Life in the Lot Lands is hard, and no one knows that better than the True Bastards. After the bloody events of The Grey Bastards, the now aptly-named True Bastards struggle to survive in the wasteland of Ul-wundulas. Fetching is the chief of the hoof, and in Bastard fashion she takes on the heavy weight of leadership as her half-orc, half-human people weather the storms of famine, betrayal, and dark magic. Old enemies knock at the Bastards’ gate, while new enemies appear with terrifying new powers. Pushed to her breaking point, can Fetch lead her wily gang of brothers out of the jaws of death?
Thanks to the publisher Crown for my review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Also note! I’m assuming you’ve read The Grey Bastards, so you know that these books are not for kids! Though I imagine a cursory glance at the title and first page would tell you all you need to know (that first cuss is sublime). If you don’t have a problem with mature content, you’re in for a hell of a time.
Crank up your hog! The Bastards are back, and Fetching is Head Bitch in Charge.
Fetching learns what it means to be a leader in The True Bastards. She has learned from The Claymaster’s mistakes and wants to be a better for the good of her people. Trouble is, with the Bastards in the thick of trouble, decisions are hard and sacrifices have to be made. Bermudo and the Hisparthan cavaleros are growing restless and their runaway vagrants threaten The Bastards. Zirko and the Unyars call upon riders every Betrayer’s Moon, threatening the thin the ranks of The Bastards at any given moment. Thirst and famine sweep through the town of Winsome, now the Bastards’ headquarters since the Kiln was melted. In the midst of famine, other gangs of half-orc hoofs start to look more foe than friend. And from somewhere in Ul-wundulas, Crafty’s machinations are beginning to take hold, not to mention other sources of more sinister magic at work.
“A hoof rallies around power, strength, but that’s not what holds them. Their loyalty is bound to a conviction that the one leading them has the grit to stand longest in the storm, the one who will bear the hardest tasks so they don’t have to. Father was wrong about her, and about himself. This had nothing to do with lust or love or fear. This was about backing the mongrel who had the appetite to eat punishment and come back for more. Hard as living in the badlands could be, it was nothing compared to living it in the hoofmaster’s chair. Why would any want to issue challenge and take that on when tere was another willing to stand between them and the flying bolts? What wouldn’t they forgive to keep that protection?“
In the midst of the heaping piles of shit in their world, the True Bastards lean on each other. I love the emphasis on brotherhood in these books, especially among a group as scorned and pitiable as the mongrel half-orcs. The Bastards’ brotherhood is the beating heart of The True Bastards, each member’s found-family bonding them more tightly than blood ever could.
French’s characters are compelling as hell (looking at you Fetching) and they’re funny to boot. Some characters in The True Bastards are new, some are old. You’ll recognize names like Oats, Hoodwink, Polecat, and more. You’ll also be introduced to new members of The Bastards, some seeking grandeur in all the wrong places, others just happy to find a bed to rest in.
I know what you’re thinking, where in the hot, hog-wallowing hell is Jackal? I’ll just let you know that your questions will absolutely be answered. And though Jackal does take a role in this story, his is Fetch’s book and the change in perspective was a great decision by French.
I loved the episodic nature of the story, how (especially early on) the story flowed seamlessly from one setting to the next. I appreciated more detail behind Strava, Hispartha, even the Tines’ lands. In fact, I enjoyed the pace of the story immensely. The first half was slow but fun to read, but right around the middle things get cranked up to 11 and it’s pedal to the metal until the end. I want to talk about so many spoilers in this book, but I guess I’ll just have to wait for it to come out!
The True Bastards is an immensely satisfying story of self-sacrifice and brotherhood that is hard to stop once you start.
“Live in the saddle, die on the hog!”
True Bastards release date: October 8 2019