Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Series: Book #1
Read: May 9-11, 2017
Format: E-ARC (NetGalley)
My Book Rating: 5 Stars
Release Date: May 30, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Reading Challenge(s): Flights of Fantasy, 2017 YA
ABOUT THE BOOK
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 . . .
I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I honestly wasn’t sure if I even wanted to read this book when I requested it from NetGalley. I’ve read quite a few YA fantasies in the past year or so and they sort of start to blur in my head. This book though? I’m so glad I read it!
Royal Bastards was a unique fantasy read for me. The dialogue is often very contemporary and comical – which I love. The overall feel is like a watered down Game of Thrones—but without the dragons, and significantly less pages.
I love that this book really emphasizes the gray areas — as in, the world isn’t just black and white, good and evil. Tilla and Jax have a conversation about whether they’re doing the “right thing” by betraying their land and their people, and what it boils down to is, there is no right thing.
I loved the characters in this book.
Tilla is the bastard daughter of the Lord of Kent, his firstborn. She spends most of her time with her stablehand half brother, Jax (same mother, different father). She’s often crass and unladylike—especially in her internal dialogue—but secretly wishes to be legitimized and fully accepted by her father.
Jax is a stablehand, built like an ox, and quite the ladies man. He’s full of inappropriate things to say. He’s loyal and funny and charming. It’s hard not to love him.
Lyriana is the princess and though at first she comes across as very boring, prim, and proper, as she begins this adventure with her newfound friends, we realize very quickly that there is much more to her than meets the eye.
Zell is a “barbaric” warrior from a land not ruled by Lyriana’s kingdom. He’s incredibly sexy, tough, and though he’s everything she shouldn’t want, Tilla finds herself trying to prove herself to him. I have a little book crush on Zell.
Miles is a wussy pain in the ass. He’s a book nerd, but not in a cool way. He’s kind of annoying, but begins to get better. He’s also completely hung up on Tilla, even though she wants nothing to do with him.
There’s danger everywhere.
Some authors are afraid to put their characters in any real mortal peril. That’s so not the case here. There were a few times where I seriously worried that someone would die. There are creepy gross monster bug things, too.
Another cool thing this book does is represent diversity. Lyriana is described as having dark skin and hair, while I believe Tilla and Jax are described as more fair. I remember, as I read her description, being pleasantly surprised that the author decided to make the ruling people dark skinned. Such a nice change from the traditional choice of making dark skinned people either slaves or evil! I imagine the Zitochi (Zell’s people) as ancient Asian warriors, like Ghengis Khan. I could be completely off base with that though. I don’t always remember exactly how characters are described and instead come up with my own visualizations in my head.
The pacing of this book was excellent. There were no dull points in the plot and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.
There’s also a really cool magic system that has its own twists in the story as well.
And finally, THE FEELS.
That’s right, this book had me full of feels. I was rooting for some things to happen, almost in tears over other things that happened. A book that makes me feel and/or really think like this one did, is a book that’s going to STAY with me.
So, should you read this? YES. A loud and resounding yes. At this point in time, this is my top read of 2017 so far. I may even go out and actually purchase a hard copy to have on my shelf to re-read in the future and to have my daughters read (when they’re old enough – this is definitely an upper YA book with the language, violence, and insinuated—not graphic in the least—sexual content.)
Royal Bastards is on sale May 30, 2017, but you can preorder at the following sites:
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(NOTE: Quotes are from an advanced release copy of the book and MAY be changed in the final printing.)
(NOTE 2: There are a lot of quotes here. This book is SO quotable, I couldn’t trim my favorites down anymore!)
“I was…um…” I scrambled for a plausible excuse. Bathing? I was too dry. Riding? I was too clean. Studying? No one would ever believe that.
You know that awkward silence where someone has committed a horrible social blunder, but no one knows how to react, so everyone is just staring at their feet? Imagine that, but in a hall with two hundred people.
The message was clear. Bow to the King or die by the Ring.
Lyriana Volaris, Princess of Noveris, was genuinely excited to sit with a bunch of bastards. That was just about the craziest thing I could thing of, on a day that was already feeling pretty crazy.
Jay shrugged. “I mean, Whitesand Beach is the perfect place to bring a girl if you’re looking to get laid.” Lyriana gasped. “Or…so I’ve heard some guys say. I, uh, wouldn’t know anything about that.”
I let out an amused snort. Zell just shook his head.
“Jax,” I said softly, “I’m so sorry…”
He glanced at me, one eyebrow cocked, the same sweet, goofy brother I’d loved my whole life. “Shut your face, sis,” he said, and walked off toward the outcropping.
I hadn’t paid much attention to my etiquette lessons, but I was pretty sure there wasn’t a standard expression for Sorry my dad killed your uncle.
I blinked. “You don’t know how to put on pants.”
“I’ve never had to. No woman in Lightspire would!”
Training with Zell that day consisted of him honing my reflexes by having me attempt to catch rocks. Mostly I just got hit with rocks.
With a particularly mushy smack, the orifice in the center of the starling’s head puckered open, drooling a yellowish gunk that sizzled against the stone. Four spindly tendrils shot out.
Holy shit. We’d been so focused on our disguises and backstories, we’d completely forgotten about money. We had to be the dumbest fugitives who’d ever lived.
My mind had been resisting what my body had wanted, but I’d been through way too much hell to give it that power anymore. He held me close and I pressed in closer, and damn if this didn’t just feel so, so right.
“Holy frozen hell,” Jax said. What happened to you guys?”
I was starting to think that Miles’s mom was a huge bitch, but that wasn’t really the point.
Mile’s face had never looked more punchable.
Was he hitting on me? That would be weird, right?