Book Review: The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker

book review the bone ship's wake by rj barker

Title: The Bone Ship’s Wake (Tide Child #3)

Author: RJ Barker

Publisher: Orbit

Publication date: September 28, 2021

Genre: Fantasy

One Sentence Summary: Over a year after Meas surrendered herself, Joron still works to find and free her, but it becomes a race to find peace and escape those they crossed.


The Bone Ship’s Wake is the very fitting conclusion to the Tide Child trilogy. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful, and continued to have everything I love about this series. The world is still so remarkable that I felt like I was stepping into it every time I picked it up. The characters broke me and put me back together and made me cry. Their relationships were so gorgeous throughout the series and this book couldn’t have given them better endings (well, I lie a little as I wish some of them had never happened, but I believe they were appropriate and were the fitting culminations of those particular character arcs). I did feel there was a bit too much good luck and magic going on at the end that broke the spell a little bit for me, but, while caught up in it, I thought it was wonderful and beautifully, achingly, perfect. Overall, an incredible end to an incredible trilogy.

Extended Thoughts

The Bone Ship’s Wake is set over a year since Meas surrendered herself in order to ensure her fleet of blackships would go free. Tortured at the hands of an unknown hagpriest, she longs to be saved, but also desperately wants Joron to stay away. Joron and the blackship fleet, though, need Meas and he will do anything and everything to find and rescue her.

It’s difficult to review the last book in this trilogy without revealing too much both about the series overall and about this book in particular. If I thought the second book broke me, this one did something much worse. It was beautiful and painful, breathtaking and heartwarming. There are so many strong spirits, so many hard choices. I never knew a book could torture me so much, but I also can’t help but see just what a beautiful book this is.

My favorite part of this trilogy has been watching Joron’s journey. From an angry man intent on getting his shipwife hat back to an incredible broken but strong man who has more than earned it back, his journey has been one of pain and hardships, but of also learning and discovering. The Bone Ship’s Wake was an amazing conclusion to his story, even if my heart broke about a million times throughout. I did find it was a bit predictable, but the power behind it was incredible and the way it was written felt so fitting.

If there’s one thing I wasn’t a big fan of, it was actually towards the end when it kind of felt like magic swept in to save the day. Of course, the whole trilogy did heavily hint and lead up to it, but it still felt a bit sudden, almost like the author had written himself into a corner and needed something quick. It was a bit jarring, but also beautifully executed. I do wish more of the magic, more of the power, had been written in to make it feel more natural, but then I think some of the power would have been lost.

While I adored all the characters and had my heart broken over and over by them, I struggled a bit with Meas in this one. She is, understandably, broken to some degree. I did enjoy how conflicted she was, how unsure she was, and how angry and sad she was with not being who she had been. Her struggles felt real and deeply human for someone who had been lauded as such a legend. But she seemed so lost and almost like she was trying too hard. Of course, it makes way for putting Joron on full display and makes his position at the end of the story perfect, but it was a little difficult to get past.

But I absolutely love everything about this world. Every bit of it is carefully thought out, every piece fits, and the mythology behind it is incredible. I love that everything about it has been so consistent from book to book, that, every time I pick up the story, it drops me right back onto a ship. The ships are so detailed, especially when it comes to how they’re run, that I feel like I’m on a ship, flying across the sea. Overall, reading this trilogy has been an exceptionally immersive experience.

As a matter of fact, it was so immersive that, when it came to the end, even if it felt a tad unbelievable, I had to fight to not weep uncontrollably in front of my kids. It’s amazing how near and dear all the characters, human and creature, came to be to my heart. Every word of this series has just wrapped itself around me and it always felt more like I was reading a friend’s story. It’s heartbreaking, but beautiful.

Of course, as a big fan of creature companions, I adored the relationship between Joron and Guillame. What was once one full of animosity became something incredibly beautiful. It helped make hard decisions even harder and definitely heightened the emotional factor for me. All of the relationships felt so precious and every loss was like a blow.

The Bone Ship’s Wake is a beautiful end to the trilogy. It neatly ties up the story while leaving the emotionally invested reader feeling kind of wrung out. I’m so impressed with how each book just pulled so much of me in and took me into they’re pages. Overall, this has absolutely been one of the most emotional roller coasters I’ve been on with a series.

How many cups of tea will you need?

4 cups

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Thank you to Angela Man at Orbit and NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.

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6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker

    1. I felt exactly that same way. I think I had it sitting for about a month before I was brave enough to start it, and then only because I had to get my review out. Read with one eye closed is the best way I can describe this. It’s so beautiful, but so, so painful. So worth it, though. Good luck reading it!

      Liked by 2 people

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