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King of the Bastards by Steven Shrewsbury

King of the Bastards

by Steven Shrewsbury, Brian Keene

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King of the Bastards is everything you would expect from…well, a book titled King of the Bastards! Authors Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury bring us a rowdy sword and sorcery tale in this novella that harkens back to the traditions of Robert E. Howard’s Conan, decking out its pages with larger-than-life heroes, monstrous villains, evil magics, exotic places, and bloody battles galore. We’re talking pure unadulterated pulpy fun.

“Come, my sons, and I will tell you the beginning of the tale of the bastards of King Rogan!” the wizened storyteller proclaims, and we are introduced to our titular character, who has apparently spilled more than just his blood across the world on his adventures as a pirate, outlaw, and mercenary before conquering the throne of Albion. Shipwrecked and stranded on a strange land with his nephew, the barbarian king must now fight with his newfound allies against a demon and its agents in order to find his way home and reclaim his throne.

A clear advantage with books like this is that what you see is what you get. King of the Bastards feels a lot like an updated version of the pulp outlet offerings from the first half the 20th century, complete with the requisite genre tropes, sometimes even exaggerated for what I feel is satirical effect. Our protagonist is a crude and aging barbarian who runs on testosterone and the blood and tears of his enemies. He’s insensitive and boorish towards women and other cultures, hates wizards and magic, but he sure knows his way around a sword and loves a good fight. Speaking of which, have I mentioned the sexual content and graphic violence yet? Underline it.

If you don’t like the sound of what you’ve read so far in this review, then I suspect you are not going to like this book. But if you’re in the mood for a bit of punchy, gore-soaked entertainment with a taste of retro, then you’re going to be in for a real treat. Personally speaking, books like this have an important place in my reading routine, providing the perfect sort of respite in between some of my longer, weightier reads and giving me a chance to let loose with something light and fun which doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s not something I could take all the time, but in small doses it can be a refreshing change of pace. And coming in at just a little over 160 pages, King of the Bastards was the perfect length, piling on the action and adventure without actually wearing out its welcome.

All told, this isn’t a book out to break new ground, but if you consider it as a “guilty pleasure” read with an aim to entertain, the authors might be on to something here. If you think you are the audience for this, definitely check it out. You could do worse than spend a rainy afternoon curled on the couch reading this rollicking yarn about a real bastard! ( )
  stefferoo | Feb 26, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am normally a big fan of Brian Keene, but this book was a miss. There was not enough backstory nor world-building to ground the reader and for the first quarter of the novel you are lost. While you are trying to figure out what's going on and who the characters are, you then discover that the main character is completely unlikable and is fueled purely by violent sex, violent food and violent violence. This plot / character combo may have worked as a graphic novel, but as a standalone story it did not work for me. My advice is to skip this one. ( )
  JechtShot | Jan 4, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewer's Club. It took me months to get halfway through the book as it is just not my cup of tea. It seems geared to adolescents. ( )
  ladyoflorien | Dec 17, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Received from Early Reviewers Group. The cover art is great, the storyline is not. The main character is a mysoginist bully who doesn't appreciate his family, friends, fellow warriors or women. The fighting scenes were good, but his interaction with others was horid. ( )
  twylyghtbay | Dec 12, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book from the Early Reviewers program. I'm a big sword & sorcery fantasy fan, so this was my kind of book. It was kinda violent, but what would you expect from a book such as this. It did remind me of Conan the Barbarian, but still different. Every once in a while I want to read a book in which I can leave all my sensibilities at the door and just be entertained. King of the Bastards did just that. If this becomes a series, I just might seek out the next book. ( )
  slackerlibrarian | Nov 2, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shrewsbury, Stevenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Keene, Brianmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Book description
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
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