Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Book One of the Royal Bastards trilogy
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (from Goodreads):
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 . . .
What I Liked:
I hate writing three-star reviews! In this book's case, I didn't hate it or love it - I just didn't care enough. This wasn't anything special or original and I wasn't invested enough to take a stand, whether positive or negative. The book has some strengths and weaknesses, but overall it wasn't something that stood out or wowed me.
A short synopsis: Tilla is a bastard, her father's oldest child. She and her half-brother Jax have lived the lives of bastard children for years - forgotten, raised apart from their "family", and treated differently. Everything changes when Princess Lyriana and her uncle, the Royal Archmagus, comes to visit the West Province (over which Tilla's father exerts power). Tilla, Jax, Lyriana, a bastard named Miles, and a Zitochi bastard named Zell are forced to flee when they witness Tilla's father and Miles's mother killing the Royal Archmagus and plotting to kill the Princess too. With a price on their heads and a war to stop, the bastards run for their lives. Being a bastard might have been what saved all of their lives, and they'll need to use this to their advantage against their own families.
The good things - for one, I finished the book, and it wasn't a difficult task to do. It's a fairly engaging read, though there are plenty of times when the paragraphs dragged on. I effectively skimmed and flipped pages until I reached dialogue. Anyway, the book wasn't too boring, which is a big plus.
For the most part, I liked the cast of characters. This book is written in Tilla's first-person POV, but there are five protagonists: Tilla, Lyriana, Miles, Jax, and Zell. Tilla and Jax are half-siblings (they have the same mother). Tilla's father is a lord of House Kent. Jax's father is a royal soldier. Miles's mother is a lady of House Hampstedt. Zell is the second son of the Zitochi Chief of Clans. Lyriana is the Princess of Lightspire who rules them all (except the Zitochi, sort of). These five are very different, and for the most part, likable. I loved and was intrigued by Zell, and I thought Jax was hilarious. But the other three (especially Miles), meh. I didn't really care for them. Tilla was okay, Lyriana was bland, Miles was irritating. I liked Zell a lot because he is a cold warrior who is very intelligent and ruthless too. He is capable and clever, but also selfless. My type of guy!
The friendship and camaraderie of the group is a great aspect that needed a little work but for the most part, was good. I felt that camaraderie between Tilla, Lyriana, Jax, and Zell. Miles stuck out like a sore thumb.
The book is slow initially, but things pick up as the group of teens journey on to Lightspire, where they hope to find safety. First they will try to find a Lord Galen Reza, who should shelter them. The majority of the novel is this journey, and it isn't too bad, though it's not terribly action-packed either (not until the end).
The romance is okay - there are two sets of romances. Tilla and Zell have a thing going on, and things get heated between them. I approve. Jax and Lyriana have a very subtle thing going on, though nothing physical happens between them (though they fall for each other). Tilla and Zell's romance moves very slowly and then very quickly ("I love you" was thrown okay... which seemed quick to me). I liked Tilla and Zell together.
The ending was good, no cliffhanger, nothing painful. I hate cliffhangers, so I'm fine with that.
What I Did Not Like:
Ehhhhhhhh. That's the feeling that I'm left with, after finishing this book. It isn't a bad book! But it's not great either. Not really stuck out to me to make it "amazing" or "sensational".
Some of the things that stuck out to me as annoying - the writing style/Tilla's voice. Wow, talk about juvenile. The way the dialogue is written... some of the phrases seemed so out of place - and outdated in a modern sense. Which is ridiculous, because this is a FANTASY novel that shouldn't have any "modern" phrases in it, outdated or not.
For example: hooking up? Old fogeys? Rooting for you? Take it to the next level? Gosh there were more - I cringed every time I read those phrases. They seemed so out of place and entirely unnecessary. The only person that talked like I would expect from a high fantasy novel was Zell.
Tilla's voice was so conversational in a mundane way. I understand that this is her narrative, but the way she brings the story across is weirdly conversational and it just didn't work for me.
Ugh, Miles. I read some reviews that mentioned a love triangle and as soon as I "met" Miles, in the first few chapters, I knew exactly where this love triangle was going. It's not a true love triangle because Tilla doesn't care for or want Miles at all - she doesn't even really see him as a friend - but Miles is totally obsessed with Tilla. Miles is a pesky fly that I wanted to smash, right from the beginning, and not because he came across as weirdly obsessed with Tilla. He's just... irritating? There was always something about him that made me want to punch him.
So there is and yet isn't a love triangle. I can tell you that the love triangle is taking care of effectively, in the end (not that we had anything to worry about, with how close Zell and Tilla had gotten). Hopefully no new "legs" of the triangle pop up, like Lyriana's cousin. Settle down, YA authors, not everyone has to be in love with the heroine (that's stupid and unrealistic).
More ugh about Miles is his behavior. He is almost possessive of Tilla (you'll see why), and he does this thing out of spite because she friend-zoned him (*cringe*). Can we not perpetrate the idea of men's fragile egos and how terribly they handle rejection (some of them)? I get that it was used as a plot point in the book, but it's ridiculous. My face must have looked like this when I read that scene: -_-
Overall this book wasn't boring but there were plenty of rambling paragraphs that I skipped altogether and apparently didn't need to read them. So much info-dumping and storytelling - no thank you! When a paragraph started to feel like a run-on sentence, I was out. Look, guys. I'm an educated young woman in her twenties and I've read boring classics in the very recent past, so it's not my intelligence at fault here. Try not to info-dump so much, authors. It's taxing on readers.
I'll stop there. General feeling? Meh.
Would I Recommend It:
I don't really recommend this book because it's so meh and uninspiring. It didn't really impress me - ME, a fantasy addict. I expected to be wowed and swept off my feet, with the amount of promo and attention this book was getting. Since this series is a trilogy, and this author is a debut author who clearly likes to throw in as many cliche YA tropes as possible, I may wait until the series ends to possibly binge-read books two and three. Or skip them altogether. My expectations are low.
3 stars. 2.5 stars? I'm not feeling negatively towards the book but I'm not feeling positively towards it either. I can't even say I feel disappointed, though I probably should, given how excited I was about the book and how much I really don't care about it after reading it. Meh. I tried!
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