Book #67: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

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 . .

There aren’t many books that actually gave me tears. I have brought to almost tears (HP Deathly Hallows and Eliza and Her Monsters), but I actually cried in Royal Bastards. It was a soft and quiet cry. One reserved for a beautiful ending in the midst of a great adventure. And the adventure was great.

This fantasy book has all the elements of a good fantasy. There is magic, political intrigue, and action scenes that are bloody. At first, I was worried about the large cast of bastards. There are five people total and that is a lot to grow and make them believable. So many characters in a large group are made into a trope and become stereotyped.

Your blonde oblivious princess is one trope. You know the kind, she’s innocent and you just want to smack her. Well, Lyrianna is a blonde princess and she does have a naivety to her, but there’s a quiet strength in her that made her a lovable character. She grows from being a vegan flower power child to a badass.

Each of the five have a quality to them that grow from the beginning to the end. I was cheering them on. I was screaming at the baddies who crossed their path. And I cried those sweet ending tears.

This is a book that I instantly would recommend to everyone who loves a good fantasy. I’ve heard a distant rumor that this is one of a trilogy. If that is so, I will be crying in the second book. Of that I’m sure. If it isn’t true, this book would still make a good standalone, a glimpse at a rich world.

No matter what, I’m buying that hardcover because the audio isn’t enough.

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