ROYAL BASTARDS by Andrew Shvarts is a stand-alone teen epic fantasy, suitable for readers aged 16 and over due to graphic violence, alcohol consumption, and one sexual situation.
What in the frozen Hell did I just read?
I requested this title from NetGalley because I loved the cover. Didn't even bother reading the blurb, and honestly, if I had known I'd have an epic fantasy on my hands, I'd have steered clear, because high fantasy ALWAYS puts my brain to sleep, and I'd long ago given up my hunt for the unicorn of high fantasy--that one that can immediately suck me in and send my heart racing.
Well, turns out I found it! I'm glad I didn't skip this one--this is THE EPIC FANTASY written for impatient readers like me who love the movies but fall asleep reading LOTR. Dripping with adrenaline, ROYAL BASTARDS is just what the title and cover promise: an edgy, so-wrong-it's-right read.
Except for that first line "Being a bastard blows," the back cover blurb (now that I've read it) doesn't do this book justice. Tilla's the 16-year-old bastard daughter of a regional Lord, who pretty much ignores her now that he has a proper wife and three "legitimate" daughters. Why he hasn't disowned her and tossed her out on the street is the question that fixes hope in her heart--that her father will one day decide to legitimize her (give her his last name, let her eat at the family table, etc) and thereby save her from a life as a servant. But when Tilla and her beloved half-brother (also a bastard) witness her father kill a visiting Mage from the king's court (an act of war), it's game on. Tilla along with a band of other misfit bastards embark on a mission to deliver the visiting teenage princess safely back to her kingdom before her bloodthirsty father kills her (and Tilla, too).
Shvarts does so much so well. The opening pages immediately sucked me in, and while there were bits of backstory I skimmed, I felt pretty much glued to these characters and this plot. As far as world-building goes, Shvarts nails it. Nothing is over done, and everything weaves together beautifully, subtly, and--oh yeah--THRILLINGLY. There's a thread of subtle humor that offsets the sometimes over-the-top graphic violence (though the main character is a chick, it's clear a dude wrote this). Though I didn't actually laugh out loud, I did get a bit misty-eyed at the end, and I was a little angry with Shvarts for killing my favorite character. I think I might've actually blurted, "You bastard!" But that's the beauty of this book, it totally screws the rules of fair play. So, reader be warned: this is a fast-paced, violent book that skirts the edge of inappropriate in the best and most thrilling way!
Though it's marketed as YA, this book may be a little too edgy for readers under 16, as it depicts the 16-year-old main character drinking loads of alcohol, engaged in sex, and bashing in skulls in all the gory detail. ROYAL BASTARDS will appeal to fans of dark fairy tales, those who loved the LOTR movies, and anyone with a chip on their shoulder. I loved this book so much, I want to share it with a hardcover giveaway (scroll down).
ROYAL BASTARDS earns 4 North of Normal stars!