Call of the Bone Ships by RJ Barker
This is the second book in RJ Barker’s Tide Child trilogy, and if the first one was good then this one’s a whole order of magnitude better.
It follows on from the first book quite effectively, dropping us back in with Lucky Meas, Joron Twiner, and the rest of the crew of the Tide Child shortly after the events of book one, and right from the start it grabs the reader by the throat, refusing to let go until the very last page. Where The Bone Ships was equal parts world building, character development, and all-out maritime action, this one is almost entirely about the characters and the action, with what little world building there is being cunningly hidden in the thoughts and actions of the central characters.
If the first book was all about Twiner getting built up from nothing, this book has him pulled apart by the events surrounding him. In some cases quite literally, as it turns out. Along the way we learn more about the gloriously diverse found family he’s surrounded himself with, as well as the alien guillame, and even a few scraps more about the mighty arkeesian sea dragons.
Barker’s writing is, as ever, superlative, and there are more than a few points in this book where I had to take a step back from the narrative to grapple with an onrush of emotion. These are, for the most part, characters we’ve watched grow and develop through almost a thousand pages now, so when they’re hurting we can’t help but feel that hurt ourselves. And then, as if we hadn’t already had enough of a roller-coaster ride, he leaves us with a (literal) cliffhanger ending. Damn, but I almost launched my ereader across the room at that point.
This is definitely a worthy sequel to The Bone Ships, and definitely doesn’t suffer from the usual problems you get from the middle book of a trilogy. I certainly won’t be leaving such a huge gap between this one and reading book three, and can’t wait to see how things work out for the crew of the (maybe not so) good ship, Tide Child.