This book got on my radar thanks to Indigo. Some time ago, they had Royal Bastards listed under Diverse Reads category - the section that I tend to scout religiously for new releases. This book is no longer listed there, and who knows, perhaps, I imagined it, but I was looking forward to reading a new YA fantasy anyway.
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 . .
Royal Bastards is written in a rather simple and uncomplicated language which makes it a very easy read. It took me awhile to finish it, only because the book was due back to the library and I had to wait till I could pick it up again. Once I started reading it again, I managed to read almost 200 pages in one evening. A very easy read, indeed.
I had several issues with the narrative - most of them being connected to the fact that the author tells us things as opposed to showing. Granted, there are things that need to be delivered via exposition but for me, it was just a bit too much. The band of characters, the royal bastards, reads like a group of friends from a contemporary romance novel: a tomboy girl, a nerdy kid, a popular girl, a boy next door/BFF, and a bad boy with a heart of gold. You know what I mean. Not that it is a bad thing to include tropes, but for the fantasy book it was not necessary at all.
There are a lot of moments in which the characters conveniently discover certain things in their bags to help them on their journey or turns out they have hidden talents. It made the narrative a bit plain and predictable at times.
It is a debut novel, and, sadly, has typical mistakes of one. Not a bad book. Definitely, entertaining. The best action happened in the last 40-50 pages of it, though. There were some pretty good jokes too. In my opinion, the dialogues are the strongest part of the book.
However, the plot and the intrigue that the author was trying to spin were the weakest points. “Royal Bastards” does read like a nice adventure/romance, but does not hold against an expectation of a high fantasy novel.
As for the diversity aspect. Well, there is a secondary character who appears by the end of the book and who is mentioned to be gay, but it is mentioned in passing, and by no means qualifies as a diverse read or a book with LGBTQ+ characters. Will see if this changes in Book 2. “City of Bastards” is coming out this June.
I do plan to continue with the trilogy. In spite of tropey tropes, I am curious to see where the story would go and I do like some of the characters.
Rating: 3 stars