Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

royal bastards

3 out of 5 stars.

I received an ARC of this work.

Tilla is a bastard, a child born outside of a marriage. Her father has not acknowledged her as a legitimate heir, so her life is stuck in a holding pattern between daughter of a Lord and servant. She spends most of her time with her half-brother as well as some other bastards of other houses in their corner of the kingdom.

Her somewhat peaceful existence comes to a grinding halt when her father is part of a rebellion against the crown, slaughtering the King’s brother when he is visiting. Tilla, her half-brother (Jax) and 2 other bastards (Miles and Zell) manage to save the princess, but her father sends soldiers after them all and puts out a reward on their heads. Tilla must decide where her loyalties and love lies.

The one huge, glaring mistake in this book is the use of modern slang and idioms in a book that is set in another universe and has a decidedly medieval feel to it. Having the characters say “cool” and “oh, shit” really changed the tone of the book and felt completely out of place in an otherwise foreign landscape. The setting and plot all felt like a standard fantasy novel. There were swords, barbarians and Lords and Ladies. There were castles and politics and magic. And then the characters went and sounded like modern teens. It pulled me out of the flow of the novel every single time it happened in the dialogue, and it happened quite a bit. It was a poor decision on the part of the author.

Otherwise, the main theme of the book were about relationships with parents and the use of conflict and violence in politics. Tilla has a strained relationship with her dad, even before he put money on her head. During her childhood he was a fairly caring parent. They spent time together and Tilla was assured of his love. When he married and produced 2 legitimate heirs, he started drawing away and she was left feeling abandoned and unloved. Miles is more accepted and may even be recognized one day, but still does not have full family acceptance. Jax does not have any parents and Zell’s father has practically disowned him. Since most YA books focus so heavily on romantic relationships, it is refreshing to see parents come us as a focal point of a book.

The other major question the books bring up is the appropriateness of violence in political situations. The part of the kingdom Tilla’s father rules used to be independent, but is now under the thumb of another pair of rulers (the princess’s parents). His assassination of the king’s brother and attempted assassination of the heir were payback for the conquest of his kingdom generations ago and some oppression since. His method of rebellion, though, does not just include fighting between rebels and soldiers, it has innocents getting hurt and killed. How many noncombatants can you kill before rebelling just isn’t worth it anymore? How oppressive does a government need to be before involving innocents is okay?

This was a fairly decent novel, apart from the obvious dialogue error. There was action, magic and romance, the usual ingredients for YA fantasy. Given how saturated the genre is, though, I am not sure I can overlook the error enough to read another.



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