Tilla, the oldest daughter of Lord Kent of the Weastern Region, has always secretly dreamed of become the head of her house, running the castle of Kent and being a lady. Unfortunately, since she's a bastard, this can never happen. When the mysterious and magical Princess comes to the castle, though, she thinks her life may be turning up but nothing goes as planned.
I picked up Royal Bastards in anticipation for Shvart's sequel, City of Bastards, coming out in a few weeks. The author, Andrew Shvart's, name rang a bell, I assumed it was through my network of writer and readers, but it turns out that it's more likely that I recognized him from the Choose Your Own Adventure mobile game, Choices. Ooops! Regardless, I was excited to dive into this series and learn more about the mysterious title.
The narrator and her supporting cast were my absolute favorite part of this book. There's a cast of five main characters: Tilla, the bastard of Lord Kent and our narrator; Jax, her half-brother and another bastard; Miles, the bastard son of Kent's most trusted advisor; Zell, the son of the war chief of the country to the North; and Princess Lyriana, the mage and heiress to the crowd. The characters were all so dynamic but different. It created great tension and added drama to the story. The chemistry between Tilla and her love interest was easily the best I'd read so far this year.
The plot was just as compelling as the characters. From the first few scenes to the ending, I was completely gripped by the action. The first turn in the plot, which comes early on and completely unexpectedly, threw off all of my expectations for the rest of the story. Since I read so much Young Adult Fantasy novels for these reviews and have studied the genre for nearly eight years, it's rare that I find a book that takes me completely off guard. I was completely thrilled.
I could tell that Shvart put a great deal of time and thought into the world of his novel. The religion, politics and history of Tilla's country were well developed and essential to the plot of the novel. I especially loved how much detail went into the monsters that existed in this world and the science behind the magic. This book definitely exemplifies the concepts I talked about in my recent blog posts about well-rounded settings.
This was an excellent novel and I'm sad I have to wait to read the sequel. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Young Adult Fantasy novels. The characters, plot and setting are all well rounded, complex and excellently written. I do believe this book would be best for older teens, as the book deals with sex, alcohol, and a large amount of violence. If that doesn't turn you off, grab a copy and read it quickly before City of Bastards comes out.