Review: The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French – Review the Second: 2 Grey 2 Bastards

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I’ll admit I don’t love it as much as the original cover… but it’s not the worst.

Hah, you didn’t think I was going to get 5 ARCs of this and not read one, did you? It admittedly took a while, since I’ve had so much on my plate, but oh, I managed. ๐Ÿ˜€

As a few of you probably know, I reviewed this book way back in the beginning of 2017. It was actually the first book I ever reviewed on the blog, so it’s kind of special like that. I think I’ve honed my reviewing craft a little bit since then, so I’m going to have another go at it. ^_^

So, this is an interesting situation, but I did technically get free copies of this book… the book that I had already paid for when it was self-published… and then I gave all the copies I had away… and then I got the actual finished book.

Uh, so, I did sort of get this book for free? But, either way, this is my honest review… again ๐Ÿ˜€

A raucous, bawdy, blood-soaked adventure fantasy debut that’s The Lord of the Rings reimagined by way of Sons of Anarchy.

Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard, member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no-man’s-land called the Lots, protecting frail and noble human civilization from invading bands of vicious full-blooded orcs.

But as Jackal is soon to learn, his pride may be misplaced. Because a dark secret lies at the heart of the Bastards’ existence–one that reveals a horrifying truth behind humanity’s tenuous peace with the orcs, and exposes a grave danger on the horizon. On the heels of the ultimate betrayal, Jackal must scramble to stop a devastating invasion–even as he wonders where his true loyalties lie.

“Might I know your name, friend?”

“Jackal.”

“Ah!” Crafty held up a finger. “So named because you can eat anything, have an odious laugh, and mate even with ugly women!”

Jackal ground to a halt, his fist clenching, but as he spun on the wizard he saw the mischievous grin on his face. So, a sense of humor. And a good one.

Jackal smiled and relaxed. “You got two out of three.”

This book is still fucking magic.

I had nearly forgotten how much I enjoyed it. I really do enjoy a book that, first of all, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and second of all, still manages to capture my attention so hard that I have trouble putting it aside for other things (like work, lol) on the second read through.

I don’t often read a book more than once (not for any reason other than I just don’t have time to read anything but stuff I haven’t read), but this is a special case. As the winner of the 2016 SPFBO, and a self published book that was then picked up by a publisher and re-released, I felt like it needed another look. I had to make sure all my favorite stuff was still in there, after all. ๐Ÿ˜€

Also, it has one of my favorite mounts/animal companions in all of fantasy.

“Come on you ugly fuck,” Jackal said.

Oats stroked between his hog’s ears. “I’m the only one who gets to call him that.”

“I meant you.”

That’s right, ladies and gents. The magnificent beast that is Oats’ mount, Ugfuck. โค

This is the story of Jackal and his friends, half-orcs who lives in the lot lands, badlands that lay between the humans of Hispartha, which they call frails, and the full blooded orcs, called thicks. Jack and co. live in groups called hoofs, which are like their family… or maybe a bit more appropriately their gang. Like a biker gang, almost, except they ride giant hogs called barbarians that are roughly the size of horses. The hoofs of the lot lands are more or less tasked with keeping the orcs away from the humans. Really the centaurs and the elves as well, but especially the orcs. It obviously works, as Jack and his fellow half-orcs are pretty good at what they do… but there are still an awful lot of half-orcs for this to be a perfect system, heh.

Jackal’s hoof, The Grey Bastards, is lead by a rather tyrannical and mean old man known as the Claymaster, and it is Jackal’s ambition to take him down and take over leadership of The Grey Bastards himself. But alas, life in the lot lands is not as simple as all that, and Jack and his friends find out that there is more going on than they thought… a lot more.

SHENANIGANS ABOUND!

Shenanigans with lots of cursing (love it), crassness (also love it), dick jokes (that I laughed at a bunch of, not even lying), crazy-ass-violence against centaurs, elves, and orcs and pretty much anything else that threaten them (sweet!) and more surprises and plot twists than I think I was ever expecting. Things go down in this book that I was legitimately surprised by the first time, and, while not as much a surprise the second time, were still very noticeably well thought out and intricately plotted. There are plenty of twists and turns, and the whole thing was riveting to read. This book is so well paced that it was hard to put down to read other things, most notably eating and sleeping (after all I was trying to fit this book in around 5 other books, lol). It made me laugh, it made me sad, and it made me angry at times. Even the second time around!

But, it’s obviously not going to be for everyone. There are a plethora of f-bombs in this book (and I love it!), but that’s only the tip of the iceberg of vulgarity. Words like cunt, cunny, and quim get thrown around as well. Our heroes go whoring often enough that they have built repertoire with the whores, and they joke about sex perhaps more often than anything else, but despite how distasteful any of that might sound, it all fits in the world very well. This is what these guys (and Fetch, the sole female member of the Bastards) are. This is the world that they live in. They are mongrels, half-breeds. They’re hated by the humans, hated by the orcs, hated by just about everyone but each other… and hated by each other sometimes too. This isn’t a happy world. It’s not a beautiful world. This is a gritty, dark, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic world, and despite all that, it’s still fun as hell to read about, because Jackal and his hoofmates make it fun to read about by being ridiculously vulgar about absolutely everything when they need to be.

So, I mean, if you don’t like the word fuck, you should probably not read it. But if you do, like I do… you’re probably going to have a fun time. ๐Ÿ˜€

And I am still totally going to get the most adorable little piggy and name it Ugfuck. Because of course I am. โค

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Ugfuck and I are going to have an adorable little picnic.

In short, it’s still definitely 5/5 stars from me! Live in the Saddle! DIE ON THE HOG!!!!!!!!

You can see this book on goodreads here, and you can purchase a copy here!

Thanks to Jonathan French, Crown Publishing, and the letter F for this book. ๐Ÿ˜€

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