Jackal is a Bastard, and proud of it.
One of several groups sworn to protect the hostile Lot Lands, these half-orcs patrol the area on their giant war hogs; fighting, carousing and generally behaving more like a gang than knights.
For my regular readers, you already know that The Grey Bastards was one of my top reads of 2018. The fact that I’m only just now writing my review of it should count against me, not the book which is fantastic.
Orcs are often given short shrift in fantasy, portrayed as blood-thirsty savage creatures. Jackal and his cohorts, especially his two closest friends, while certainly capable of extreme violence are warm, mostly likable frequently funny. The bantering conversations between the three of them is a high-light.
Jackel, for all his qualities; strong, protective, loyal to his friends, is definitely flawed. Less an unreliable narrator and more of an unsophisticated one; he has a tendency to take everyone he meets on his pre-conceived notions and is frequently unwilling to listen to any opinion that contrasts with his own. Only when he is forced to by the actions (and the history) of others, does he reassess his thoughts.
The world building involved in this book is both fascinating and unexpected. The Bastards, and other groups of half-orcs, call themselves hoofs, and live by the creed of “Live in the saddle, die on the hog’; both by virtue of their war-hogs. These hogs are treated less like disposable mounts (a la many other fantasy novels involving horses) and more like beloved pets. The patterning of them after biker gangs seems almost inevitable.
Given the violence and language involved with this story, it’s not necessarily going to be for everyone. But if that won’t trouble you, I wholeheartedly recommend this book.