Review: The True Bastards by Jonathan French

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I guess we forgot that Fetch is green? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I waited until a little bit closer to release day to shove this one into my brainface, knowing that I’d gobble it right up and didn’t want to be too early to the party.

Thanks to the author, as well as Crown via NetGalley for the review copy.

Fetching was once the only female rider in the Lot Lands. Now she is the leader of her own hoof, a band of loyal half orcs sworn to her command. But in the year since she took power, the True Bastards have struggled to survive. Tested to the breaking point by the burdens of leadership, Fetching battles desperately to stave off famine, desertion, and the scorn of the other half-orc chieftains, even as orcs and humans alike threaten the Lots’ very existence. Then an old enemy finds a way to strike at her from beyond the grave–and suddenly only one, faint hope for salvation remains.

What would you do, pretty Jackal? You wanted this so badly. Only you didn’t, you wouldn’t, not this. Building walls, training slops, feeding frails, begging from other hoofs. This wasn’t what you wanted. It’s what you handed off!

This is the continuing saga of the hoof that were once known as the Grey Bastards, now known as the True Bastards. The hoof is now lead by Fetching, after the events of the previous book in the series left her in charge. The Bastards are suffering from a food shortage. Their foundling children are starving, and they’re all eating as little as possible while still trying to remain well enough to build a wall around their town to protect themselves from threats like the orcs, the centaurs, and a new type of animal that’s hunting the lots: seemingly immortal hyenas. Eek.

Fetch was one of my favorite characters in the first book, so I was truly excited to get a book from her perspective. She’s such a great character to cheer for, just as snarky and foul mouthed as Jackal ever was. Fetch tries to find out where these evil predators are coming from (she has suspicions) all while trying to hide an ailment that she contracted a year back. If the hoof finds out, it will weaken her position, which is already weak given that she’s the only woman chief and is already scorned by most of the other hoofs.

This one is full of all the crassness and snark that the first was, which I quite enjoy because it gives a realistic vibe to the setting of the Lot Lands. They are not a great place to live, whether you’re a frail, a mongrel, a thick, or any other kind of being. Everyone hates everyone else, for one reason or another, and it usually comes down to either race or gender. So, much like book one, this one is full of all kinds of language and themes that are not going to be for everyone, and the world that these characters live in is often very, very sexist/racist/homophobic. That’s just the reality of the place they live, and so to me it added realism. But again, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

Fetch rises above the scorn to be the best leader she can be, and so I found it absurdly easy to cheer for her to win the day, but all is not well for a lot of this book. Fetch and the Bastards get run through the ringer in this one, and I’ll admit that it got me in the feels a couple of times. Fetch is combating scorn and dismissal from pretty much all sides, but still has a hoof with loyal members, like Mead, Polecat, and Hoodwink. Of course, many of the characters from the first book make a reappearance here. Oats and Jackal are not present, at first, but… well, I knew that they’d make an appearance eventually. There are several new characters here who are really interesting, like Xhreka, a halfling woman with an interesting ability, Incus, a deaf thrice-blood, and Sluggard, a mongrel who has more-or-less grown up in the human kingdom of Hispartha, rather than the Lot Lands.

So, all told, I really liked this one. It was full of action, and twists and turns. I laughed (a lot), and I even got a bit misty-eyed for Fetch more than once. I wasn’t expecting such an emotional ride, but I didn’t in the Grey Bastards either and it got me in the feels too, so really I should have learned my lesson by now. If you liked The Grey Bastards, you are almost certain to like The True Bastards. I sure did! It is a crass, often hilarious, and often feels-inducing adventure, which checks a lot of my boxes. 4.5/5 stars!

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