King of the Bastards is a bloody romp through a horrific fantasy realm. Co-writers Brian Keene, who brings his mastery of horror, and Steven Shrewsbury, who has experience creating fantasy worlds, cut the protagonist Rogan from the belly of his mother and place him in a world that shows no mercy.
The plot picks up with Rogan as an aged warrior briefly describing his previous adventures and his ascent to the throne of Albion. I definitely think there is a novel waiting to be written of Rogan's adventures in the past but this tale is focused on one contained event on a foreign land.
Rogan is a tough character to like, sexist, brash, and cocky, but the authors do a good job making me root for him nonetheless. I really wanted to see him get his revenge on those who threatened his kingdom but like the children hearing this tale from their yarn telling father, I will have to wait until later.
The plot is a bit fast-paced and once it initially explains the far off lands and establishes Rogan's purpose does not slow down. The old version of English in the dialogue felt odd to read but all of that falls to the wayside once the swords start swinging and zombies start coming at the warrior. There is a lot of violence, and the descriptions do not leave much to the imagination.
Javan, Rogan's cousin and son of Rogan's old partner Thissen, was my favorite character in the story. He shows compassion to others while also learning to be a badass from his uncle. Javan is delegated to translate for the natives they encounter and his personality comes through with each word. This translation seemed too slow for the fast paced so is dispensed with by magic in the middle of the book. The magic was never fully explained working from numerous theologies of fantasy and myth.
The villains seemed tied to a much larger world that is not explored in this book but the final confrontation has the hard-hitting action I was looking for though my craving for Rogan's revenge wasn't wholly satisfied. Meeble and the minions he recruits to his bidding provided enough of a challenge to Rogan so the protagonist could show of his extraordinary fighting abilities.
I can easily recommend this book to fans of pulp horror and fantasy mashups but would caution readers who are not fans of the genre against it. The book is short and to the point not taking much time out of my reading schedule. I can only hope the two authors team up again to continue to tell the yarn of Rogan and his vicious exploits.