Last December, I saw the wonderful news that Orbit Books had acquired the rights to Jonathan French's THE GREY BASTARDS after it won first place in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2016. And now, as of yesterday, it's finally here in the UK!
Now admittedly, I am not that big on publishing news. There's just a lot out there, and it's overwhelming. But I knew about this cause I'd been a fan of Jonathan's work for a few years now. And while I can't claim to have been there for every step of his wonderful journey from self-publishing to traditional publishing, I can definitely say it couldn't have happened to a better guy or a better book.
It also helps to fight the stigma against self-published books. Despite what many still think, indie authors are just as good and just as skilled as traditionally published authors.
In what the author has described as Sons of Anarchy meets fantasy, orc gangs ride giant boars across a landscape that at once captures the imagination. Between the human Empire and roving bands of orcs lies the Lots, which is controlled and defended by half-orc brotherhoods called hoofs. The book's main character, Jackal, is a member of one such hoof called the Grey Bastards.
He and his companions, Oats and Fetch, end up in a race to uncover a dark secret and prevent a mass invasion that will change Jackal's world forever.
Firstly, the raunchiness. I am so wearied by people claiming that we used to be so much more civilised and respectful back in Ye Olde Days™. Obscene graffiti in Pompeii and medieval scribes' marginal moaning, just to scratch the surface, reveal that humans have always been humans and humans are vulgar. So French's rough and rowdy romp stands as a breath of fresh air amongst a glut of overwrought pseudo-Shakespearean English and pretenses of historical virtue.
The action starts from the very first chapter and doesn't let up. The reader only ever gets enough time to catch their breath before being harrowed once more, putting you right in the saddle with Jackal, Fetch, and Oats. The pace suits an action adventure, and more than adequately conveys the sense of urgency the characters are under.
And the plot! While giving nothing away, I can say that there were several plot twists I did not see coming, or guessed completely wrong. The Grey Bastards thrills and surprises in ways that action adventures are unaccustomed to doing in favour of guns blazing machismo. Get you a book that does both. Like The Grey Bastards.
Again, the raunchiness. There are times when the ubiquitous sausage fest and constant quim-slinging does detract from the story or bog down dialogue, but those times are few and far between. It's honestly the only bad thing I can say about a book that's gripping, lightning paced, and packed with twists you don't see coming!