- Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4847-6765-8 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4847-9853-9 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 9–12
Tilla lost her precedence with her father, the Lord of the Western Province, when he had a legitimate daughter, but she and her half-brother Jax still lead a comfortable life at Castle Waverly. An unexpected encounter with the princess, Lyriana, and then the witnessing of a brutal murder suddenly make clear to Tilla, Jax, Lyriana, and two other teens that peace in this land is over. Soon the five are running for their lives, but they also hope to fight back and right what has gone awry in the political power structure, assuming, of course, they don’t die trying. The medieval-ish setting and complex world building are effective—there are many cultural and geographical details woven in throughout, in both the dialogue and descriptions, that slowly provide a vivid setting. Unfortunately, the constant use of modern, snarky slang is distracting, and the representation of the region’s Zitochi people as larger than life, innately powerful savages is flat and predictable. Even with the concerns, however, the cast of teens is compelling, and there is much left to do by the end of the novel, so readers may be drawn back to see what happens in the inevitable sequel.