Thursday, August 10, 2017

DNF ARC Review: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Title: Royal Bastards
Author: Andrew Shvarts
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 352
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//I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//

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 . . .

Tilla is a bastard. And so is Jax. And Miles. And Zell, too. (Yup, that's a lot of bastards.) One fateful night, these four bastards cross paths and find themselves entangled with the princess, Lyrianna. The band of teens accidentally stumbles upon something they shouldn't see, and realize their parents are tangled up in an evil plot to overthrow the king. Now they are on the run, being chased by their parents and the entire kingdom.

I had a very interesting relationship with this book. Before I even picked it up, a friend told me it was horrible and she gave up just a few pages in. I decided to give it a try, but I wasn't very hopeful. I was surprised to find myself actually enjoying the story a bit. It didn't blow me away by any means, but it was enough to entertain me for a few hours. But then, when I was about 100 pages in, other things came up. Other books held my attention more, and I found myself not missing Royal Bastards at all. I thought I might come back to it in a week or two, but I eventually felt no drive to return to that story. After checking Goodreads to see what other people had to say (some of the reviews are absolutely hilarious, by the way), I decided I didn't want to invest the time in finishing a book that I wasn't loving to begin with.

One of the biggest complaints that readers seem to have about Royal Bastards is the writing. And I have to agree completely. The writing is simplistic and uninspiring. It feels as though it was written for an audience that is much younger than the teens in the book. There is very little excitement, and it takes about 100 pages for anything to happen to further the plot. Then immediately after that one action scene, nothing happens again for a long time. The language was also incredibly jarring. Royal Bastards is a high fantasy, but the characters speak with the colloquialisms used by teens today. It completely pulls you out of the story because the language doesn't fit with the world at all. It read like a poorly made, straight-to-DVD Disney movie.

The characters were also forgettable and flat. I honestly couldn't tell you anything about the personalities of the cast of characters, because nothing stood out about them. I think the girls were whiny and the boys were brooding. That's about all I can remember. And I think that even when I was in the middle of reading this book, that's still about all I could tell you about them. They have no distinguishing traits to set them apart from the crowd, and therefore, I didn't care about them at all.

I think Royal Bastards could have had some real potential. The base plot line is interesting and could have been taken in many different and unique directions. But, unfortunately, the author chose to go the route of the most obvious and trope-filled series of events, making the book boring and predictable. Combine a boring plot with boring characters and boring writing, and you have a book that I definitely don't recommend. There are so many other books out there that tell better and more exciting stories (and are well-written). There are so many other fantastic high fantasies out there, so I say don't waste your time on this one.