In this book readers follow a troupe of bastards, some royal and some not, on an epic adventure to save their lives and attempt to stop another great war.
White, illegitimate half siblings Tillandra, 16, and Jax, 17, are looking forward to the black princess Lyriana’s visit to the castle, Tilla’s noble father’s, which coincides with a visit from white Lady Hempstedt and her by-blow, Miles, and the Zitochi leader and his brown-skinned bastard son, Zell. The excitement fizzles when they witness Tilla’s, Miles’ and Zell’s parents kill the princess’s uncle and escort. Fleeing for their lives, the bastards, plus Lyriana, must now outrun their parents (who wish them dead), protect the princess of their realm, and try to prevent further loss of life on both sides. It’s a promising setup. Readers may find themselves jolted out of Shvarts’ medieval-feeling fantasy world by the characters’ use of modern slang, as well as by Tilla’s modern mindset. Regardless, Shvarts brings readers along on a daring adventure with this motley crew, who become as one over its course. Tilla also grows throughout the book, and readers learn more about the other characters that adds dimension. Being a bastard means people expect the worst, but only one of them will be willing to betray the group of friends. Shvarts creates a diverse world with distinct geography and subcultures for this series opener, though tired tropes of the “savage” creep into the depiction of the Zitochi.
Adventure-loving fantasy readers will eat it up. (Fantasy. 14-18)