“You're proud of me...because I defied you?”
“Yes. There's no greater courage than defying your own.”
This book is so bad-ass. I said that when I was only 80 pages in and everything was going wrong and I was describing the book to a co-worker. I still say that now after finishing!
One of the reasons I was first intrigued by Andrew Shvarts' debut novel ROYAL BASTARDS was because it was comped to SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo. Okay, yes, sign me up!! When I finally sat down to start reading and read the summary again, I just couldn't see the comparison. That's because I was expecting it to comp in a heist sense. After reading this? Despite not seeming so in the summary, the books are DEFINITELY in the same wheelhouse. Both feature a group of teens on the run trying to save someone--and they all have bounties on their heads. Both have--tasks, for lack of a better world--that can upend the world if not carried out. And, of course, just the gritty feel to it all. So if you like SIX OF CROWS? Yeah, I think you're going to like ROYAL BASTARDS, too.
There's danger. Heartache. Betrayal. First love. Friendship. Questions of loyalty. So many good things that keep you reading!
The book kicks into high gear pretty fast. Tilla, a family friend, Miles, and a newcomer to the group, a dangerous Zitochi warrior named Zell are all sitting at the table designated for bastard children in the royal hall. When the visiting Princess Lyriana arrives, she opts not to sit with her uncle the Royal Archmagus or Tilla's father--the realm's king. Instead, she sits with the bastards despite the improperness of it. While there, she talks about a superstition that if you dip your feet into two different oceans, you'll have good luck. She laments the fact that her uncle won't let her stop to do this while she's visiting, and the group decide to sneak out in the evening to go to the ocean (after picking up Tilla's half-brother Jax, who is a stableboy).
However, while there, everything goes wrong. The group witnesses their parents murder the Royal Archmagus and find out that Zell's brother was sent to kill Lyriana. They're trying to revive a long-dead rebellion against Lyriana's father, the king of all the realms, and have figured out a way to torture mages, steal their rings, and use them as weapons. The bastards are discovered and the group must flee for their lives. If they can get Lyriana home, she can promise them safety...but does delivering her home mean betraying their families and realm?
So good. Sooo good. And no spoilers, of course, but a couple of these characters change so much and really surprise you! There's one character I'm completely obsessed with by the end because, again--super bad-ass things have scoped this person--but ahhh, the spoilers!!! I also liked the slower burn of the romance and the way it felt very natural.
At times, Shvarts made my skin crawl. He has creatures reminiscent of spiders--and deadly, too. Let me tell you, if I had a superpower, it would be an Empath. When I read, I pick up characteristics of the characters or world. Last week, I was reading about a paranoid character, so I was super paranoid and hearing things when there was nothing. After this scene?? When I got up to do laundry after reading that scene, I did NOT want to be alone in the dark basement. And when I was outside later that day on the patio, and I heard the drip, drip, drip of the air conditioners? Definitely still shivers!!! I skimmed past most of the scene's visuals, too, but it still traumatized me a bit. ^.~
At times, the book felt very modern. It may take place in modern times and not medieval times, despite the nature of the setting. The language was very modern, from words such as "the hottest couple" to the sneaky drinking games away from adult eyes to the frank talk of sex and not saving oneself. It just felt very "current" at times. Not that there's anything wrong with that! But it gave me pause as to when this was taking place. Now I'm really curious!
I really hope there's a sequel in the works. Everything is so open-ended that it almost feels as though there has to be, but nothing has been announced yet. But oh, I'm ready for more and can't say goodbye to this world just yet!