A group of misfits team up to save their kingdom – and their lives – in Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts, the first in a new YA fantasy series.
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 . . .
Okay, I’ll admit … it was hard reading this one right after finishing ACOWAR. Probably not my best reading choice. That said, I was still in the mood for fantasy and romance and magic, and Royal Bastards delivered.
Each of the main characters are well established, and we get a good sense of who they are even as they tumble into trouble and find themselves unlikely allies – on the run for their lives, and also possibly trying to prevent a war.
I liked Tilla’s frankness as a narrator; she is blunt and honest, and while some readers may not always like her attitude, it feels genuine. She shares with us the nasty inner thoughts we all have, but don’t like to admit – and we see her biases and attitudes affect her actions – and see her face the consequences. Her tone, and in many cases the dialogue as a well, has an almost contemporary, modern feel — and I liked the way that was juxtaposed against this fantasy world and a society filled with royal families and magic.
At times, the tone of this book can be difficult to interpret. Sometimes it feels almost like a middle grade … but nope, there’s the graphic violence and sex, so it’s pretty clearly YA. The fact that it sometimes felt like a younger book, despite these more mature scenes, was sometimes jarring – though it did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the book. And I’m certainly hooked now to find out what happens next!
Look for Royal Bastards in stores tomorrow.