Book Haul – 8 June 2019

It’s been a while since I’ve published a book haul, but this has been a really good week for books.  Not only have I gotten some amazing books from the publishers, but I also went out and bought a few new books and comics that I am really excited to check out. I am really looking forward to reading all of these and will hopefully reviews them soon.

War of the Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

War of the Bastards Cover

I have been looking forward to this book for a while now.  The second book in this trilogy, City of Bastards, ended on such an epic note and I cannot wait to see how Shvarts wraps up his series.

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed

Alphabet Squadron Cover

The second in a batch of upcoming Star Wars books I have been looking forward to, this should be fairly epic.

The Stiehl Assassin by Terry Brooks

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The Stiehl Assassin is the third book in Brooks’ The Fall of Shannara series, which started with The Black Elfstone. This is the penultimate book before Brooks ends his iconic Shannara universe and should prove to be pretty interesting.

Commodus by Simon Turney

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This looks like a fun one. Commodus is a pretty crazy Roman Emperor and a novel focusing on his life should be very entertaining.

Girl in the Rearview Mirror by Kelsey Rae Dimberg

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Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Alien Echo Cover

This is another one that I have been keen to check out for a while.  Mira Grant is an amazing horror writer and I am interested to see how she tackles the Alien franchise.

Firefly: The Unification War – Volume 1

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Yay, new Firefly tie-in fiction. I have really enjoyed both of the recent Firefly books, Big Damn Hero and The Magnificent Nine, and this new comic series should also be really cool.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: High School is Hell

Buffy The Vampire Slayer - High School is Hell Cover.jpg

The first volume of a new Buffy The Vampire Slayer comic book series, which is set in an alternate universe from the television show.  This looks really cool and I am very curious to see what they do with such an intriguing story premise.

Waiting on Wednesday – War of the Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.

This week, I look at War of the Bastards by Andrew Shvarts, the third book in the incredibly entertaining and addictive Royal Bastards young adult fantasy series.

War of the Bastards Cover.jpg

Before I start talking about the series and why I want to read this book, can I just say how much I love this cover.  It is an incredibly eye-catching piece of artwork, and I think it matches the dark tone of this series extremely well.

The Royal Bastards is Shvarts’s debut series, and it follows the adventures of a group of rebellious teenagers as they attempt to save the fantasy nation of Noveris.  The series is told from the perspective of Tilla, the bastard daughter of a powerful western lord, whose life changes when she forms an unexpected friendship with the princess of Noveris, Lyriana.  In the first book in the series, Tilla finds out that her father, Lord Elric Kent, is plotting a rebellion against Lyriana’s father, and acts quickly to save Lyriana’s life.  In the second book, after escaping from the west, Tilla, Lyriana and Tilla’s love interest, Zell, arrive at the Lightspire, the capital of Noveris, and attempt to start new lives in the city.  However, the western forces, led by fellow royal bastard Miles Hampstedt, manage to enact a brutal takeover of the city utilising a powerful new form of magic.

To be honest, I have been really looking forward to this book for months, ever since I finished City of Bastards, the second book in the series.  City of Bastards had one hell of an ending, with the sudden and bloody death of the entire royal family and court, from which the protagonists were only just able to escape.  I also really enjoyed Shvarts’s writing style in the second book, and I hope that War of the Bastards is written in a similar manner, but potentially with a darker tone.  I am deeply intrigued to see where the story goes from here and I am already excited about the book’s awesome plot summary.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A year has passed since the fall of Lightspire. The Inquisitor Miles Hampstedt has usurped the throne and rules Noveris with a blood-soaked iron fist. Tilla and her friends have become hardened rebels in the Unbroken, a band of guerilla fighters hiding out in the fringes of the Kingdom. Tilla is plagued with doubt and regret; Lyriana struggles with the burdens of being a fugitive Queen; Zell atones for his guilt by killing for the cause. And even as they all fight, they know their cause is doomed, that with very passing day Miles’ power grows, his army of Bloodmages spreading to cover the continent.

Then a raid on an outpost produces two unexpected prisoners: Lord Elric Kent himself, now a prisoner obsessed with revenge, and Syan See, a strange girl from the Red Wastes. Tilla struggles with the emotional weight of confronting her father, but it’s Syan that offers the true revelation. She demonstrates a new incredible kind of magic, and speaks of a secret civilization hidden in isolation in the mysterious Wastes. With Miles’ forces closing in, Tilla and her friends (alongside a hostage Lord Kent) set out to make contact with Syan’s people, to make an pact that could turn the war. The journey will test their character, forge unlikely alliances, reveal the horrifying true nature of magic, and set in motion a battle that will determine the fate of Noveris itself.

There are quite a few amazing-sounding plot elements contained within this synopsis.  The year-long gap since the last book in the series is going to be extremely interesting, and I am looking forward to seeing the main characters evolve once again into hardened resistance fighters after all the betrayals of the second book.  A hopeless fight against impossible odds followed by a dangerous quest for lost magic is always a winning story combination in my book, and I will look forward to seeing how Shvarts portrays this in War of the Bastards.  I believe that this will be the final book in this series, so I am expecting some massive twists and possibly one or two major character deaths to round out the story.

One of the best things about City of Bastards was Shvarts’s examination of the emotional trauma and damage experienced by the protagonists following their adventures in the first book.  The synopsis seems to support that this interesting inclusion will be a major feature of War of the Bastards, and after the events of the second book, you have to imagine that the trauma and guilt that each character will be experiencing is going to be amplified even further.  Tilla will no doubt feel guilty about the terrible things her father has made possible, and the impacts it has had on her friends.  Zell, whose actions in the second book partially led to the bloody coup, is also going to have massive regrets.  I also expect that Lyriana is going to be suffering quite a lot in this book.  She already experienced severe survivor’s guilt in the second book following the death of her love interest, Tilla’s half-brother Jax, and now with most of her family killed, this is likely to be amplified by a significant degree.  I am also curious to see what will happen to side-character Ellarion in this book.  Ellarion is Lyriana’s cousin and he inherited the role of Royal Archmagus following the murder of the previous Royal Archmagus in the first book.  As he avoided most of the trauma in the first book, he was one of the more buoyant characters in City of Bastards.  However, at the end of the book, his attempted to shield his friends from a massive magical explosion and lost his hands as a result.  I am very curious to see how Ellarion is portrayed in this final book, as not only has he lost most of his family like Lyriana but the loss of hands will also be extremely devastating to him, not just because of their physical use but because it will have a negative impact on his magical ability.

I have a feeling that Tilla’s character relationships will be a key part of War of the Bastards, and I am looking forward to seeing what happens when she is forced to team up with her father.  The two characters have always had a complex relationship due to Tilla’s status as a bastard, but following all the revelations of the first two books, I think that their relationship in this book will be incredibly dramatic.  I am also curious to see how Tilla’s love angle with Zell goes.  Despite coming together in the first book, their time in Lightspire really affected their relationship, as the two lied to each other.  I imagine that they will get back together in this final book, but we will have to see what happens (especially as Zell is the main character most likely to die in my opinion).  I am also expecting an appearance from antagonist Miles Hampstedt in this book.  Miles was once a friend of Tilla, but his extreme jealousy after she chose Zell over him resulted in him betraying the group.  Since then he has taken control of the west and the entirety of Noveris with complete dominance over the blood mages.  No doubt, he will appear at some point, portray himself as the victim because Tilla did not choose him and be an extra despicable villain as a result.

I have a strong feeling that War of the Bastards will be an amazing and thrilling piece of fantasy fiction, and I am really looking forward to getting my hands on this book.  Shvarts is an exceptional new fantasy author, and I have high hopes that he will do an outstanding job with this final book in the Royal Bastards series.

City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

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Publisher: Hyperion

Australian Publication Date – 31 July 2018

World Publication Date – 5 June 2018

 

Young adult fantasy author Andrew Shvarts has a dramatic return with City of Bastards, an explosive and incredible follow-up to his electrifying 2017 debut.

After her father’s declaration of rebellion against the crown, Tilla, bastard daughter of Lord Kent, turned against him by rescuing the king’s daughter, Princess Lyriana, from his clutches.  Fleeing her father’s lands in the west of the Kingdom of Noveris, Tilla, Lyriana, and Tilla’s boyfriend, Zell, make the journey to the capital city of Lightspire, the opulent and magical city where Lyriana’s father reigns.

Attempting to put aside the horrors she experienced while fleeing from the west, Tilla settles down in a life of luxury as a student in the city’s prestigious university.  However, not everything is as shiny and golden as Tilla had hoped it would be.  She faces ostracism from the most of the city’s population as her father continues to wage war against the kingdom.  On top of that, Zell appears unsatisfied with city life and is growing distant from her.  Tilla and Lyriana are still mourning the death of Tilla’s brother, Jax, and not even their hard partying lifestyle is making them feel any better.

Their new lives are only destined to last for so long before disaster strikes.  When Tilla finds her roommate dead, she knows that a mysterious mage she encountered is behind the death.  But no-one seems willing to believe her, and the death is quickly ruled a suicide and pushed under the rug.  When she is then attacked by the rogue mage, something considered impossible, Tilla begins to realise that there is something very rotten in the heart of the Lightspire.  With her father apparently keeping the king’s invincible army of mages at bay, and shadowy cultists sowing chaos in the city, Tilla uncovers a terrible plot that could shake the entire foundation of the kingdom.  With the king’s inquisitor hunting her as a traitor and the whole word turned against her, can Tilla and her friends stop the evil unfolding in front of them before it’s too late?

City of Bastards is Shvarts’s second book, and is the sequel to last year’s release, Royal Bastards.  This is a fantastic new series of young adult fantasy books, with a third entry already planned for 2019.  These books are marketed towards a young adult audience, but this is a series that will also prove to be massively appealing to older readers as well.  Fair warning to parents: this is probably not the best series for younger readers, as the huge amounts of drugs, drinking, sex and teen angst make this books more appropriate for an mid to older teenage audience.

This novel contains a truly captivating story of intrigue and murder in the heart of a magnificent and magical city.  Shvarts combines some excellent thriller and fantasy elements together to create a superb overall narrative, which includes a large-scale conspiracy that proves to be particularly impressive.  There is a well-written and absorbing investigation angle getting towards the conclusion of this plot, and the full scope of this conspiracy is very elaborate and uses some intriguing magical elements.  There are a number of surprising twists, betrayals and dramatic reveals that will hook the readers, while the conclusion of the story is epic in its size and consequences.  Overall, this is an extremely compelling fantasy thriller story that has not been simplified for a younger audience.

Shvarts has also created an intricate and intriguing cityscape that serves as an excellent setting for the story.  There are some memorable locations visited throughout the course of the narrative, and the author does a fantastic job showing the differences between the richer areas of the Lightspire and the districts where the everyday citizens live.  Exploration through the city by the protagonist highlights this class difference and the corruption of the rich, all of which forms a significant story element later in the book.  The author also introduces some fascinating fantasy elements, such as large-scale magical messages, unique methods of transportation, rebellious anti-magic fanatics, the kingdom’s hidden magical heart and substantial catacombs under the city that hold dark and powerful secrets.  All of these elements play a significant role in City of Bastards’ story, and meld in perfectly with the protagonist’s investigation and the vast underlying conspiracy.

The entirety of City of Bastards is narrated by the book’s protagonist, Tilla.  Shvarts does an amazing job of capturing the essence of a modern teenager in the book’s narration, and the reader really feels that they are accompanying a rebellious young woman on her quest throughout the city.  As a result, the book is filled with sarcasm, funny jokes, humorous observations and a certain amount of complaining about the situation.  The story is also infected with a bit of teen angst, which is amusing to see amongst storylines dealing with the future of a civilisation and will no doubt prove to be relatable to many readers.  In addition to the humour, this narration also allows the reader to see the protagonist’s many vulnerabilities throughout the course of the story.  Overall, the protagonist’s narration adds a lot to this book, and is definitely one of its more appealing features.

A highlight of the book has to be the realistic focus on trauma and the powerful consequences of the first book.  Some of the very best young adult books are those which do not shy away from heavy topics, featuring gritty and realistic portrayals of trauma and PTSD as they try to highlight the often unseen or unconsidered costs of their character’s attempted heroism or battles for survival.  In City of Bastards, Tilla, Lyriana and Zell spend a significant amount of time dealing with the terrible things the encountered in the first book, including the death of Jax, Tilla’s brother and Lyriana’s love interest.  Lyriana’s transformation is the most dramatic, as is she suffering not only from Jax’s loss but also from the guilt and trauma following her decision to break her oath of pacifism and kill someone with her magic.  As a result, she turns from the sensible and respectful character she was in Royal Bastards to a hard-drinking wreck who acts out in a number of different ways and has a hard time dealing with her feelings.  Tilla is also traumatised by the death of Jax, and while at times she seems to be processing it better, her depression is compounded by the dramatic changes in her life and the outright disdain that many characters show her.  Overall, this realistic portrayal of trauma and vulnerability in the characters is very well written and adds a real emotional edge to the story.

City of Bastards is an amazing piece of young adult fantasy that makes substantial use of its new setting to create an epic, conspiracy-laden storyline that proves to be exceedingly captivating.  This is a powerful sequel to Andrew Shvarts’s first book, and fans of Royal Bastards will be entranced by the author’s focus on the first book’s devastating consequences.  This is one of the best pieces of young adult fiction of 2018.  I had a real hard time putting this book down, and it comes highly recommend.

My Rating:

Four and a half stars