CITY OF BASTARDS finds Tilla, bastard of House Kent, in a whole new world of trouble!
[Warning: Spoilers for Royal Bastards!]
Tilla and the band of royal rabble-rousers are back to change the fate of their world in City of Bastards, sequel to 2017’s Royal Bastards!
Book one saw Tilla on the run across her kingdom with a two fellow bastards, Miles and Zell, her half-brother Jax, and the kingdom’s very own Princess Lyriana after Tilla’s father, Lord Kent, launched a violent rebellion against the crown. Tilla found safety with Lyriana and Zell in the capital city of Lightspire, but Jax’s death and Miles’ betrayal weighs heavy upon them. On top of adjusting to life in a city rife with political tension that thinks she’s a traitor, Tilla is constantly waiting for her father’s war to come to Lightspire.
When Tilla faces the devastating loss of a new friend, she immediately suspects that there are dark forces behind it, that someone in Lightspire is trying to ruin her. Is it the Ragged Disciples, a band of terrorists who reject the royal family’s ideology? Is it warring merchants who want control of the city for themselves? Or, as a terrifying new face enters the picture, is Tilla being hunted by a rogue assassin? With so few friends and a veritable sea of enemies all around her, it will take some dark turns and serious detective work to find answers.
I was ultimately happy with this book, but it didn’t capture the same joie de vivre that Royal Bastards give me. The first book was an ever-changing, quick-paced adventure with a strong sense of comradery. City of Bastards spent a lot of time introducing Tilla’s new life then introduced a mystery to be solved, so ultimately, things moved slower. The first time around, everything felt like an event. This time around, I felt like I was waiting for the big event. Did that pay off? Sure, but it didn’t feel as exciting in the lead-up. I know I’m asking for a lot here given that most books are plotted from “Start of Mystery” to “The Big Event,” so perhaps I was just spoiled by the first entry in the series.
As for character relationships, they’re strained. It makes sense from a character development standpoint, but I kept waiting for the strong group dynamic from book one to kick back in, and it never quite got there. Ellarion tries to step into the gap left by Jax and, to a degree, Miles, but his personality– while smarmy and charming– isn’t quite robust enough. It also doesn’t help that I wasn’t really feeling the romance between Tilla and Zell. We’re told that they care about each other, but they don’t particularly act like it. I appreciate that this story doesn’t smother itself in romantic sweet nothings, but their relationship is so wishy-washy that when big “Will they or won’t they” moments cropped up, I really wasn’t invested.
Despite this, there are some excellent moments to enjoy throughout. The conspiracy subplot leaving me guess and while there isn’t as much action, each sequence featuring a little chaos really pops. The final chapters of the story in particular were quite a thrill ride. We’re also learning more about the magic that powers the world and the many ways it can be manipulated, opening up new possibilities and terrifying realizations on the way. The novel’s conclusion was clever and explosive, lending itself to major anticipation for final novel in the Bastards trilogy.
While it didn’t gel together as well as Royal Bastards, there’s still plenty of excitement to be had in City of Bastards and we’re excited to see how it will all play out in the final novel!
RATING: 3.25 OUT OF 5 STARS
City of Bastards (Royal Bastards #2) is out on June 5, 2018. You can preorder it now on Amazon or Indiebound.
Tilla, bastard of House Kent, has it made. Safe from her murderous father in the dazzling capital of Lightspire, she lives a life of luxury under the protection of the Volaris King, alongside her boyfriend Zell and best friend, Princess Lyriana.
So why isn’t she happy? Maybe it’s the whispers and stares that follow her wherever she goes, as the daughter of the traitor waging war against Lightspire. Or maybe it’s the memories of her beloved brother, Jax, who lies cold in his grave even as she tries to settle into a life in the city’s prestigious University.
Then, Tilla stumbles upon the body of a classmate, a friend. The authorities are quick to rule it a suicide and sweep it under the rug, but when Tilla herself is attacked by a mysterious man with terrifying powers, she’s convinced of a conspiracy. Her friends beg her to stay silent; what she’s suggesting is impossible… and treasonous.
But Tilla can’t, won’t, let it go. And the deeper she digs, the more questions she uncovers. How is the West beating the supposedly invincible Lightspire Mages in battle? Is it connected to the shadowy cult wreaking havoc in Lightspire? Nothing is as it seems in the glorious capital, and Tilla’s presence might just be the spark that sets the Kingdom aflame.