Saturday, February 27, 2021

REVIEW: Royal Bastards (book) by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards is YA fantasy. I got my copy via interlibrary loan.


Tilla is the bastard child of Lord Kent. Although she tries to act like it doesn't bother her, part of her misses the days when her father seemed to genuinely care for her. Now she spends most of her time with her half-brother Jax, a stable hand, and wonders when her father plans to cast her aside for good.

On the night of Princess Lyriana's arrival at Castle Waverly, Tilla, the Princess, Jax, Miles (another bastard, one of the few in the area close to Tilla's age), and Zell (a visiting Zitochi bastard) witness a horrible crime. Suddenly they're on the run from everyone, including their own family members, and nowhere is safe.

I read this because I have an old ARC of the second book that I figured I should finally do something about. Will I be reading the ARC? Yes, although some aspects of this first book make me suspect it won't work as well for me.

Royal Bastards had nice energy, and I generally liked Tilla. She wasn't a delicate flower of a girl, but at the same time she didn't look down on girls who were, and actually kind of liked the idea of wearing pretty dresses and making friends with a princess. She loved her half-brother, had very mixed emotions where her father was concerned, and struggled to figure out how to deal with Miles, the childhood friend who clearly had a crush on her that she didn't reciprocate.

The romance aspect with Zell started off okay, I guess. Initially he was a hot new stranger Tilla probably would have flirted with a bit and then forgotten later on. Then Tilla, Zell, and the others were forced to either stick together or die, and there were suddenly many more opportunities for Tilla to notice Zell's abs. Zell was one of those stoic warrior types who was secretly tortured and vulnerable. While I could understand how their life-or-death situation added fuel to their romance, their "I love yous" didn't work for me at all. I couldn't help but wonder how long they'd manage to stay together once they weren't in constant danger.

Overall, this was a lot more bone-crunchingly violent and bloody than I expected. For the most part, it worked, although there were a few bits that made me feel weirdly like I was watching a too-slick action TV show. The plot didn't always seem to mesh naturally with the characters' emotions. For example, the one betrayal, early on in the book, made zero sense to me, even considering the money involved - it completely contradicted what readers had been told about how all the characters involved felt about each other, to the point where I wondered whether any of the people after Tilla and the others could do mind control, because that was the only explanation that really made sense. Then there was the big final showdown: it had multiple "cool" moments that felt more staged than real, and the dialogue in that portion leaned hard on cliches.

It was frequently implied that there was no "right" side in this conflict Tilla and the others found themselves in the middle of, and it'll be interesting to see whether the next book continues in that vein. Crossing my fingers that Zell and Tilla don't moon over each other too much now that they're officially a couple.

No comments:

Post a Comment