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.
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.
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.