cover image The True Bastards

The True Bastards

Jonathan French. Crown, $27 (592p) ISBN 978-0-525-57247-3

This grim but brilliant sequel to The Grey Bastards follows the Bastards’ new leader, half-orc/half-elf Fetching, as she takes charge of her cohort (or “hoof”) of half-orcs and the humans who rely on them. Fetch and her fellow “mongrels” face off against famine and starvation, cavaleros from neighboring Hispartha, another band of half-orcs who feel that Fetch is unworthy to lead, and a mysterious, enormous orc (large enough to pick up a horse and throw it like a baseball) and the oversized hyenas that he commands. The woes that face the Bastards are unrelenting, and Fetch isn’t sure she can count on their supposed allies: the other hoofs, the cultish human Unyars, the elven mountain-dwellers, and the newly arrived foreigners called Zahracenes. But by the novel’s end, Fetch has secured real connections and support for the surviving Bastards. French’s half-orcs are an uncouth lot but fiercely loyal to one another and those they protect, and Fetch herself is prepared to endure unimaginable pain to secure safety for her people. The many cultures are richly detailed, adding depth. This installment will more than satisfy fantasy readers who like deadly battles balanced with intricate worldbuilding and skilled characterization. (Oct.)