(cover design by Larry Rostant & Duncan Spilling)
The Grey Bastards from Jonathan French is a smoothly written adventure which is all too easy to devour in one long session. The blurb is not wrong when it recommends this novel to fans of Joe Abercrombie, and I’d go a little further and say that anyone who likes to see their grimdark authors having as much fun inventing their worlds as we readers have exploring them would not regret picking up this title.
Although it sets a galloping pace from the outset, the meat of this novel is a real slow burn. On the surface it seems like a sort of fantasy take on Sons of Anarchy, but quickly becomes so well rounded and intriguing you almost forget the protagonists are half orcs riding literal hogs across an arid wasteland.
In Jackal, it’s refreshing to see a protagonist whose opinion of himself is woefully incorrect, but not wildly or comically so. He’s just unaware of the extent to which he has been sheltered and has lessons to learn, and in the lots you learn fast because you won’t get a second chance. This gives the story much more to wrap your imagination around than I expected at the outset, and that coupled with the likeable surrounding characters – hogs and half-orcs both – makes it a really enjoyable read.
Having read a pre-publication proof (the book is out from Orbit in early June), I am exceedingly happy to see this book now billed as “The Lot Lands #1” and look forward to joining the bastards, or indeed any other hoof in the Lots, in the near future.