Review: City of Bastards
City of Bastards (Royal Bastards #2)
by Andrew Shvarts
Published June 5th 2018 by Disney-Hyperion
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.
Before I discuss my thoughts there's a few things to go over.
First, City of Bastards is the second book in the Royal Bastards series, so be advised, there are spoilers ahead for for book 1.
Second, in my review of the first book I refereed to the group of bastards as the Fellowship of Bastards or FoB and will continue to do so in this review.
Third, I received an e-arc copy of this book via NetGalley. All my opinions are my own and are in no way influenced by that fact.
Royal Bastards is a light fantasy that has all the classic elements that you would expect in that genre. It's an epic adventure that surrounds mostly bastards that so desperately want their parents acceptance. Five teens were lead on a journey to help save Princess Lyriana from a rebellion lead by their parents. The FoB had to learn to trust each other, despite their differences, and band together for survival. But like any fantasy there are causalities. Tilla's half-brother, Jax, died in the battle and they were betrayed by Miles, who let his jealousy of Zell overcome any good sense that he ever had.
So the FoB dwindled down to just three members and here's where City of Bastards picks up.
Zell, Lyriana, and Tilla finally make it to the safety of Lightspire, home of Princess Lyriana, They are accepted and protected within its walls. Zell goes to work for the palace guard. Tilla and Lyriana go to the local university. And here's where my first and foremost problem with this book lies. Even though the setting is a magical realm and technically there's no time period, I always had the feeling when I was reading, based on the context, that it was somehow medieval of sorts. But this book threw me because it felt so modern. It was as if you could take these characters out of their world and put them at any university today during a frat party and nothing would change, and because of this, it jarred my reading experience.
However, I did continue to enjoy the main story line. Even though Tilla has been accepted by the royal family, she still gets the sense, and for good reason, that she's still thought of as the traitor's daughter. That the people of Lightspire would rather see her head on a pike. Meanwhile Zell is growing distant, and Lyriana is coping rather badly with the loss of Jax. But then things start to go from bad to worse.
Tilla's roommate if found dead. It's ruled a suicide, but she doesn't buy it. Then Tilla is attacked by a mysterious figure and when she tells her friends, they tell her to shut her trap because that's treasonous talk. And they're already treading on dangerous ground. And the glorious ideal that Tilla held of Lightspire starts to look mighty shady, and she realizes that all that glitters is not gold. And with that, the FoB starts to drift apart.
Besides my previous grievance, my only other complaint is that it's a bit predictable at times. Or maybe I'm becoming a master sleuth because of all the mysteries I read. But that's beside the point. The characters are growing and the story is moving in an exciting direction. The final chapters have me eagerly awaiting for the next book, which doesn't come out until next year. Overall, I like this series. It's a light fantasy that deals with teens trying to overcome the failures of their parents and forge a new future. It's the perfect read for a lazy weekend.