The True Bastards’ motto says it all: “Live in the saddle! Die on the hog!”
In the action-packed sequel to The Grey Bastards (2018), French returns to the sprawling wastelands of Ul-wundulas with a gore-splattered, foulmouthed adventure following Fetching and her band of half-orcs as they battle adversaries bent on eradicating their kind from the lawless badlands that separates humans from orcs. After the events of the first novel—in which the Bastards’ home was destroyed and their legendary leader lost—Fetch attempts to save the dwindling group (called a “hoof”) from dying off. On the verge of starvation and struggling mightily to finish a structurally sound and defensible home, she must deal with a number of momentous issues, first and foremost being her deteriorating health. As she tries to find a cure for her strange affliction, a pack of seemingly indestructible “devil-dogs” roams the badlands, as do encroaching humans (called “frails”), killing any free-riding half-orcs they run across. When Fetch uncovers a devious scheme masterminded by the frails to wipe out all the hoofs, she must somehow unite the bickering mongrel factions before it’s too late. Although the pacing is a bit more methodical in this installment, the story is filled with relentless action and powered by a cast of adeptly developed and emotionally appealing characters. Fetch is an obvious favorite—a female outcast finding acceptance and respect in a cutthroat and patriarchal society—as are Incus, the deaf giant female thrice (born of an orc and a half-orc) also known as the celebrated fighter Anvil’s Bride; and Mead, Fetch’s one-handed second-in-command. Fans will be overjoyed not only with the return of some beloved characters, but also with the novel’s conclusion, which sets up the storyline for a much larger adventure to come.
Imagine an outlaw biker gang of half-orcs riding giant war pigs and you’ve captured this saga’s gloriously dirty soul.