Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts, published by Disney Hyperion on 8th June 2017
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. 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 . .
'Royal Bastards' has been on my radar for ages. There's been quite a buzz around this title, so I was hugely excited to get my hands on a copy. Described as Game of Thrones for teens, I was expecting great things of it.
The story centres around a group of royal bastards who are brought together under terrible circumstances and end up having to undergo an epic journey in each other's company. Tilla, the narrator, has longed for nothing else than to be by her father's side. She has been forgotten however, in lieu of his legitimate children and so instead spends most of her time in the company of her half-brother Jax. The two enjoy exploring the tunnels beneath the castle and generally getting into mischief.
The opening quarter of the book was quite exciting as Tilla and Jax, along with Miles and Zell, a Zitochi warrior, witness a terrible crime. This leads to them having to flee the kingdom to protect the life of Princess Lyriana. I was immediately hooked on the sense of danger and adventure and couldn't wait to see where their journey was going to lead.
Although this book falls firmly into the fantasy genre, what I did find quite strange about it was the surprisingly contemporary dialogue which didn't always feel like it fit the style of the novel. It was an unusual mix and I'm not sure that it worked for me. I think this is why I didn't properly connect with any of the characters, so although I liked Tilla, I didn't find her as pivotal and engaging a heroine as she should have been. There are also touches of romance in the book but again, this didn't feel like a romance that I could believe in and root for.
For a series opener, 'Royal Bastards' was pretty good and the concept was awesome but although for the most part I enjoyed the adventure, I want more in terms of character development from the next instalment.