Monday, June 5, 2017
Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children.
At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children.
Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness.
Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery.
The bastards band together, realizing they alone have the power to prevent a civil war that will tear their kingdom apart—if they can warn the king in time. And if they can survive the journey . . . (courtesy of Goodreads)
I had a great time reading this book. Game of Thronesy type books are all the rage lately. Warring kingdoms, political intrigue, betrayal, romance, violence, etc. If you like those things, you'll definitely enjoy this book. Lucky for me, I've never watched Game of Thrones and while I've read a few books in a similar vein, I haven't read a lot. So this book feels fun and fresh to me.
Where this book really shines is a well developed gang of characters. You have Tilla, her half-brother (and lower caste) Jax, Miles (dweeb/mama's boy), Zell (scary warrior/really hot), and Lyriana (princess with hidden depths). The characters could have come off as rote and one-dimensional, but I felt the story did a good job of developing each person's story. Without getting giant info dumps, we got to understand more about each person's life and psyche throughout the book. By the end, I felt like I really understood them.
I go through phases with fantasy. Currently, I'm actually in a fantasy reading slump. I just can't get interested in them. This book was an exception. I think it's because it's so fast paced, unlike a lot of fantasy novels. They had adventure after adventure. Some I expected to happen, but others took me by surprise. They aren't shielded from tragedy or violence despite their age or the YA marketing. I like that the story didn't talk down to the reader or dilute the danger of their situation.
The book is an easy read. Party because of the fast pacing, but also because the dialogue feels modern. Arguably, that's somewhat clashing with the fantasy nature - or at least the old fashioned feel that we've been conditioned to think that fantasies must have. But I'm more interested in a good, easy to read story than something that perfectly fits into genre defining boxes.
I had a great time reading Royal Bastards and look forward to more from this series.