cover image The Free Bastards

The Free Bastards

Jonathan French. Del Rey, $28.99 (560p) ISBN 978-0-593-15668-1

The triumphant conclusion to French’s Lot Lands trilogy (after The True Bastards) thrills with combat and astonishing magic, balanced by skillful character development. This time, the viewpoint character is huge thrice-blood, half-orc Oats, a faithful friend to the True Bastards’ female chief, Fetching. French sets the uncouth tone immediately, with Oats musing on the downsides of wearing a beard when vomiting, engaging in oral sex, and murdering frails (the half-orc term for humans). Said murder is the first act in a rescue mission of a group of half-orcs, swiftly followed by a flight from and battle with a troupe of Hisparthan knights, who are championed by the holy, near-unkillable Maiden Spear. The kaleidoscopic violence continues with a shipboard skirmish, an assault on a Hisparthan fortress, and a fight in a subterranean temple. Oats sustains grievous wounds to both body and spirit in the war with Hispartha—until Fetching decides that Oats will lead the Bastards in accompanying the wizard Crafty to try something new: diplomacy. French paints Oats as a ferocious combatant but also as someone who cares deeply for his fellow Bastards and others in his orbit—including children, humans, and even his ugly battle-boar—and his combination of brawn, magic, and wit may win the day. Series fans will relish this thoroughly satisfying finale. (Sept.)