Book Review: River of Bones by Taylor Anderson

Posted December 19, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: River of Bones by Taylor Anderson

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

River of Bones by Taylor Anderson
Genres: Military Science Fiction, Action
Published by Ace on July 10, 2018
Pages: 480
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Straits of Hell, Deadly Shores, Blood in the Water, Devil's Due, Pass of Fire

Thirteenth in the Destroyermen military science fiction series in an alternate world and revolving around the Grand Alliance inspired by an old warship from WWII. The focus is in keeping the Grik Swarm from spreading out into the world.

My Take

It’s been a long war between the Grand Alliance and the Grik, and both sides have learned from the other. It’s been a few years of growth for both sides. Even Shinya learns!

It’s fascinating to see the changes in the Grik as Esshk changes perceptions. First training the Uul to think, to assess, and. Anderson makes good use of Jash to demonstrate the higher thought processes of an Uul who rises to be a New Warrior. But I don’t think Esshk has any idea how disruptive these thought processes could become, for there’s a humanity in there. Nor do I believe any Uul was ever able to determine betrayal before. As for Jash’s fascination with Risa’s stand, he knew none of the Race would ever do such a thing. He’s learning about this “worthy prey”, and I am so curious as to where this will lead.

It’s a whole new way of waging war, and while I applaud the greater intelligence the Grik Uul are granted, I don’t like its application! At least Esshk is having difficulty in getting out of his own way, although he does start to understand the need to keep his Grik alive. Ign also learns from Jash about preserving his men. Is it possible this could be the start of compassion?

It’s a third person global subjective point-of-view with most of the Grik perspective coming from Jash, an Uul with intelligence, one who can think and improvise while the Alliance perspective is from a select cast of characters, including Matt, Silva, and Russ Chappelle.

Yeah, yeah, it’s technical in its talk of the weaponry and ships, but not near as much as David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, lol.

Thankfully, Anderson also includes humorous moments, one that particularly comes to mind is how Lelaa handles Gilbert’s desire to be a civilian again. And I do adore Petey.

Anderson also raises questions, such as Blas’ bewilderment over Sister Audry’s refusal to kill. More philosophical questions arise as various core characters reflect back on their lives before the war started and how they have changed, how they see their comrades and friends, and how they see their participation in this war.

I thought our Nazis were bad, but the Dominion is so very much worse, even worse than the Inquisition. And such hypocrisy! As for their uniting with the League, oy, a match (for them) made in Heaven as both insist on telling their populace how to think, act, and believe. It will be fascinating to see how Gravois and Ciano make out, stuck in the Dominion, especially with Gravois making his seditious plans and Ciano despising the Dominion so very much.

Hmmm, Anderson keeps teasing us about the Gentaa, dribbling out bits of facts, and I’m dying to learn more. Their culture does seem very caring.

Events remain suspenseful and exciting with several treasonous plots under way.

The Story

With the war now at its most critical point, the Grand Alliance needs every bit of hope it can get, as they steam to the Zambezi River to aid Commander Russ Chappelle and the beleaguered Santy Cat in keeping the Grik trapped.

But Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy and his people are going into battle without the USS Walker for the first time. Up to now, it’s been a talisman of fortune, for Walker has never lost a battle.

And if the Final Swarm gets out, the war is lost.

The Characters

The Grand Alliance consists of…

…the United States Navy, the United Homes of the Mi-Anakka, a.k.a., Lemurians or ‘Cats, Maa-ni-la, Aryaal, B’mbaado, North Borno, Austraal, the Imperials, the Khonashi, the Shee-ree, the Maroons, and more. The capitol and headquarters is based at Baalkpan, Borno.

Commander (Cdr) Alan Letts is the Chairman of the United Homes and the Grand Alliance. Surgeon Commander Karen Theimer Letts is his wife, and they have three children, one human and two adopted Lemurian war orphans: Allison Verdia, Sandra, and Seetsi. Their one-armed nanny was a former Lemurian marine, Unaa-Saan-Maar.

Cdr Steve Riggs is Minister of Communications and Electrical Contrivances; Henry Stokes is the director of strategic intelligence; and, Cdr Rulk is the senior inspector for the Baalkpan Navy Yard.

The USS Fitzhugh Gray is undergoing her sea trials and is captained by Cdr Toru Miyata. Robert Wallace is the gunnery officer; Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Ado-Sin is XO; Lieutenant (Lt) Sainaa-Asa is the engineering officer, who had been the project manager at Baalkpan Boiler and Steam Engine Works; Lt Eno-Sab-Raan is torpedo officer; Gaat-Rinn is an ensign; and, Pepper is the chief bosun’s mate, dragged away from running his café and bar, the Castaway Cook (he’s partnered up with Earl Lanier, the Walker‘s cook).

The antagonistic Giaan-Naak, a Sular from Sa-leebs, is one of the representatives in the Grand Allliance.

The Republic of Real People is…
…South Africa and composed of humans, Lemurians, and Gentaa (a more human-like Lemurian who keep to themselves and have sewn up the heavy-labor industry) with a more Ancient Rome-type government. Doocy Meek, a former ship’s engineer on another world, is their ambassador to Baalkpan. Nig-Taak is its Lemurian kaiser. Their command ship had been the SMS Amerika, which had been sunk by Savoie.

The Empire of the New Britain Isles is…
…Hawaii in our world and created by several British ships who wandered through a portal. It’s a monarchy with Governor-Empress Rebecca Anne McDonald. Sean Bates is Rebecca’s prime factor. Letts considers Ambassador Bolton Forester a friend. Impies is a nickname the men have for its Imperial soldiers.

The Khonashi are…
…a tribe of humans and Grik-like beings from North Borno who are ruled by “King” Tony Scott, a former USS Walker shipmate.

The New United States is…
…a very tiny portion of North America, begun in 1847 when a ship of Americans came through.

The War Fronts

The Zambezi River is…
…the path to the Grik empire. Cdr Russ Chappelle is commanding the USS Santa Catalina (Santy Cat) leading a small group of ships to bottleneck the river. Lt (jg) Dean Laney is the engineering officer who refuses to put his “baby” in danger. Lt Mikey Monk is Chappelle’s XO. Chief Dobson is the bosun. Cdr Kathy McCoy is in charge of the medical division, and is the object of Laney’s affections. Naara might be a signal-cat. Major (Maj) Simon “Simy” Gutfeld is in charge of the Third Marine regiment (part of Gen Rolak’s I Corps). Capt Flaar-Baa-Ris is Gutfeld’s XO.

The Arraca, an aircraft carrier, is commanded by Commodore (Comm) Tassanna-Ay-Arracca (she and Keje are practically betrothed). Naga and Felts are DDs. USS Kas-Ra-Ar and USS Ramic-Sa-Ar provide more of her screen.

Allied-occupied Zanzibar had been…
…headquarters for Kurokawa before Operation Outhouse Rat, but Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy, High Chief of the Amer-i-caan Clan and Commander in Chief of all Allied Forces (CINCAF) is now based there as repairs get under way. USS Walker is Reddy’s ship, the talisman of the Alliance. Lady Surgeon Commander Sandra Tucker Reddy is Matt’s pregnant wife and minister of medicine. Diania is her Impie bodyguard with whom Gunny has a date. Cdr Brad “Spanky” McFarlane is Matt’s XO. Isak Reuben (Gilbert’s half-brother and one of the original Mice) and Tabby are her engineers. Lt Sonny Campeti is gunnery officer. Chief Bosun’s Mate Jeek is on a repair crew. Lt Ed Palmer is signals officer, Chief Gunner’s Mate Pak-Ras-Ar “Pack Rat”, Chief Quartermaster Paddy Rosen is first officer, and Min-Sakir, a.k.a., Minnie”, is one of the bridge talkers.

Adm Keje-Fris-Ar is Matt’s oldest Lemurian friend and commander of the great Home-turned-carrier USNRS Salissa. Capt Atlaan-Fas is Keje’s flag captain; Cdr Sandy Newman is his XO. Fan-Ma-Mar is with III Corps. Capt Jis-Tikkar “Tikker” is on USS Madraas and commander of flight operations. Division commanders include Gen Taa-Leen of the 1st (Galla), Gen Rin-Taaka-Ar of the 2nd, Gen Mersaak of the 3rd, Gen Grisa with Saffir’s 6th Division, and Lt Col Saachi of the 1st Cavalry Brigade.

Mahe Island is…
…a staging area. USS Mahan arrives with Lt (jg) Tiaa-Baari and Ensigns Toos-Ay-Chi (a shipwright before the war) and acting XO, and Sonya (she’s an Impie) and the acting engineering officer, which they stole from Gen Linnaa-Fas-Ra, a Sularan, who commands VI Corps in India. Based in Madras, Linnaa is kicking back, avoiding fighting while Col Enaak’s 5th Manila Cavalry and Dalibor Svec’s Czech Legion shadow Halik’s army. Matt will also take Torpedoman First Fino-Saal who will become the chief bosun’s mate in an effort at discipline.

Lt Nat Hardee will get more torpedo boats.

Colonel Chack-Sab-At commands the 1st Raider Brigade (he’s married to General Queen Safir Maraan of B’mbaado). Chief Gunner’s Mate Dennis Silva is a loose cannon but gets the job done. He’s rumored to be in a relationship with Pam Cross and Maj Risa Sab-At, Chack’s sister. Petey is his pet flying lizard. Gunnery Sgt Arnold “Gunny” Horn knew Silva from the old world. Lawrence is Silva’s best friend and a Sa’aaran, a Grik-like Pacific islander. Brevet Maj Capt Abel Cook replaced Major I ‘joorka to command the First North Borno. They’ll take USS Itaa commanded by Jarrik-Fas to head up TF Grikakka. Maj Enrico Galay and the rest will come with Clark, Saak-Fas and six more. Uda is one of the terrified Khonashi.

USS Tarakaan Island is a self-propelled dry dock. A significant capture is the League’s Savoie, a French superdreadnaught. Cdr Riaar-An-Fas had been COFO until Leedom arrived. Jasper will be Leedom’s backseater, drawing maps as they go. Cdr Perry Brister captains the USS James Ellis. Lt Rolando “Ronson” Rodriquez is his XO.

Chairman Adar did not survive. The Savoie‘s Captaine Dupont is now in Alliance custody.

Grik City in Madagascar saw…
…many battles and is the home of the Maroons who are distantly related to the Impies, having come through the same squall in the same convoy. It had been the second most important city to the Grik and is the location of the Wall of Trees which had protected the city from the wildlife. Col Will is the Maroon in charge of defending the city with Maroons and Shee-Ree. Hij Geerki is Rolak’s pet Grik who cajoled the Grik into working. Gen Pete Alden and Gen Muln Rolak.

Cdr Mark Leedom is commander of flight operations, but will join TF Grikakka; Lt Araa-Faan is his XO who will be left in charge. Col Ben Mallory, Lt Niaa-Sa, and Cecil Dixon will head to the Comoros Islands where Lt Jumbo Fisher runs the Pat Squad Twenty-Two of bombers. Col Miles is still chasing Gareiks.

The Dominion has…
…well, I guess three battle fronts: The Pacific side being fought by the Impies, Lemurians, and US Navy; Gen Shinya’s trek across the Pass of Fire; and, Fred, Kari, and Garrett’s actions on the Atlantic side.

CINCEAST is in command of High Admiral (High Adm) Harvey Jenks of the Imperials. The USS Maaka-Kakja is Admiral (Adm) Lelaa-Tal-Cleraan‘s flag ship and is a carrier captained by “Tex” Sheider, a former submariner off S-19 who is Lelaa’s flag captain and her XO. Lt Gilbert Yeager is the chief engineer (and the other one of the Mice). Adm E.B. Hibbs commands twelve ships in Second Fleet. Capt Rin-Faak-At commands Raan-Goon. Selass-Fris-Ar is Keje’s daughter. Orrin Reddy is Matt’s cousin and had been one of the prisoners on the Hidoiame. Now he’s commander of flight operations.

General (Gen) Tomatsu Shinya commands the Second Fleet Expeditionary Force that intends to pass from the west to the east. Rebecca (she likes Abel Cook) and her Lemurian “sister”, Saan-Kakja, who is the high chief of All the Filpin Lands, decided they just had to join Shinya’s advance over the Pass of Fire. Lt Ezekial Krish is Rebecca’s aide-de-camp and leader of her protective detail. He’s got a lot to learn about acceptance.

Colonel (Col) Sister Audry, a Dutch Benedictine nun, is in command of the Vengadores de Dios, former Doms who converted and also include Marine Sergeant (Sgt) Koratin who converted, giving up being an Aryaalan lord. Col Arano Garcia commands the Vengadores and is Sister Audry’s XO. Capt Jasso is Garcia’s co-XO along with Capt Bustos. Capt Ixtli is in charge of the Jaguar Warriors, a.k.a., the Ocelomeh, who want to help overthrow the Doms.

Maj Blas-Ma-Ar commands the depleted 2nd Lemurian Marines. First Sgt Spon-Ar-Aak, a.k.a., Spook, is helping to groom Ixtli, as Blas wants to make him her XO. Col Dao Iverson will attack with the Sixth Imperial Marines, the Eight Maa-ni-la, and the Third Frontier Regiment (irregular volunteers).

Gen Ansik-Talaa commands XI Corps and wants to attack Puerto Limon.

Another front is gearing up with Captain (Capt) Greg Garrett of the USS Donaghey who finally met up with Lt Fred Reynolds and Lt (jg) Kari-Faask who flew over the Pass of Fire to meet with the NUS. Lts Mak-Araa is Greg’s XO, and Wendell “Smitty” Smith is the gunnery officer. Tribune Pol-Heena and his assistant, Lt Koor-Susk, represent the Real People.

The Matarife is a Dom prize the Donaghey took. Jenaar-Laan will be her chief bosun’s mate, as Greg takes her on a stealth mission into the Dominion. They’ll encounter Capt Andreis and Lt Robbins with Gen Ansik’s XI Corps. Lt Jeremy Ortiz, an NUS, is acting as first officer.

Capt Willis of NUS Congress, Adm Sessions, and Comm Semmes are part of the NUS Navy meeting in Cuba. Capt Anson is the spy who had rescued Fred and Kari.

Don Emmanuel, an emissary to the League was taken captive. Ensign Tomas Perez Mole provided information about the League.

Dominion towns that joined the Alliance include Maan-i-zalles, Guayak, Puerto Viejo, and Quito.

Captaine de Fregate Victor Gravois is in charge of the overseas branch of French military intelligence and has been sent to the Holy City of Nuevo Granada to finalize an alliance with the Dominion. Capitano di Fregata Ciano is in command of the Leopardo.

South Soala, Ungee River, is…
…another front against the Grik led by Gen Marcus Kim of the Republic of Real People. Inquisitor Kon-Choon is the Republic’s head spy (seems he and Taal-Gaak are vying for Bekiaa’s affections). Gen Taal-Gaak commands all Republic cavalry. Courtney Bradford, an Australian petroleum engineer, a self-proclaimed naturalist fascinated by everything, is the Alliance ambassador to the Real People.

Maj “Legate” Bekiaa Sab-At (Chack and Risa are her cousins) commands the 23rd Legion of the Army of the Republic and advises their general. Her leadership and fighting abilities have gained her much respect, especially after the saved the left flank of the army at Gaughala. Optio (Lt) Jack Meek is Doocy’s son and essentially a spy set on Bekiaa by Choon. Perfect Bele is Bekiaa’s XO.

Cantets are Republic biplanes.

The Enemies

The Ghaarrichk’k Empire in Africa are…
…lizard-like creatures, the Grik, whose aim in life is to slaughter anyone not them. Their nominal leader is the Celestial Mother, the Giver of Life, but her advisors are the real leaders: First General and Regent Champion Esshk and The Chooser. Second Gen Ign commands the New Army and his loyalty is to Esshk. The Hij are the elite half who are more likely to evade the cook pot; the Uul are nothing but cannon fodder, workers, food. Their sacred First City is Sofesshk on the Zambezi River. Hij Sich’k is an interpreter for Seventh Gen Gookir. The Giorsh is “the Palace of Generals at Sea” and is the traditional name for Grik flagships. It’s also the newest, mightest greatship of battle.

Jash is the Senior First of One Hundred, a Ka’tan (captain), and one of the New Warriors. Seech is a First of One Hundred under Jash. Naxa is First of Fifty. Slasher is the name with which the ker-noll (a First of Ten Hundreds) honored Jash’s galley.

Gen Halik is one of the New Warriors and broke away from the Grik in Persia where, strangely enough, Regent Consort Shighat is engaged in battle.

The remaining Japanese have…
…fled Zanzibar to a base General of the Sky Hideki Muriname had set up in Kakag with the flying machines he could salvage. Lt Mitsuo Ando is now his XO.

The Dominion is…
…a perversion of the Catholic Church that has incorporated all the worst of the Inquisition and holds Northern California, Central America, and some of South America. It’s all-holy leader is His Supreme Holiness, Messiah of Mexico, and, by the Grace of God, Emperor of the World (the Dom Pope) who is based in El Templo de los Papas. He is advised by his Blood Cardinals, in particular, His Holiness Don Hernan de Divina Dicha, the pope’s chosen successor. The Army of God is now being led by the more competent Gen Mayta, who is setting up to defend El Corazon. El Paso del Fuego, the Pass of Fire, splits the Dominion in half and is an important strategic asset, although, I can’t figure out why???

The League of Tripoli is…
…a fascist power in a warped alliance between France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and some others who came over six years ago from a 1939 that was not ours. Very powerful, they have been sabotaging both sides to keep the Grik and the Alliance busy killing each other, before the League steps in and conquers all. Confined to the Mediterranean for now, they intend to take El Paso del Fuego for mastery of the Atlantic. Contrammiraglio Oriani is based on Ascension Island and well placed in the Organizations for Vigilance and Repression of Antifascism (OVRA), the League’s spy division.

Oberleuitnant Walbert Fiedler is a German pilot the Alliance had held prisoner until they gave him back. He’s not too happy with the League but he is loyal to his people. He’s aboard the German submarine U-112 with Oberleuitnant Kurt Hoffman.

Paalkas are oversized moose-shaped animals used to haul wagons and artillery. Me-naaks are long-legged, somewhat crocodilian beasts used for calvary mounts. Armabueys are giant armadillos used for heavy draft.

The Cover and Title

The cover is primarily the grays of smoke-filled sky and the Santa Catalina battling the Grik on a roiling green sea. Tall cliff faces on the left and the right hem her in while a plane soars across even as Grik birds fly overhead. And a crocodile patiently watches from a rock. The series information is at the very top in black with three horizontal black lines on either side of it, framing it in. The title is immediately below it in red while the rest of the text — info blurbs and the author’s name at the bottom — is in white.

The title is true, as the Alliance desperately battles to block a narrow gap in the river in hopes of preventing the Final Swarm from spreading out into the world, creating a River of Bones in the process.

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