- Lee C Conley
Book Review - The Grey Bastards By Jonathan French
(This cover is the original artwork from the self published edition)
A review of
The Grey Bastards
This book came to my attention after winning the SPFBO award in 2017, and was then picked up and published by Orbit. Now, wow! That’s quite a success story, and got me thinking it must be worth checking out.
Now, I’ve heard this book described as Sons of Anarchy but with Orks, and you know, it’s not far wrong. There is definitely a gang vibe going on but instead of bikes, they’re on kick ass fucking piggy war-hogs. They ride around swearing and generally being bad ass on literally hogs. There’s a hog called Ugfuck! I mean I was sold pretty early on with this story.
Now, it’s not just a cool setting, the plot is pretty damn good too.
It focuses on the main character Jackal, a half-ork riding with The Grey Bastards, one of several hoofs protecting the Lot Lands from ork incursion. He is accompanied by Oats and Fletching and the other members of his hoof. It appears things aren’t quite right in both the Lot Lands or within the hoof, a power struggle ensues, a mysterious magic user appears offering his services, but where do his allegiances truly lie. We get to see the other factions of the Lot Lands from the pious Halflings, treacherous human imperials, deadly secretive elves, to the rampaging murderous Centaurs as past secrets come to life and the very balance of the lands they know is thrown into uncertainty.
French’s use of established fantasy tropes is really interesting and fresh, as mentioned we have orks, half-orks, elves, halflings, centaurs, but none are like you’ve ever seen before. He has managed to give these established fantasy creatures a new gritty lease of life. I particularly liked the inclusion of the sludges, which to me was the classic ooze right out of D&D, and as a big D&D fan, again, that got me pretty excited.
The writing is excellent; it was easy to see how it has exploded proudly into the limelight from its self-published origins, earning all its deserved accolades. This book was a real wild ride, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it, from the excellent prose, to the awesome characters and the twisting turning adventure, all of it—a damn fine book indeed. I am really looking forward to reading the sequel, True Bastards, which is already out. I recommend this one folks, if you haven’t already check it out!
In the words of the Bastards
‘Live in the saddle, die on the hog!’
Thanks for reading,