Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend Zell and best friend, Princess Lyriana.
So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city's prestigious University.
Then, Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate, a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she's suggesting is impossible... and treasonous.
But Tilla can't, won't, let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire Mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.
City of Bastards is book two of the Royal Bastards series by Andrew Shvarts. I was so excited to get a copy of this book that I broke my own rules around how far in advance I can read a book before it comes out. And it was totally worth it!!
This book picks up several months after the end of book one and Tilla is now living in the capital of Lightspire under the protection of Lyriana’s father, the Volaris King. It has taken some time to get used to all the new things but Tilla has adjusted. Despite the support, there are still a great number of people in Lightspire who see her as the daughter of the traitor who is waging war against them and they treat her like it when the King and Princess aren’t looking. Of course, she is still trying to come to terms with her brother’s death and
Zell is also trying really hard to adjust and find a place. When Lyriana boasted about his fighting skills and he beat three of his toughest men, the Captain of the City Watch offered him a place to stay and a place within the watch as long as he taught the men the Zitochi fighting style. It appears to be the best fit for him as he tries to figure out what to do next.
A lot happens in this book and Tilla and Zell getting used to Lightspire is really only a small piece of the puzzle. When Tilla’s roommate is found dead, everyone insists that it was suicide but Tilla doesn’t believe it. She knew Markiska and knew she would never have done such a thing. As Tilla digs into what happened, she learns more about the cult that is causing trouble in the capital and she also finds out more about how the West is beating the Lightspire mages.
I love the characters in this book. Of course, I talked about Tilla and Zell but just as important to the story are Princess Lyriana and Ellarion. Lyriana is, like Tilla, still trying to get over Jax’s death but she is doing it by being reckless. Tilla absolutely realizes this but doesn’t call her out on it. Instead, she stands by and supports Lyriana as best she can. I loved the friendship these two have built and while sometimes they hold things back, they are still very supportive and protective of each other. Ellarion is right with them every step of the way and uses his magic to help find answers and protect them. He is a perfect balance for this group with his knowledge of the kingdom and magic. Things get really interesting for him as he pushes the boundaries of his magic and I can’t wait to see how he is impacted in the next book.
There are a lot of reveals in this book both around what is happening with the West and the mage power. These characters tend to keep secrets from each other with the intention of protecting each other but in reality, it only makes things more difficult. I had some real concerns about some of these characters once things were revealed but I also have high hopes that they can all figure out how to make things work. Things just aren’t black and white in this book and it’s hard to disagree with any of the reasons why people are rebelling against the Volaris family.
Overall, I thought this was a great book two in this series and I can’t wait to see where Shvarts goes next with the story and these characters. There isn’t much more I can say without potentially ruining the story but I will leave you with this. To quote Tilla, they may have lost the battle, but they will continue to fight the war. As the beginning of the resistance, they have a chance to create a new world and they are determined to do it together. If you are looking for a book that has magic, great characters, and an engaging story, definitely check this series out. I’ll be over here, impatiently waiting for the next book.
Thank you to the publisher for the copy in exchange for an honest review.