Hey all Dani here.
Whew…it has been a busy month of bookish events, reading and reviewing. Next month will be just about as busy…just substitute book events for Camp NaNoWriMo. Speaking of busy times, the book I’m reviewing today jumped into the plot and action fairly quickly and basically managed to keep up the pace through the whole story. Let’s not waste any time and just jump right into the 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 . . .
Rating: 4.5 stars
Okay, this is a great way to end the month, as well as a nice wrap-up to the first half of the year. I have read a lot of really good books so far this year, and that is fantastic. As might have been noticed by a lot of my reviews lately, I haven’t been reading too much fantasy…and I missed it so much. Thankfully I had this tome waiting on my TBR stack.
The way things are described and the phrasing used for this story was just great. I loved following this adventure through Tilla’s eyes. I have to say, the character development in this book was so good. It’s possible that my favorite character is actually Miles, and I started the book finding him annoying…maybe because I was seeing him through Tilla’s own biases.
There was quite a bit of action and of doing in this book, instead of just sitting around and talking about doing, which I liked. Plus each of the main five characters had their own strengths and weaknesses with their own set beliefs, while still being able to work fairly well together as a group.
Now let’s get into the romance aspect of the story, which wasn’t really that big of a part but still. I saw another reader’s review–I think it was on Goodreads–that talked about this book as having an unrequited love triangle, and that seems a pretty apt description. Tilla is clearly interested in Zell, but he either doesn’t realize it or doesn’t feel the same way. Then again, Zell is a pretty difficult guy to read. Then there’s Miles, who quite obviously likes Tilla, but she does not share those feelings. But Miles grew so much as a character, even just in the first half or so of the book. I started to see him on his own merits, instead of through the opinions of our narrator Tilla.
For the reasons why this book does not quite get a 5 star rating from me. First, I actually would have liked to see a bit more worldbuilding, especially after they brought up the different orders/factions/groups of mages. I wanted to know more about all of that. Now, maybe that is something that will be discussed in books two or three; I don’t know.
The other reason why this book falls short of that rating of excellence is that I discovered this book on an anticipated list of LGBTQ+ releases. That was such a teeny tiny part of the book that I can’t really see it as being able to make that list. I wanted more. In terms of diversity the book did a pretty good job with racial diversity, with a couple of the main group being POCs, so that was nice.
Overall I rather enjoyed this book and before I finished I worried that it would be a standalone. According to a few other readers though, this is apparently the start of a trilogy, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.