Book Review: The Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands Book 1) by Jonathan French

Jackal is a member of the Grey Bastards, a brotherhood of half-orcs who protect the Lot Lands from orcs, centaurs, and anything else that might attack. But then a half-orc wizard shows up, the chief starts making questionable decisions, and Jackal realizes everything is not as he always thought it was. As mysteries start unraveling, Jackal will have to figure out what his priorities are and who he can trust.

Book Review: The Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands Book 1) by Jonathan French | reading, books, book reviews, epic fantasy
Title: The Grey Bastards
Book Number: Book 1
Pages: 432
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*

I have a confession to make: I haven’t read much epic fantasy. I’ve stuck to mostly urban, and when I have read high fantasy, I’ve usually erred on the romantic side. So I can’t tell you if this book will meet your expectations, or how unique it was. But what I can tell you is that I didn’t know I could love epic fantasy this much! This was a witty, gritty burst of awesome with the perfect blend of complex world building, intricate plotting, and developed characters, and I was so immersed in the story that I didn’t want it to end.

Basically, there are all different creatures, as well as humans, but this book focuses on the half-orcs, specifically the group (aka hoof) that go by “The Grey Bastards.” These hoofs protect the humans and half-orcs on their land from the orcs and centaurs and anything else that might attack. Also, instead of riding horses, they ride giant hogs, and for some reason I just love it when characters ride non-horse animals.

So there was a whole complex world with different species and lands and societies, but the information was scattered throughout the book in a way that never felt overwhelming or confusing. (And this is coming from someone who has a very hard time concentrating.) I loved all the little details that made the world feel real and filled-out.

The plot was also complex and really had a lot going on for one book. A lot happened, but it never felt rushed or chaotic. It did, however, feel a bit slow-paced and meandering at times since I didn’t know what exactly the end goal was. That’s one of my only complaints, and it’s a small one. And don’t worry, there were plenty of action-packed battle scenes too.

I also really liked the writing. It’s hard to explain because it wasn’t lyrical or “beautiful.” It was simple and uncomplicated but had a maturity to it. This is an author who knows how to string words together and make them flow.

Most importantly though, the characters were fantastic! I loved these half-orcs from the very first page, especially Jackal. He was witty, playful, intelligent, likeable, and badass all at once. He wasn’t perfect, he could be a bit impulsive, naive, and vain, but he tried to do what he thought best in the situations he ended up in, I understood his decisions and why he made them, and he grew over the course of the story. He may have been half-orc, but he was just as realistic and relatable as any human. I was rooting for him.

Oats was great too. I thought he would fall into the dumb brute stereotype, but he didn’t. He was big and strong but also smart and loyal. Then there was Fetch, who first showed up buck naked on the roof with all the confidence in the world and shot someone dead after he tried to hurt her friends. I mean, as far as making an entrance into a book goes, that is top notch. She was tough and badass because she had to be for the men to accept her, but she wasn’t cruel. And all the rest of the characters, including minor ones, felt just as developed and believable, even if I didn’t like them all or get to know them very well.

I will give a warning about the characters though: they could be very vulgar, crude, and offensive. A few things they said might’ve been a bit problematic, but it was fitting and believable for the rowdy group of characters. Update to add: I didn’t mention this specifically in my original review, but I want to give a warning about some homophobic remarks made by the characters (mostly jokes about not wanting to seem gay), in case that might be harmful to some readers.

Last but not least, I felt more emotion than I expected to while reading this. There was humor, there was frustration, there was tension, and I could feel all of these things. Bad things happened too, not every character survived, and I shed a tear over one death in particular. If you’ve read the book, you can probably guess which one.

Overall, I thought the world-building, the plot, the writing, and the characters were all amazing, and I’m definitely glad I gave this book a try!


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  1. Christy LoveOfBooks

    “they could be very vulgar, crude, and offensive.”

    Well then count me in! lol I don’t read a whole lot of HF either, but I do usually like the ones I do. Glad to see it overwhelming because this genre can easily feel that way, at least in the beginning.

  2. Bookworm Brandee

    Sometimes the writing doesn’t have to be lyrical or beautiful to have an impact and it sounds like in this book that was exactly the case. I have to confess to never having read high fantasy…or at least not in recent memory. (okay, Tolkien when I was a kid…) But Jackal and the Grey Bastards sound like something I could enjoy. You know I’m good as long as the characters are fantastic – and it seems they are – but there’s also great world building done in such a way that there’s no info dump? Promising, Kristen…very promising. This one is going on my Kristen’s Recs shelf. πŸ˜‰

    1. Kristen Burns

      Agreed, easy-to-read writing can be just as great! That’s true, I don’t recall seeing any high fantasy reviews on your blog. I did really like the characters in this one though, so maybe you’d like it too!

  3. Greg

    I’m glad this was good! It’s nice to see half-orcs get some love lol, I’ve only known them from RPG games but it looks like YA is getting in on the act, or fantasy more accurately I guess. Plus centaurs *yes please*. I like too that world building is scattered throughout the book- I like discovering it that way, rather than having infodumps or fantasy world 101 paragraphs like so many books do. And is there anything better than a good brotherhood or sisterhood (or roguehood? Is tha a word? It should be). ? I want a roguehood- maybe it’s a coed version. Anyway…

    1. Kristen Burns

      This wasn’t YA, but I think it’s awesome that orcs are getting some love period! The centaurs were just murderous bad guys, but while we’re on that topic, I really want some centaur books too lol. But yes, it was great the way the world-building was scattered and not overwhelming. That’s one thing that’s sometimes an issue for me in high fantasy. Roguehood, I love it! Perfect for a co-ed, gender neutral term πŸ˜‰

  4. verushka

    I haven’t liked high fantasy in a while but your line about how the author knows how to turn a phrase with simple writing made me take up and notice πŸ™‚ Wonderful review!!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Yeah it’s not my main genre, especially not epic fantasy, but it was the writing style and the way it almost felt more like urban fantasy and was just really good that helped make this one really work for me. Thanks!

  5. ShootingStarsMag

    I’m not a big fan of epic or high fantasy, but I’m glad to hear you really enjoyed this one – and more than you thought you would! I like that everything is explained without info dumps.


  6. Danya @ Fine Print

    Any book that can make someone who doesn’t normally gravitate towards the genre fall in love with it is a book I want to be reading! I’m also a big fan of non-horse animal riding in SFF, although admittedly this is the first time I’ve heard of anyone riding hogs. The one that stands out for me is The Dinosaur Lords, where (I believe) they ride/fight on the backs of dinos. Talk about a mighty steed!

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was so good! Lol glad it’s not just me who likes non-horse animal riding. The hogs turned out to be surprisingly awesome. Gah, dinosaurs! You’re right, that would be pretty epic!

  7. Lola

    After reading your review a while ago (yes I am only now commenting tough) I recommended this one to my boyfriend as it sounds like the type of book he would enjoy and there was this series about orc’s he read a while ago he really enjoyed and this sounded sort of similar. He bought a copy of this one, so I hope he enjoys it.

    There was a time I read a lot of epic/ high fantasy, but I sort of grew out of it after reading a lot of it as a teen. I now only rarely pick up books fro that genre/ I do like the sound of how this one features half-orcs as they are one of those races you rarely see in the leading role. And that does sound cool they ride hogs. I like it when authors change things up as well like that. I do really like sound of the world building in this one and it sounds swell done with how bits and pieces are strewn throughout the story. I like how you describe the characters they do sound likeable and realistic. It sounds like a great read!

    1. Kristen Burns

      Oh, yay! I hope your boyfriend likes it as much as I did!

      You don’t see orcs that often, but I feel like they’re starting to get a bit more popular, and I like it! And I loved the hogs XD It was definitely a great read for me!