The Bone Ship's Wake by RJ Barker review

The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker

Timy reviews The Bone Ship’s Wake, the third book in RJ Barker‘s Nautical Fantasy trilogy, The Tide Child. She previously reviewed The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships. The Bone Ship’s Wake is to be published on August 30, 2021, by Orbit.

An eARC of The Bone Ship’s Wake was provided by Orbit via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.

About the Book
Series: The Tide Child #3Genre: Nautical Fantasy
Date of Publishing: August 30, 2021Trigger Warnings: Torture, death, violence, illness
Page count: 493Publisher: Orbit
Book Blurb
The Bone Ship's Wake by RJ Barker

The sea dragons are returning, and Joron Twiner’s dreams of freedom lie shattered. His Shipwife is gone and all he has left is revenge.

Leading the black fleet from the deck of Tide Child Joron takes every opportunity to strike at his enemies, but he knows his time is limited. His fleet is shrinking and the Keyshan’s Rot is running through his body. He runs from a prophecy that says he and the avian sorcerer, the Windseer, will end the entire world.

But the sea dragons have begun to return, and if you can have one miracle, who is to say that there cannot be another?

Quote of the Book
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“You know, Caller, life is loss, and much has been taken from you: Dinyl, your leg, your song and your shipwife. And if you think you can dilute your pain in blood you are wrong. Blood will only feed it.”*

*this quote is from the ARC, subject to change in the final version of the book.

Song of the Book

As I’ve picked a Thrice song for both The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships, it was only natural I would pick one for The Bone Ship’s Wake too. Luckily for me, they recently released their new album, so that gave me quite a few songs to pick from. I eventually settled on Scavengers as I think it represents well the way Joron searches for Mease. And overall matches well with the atmosphere of the whole book.


Oh boy, where do I even start with this review? As mentioned above, The Bone Ship’s Wake is the third and last book in The Tide Child trilogy by RJ Barker. This is one of the few series that I kept up with over the past 3 years and I have that bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye to this world and these characters I grew to love so much. A series that jumped Barker on my favorite authors’ list, and whose books I’ll keep an eye out for in the future because apparently, I enjoy being tortured by him.

Now, before I get to the point, a fair warning: this review might contain spoilers for the previous books in the trilogy, so proceed with caution! I’ll try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but since we are talking about a third book, it can still happen.

The Bone Ship’s Wake picks the plot up about a year after the events in the Call of the Bone Ships. Joron is determined to cause as much havoc for the Hundred Isles as he can in order to get back Mease. He builds up a reputation as the fearsome Black Pirate, leading the black fleet with the help of old friends such as Shipwife Brekir, and his loyal crew Cwell, Farys, Mevans, Solemn Muffaz, Gavith, Barlay, Garriya, Alerin and of course the Gullaime. Keyshans are rising even more frequently, and it looks like the war is unavoidable and comes ever nearer as the song grows in Joron. And with the war comes hard decisions, sorrow, blood and death. The Bone Ship’s Wake has all that and so much more.

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“Did the pain of growing ever really stop? Or did you simply become used to the stress and hurt and strain of every day until it became normal to you? A background buzz of constant worry cut through with moments of transcendent joy, or terrifying fear?”

I’d rather not say much about the plot, this is something you have to experience for yourselves. I’m only going to say that all of the characters are coming a long way, both in this book and in the trilogy as a whole. We get to witness how legends are born, but we also get to see how hard it is to live up to those expectations. You can’t help but feel empowered by these characters as they are coming over their own flaws, their doubts, their demons, their disabilities, never letting those stop them from reaching their goals and dreams. Changing the world around them one painful step at a time. I love how the relationships were developed between the characters, especially those Joron built with Mease, with Cwell, and the Guillaime. Who forever will remain my favorite character of this trilogy, no questions about that. We learn what the titles Caller and Windseer really mean in this installment. Which I found particularly interesting.

The Bone Ship’s Wake holds quite a few surprises for its reader, some of them you’ll never see coming. I found the first 30% or so a bit slow which was instantly forgotten after a rather thrilling and heart-racing sequence and from that point on the pace never let down. Or more like, there was a much better balance between quiet and often dreadful moments and breathtaking action. From the 60% mark, I could barely put the book down. It’s been a long time since a book captured me so thoroughly that I forgot about everything else and just eat up all the pages. I could easily imagine being right there with the Tide Child crew, feeling the cool breeze on my face mixed with freezing saltwater, facing whatever was coming. Because as they say:

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“We are all here to die, only the day is undecided.”

The Bone Ship’s Wake being the last book of a trilogy, I went into it with a dreading feeling. I mean, if you’ve read the first two books then you know that Barker does not pull his punches. I was fully prepared to be broken apart piece by piece throughout the book. What I did not expect was the emotional reaction it brought out of me. Like… holy shit. I raged, I feared, I hoped and I cried. For the record, I almost never cry over books. Tear up, yes, cry, no. One of my GR updates at 33%: “I’m quite sure RJ will rip my heart out, trod on it and put it back all twisted and bruised by the time I’ll finish reading this book…” Dear reader, I was not wrong with that prediction. And for this, I’m going to award the EMOTIONAL PANDA NEEDED stamp to The Bone Ship’s Wake as a warning for anyone brave enough to trade these dark and dangerous waters the Tide Child rides on.

emotional support panda needed

The Tide Child trilogy got a thrilling, heart-wrenching, and overall most deserving ending in The Bone Ship’s Wake. One that’s going to take me quite a while to get over. I can’t even recommend it highly enough because it just deserves all the praises. If you are into audiobooks, I wouldn’t miss out on Jude Owosu‘s narration, who brings this series into life in a way that will give you goosebumps and chills all over. It’s a match even the Hag, the Mother and the Maiden would approve of. If you’ve been waiting to start this series, I’d urge you to get on board as this is an adventure you wouldn’t want to miss out on.

Our Judgement
Praise Their Name - 5 crowns