Thursday, May 11, 2017

Royal Bastards

Royal Bastards is one of the freshest fantasy books that I've read in a long time. It's snappy and sarcastic, but it's not fluffy. The body count in this book is pretty high, and treachery abounds. This is one of my favorite new fantasies of 2017, and I'm so excited that it's going to be a series.




Bastards. Pretty much every royal has at least one--and usually they start to pile up like unwashed socks. You can't do much, legally, with a bastard, but most nobles let their illegitimate progeny hang around. Tilla is the daughter of Lord Kent, High Lord of the West, and she spends most of her time hanging out with her half-brother (through her mother) Jax, a stable hand. Ever since Lord Kent's wife gave birth to a daughter, Kent no longer spends time with Tilla the way he used to. When she thought that maybe he loved her. That maybe one day he would legitimize her. That, you know, her life would be a fairy tale.

Well, this is no fairy tale. This is a bastard's tale.

Did you know that in English, a bastard refers to both male and female children born outside of marriage? I always thought it was just male--we only use the word as a cuss word when we're talking about men. Hmm. I suppose there's gender politics involved because you insult a man by saying his mom slept around but you insult a woman by calling her an animal.

BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT OF THIS REVIEW (is it?)

Right. So Jax and Tilla are getting drunk on a skin of wine right before Lord Kent hosts a slammin' party for the Princess Lyriana, heir to the Volaris throne, and her uncle, the Archmagus Rolan.


Everyone who's anyone is invited (er, well, nobles are invited, and people who are sort-of-noble-but-also-bastards), but as she's getting dressed for the fête, Kent comes to visit Tilla. He seems to indicate that he still cares about her, but she has to follow his lead and remember that the Kingdom of the West was the last one to fall to the Volaris Kings. Tilla is mildly confused by all this love and politics, but hey, it could be all that wine she drank with Jax.  Fuzzy head.



At the banquet, she hangs out with Miles Hampstedt, House Bastard of Lady Hampstedt, who is awkward and clingy but generally nice. The Zitochi leader, Grezza Gaul, and his two sons arrive from the frozen North. One of them is the token bastard--Zell. Finally, Lyriana arrives in state. She's gorgeous, with rich dark skin and glowing eyes and the most princess-y of princess airs. Also, she's super-sweet and kind and perfectly perfect.



Tilla can't stand her.

But, you know, be nice to your guests and all that, so she, Jax, Zell, and Miles take Lyriana to see the ocean. Unfortunately, they stumble upon a rather gruesome assassination. Lord Kent and Lady Hampstedt literally blow up the King's Archmage into tiny, no-longer-magical bits, and try to frame Grezza Gaul for the murder.


Except the bastards all see it, flee, and end up being royal bastards on the lam. And it is delightful.

Also, things blow up and people get stabbed a lot, which is always exciting when it's fictional!

Royal Bastards traces the teens' flight from Castle Waverly to Lyriana's castle and presumed safety. Who can they trust? How about those people they grew up with? Hmmm, ehhh, I wouldn't, ah, you'll see. How will they escape from Zell's insane and bloodthirsty brother, who is hunting them with a gang of Zitochi dudebro assassins? And how are they going to save the mages in the East from being tortured so horribly that their magical power leaves them and is converted into mage-blasting bombs by the thoroughly nasty Lady Hampstead?

Also there are terrifying, flesh-liquifying giant spiders to contend with. In case you didn't think this was, y'know, difficult.



The best part about Royal Bastards is definitely Tilla's narrative voice. She's got a very modern edge, doesn't take herself too seriously, and is extremely snarky. I love her. The story meshes the fantasy romp with serious action and chopping up into tiny bits very well. The relationship between Tilla and Jax is fantastic, and their growing friendship and loyalty to Lyriana touching and sweet. All of the teens do a lot of growing up, and not always for the better. Some people grow up to be egomaniacal jerks. It's life.


Two illegitimate thumbs up!

I received an ARC of this title from Netgalley.

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