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Review: The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French (Lot Lands #1)

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The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French // VBC ReviewThe Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands #1)
Jonathan French
Published: June 19, 2018 (Crown)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by: Beth

Rating (out of 5): 5 stars 

The Grey Bastards, a group of part-Orcs who help protect their territory from Orc incursions, who help protect a land they’ve never seen against a repeat of a war most weren’t alive for. They’re outlaws, riding on their hogs (literally) to patrol their lot. They drink hard, they play hard—but they do it together and follow their code. Jackal is one of the Grey Bastards, and he’s proud of that. But when a regular interaction with the humans at an outpost goes awry, he begins to see that all is not as he thought in his insular world. The question is: what is he going to do about it?

The back of the book says The Grey Bastards is “A bawdy, bloody…adventure fantasy that’s The Lord of the Rings reimagined by way of Sons of Anarchy.” In the normal course of events doing a review, I wouldn’t bother quoting a piece from the back of a book. But if you’re looking for the short version that is as accurate as any I’ve ever seen.

The setting of the book is the land of Hispartha, and the lots that surround it. No particular time frame, nor any particularly familiar place. The territory is mostly desert—it’s a harsh territory, where Orcs and centaurs cause havoc, elves keep to themselves, and only the groups of half-Orc hoofs keep chaos somewhat contained.

The characterization is where this book really shines. Well, that and the story itself. I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen Sons of Anarchy. But if the humans were replaced by half-breed Orcs and the Harleys were replaced by, well, actual hogs—this is what I would imagine. A tight band of brothers who fight to protect what they see as rightfully theirs, debauchery and chaos a regular pastime. Jackal is strong, but ambitious—and not always as smart as he thinks he is. He’s kept somewhat contained by his closest, Fletch, the rare female Bastard, and Oats, his adopted brother. Claymaster, the leader of the hoof, has begun making decisions that bode ill for the hoof, but he has absolute power to command them. It’s rare to find a book where there isn’t at least one instance where someone says or does something that just maybe feels…off. That is not the case here. They all had a part to play, and their characters were on target. They felt more real in the reading than many humans do in other tales.

And the story…oh, that story. It will grab you in, hold you about the neck, and not let go until you are exhausted from the ride. I laughed, I cried, and starting around chapter 30, my heart raced and I may have even held my breath a little too long here and there. This book was originally a self-published one, so I can’t speak to the prior edition, but this one was incredible.

I’m not generally good at figuring out what is going to happen in the books I read—but it IS rare that something genuinely surprises me to the point that I have to flip back a few pages to see what I missed. That happened here more than a few times. There is magic, and wizards, and a foul plague created for war. There is harshness, but also beauty to be found. But most importantly, there is friendship and loyalty that is earned, and that most honest people would envy. Having said that, I will warn that there is a lot of language, both of the cursing kind and of the sexual kind. None of it felt forced or inserted just to be there, it fit the characters and was used well as such.

I was more curious about this book than truly drawn in by the description before I started it, but once I did, I read through the day and cursed those real-life moments that intervened (like, making dinner and going to the bathroom and stuff like that). The Grey Bastards is a fast-paced read, dark but full of adventure and camaraderie. I don’t know where book two will take me, but I can guarantee I’ll be along for the ride. If only I could find a hog of my own to ride…

Sexual content: graphic sex

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5 Responses to “Review: The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French (Lot Lands #1)”

  1. Shannon says:

    Great review!!!! This book is on my TBR list. After your review, I think I will just actually read it.

    • Beth C. says:

      It definitely deserves the praise! I hesitated to read it at first, but it kept nagging at me – and I’m so glad I finally took the plunge!

  2. AmyM says:

    You have piqued my curiosity with this one for sure!

  3. Tais S says:

    Ditto on the curiosity! I’ll def check it out now

  4. Angela says:

    Are you looking for reviewers for this book? I’d be happy to review this book, it sounds amazing. Vampire books are also, my favorite to read about. Then would be werewolves.

    So, if you’re looking for reviews, this is right in my wheelhouse. I’d be happy to review it.

    If not of course that’s fine. This book sounds great, has a cool cover and I’m sure it’s going too do wonderful. I’m definitely putting it on my to read list. Good luck.

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