The Bastard from Fairyland (The Knights’ Protocol #1) – Phil Parker
I received a copy of this book as part of the TBRindr programme.
346 pages| Self-published| Fantasy
3.5/5 (rounded to 4 on Goodreads and Amazon). I enjoyed the book a lot but there are a fair few issues, too.
Heads up: MM romance, brutal violence, rape scene(s).
The digest: an entertaining Arthurian-inspired grim fantasy novel with realistic, bloody violence, a diverse range of characters, and a wealth of Fae politics thrown in for good measure. It’s splendidly brutal.
As followers of my reviews might know by now, if I enjoy reading the book, I like to start by pointing out the flaws it had before finishing on the good parts. This novel is no different.
From the novel’s Goodreads page:
“He’s Robin Goodfellow to those he knows. Puck to those he’ll kill. He’s lived among humans for centuries, they think he’s a demon. The teenagers he’s forced to protect, despise him.
The Fae may have banished him, to live among humanity where isolation has made him bitter, where he’s been persecuted because of his sexuality. But now they want him back. They’ve declared war on the humans and Robin is vital to their success, so long as he’s prepared to release Puck.
The Bastard from Fairyland is a dark, urban fantasy. It’s where A Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Game of Thrones.”
The book follows three first-person perspectives, Robin (an exiled ex-warrior of the Fae), Keir (a Fae servant), and Filidea (a Fae princess) through three storylines which ultimately come together in the last 100 pages or so. The first main issue I had with The Bastard from Fairyland is how similar these three voices are – every time the perspective changed it took me a page or so of being confused before I finally realised who we were now following. There are nuances between the characters and their different settings are more than enough to mark out who is now speaking after a while, but the author could make this clearer by giving each character a much individual way of thinking or speaking. This is by no means awful, but it is definitely distracting and could possibly be fixed by something as simple as labelling each new chapter with the POV character’s name.
As with the warning above, there is one scene revolving around the rape of a young person as well as the mention of one other rape. It is the presence of the former that irks me a bit – I read for entertainment and perhaps I’m just a bit soft, but I don’t think that a ‘live’ description is necessary in order to convey the horror of the events unfolding. Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t subjected to a precise description of everything that happens, but I felt needlessly uncomfortable with this one scene. In contrast, I felt that the reaction of this character was a bit lax when it came to after the event – if an author presents us with such a brutal scene then I think there should be more of an obvious effect on the victim in the aftermath (especially when it doesn’t seem to add anything to the plot itself).
The off-screen (as it were) assault I think was handled much better. The impact of the attack has had a lasting effect on the victim, and the disgust and fury of other characters is also clear – I personally would have had two ‘off-screen’ scenes if they were needed for the plot.
In terms of what was a bit ‘meh’…
- The editing of the book. It isn’t great and there are a fair few typos and grammatical issues (repeating certain words too often in a short space being the worst offender), but it is nothing more than an annoyance. I have seen a review who claimed that the novel is unreadable and honestly, I haven’t a clue what the guy is on about. There will always be more errors in self-published (or indie-published) works than from the traditional publishing houses, and The Bastard from Fairyland is pretty on a par with most others I have read.
- There is clearly a lot of backstory for all of the characters involved and I felt like this area was a bit too underdeveloped. The Bastard from Fairyland is, of course, the first book in a trilogy and I don’t expect all the answers straight away but when comparing the novel to one by more experienced authors (e.g. Rob J. Hayes’ City of Kings) there is a marked difference in how the storytelling takes place. The backstory could be conveyed in full in later books but as an entry on its own, I was a bit disappointed as Parker clearly has such a well-thought-out series of events that took place before the events of the novel.
- Apart from Robin, the other characters didn’t feel all that well developed. I’m not expecting huge character arcs for everyone, but a few of the cast here did feel a bit too much like baggage being carried around. This is not unheard of in the first novels of trilogies but as a standalone, I wouldn’t say I was impressed in this area.
So then, what did I like?
- There is a solid amount of world-building going on in The Bastard from Fairyland, with Parker creating his own reality for the Fae with both a Light and a Dark Court, lots of politicking between the rulers of said courts, and a wealth of history about the war between the humans and the Fae. Most of the novel is set in our world, with the author taking inspiration from South West England (Bristol area most often), using key landmarks as places of power. I thoroughly enjoyed this mixture of purely fictional spaces with fully real ones – and the latter is kept brief enough as to not put off readers unfamiliar with the area whilst at the same time providing a useful map of sorts for those who do.
- Most of the politics at play revolve around two main issues: the desire from elements of the Dark Court to once again wage war against humanity (the Fae pretty much destroyed the humans last time), and the issue of Fae infertility. I’ll say no more as to keep the story interesting for those who pick up the book, but if you’re after a bit of court intrigue you won’t be disappointed here.
- Along with this sense of politics, there is also a clearly defined hierarchy within the Fae world which effects each of the three perspectives involved to varying degrees. But that doesn’t mean that Filidea has it easy – she has her own issues to deal with, and in fact sees the least action out of our three protagonists due to this. Robin is exiled to the human realm, failing in his duty to uphold and protect the Knights Protocol (basically two kids who hold the power to fight back against the Fae, very Arthurian-inspired) along with other characters with varying levels of magical ability. There’s a good sense of animosity towards fairies in the human world, the hostility effecting how Robin and his companions set out to achieve their ideals.
- I’m a fan of gruesome violence in books and The Bastard from Fairyland did not disappoint me here. It’s visceral, bloody, and detailed. This might put some readers off and that is perfectly okay, but for those of us who like our Game of Thrones battle scenes and grimdark murders then this is perfect. Not only are we presented with Robin himself as a trained elite warrior (Trooper), but his barely-controllable unconscious partner, Puck. Puck is, to all intents and purposes, the perfect killing mechanism, meaning that Robin doesn’t let him out unless he absolutely needs to.
- There are other aspects which I also thoroughly enjoyed – magical creatures play a vital part in the novel and (I hope) become a core component in other books from The Knights’ Protocol. The relationships between characters is also well-done, though I think those between Robin and his two most important companions are the best (one of whom is Robin’s ex-boyfriend Oisin – a handsome Fae in a whole world of trouble I won’t talk about for fear of spoilers). Add on top of this a good cast of supporting characters including war-lords, generals, and unkillable assassins and you really are set for a good time.
- There is also diversity across the different characters. We have heterosexual and homosexual representation, strong female characters, and some representation of ethnic minorities and the struggles these people face. It’s a lot better in this respect than many other books that I have read.
3.5/5 means that I enjoyed reading the novel but there were a fair few issues preventing me from being able to recommend it to everyone. It’s a solid story with a lot of promise for what is to come, and if you can get over the odd character development and perspective issues then I reckon fantasy fans will have a great time.