The Bone Ship’s Wake

R.J. Barker. Orbit, $17.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-316-48805-1

Barker triumphantly sends out the Tide Child trilogy (after Call of the Boneships) with ship captain Meas Gilbryn’s final attempt to bring peace to her watery world where the only material strong enough to build warships is the bones of sea dragons long believed to be extinct. Meas hoped that she could help the rival military powers of the Hundred Isles and the Gaunt Islands come to their senses. But her efforts are for naught when the sea dragons reappear, sparking a ruthless aquatic arms race. As Meas is captured and tortured for the secret to summoning these dragons, her loyal subordinate Joron Twiner commands her ship, The Tide Child, through perilous waters in search for her. It’s Joron who’s able to summon sea dragons, though he’s afraid to use this power because he and his alien, birdlike friend the Gullaime both believe in a prophecy foretelling that the return of the dragons will lead to “death and destruction for all.” The story’s maritime action rivals Patrick O’Brian’s in meticulous detail, but the overall atmosphere is much more Wagnarian, full of operatic sturm und drang. The combination really shouldn’t work, but Barker pulls it off with distinction. Agent: Ed Wilson, Johnson & Alcock Literary. (Oct.)