Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading: Royal Bastards

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Just Finished Reading: Royal Bastards


Royal Bastards
by Andrew Shvarts

Published on May 30, 2017
by Disney-Hyperion

Source: ARC for review from publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads: Being a bastard blows. 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...
My take: Royal Bastards was an engaging, fast-paced light fantasy. I did love the concept - a bunch of semi-outcast kids with one noble parent banding together - and some aspects of the story, but there were a few things that kept me from completely loving this book.

The world-building was good if familiar - a bunch of kingdoms existing not-so-peacefully with one another. There was political rivalry and also some paranormal elements.

There was a lot of action - an assassination during a banquet for a visiting princess sets this band of royal misfits on the run, princess in tow. After that, they stay on the lam, racing from danger to danger. There's a bunch of fighting scenes if that's your thing. There was swearing (though all the "oh, shit" struck me as weirdly modern) and fade-to-black sex but for some reason the overall tone of this still felt like younger YA to me.

I definitely could have used more character development. The whole outcast/bastard thing was a good start on making the characters sympathetic, but I didn't get much of a sense of each one besides their initial characterization (Tilla = spunky, Miles = nerdy, Jax = loyal, Zell = fierce, Lyriana = earnest). They grow closer as they flee, and their loyalty to each other grows as well, but I didn't feel I got to know each one much better from the start of the story to the end. The story is told solely from Tilla's POV, so maybe that was part of it.

There was (sort-of) romance, but to me it felt like it came out of nowhere. Every so often a character would say that they LOVED another character and I'd be like -- huhhh? Again, maybe it was the single POV but I felt the emotional aspect of the story needed some strengthening. Or the love signals were a few bars short and my emotional wi-fi wasn't picking them up.

Overall, an entertaining book but one that (for me) could have used more depth. If you enjoy light fantasy with a lot of action, be sure to check it out!

20 comments:

  1. This totally bums me out because I know I would feel the same way but it sounds so awesome.

    For What It's Worth

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    1. I wanted it to be a little darker and grittier overall.

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  2. You and I are in the same boat on this one. I wanted to love this book so much, it sounded amazing, but I felt like there was something holding me back. The romance really did come out of left field and even though there's a ton of action with them on the run, I was a little bored.

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    1. I mean, a lot of my GR friends have loved it. I wanted it either to be fluffier or darker. The way the characters related to each other made them feel young to me and that made the violence and sex feel out of place.

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  3. I've been looking forward to this one but I saw a copy in the bookstore, thumbed through it, and it did look like it skewed a bit towards the younger side of YA, as you say. So I'm a little more hesitant. I may still read it but I'll go in with my expectations in check, especially re: the character development.

    Nice review Jen!

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    1. Let me know what you think when you get to it!

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  4. I was keeping an eye on this one but I've keep seeing less than "amazing" reviews on it. So I think this will be a pass. Doesn't sound like I would enjoy it all that much...

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    1. That's so funny - I felt like the black sheep reading my Goodreads friends' rave reviews. I think people who like a lot of action and don't mind less developed characters will be fine with it.

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  5. Wonderful review! I've been really curious about this book since I first heard of it. I'm sorry you didn't completely love it! It's always a bummer when you don't really connect with what's on the page. This is probably the type of book I'd only read if I won it or if it were given to me. I'm not big on younger YA and unconvincing romance. Thanks for the honest review!

    ~ Lefty @ The Left-Handed Book Lover

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    1. Yes, those things are kind of a deal-breaker for me. All the action in the world can't make up for those!

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  6. I'm planning to read this one this month. I've been getting less and less excited the more reviews I read. I hate that the characters are underdeveloped. I'm happy that it was still an entertaining read.

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  7. I wish the romance was a little more defined too but I loved the rest of the book! I'm looking forward to the sequel. Perhaps it will allow for a little more character development. Great review!

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    1. Ha - you were one of the rave reviews I was talking about. Glad you loved it and wish I had liked it more. It's possible that the sequel could delve deeper into the relationships, etc...

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  8. I love the title, and it sounds really good - but nothing original either. I am getting serious A Game of Thrones vibes from this, which makes me a little unsure as I love that series...

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    1. Yeah, a little bit, with the kingdoms and the paranormal elements (and the bastard - poor Jon Snow!) No book compares to that!

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  9. I just finished this one too and I was absolutely hooked. It's so much fun! :)

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    1. I'm glad - a lot of people have really loved it. The action is definitely fun!

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  10. Younger YA and I have had a quiet break-up, haha. This sounds fun, but like you pointed out, there were quite a few elements that could have used improvement!

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    1. There is a definite need in the market for "young YA" -- just not for me..

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