially as he utilises more and more complex techniques with each passing novel.  The Bone Ship’s Wake is a particularly good example of this, as an amazingly well paced novel that slowly builds momentum as the story requires, with the intensity of the book turning on a dime, from the deep slowness of sailing to the fast pace of an epic nautical battle.  This is often accentuated by the author’s great use of repetition, with key sentences throughout the novel repeated multiple times to build up tension or to highlight the rapidity of duty aboard a ship.  This pacing and repetition almost gives The Bone Ship’s Wake a pulse, and you can feel the rhythmic build towards the high points of a novel.

I was once again deeply impressed by Barker’s incredible ability to produce a nautically focused novel.  Nautical novels require an insane amount of detail and dedication to work, and Barker has done that in spades throughout The Tide Child trilogy.  Thanks to Barker’s ultra-detailed writing style, life aboard the boneships is brought to life for the reader, showcasing every single action of the crew or movement of the ship.  The reader gets an amazing sense of what is happening aboard Tide Child, and you feel that you are aboard the ship itself, watching the crew in action.  This works particularly well during some of the intense, high-concept naval battles, where the actions of multiple ships are followed, ensuring that the reader gets a great idea about what is going on.  Barker also works in a lot of ship details that are unique to the series’ fantasy universe, allowing for a much more distinctive and compelling time at sea.  The combination of traditional nautical elements and fantasy features, such as ships crafted from dragon bone, ultra-powerful bolt throwers, wind calling bird men and the various monsters stalking the deeps is particularly striking and really helps this cool trilogy stand out.  This is honestly one of the best series set on a ship you are ever likely to read, and I am still so impressed with how well Barker was able to feature it in his novels.

I also must highlight the cool, dark fantasy world that Barker has created for this series.  Throughout this trilogy Barker has put an amazing amount of work into crafting this complex and deadly fantasy world, containing hostile oceans with only a few small islands, where the inhabitants are forced to fight on ships made from dragon bone.  I have had an outstanding time exploring this complex and compelling landscape, and I have a lot of love for some of the more unique details, including the enslaved gullaime (bird-like windtalkers), crazy monsters, the gender reversed human society which includes subtle changes like ships being consider male by their crews, and the constant naval warring and raiding such a landscape has created.  Barker does some very interesting expansions in this final entry, resulting in some substantial changes and journeys to new locations within the world.  There are some cool new creatures, including a mist-spewing kraken, as well as some fascinating and intense developments amongst the established creatures, including the gullaimes and the keyshans.  I similarly appreciated the way Barker examined the troubles with his female dominated society, especially as the motivations for some of the antagonists are closely tied into it.  Overall, I had a wonderful time with my last exploration of this unique and dangerous setting, and I cannot wait to see what sort of distinctive setting Barker comes up with next, although I already know it will be pretty incredible.

You cannot talk about any novel in The Tide Child series without praising the outstanding character work that Barker has done.  Each of these novels has done an exceptional job of building up all the major characters, from the central point-of-view perspective, to the various supporting characters found upon the central ship setting.  I have deeply enjoyed seeing each of these characters develop into better and well-rounded figures as this series has progressed, and Barker makes sure to give them an impressive send-off in this final entry.  Pretty much all the key surviving characters get some great moments throughout The Bone Ship’s Wake, and most of their associated storylines come to an end, one way or another.  This naturally results in some intense emotional moments throughout the novel, especially as readers of this series will have become deeply attached to a lot of these characters, and you will not be prepared for how some of these characters go out!

Just like in the previous two novels, the central focus of The Bone Ship’s Wake was on Joron Twiner, the deck keeper (first mate) of Tide Child, who has grown from scared drunkard to experienced officer within the course of the series.  Twiner has gone through an incredible amount during the last two books, and when we first see him again in The Bone Ship’s Wake, he is a very different person.  Joron has since lost a leg and is now infected by the keyshan’s rot, an incurable disease that is slowly eating him alive.  Despite this, he has finally taken on command of his vessel and an extended fleet and fashioning himself a new persona, that of the Black Pirate, a notorious killer of ill-repute.  This is a fascinating change for Joron, and it is absolutely amazing to see how the differences between this character and the one we first saw in The Bone Ships.  While this change is substantial, it has been well built up in the last few books, and it was great to finally see Joron take on the command he was always meant to have.  Despite this, Joron still has some uncertainty dogging his steps that proves great to explore, especially as he is hesitant to risk the lives of those under his command on his missions.  Joron is also forced to deal with the insane prophecy and power hanging over his head, as he is forced to contemplate his ability to summon the sea dragons and potentially end the world.  Throw in his unwillingness to take on the role of his mentor, and the extreme guilt he feels for all the lives he has taken in her name since the conclusion of the last book, and you have a quite a conflicted figure, desperate to do anything to redeem himself.  This makes for some amazing character moments, and I really appreciated the sheer amount of development that went into Twiner in this novel.  A lot of Twiner’s storylines come full circle in this novel, and there are some extremely satisfying moments  between him and the other characters in the novel.  I deeply enjoyed this flawed and uncertain protagonist throughout this series, and Baker ensures that he is given a fitting and powerful ending.

The novel also spends a lot of time examining Tide Child’s shipwife, Meas Gilbryn, also known as Lucky Meas.  When we last saw Meas, she was surrendering herself to the Hundred Isles to give her fleet a chance to escape.  In the year that follows, she has been brutally tortured by her captors, who are attempting to gain all her secrets, especially regarding the sea dragons.  Due to her capture, and the primary focus on Joron, we don’t see that much of Meas for the first half of The Bone Ship’s Wake, and when we finally do, she is very different.  Rather than the always confident captain we are used to, we have a broken and brooding figure, unsure of the correct actions to take and unprepared for how much her legend has spread in the year she has been gone.  This makes for a very interesting counterpoint to the growth in Joron, and it is fascinating to see the slight role reversal that occurs between them.  I loved this exceptional character change that occurred around Meas, and Barker uses it to full effect to create some dramatic and emotionally charged moments.  The author also ensures that several lingering questions about Meas are answered, especially as she finally gets some closure with members of her family, such as her mother.  It was also amazing to see the unique relationship she forged with Joron come full circle, as the man she chose to be her second surpasses her.  The outstanding character work surrounding Meas, especially when it comes to her connection to Joron, added so much to the overall quality of this novel, and it was great to see how Barker altered and explored this character in The Bone Ship’s Wake.

I have to highlight the outstanding storylines surrounding the Gullaime, the ship’s windtalker of legendary power, who is destined to destroy the world alongside Joron.  This humanoid bird creature is always an entertaining figure in the novel, due to their unique appearance and outrageous behaviour and Barker does an exceptional job giving unique avian features to it.  However, like the other characters, the Gullaime goes through some big events in this final novel, especially once certain species detail is revealed, as well as the full scope of its powers and prophesised responsibilities.  Out of the all the characters in this series, the Gullaime is probably the easiest to like, and the end of its story cuts deep to the heart.

I also really appreciated Cwell’s storyline in this novel, especially after all the changes that occurred around her in this series.  Cwell initially started as a secondary antagonist who led a mutiny against Joron in the previous novel.  Despite this, Joron spared her life and kept her as his shadow, a silent bodyguard always watching his back.  This final book really explores the extent of this bond forged between them, as Cwell’s loyalty is tested multiple times throughout the course of the novel.  Barker is such a canny writer when it comes to Cwell, and it was fascinating to see some of her final depths in this book, especially as you honestly have no idea what she is going to do and whether she will end up betraying Joron.  It was also great to see more of Farys, the young woman Joron mentored through the series, and who now finds herself as his second.  Farys has a complex and compelling storyline in this novel, and I really appreciated how much time Barker put into enhancing her role in this final novel.  I also want to give callouts to recurring characters Mevans, Solemn Muffaz and Aelerin the courser, who all have some great moments in this novel, and whose roles each had their own emotional weight.  There is also a certain interesting reveal about one side character, right at the end of the novel that was a little surprising to me, but which I really appreciated, especially as Barker set up some great hints about them as the novel progressed.  Overall, all the side characters in this book are extremely awesome, and I am so deeply impressed with the work that Barker put into them, and the outstanding impacts that had on this already epic and captivating tale.

While I did receive a physical copy of The Bone Ship’s Wake, I ended up enjoying this novel in its audiobook format, not only for scheduling reasons but because I knew that I would have an amazing experience with it.  The Bone Ship’s Wake’s audiobook format has a substantial runtime of just under 21 hours, which does require a substantial time investment to enjoy.  I can guarantee that the time spent is well worth it, as the audiobook format perfectly gets the reader into the flow of the story and the detailed fantasy world of the series, and I found myself really absorbing all the many details Barker places into his writing.  I was also deeply impressed with the narration of Jude Owusu, who really threw himself into voicing the various books in The Tide Child trilogy.  Owusu has a brilliant voice that perfectly fit the epic, marine based tale, and which perfectly translated every single action and move to the listener.  Owusu has an excellent range of voices for the various characters featured throughout the novel, and each character ended up with a distinctive voice that perfectly fit their personality and demeanour.  I particularly enjoyed the weird and hyper-excited voices he utilised for the various gullaime characters, fully highlighting their birdlike characteristics in his voicing.  I felt that the narrator did an amazing job of injecting all the relevant emotion into the tale, and you have no doubt what the characters are feeling as they speak.  This brilliant and powerful voice work really helped to bring this epic tale to life, and I loved every single second of this fantastic audiobook.  This format comes very highly recommend, and it was easily one of the best audiobooks I have had the pleasure of listening to in 2021.

With The Bone Ship’s Wake, the final incredible and epic entry in The Tide Child trilogy, the unstoppable R. J. Barker has once again shown the world he is the future of the fantasy genre.  This outstanding and captivating nautical fantasy novel masterfully wrapped up one of the best trilogies I have ever read, ensuring that the reader will be emotionally blasted by this brilliant and clever tale.  The entire story came together perfectly, and fans of this series will be amazed and moved by the fates of so many well-established characters.  Not only was this Barker’s best book to date, but The Bone Ship’s Wake is also one of the most impressive novels I have enjoyed all year.  An exceptional five-star read that comes very highly recommended, especially in its audiobook format.  Anyone who loves fantasy needs to read this series!

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!

Waiting on Wednesday – Call of the Bone Ships 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 check out one of the most anticipated fantasy novels of 2020, Call of the Bone Ships from fantasy phenomenon R. J. Barker.

Call of the Bone Ships Cover

Barker is an incredibly talented fantasy author who burst onto the scene in 2017 with the amazing and dark The Wounded Kingdom trilogy, made up of the three excellent fantasy novels, Age of Assassins, Blood of Assassins and King of Assassins, each of which was better than the last.  Barker followed up this fantastic debut trilogy with the incredible first book in The Tide Child series, The Bone Ships.

The Bone Ships was an epic and captivating novel that followed a group of condemned sailors in another brutal fantasy world as they attempted to hunt down and protect the last dragon, whose bones make the ships that fight in a deadly war.  The Bone Ships contained so many amazing elements, including great characters, realistic nautical adventures and some extremely gripping action sequences.  This was an outstanding book that I consider to be one of the best novels (and best audiobooks) of 2019, and which got an easy five-star rating from me.  I absolutely fell in love with this awesome book and I have been eagerly waiting for a sequel since last year.

This long-awaited sequel is Call of the Bone Ships, which will be the second book in The Tide Child series.  Call of the Bone Ships is one the books I have been most looking forward to checking out this year and is currently set for release on 24 November 2020.  So far not a lot of detail about this upcoming novel has been released, apart from a brief plot synopsis (see below) and another very impressive cover.  However, this book looks set to continue the amazing story started in The Bone Ships, and I am more than sure that Barker is going to present another gripping and clever narrative.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A brilliantly imagined saga of honour, glory and warfare, Call of the Bone Ships is the captivating epic fantasy sequel to RJ Barker’s The Bone Ships.

Dragons have returned to the Hundred Isles. But their return heralds only war and destruction. When a horde of dying slaves are discovered in the bowels of a ship, Shipwife Meas and the crew of the Tide Child find themselves drawn into a vicious plot that will leave them questioning their loyalties and fighting for their lives.

The above synopsis is not too much to go on, but I kind of like the suspense of not having an idea of how the plot will unfold and it should make for a nice surprise.  Honestly, though, based on how good Barker’s writing is and how incredible The Bone Ships was, I already know that I am going to love this book.  I have absolutely no doubt that Call of the Bone Ships will also get a full five stars from me when I get a chance to read it and I am expecting amazing things from this upcoming book.

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.