ARC Review: The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker

Title: The Bone Ships (The Tide Child #1)

Author: R.J. Barker

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: September 24th, 2019

Source: e-ARC (Netgalley)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Child sacrifice (off-page), gore, violence

Rating: ★★★

Book Links: Bookshop::Indiebound::TBD::B&N::Amazon::Goodreads

One Sentence Synopsis

The crew of the Tide Child, a black ship made of dragon bones and manned by convicted criminals, are sent on a dangerous mission to seek out the last known sea dragon to end a centuries-long war.

Favorite Quote

“We fight in the hope that others will not have to, and we fight to keep those we have come to care about safe. We fight even for those who do not deserve it. There is no honour or greatness in what we do, except among fools. I fight, in the end, because I have no other choice” – she held his gaze with hers – “and neither do you. So remember this, if you hear tales of bravery and greatness, they are nearly always told by people who have only watched battle from afar.”


I want to say thank you to Netgalley, Orbit, and the author for sending me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!

We all know that I love fantasy, yes? This blog is so fantasy-centric it seems fairly obvious! And we know that I love a character-driven fantasy most of all. When I saw The Bone Ships up for request on Netgalley, it sounded like a book that would be right up my alley! We’re following a man named Joron Twiner who has been sentenced to a life on a black ship, large ships made of dragon bones that are crewed by convicts. He’s basically given up on life until Lucky Meas shows up and takes his command. He soon finds himself on a dangerous mission to find something that most people thought would never be seen again: a sea dragon.

So, to recap, we have seafaring adventures, potentially morally grey characters, and dragons. I was all set to love this! I started this book August 2nd, 2019.

I legit just finished this book last month 😬

What can I say? I started reading this and was almost immediately bored to tears. This is most definitely not a character-driven story, though I will say that the character development was one of my favorite aspects of the book. This book was all about extensive world-building and focused more so on the plot and establishing the world. Which would have been fine if it hadn’t had such a slow start! I just couldn’t bring myself to care and it felt like it took forever for anything interesting to happen. Every time I picked the e-book up to read, I would only get through a few pages before I would find myself fooling around on Twitter or doing something else besides actually reading. So I put the book down and, honestly, kind of forgot about it.

Then inspiration struck. Though I received an e-ARC of this book, it’s clearly been out for quite some time, so I figured I’d pick up the audiobook to see if that would make my reading experience better. Y’all… it was like night and day! I quickly found myself completely engrossed in the story! I got through the audiobook in just a couple of days and ended up really enjoying it. Once you get past the slow start, this was an epic tale about duty and prejudices and what people will go through to see an end to war. The sea battles were incredibly wrought and, as I mentioned, watching the characters grow and come together as a crew was my favorite part of the whole book. I’m so glad that I gave this book a second chance because I ended up quite liking it!

Just another reminder that anyone who says that audiobooks “aren’t reading” are not to be trusted. Because this audiobook helped introduce me to an adult fantasy series that I now wish to continue and it saved my Netgalley ratio!

Final thoughts: Though this book has a slow start, it’s worth pushing through! The world-building is thorough, the sea battles are heart-pounding, and watching the characters grow is incredibly satisfying. If you want a well-developed epic fantasy that makes you feel as though your walking the deck alongside the crew, definitely check out The Bone Ships. And, if you find yourself getting stuck, try out the audiobook!

3 thoughts on “ARC Review: The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker

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