(Website, Twitter, Goodreads)Published by Disney Electronic Content on May 30th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult Fiction
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 by Andrew Shvarts is a book I have been looking forward to since I read the summary…really, you had me at the title on this one Mr. Shvarts. This book had everything I look forward to in the books I read, great characters, a bit of romance/swoons, and an intriguing story.
The main character is Tilla and she happens to be the bastard daughter of Lord Kent, the man who leads the Western Province. It was hard not to feel bad for Tilla and understand her desire to be seen as more than Lord Kent’s backup – if and when he needed her – and because of who she was, she didn’t have a true place in the castle. As his daughter, she was expected to attend functions and represent him well but she was never really treated as his daughter because he has never legitimized her. It is because of this that she is able to sneak around with her half-brother and get away with some of the things she does.
As the story opens, the visiting princess Lyrianna is being honored with a feast and that’s when the princess surprises everyone and chooses to sit at the bastard’s table. Of course Tilla is there but so are some other characters that will come to play very important roles in the rest of the story. Miles is the son of one of the most powerful women in the West. His mother’s house is wealthy and the originator of the sun stones that light up the castle. Zell is the son of the Zitochi chief. He isn’t a bastard in the true sense of the word – he earned his status within his clan.
The group makes plans to go to the beach that night (along with Tilla’s half-brother Jax) and they end up taking the tunnels under the castle to the beach and by chance, they find themselves witnessing a crime they never expected. This forces all of them to run and they are immediately set up as scapegoats to the murder of princess Lyrianna’s Archmagus uncle and the kicker here is that it is their parents that have started the rebellion and put all their lives on the line.
Outside of the actual story, the characters and the friendships really help to drive this story forward. I loved how everyone was immediately thrown into this uncontrollable situation and even though they don’t really trust each other yet, they are all working towards one goal, surviving. That means getting the princess to safety and turning in their parents to the king. Despite all their differences, they all eventually become close. I thought all of the friendships / relationships were well done and realistic. The relationship Tilla develops with Zell was a bit of a slow burn…until it wasn’t and the friendship she develops with Lyrianna was great too.
I especially loved the relationship Tilla had with Jax, her half-brother. While they have the same mother, they have very different lives because of who their fathers are. Despite that, they are still close and would do anything to protect one another. Tilla quickly understands that while she might be able to turn around and beg her father to give her another chance but that would never be the same for Jax, Lyrianna, and Zell and that is what persuades her to keep running.
The world that Shvarts created is one that revolves around the Kingdom of Lightspire and Lord Kent’s desire to have the West be separate from Lightspire. The rebellion creates the conflict that these characters are up against and even when I thought they made it, Shvarts had me on the edge of my seat because the entire group was still in danger. It is pretty obvious who the “bad guys” are but when you look at it from the perspective of Lord Kent and the other Westerners, it is easy to understand why they are doing what they are…the question though is whether there could have been another way. With that said, throwing their children under the bus was pretty shady.
I don’t want to say a lot about what happens as I don’t want to spoil any bit of this book. I found myself unable to put it down as I needed to know how things were going to turn out for all of these characters. There were one or two things that I saw coming and a few things I didn’t. If you are looking for something that has action, swoony parts, danger and magic, definitely check out Royal Bastards. I’m hopeful there is a follow up for this book, there is definitely an opening at the end of this book to have Tilla’s story continue and I would fully support that (if that influences anyone).
Thank you to the publisher for the review copy!