ARC Review: C.J.: City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

review         book

Book Covertitle: City of Bastards
author: Andrew Shvarts
pages: 377
format: Audiobook
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 6.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of Pirates of the Caribbean, Song of the Current, The Magicians, and other blockbuster fantasies with a funny side.
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.

in depth

  • Royal Bastards (review here!) was one of my breakout favorites of last year, so I was thrilled to find the sequel just as...well, thrilling. Tilla and her friends are back, this time with a murder on their hands. Their investigation turns into a web of intrigue, forbidden magic, and deep-rooted conspiracy that kept me breathless until the end. Even more explosive than its predecessor, City of Bastards is a sure favorite for anyone who wants fantasy with bite. 

  • The bastards are back with a bang. Tilla is just as every bit headstrong as she ever was; you can never say she just lets things happen to her. This girl is driving the plot if it kills her. Lyriana is mourning several losses by drinking and debauching herself into a frenzy, and Zell is Zell. Not going to lie, I liked him less than I had in book 1.  He's kind of a limp blanket next to Tilla's firebrand self. I thought Tilla's bantery bright chemistry with Ellarion was way more compelling. Also I just love Ellarion, Lyriana's flirtatious rake of a cousin. He takes up Jax's role as charming loudmouth with exuberance and flair. But the best is how they all play off each other, how they grow, how they f*ck up and get back up. It's not just one guy and one girl who kiss or almost-kiss. They have actual friends and do friend things! And the villains! Andrew's baddies are a chilling mix of larger-than-life overlords and all-too-real spawns of toxic masculinity. 

  • Andrew's dark brand of comedy delivers laughs with a razor edge. It's what makes this book different from so many other fantasies. There's magic, yes, and adventure and a bit of romance, but it's couched in a boisterous, tongue-in-cheek style that reads more like Pirates of the Caribbean than Throne of Glass. Quips and profanity are bandied about. Serious themes (the nature of good and evil in war, for example) are explored, but with a slantwise sarcasm that keeps it from getting heavy handed. 

  • The twists! The turns! That ending! It starts out slowly, but also fast? I wanted to get a better sense of the university and world of Lightspire and felt very ungrounded. Once they find the body, however, things pick up and the city comes to life. It feels like Skyrim mashed up with Star Wars, with shimmersteel towers, cryptic clues, and all sorts of underground societies and intrigues twining together into one big web that snares them all. Andrew's writing is cinematic, his plotting fast-paced and brutal. People get f*cked up. They are betrayed. They lose limbs. The carnage is blockbuster-worthy. And even though parts are predictable, he still managed to surprise me at the end and leave me dying for the next book. 

  • Even more explosive than its predecessor, City of Bastards is a sure favorite for anyone who wants fantasy with bite. Someone make this ish a movie. 

in a sentence

Even more explosive than its predecessor, City of Bastards is a sure favorite for anyone who wants fantasy with bite. 


will i read this author again?  Yesh 
will i continue the series?  I don't know how I've already lived without it.  

Note: I received this copy from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

1 comment: