The long-awaited war has come in the sweeping conclusion to the Lot Lands trilogy—another irresistibly swashbuckling, swaggering, foul-mouthed fantasy from the author of The Grey Bastards.
“[A] rip-roaring, shelf-bending conclusion . . . nothing short of an adventure fantasy masterwork.”—Kirkus Reviews (Best Books of the Year)
War has come to the Lot Lands—and Oats stands upon the frontline.
The Hisparthan armies on the horizon are mighty, bolstered by divine champions, dread sorcerers, and gunpowder. It’s almost more than the half-orc rebellion can hope to repel.
But Oats has won impossible fights before. He’s a thriceblood, after all, more orc than man. And he hasn’t forgotten how to kill. He’ll stack the bodies high for his chief and his brethren, if that’s the price of freeing the Lots from human tyranny.
Besides, the invading forces are getting a damned sight more than they bargained for. They’re not facing a handful of half-orc hoofs, but a true army—one forged from all the peoples of the Lots. At its head are Fetching, in full command of the ruinous power that runs through her veins, and Jackal, armed with the blessings of a dead god.
Yet Oats can’t help but find his faith wavering. Once the strongest Bastard, he soon realizes that in this battle, even the strength of a thriceblood is easily conquered. And after a grievous loss strikes, he begins to fear that this war will lead the Lots not to freedom but to ruin.
So when another path to peace beckons, he has no choice but to walk it. Even if it means betting the Lots’ fate, and his own, on the promises of the Bastards’ wiliest adversary—and making a perilous journey into the heart of Hispartha itself.
Brimming with all the epic battles, surprising sorcery, and fiendish twists a Bastards fan could wish for, alongside unforgettable moments for characters old and new, The Free Bastards builds a new future for the Lots—even as it gives our beloved trio of Jackal, Fetching, and Oats the rousing, blood-soaked sendoff they deserve.
This terrific and highly original epic fantasy debut focuses on a single small fighting unit: the boar-riding half-orc war band known as the Grey Bastards, "forged in the heat of Ul-wundulas, tempered by the pressure of the badlands, and quenched in the brackish water of life on the hoof." The coarse nature of French's half-orcs is immediately on display in the opening scene, in which Grey Bastards Jackal, Oats, and Fetching face off against a squad of human cavalry at the local brothel. A raid by full-blooded orcs, the arrival of an unknown half-orc wizard dubbed "Crafty," and a confrontation in a nearby swamp with the Sludge Man and some "giant, featureless leeches made of tar" are just the beginning for Jackal and his mixed-gender crew. Meanwhile, the band's leader, Claymaster, has been crafting nefarious schemes with unclear ends. The plots within and around the Grey Bastards add elements of mystery to the scenes of bloody combat and weird magics. French's prose, appropriately lowbrow among the half-orcs, is almost poetic at other times. His half-orcs, halflings, centaurs, and others have rich histories and folklore, giving the work depth while never getting in the way of the fun. This is excellent fantasy fare on all levels.