Described as a cross between Game of Thrones and something I had never heard of before called Six of Crows, I can honestly say that I was not expecting to enjoy Royal Bastards. However, this new release from Hyperion has such great characters and a well built world that I couldn’t help but buy-in. I was rooting for these heroes all the way and found myself on a fun adventure that is hard to forget.
Being a family-friendly Disney fan site, the word “bastards” is used literally here. In this world, royals have intentional illegitimate heirs to secure their blood lines if anything were to happen to their truly royal children. However, they do occasionally act like figurative bastards, which serves to make some of the characters more interesting or leads to some humorous moments.
One of the book’s strengths is its impressive world with well defined lands. Author Andrew Shvarts has laid out a well planned history and maintains continuity throughout. The lands remind me of the districts in The Hunger Games and the rich history feels akin to J.K. Rowling’s extreme planning for the Harry Potter series. The book never beats you over the head with the history of this world, but you pick it up organically through conversations and learn about an old war that created a rift between these kingdoms.
Our lead heroine is Tilla, daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province who has grown up in the castle, but is clearly separate from her father and his legitimate heirs. She spends most of her days with her half-brother, Jax, as the two shared a deceased mother. At an event to honor a visiting princess, Tilla is seated at a table with Jax, their friend Miles, and a barbaric warrior named Zell. But when Princess Lyriana decides she wants to be amongst the people and chooses to sit at their table, their world is forever changed.
While showing the princess around late one night, Tilla and her new crew stumble upon a horrific event, the start of a rebellion between her kingdom in the West and Lyriana’s in the East. And as witnesses, they instantly become wanted dead by the entire kingdom and their parents. They are now on the lamb to save Lyriana and stop the geneocide of a group of mages.
Aimed at high school readers, all of the main characters are teenagers between sixteen and eighteen. And while the story takes place in a land without modern technology, these characters have some of the same vices including sneaking out to go to parties, drinking alcohol, and exploring their sexual identity. None of this should be unfamiliar territory to anyone reading teen fiction, but it’s worth noting in case any of this would offend you.
My first impression from the cover was that this sounds like a Freeform series in the making. And while I still think it would lend itself well to a television adaptation, I can testify that it’s far better than anything on Freeform right now. I fell in love with this world and these characters and while the ending wraps up this story well, it leaves the door open for a sequel or even a series.
Teenagers looking for some fun summer reading will find it in Royal Bastards. While I’m not the right audience for Game of Thrones, I did love The Hunger Games and feel like this fits into a similar category while still being very different. I hope a sequel isn’t too far behind and am waiting for a Freeform press release announcing a series adaptation any day now.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.