A brutal, thrilling read, laced with dark humor and tough decisions, unexpected gut-punches and genuine surprises. But it was the quiet moments that hit hardest.
The freedom of the mongrels is on the precipice of failure: The Lot Lands are at the tipping point of being crushed between Hispartha and the Tyrkanian empire, and betrayal seeps from every ill-begotten ally. Violent fates for the True Bastard brothers and sisters is inevitable. Hell, the first arc of this book is a non-stop action sequence consisting of a chase scene that culminates in an against-all-odds, fingernail-chewing battle. The Free Bastards is a brutal, thrilling read, laced with dark humor and tough decisions, unexpected gut-punches and genuine surprises.
But it was the quiet moments that hit hardest.
Jackal, Fetch, and Oats have traveled a long road together. We didn’t know them as slops—hoof prospects—but we’ve been at their side as they’ve evolved from the lower ranks of their hoof to the powerful leaders and symbols of hope that they are by story’s end. But with that power comes the inability to connect with their peers like they used to. So the only truest, most honest bonds that they’re able to keep have been with each other.
French reserves these conversations during the calm in between storms where few words are said, but so much more is conveyed -- and they’re beautiful moments, showing just how strong this family knows each other. A look, a smile, a nod of the head, a shared anecdote – the understanding that passes between the three I found to be some of the most powerful moments of the entire trilogy.
As this volume is Oats’ story – we never leave his POV for a single moment – we are privy to some of his other struggles with decisions on his future, his relationships with those who raised him, and those who look to him as a future father and, maybe, something more. French interspersed these story beats incredibly well amongst thrilling ship battles, city clashes, rescue missions, court politics, and tying up mysteries that have been hanging around for the past thousand+ pages. It’s deft work.
One strike against the story was when one of the biggest plot mysteries was finally revealed, I found myself asking a lot of “well why didn’t it” and “how could it” questions. It felt a little forced, a bit too neat, written more for maximum mic-drop effect instead of fitting into the context of the story. It was still a great moment – and while it was somewhat projected and might not pass the closest scrutiny, it does not take away from the satisfaction and epic feel of the conclusion to the Bastards trilogy.
There’s been some chatter about the rampant homophobia by the mongrel community in these books, substituting the word ‘backy’ instead of gay, and using that word as the punchline of some dialogue. And that’s fine, as they’re just characters, and that’s just how some characters are written. But for what it’s worth, I’d like to mention that there is far more positive representation of the LBGTQ+ community in this story than in previous volumes.
Jonathan French is a Crafty one, wrapping up Jackal, Fetching, and Oats’ stories with the heart and loss and depth it deserves, but it also leaves the door open for more Lot Lands stories to explore. No matter what the future may bring, for three books I’ve lived in this saddle, and with the killer conclusion of The Free Bastards, I’m fortunate to die on this hog.
9.0 / 10
Review by Adam Weller
1 positive reader review(s) in total for the The Lot Lands series
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