Book Reviews

The Grey Bastards Wrap-up: Half-orcs create full fun

Crushed that subtitle.

In order to begin this bright and glorious new year on the right note I decided the first blog of the year should be this magnificent review of The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French. French Lottana as he is known in certain circles has crafted one of the more (or less?) ambitious worlds that features your standard Tolkein fantasy characters and gives them a Son’s of Anarchy twist. I am sure you are asking how that works and my answer for you is it just does. I am realizing the Lottana joke doesn’t work until you know that the series he is writing is titled The Lot Lands. You can proceed to admire my cleverness now.

I have never watched Son’s of Anarchy, I only mention it because Frenchy does in the beginning of the book, so for the sake of making sense that is the last I will mention it.

This book absolutely excels in the world building, I found it the perfect mix of familiar and engrossing. Jonathan follows the kind of industry standard of fantasy species, he has elves, orcs and humans all of which have some beef. There are centaurs and weird gnome like things too but in terms of main species you got your three right there. What makes this story interesting is the idea of half-breeds, kind of like when Saruman creates the Uruk-hai but in this case you can breed elves and humans with orcs. This creates half-orcs, who as to be expected are smaller then regular orcs but bigger then humans. A big part of the book is that all these half-orcs are products of orcs raping humans or elves, since it doesn’t seem like the other two species ever try and pick up any female orcs. This essentially leads to an entire group of half-orc bastards. Due to the title of this book, can you guess what color they are?

The half-orcs, like many bastards, are unwanted by their unloving fathers and not exactly beloved by the human or elf societies, so they are kind of relegated to living in this barren like land that is a buffer between orc land and human land. Of course orcs living in the barrens is it’s own kind of trope but whatever it works and it is fun. They organize the barrens into different lots which are controlled by various half-orc clans ruled by a clan master.

I feel like Jonathan had so much potential with this story, he creates an awesome world, his characters are well-developed, the history of the inter-species relationships and conflicts are great, and the dialogue is good enough. The only failing is the kind of repetitive plot and sort of predictable ending, but even that to me was quickly overshadowed by the world he creates. I mean it isn’t the most original concept to prevent an orc incursion but here we are. He has a fun writing style and keeps the action moving, which is important because a story like this would start to suffer if it got bogged down in inter-clan politics and other meaningless trifles. He gives just enough backstory to flesh out the world and keep us engaged. Also they all ride supped up warthogs like they are horses and shoot crossbows like they are pistols, which is pretty fucking sick.

All in all a very enjoyable read and an excellent way to kick off 2020. Gotta rate this book as a Chad book. Anything that starts off with a naked half-orc female in a whorehouse fresh off a night of enjoying the house wares shooting a human with a crossbow is headed in the Chad direction. Barely coherent, run-on sentences all year baby.