Book Review: The True Bastards by Jonathan French + Series Giveaway
***The giveaway is now over, thank you to everyone who entered!***
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of The Lot Lands
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (October 8, 2019)
Length: 592 pages
Jonathan French takes readers back in the saddle again, with the follow-up to his explosive debut The Grey Bastards which was the winner of 2016’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off hosted by Mark Lawrence, in which yours truly had the distinct privilege of being a blogger on the judging panel. Short version, I and a bunch of others adored the novel, which ended up being snapped up by a traditional publisher following its well-deserved victory, and the rest was history. And so, you can probably imagine the sheer giddiness I felt when I found out about The True Bastards, and the fact that it was going to star one of my favorite characters from the first book. The anticipation was practically unreal.
Featuring a new protagonist, The True Bastards can probably be read as a standalone sequel. But honestly, why would you deprive yourself the amazing experience of reading the first book? Having The Grey Bastards under your belt will also help orientate you to the incredible universe of the Lot Lands series, which has orcs, elves, halflings, centaurs, and more. But don’t make the mistake of imagining a Middle Earth inspired world and Tolkien’s brand of heroic high fantasy! Instead, what we’ve got is a wasteland in which all of its resident creatures must struggle to eke out a harsh, miserable, and violent existence. It’s difficult to say who has it the worst under such circumstances, but the half-orcs might have a legitimate claim. Hated and shunned by all the other races, the various groups of former half-orc slaves, called hoofs, are left to fend for themselves. And the last time we saw the Grey Bastards hoof, the clan at the center of these books, their home was utterly destroyed by the orc invasion, and Jackal, the main character from the previous novel, has left on a journey to track down the dastardly wizard who betrayed them.
This leaves a new chief to take up the reins of a newly found hoof called the True Bastards, as well as to tell this tale, and it is none other than Fetching, who was one of the most memorable and endearing characters for me from the first book. As the only female rider in the Lot Lands, winning her position certainly did not come easy for Fetch, and even now she has to prove herself every day to the other half-orc chieftains who doubt and scorn her. Unfortunately, in the year since taking up the mantle, her hoof has not fared too well either. Finding enough resources for her growing clan of misfits, mercenaries, and foundling orphans has become a problem, and new foes also seem to be cropping up at every turn, encroaching upon the Lot Lands and threatening the half-orcs. Fetch knows she must take drastic action—and soon—if she and her people are to survive.
The True Bastards feels slightly different in tone and style from the first book, which roughly follows a quest narrative complete with magical mysteries to discover and obstacles to overcome. The Grey Bastards was not a light story by any means, but still, it did offer a fair bit of adventure. This sequel, in contrast, is feels vastly more oppressive, serious, and bleak. Poor Fetch can’t seem to catch a break! For the entirely of this novel, she’s besieged with problems on all sides and her troubles never let up. In addition, this volume feels like a more personal character study, delving into the history and background of our protagonist. Expanding upon the world-building and adding to our understanding of half-orc society, French reveals a lot more about the magic and lore of the world that we did not know before. Some of it is very complex, and at times disturbing.
Speaking of which, the author holds nothing back when it comes to portraying the brutality and grimness of life in the Lot Lands. Expect a lot of explicit language and unrestrained violence and death, though if you’ve read the first book, none of this should be a surprise. With Fetch at the helm, there’s also a shift in the types of issues the story deals with, including vulgar names and crude comments aimed at our protagonist because of her sex. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this isn’t a series for the fainthearted.
But on the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing this new adventure from Fetch’s point of view. She’s a lot more prudent than Jackal, which makes her lack a lot of his spontaneity as well as a certain fun spark. However, this reflects what I love best about these books—the fact that each half-orc character possesses a special and unique personality. Like Jackal, Fetch is a product of her own background and individual experiences, and they’ve shaped the way she views the world and deals with challenges thrown her way. There’s more darkness in her, but that’s okay; her tale is another piece of the puzzle that help us understand the life and ways of the Lot Lands.
All told, The True Bastards is a fantastic sequel, full of action, intrigue, and surprises. I think if you enjoyed the first book you will find lots to love about this one too. I had a great time returning to the world of this series, and Jonathan French continues to impress and lead the charge when it comes to dark and gritty epic fantasy. I hope we’ll be seeing more from the Lot Lands.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of The Grey Bastards (Book 1)
The Lot Lands Series Giveaway
Hopefully, I’ve been able to pique your interest in The Lot Lands because I have a couple extra books in my stash that I would love to put in your hands. One lucky winner will win both a paperback copy of The Grey Bastards and a hardcover copy of The True Bastards, so this is an amazing chance if you want to catch up with the series. With my sincerest apologies to our international readers, due to the high costs of shipping, I can open this giveaway to addresses/residents in the US only. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and valid mailing address using the subject line “THE LOT LANDS” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 and we’ll take care of the rest.
Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends, all entry emails will be deleted.
So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! And remember: Live in the saddle, die on the hog! Good luck!