Book Review – King of the Bastards by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury

King of the Bastards
by Brian Keene & Steven Shrewsbury
Courtesy of Apex Publications
Release Date: July 21, 2015

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Fantasy is a fiction genre loaded with memorable titles and series that have influenced big name authors for decades, and yet it is also full of some of the most copied tropes in literature. While this is not necessarily a bad thing in many cases, it can get rather dull after a while. Thankfully, there are tales here and there that break this mould and offer readers something they haven’t seen (or only seen very little of). Such is the case with KING OF THE BASTARDS, a recent release from Apex Publications. This rousing sword and sorcery tale is not perfect, but it’s very good, and fantasy fans will want to check this one out soon.

If you are not familiar with KING OF THE BASTARDS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Apex Publications:

Part sword and sorcery, part extreme horror, King of the Bastards is wild adventure across seas, beaches, and mountains full of horrifying monstrosities, dark magic, and demonic entities.

Rogan has been many things in his life as an adventurer — a barbarian, a thief, a buccaneer, a rogue, a lover, a reaver, and most recently, a king. Now, this prehistoric bane of wizards and tyrants finds himself without a kingdom, lost in a terrifying new world, and fighting for his life against pirates, zombies, and the demonic entity known as Meeble. And even if he defeats his foes, Rogan must still find a way to return home, regain his throne, save his loved ones, and remind everyone why he’s the KING OF THE BASTARDS.

I am chagrinned to admit I’m not familiar with either author’s works prior to this one. But judging from the level of entertainment I garnered from this book, I am definitely going to read both in the future.

KING OF THE BASTARDS is written well and flows at a nice pace. It measures in at only 163 pages, so it’s a rather short read, but there’s plenty of action and intensity packed inside. From the cover art to the final page, readers will enjoy themselves with this one.

The characters are bold and vibrant, with Rogan as the larger-than-life titular anti-hero. Rogan is the ‘man’s man’, a warrior and conqueror that bard’s sing about. But whereas many heroes in song are exaggerated, Rogan’s deeds are all real. He has been everywhere, done everything (and everyone, in certain countries). I likened his character to Patrick Rothfuss’s Kvothe, in that he’s a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

The story in KING OF THE BASTARDS is pretty straight forward, but that does not stop it from taking the reader on a heck of a ride. Chocked full of brutal battles and witty dialogue, the plot never strays from its intended goal. The conclusion has a nice twist (I NEVER saw coming), and wraps up nicely. I don’t know if Rogan is a character in other stories or books, but I’d daresay he would warrant a whole series devoted to his name.

My sole complaint about the book is that Rogan’s mannerisms and dialogue go out-of-character towards the end of the book. This is odd, because it almost feels like the second author wrote the ending while the first author wasn’t looking. This threw me off a bit, but it wasn’t enough to detract from the story, thankfully.

Still, KING OF THE BASTARDS is a heck of a read, and I recommend it. As mentioned, it’s a short book so it doesn’t take long to get through, but it’s packed with fun all the way. Give this a look for sure.


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