What’s the difference between a band of heroes and a band of musical superstars? Not much in Kings of the Wyld, Nicholas Eames’ rocking epic about a bunch of has-been heroes reuniting for one last adventure. Along the way, they’ll booze it up, brawl with monsters and the law, trash a couple of venues, and somehow save the world while they’re at it.
Kings introduces us to Clay “Slow Hand” Cooper, a former superstar of the defunct mercenary band, Saga. Clay has settled down with a wife and started a happy, peaceful life that’s interrupted when Saga’s front man, Gabe, shows up and begs Clay to help reunite the old crew. Gabe’s daughter is half a world away, across a deadly forest, trapped in a city besieged by a horde of angry monsters. It’d be a short book if Clay couldn’t be convinced to join up, and sure enough Clay and Gabe and several memorable bandmates are carving a swath of destruction across the land.
That destruction includes wrecking hotels and party buses-er-airships, in two of many clever comparisons between Saga and your favorite rock band of the eighties or nineties. The humor doesn’t stop there; there are great pop-culture shout outs and fantasy references throughout the book. I found myself laughing Yet the story isn’t silly; in many ways it’s more grown up than most of the comedic fantasy you’ve read; it’s got a little more swagger, a lot more swearing, and more violence than a mosh pit full of Juggalos. It also pulls off some sick riffs on the heartstrings, and delivers an emotional gut punch or two as well.
There were a couple of sour notes. For one thing, the author has said on Goodreads that he could represent female characters better; I’ll agree with him and leave it at that. I also scratched my head at the unexplored theme of injustice against the Fae and monsters. More than once Eames shows that the creatures arrayed against humanity may be redeemable, or at least as redeemable as the humans. It makes Clay and his fellow heroes wonder if it’s right to kill them after all. And then they do kill the fae, in graphic fashion, and never think of it again. It’s struck me as analogous to hosting a debate on the ethical and environmental wrongs of factory farming at a massive barbeque. Neither one is inherently bad; I think we should consider the repercussions of our diet, and Lord knows I love pulled pork, but I wouldn’t schedule them both in the same party. It could be that the author intended this change of heart (or lack thereof) to be part of the joke, but I missed it. I’m hoping that it’s a loose thread that Eames will explore in the later books.
And I will be picking up the later books. Because all nitpicking aside, Kings of the Wyld is a fun, heartfelt, exciting adventure that brought me back to rolling dice and eating pizza while Metallica played in the background. I absolutely recommend it to fantasy fans everywhere.
- Plot: 8/10
- Characters: 10/10
- Setting: 9/10
- Writing: 8/10
- Personal Enjoyment: 10/10
Final Verdict: Kings of the Wyld plugs into everything you love about fantasy and cranks the dial up all the way. 5/5 Stars
One more note: I can’t review Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld without mentioning how I found out about it: my fans kept comparing Orconomics to it in reviews and twitter posts. Now that I’ve read (er, listened to) the book, I can confirm what my readers were already telling me: it’s a huge compliment, and one I’m honored by. If you’re wondering how they compare, I would say Kings of the Wyld is more action-packed, more appropriate for mature audiences (especially the language and graphic violence), and focuses more on themes of friendship and trust. Orconomics is more satirical, more silly, and focuses more on themes of systemic injustice. That’s just my assessment. If you’ve read both books, I’d love to see your thoughts on the comparison in the comments.
2 thoughts on “Review: Kings of the Wyld”
Excellent review. It’s funny, but I thought I heard about Kings of the Wyld from you. Apparently, it was just from commenters/reviewers of your work?
I really enjoyed it. And I agree with what you said here, though I struggle to compare it with Orconomics. Note that I think your books are special… well, for many reasons, but especially because of those themes of systemic injustice. Keep it up!
PS. I just read Redemption’s Blade by Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the excellent Dogs of War,, mostly because of the idea behind it. The book starts after a terrible war is already over – the war against a cruel demigod, which destroyed pretty much everything. Now, how do they rebuild?
This book begins where most such fantasy novels end. And yes, I’m a sucker for this kind of theme. Even in computer games, I prefer building over destroying. (Admittedly, there isn’t much building in this book. It’s basically a quest story.)
At first, I was disappointed that this was fantasy rather than science fiction. But Tchaikovsky arranges it so that magic can’t solve everything – or even very much. The gods are cut off from humanity, so now it’s down to people doing what they can, despite their mutual distrust (not just old enmities showing up again, but feelings about the remnants of the Kinslayer’s armies).
The characters seem very real in some ways (admittedly, not real at all in others, unless you just accept fantasy tropes). And one of the themes is getting along with people who are very, very different from you.
The book is complete in itself, but also the first in a planned series. As I say, this was basically a quest story. We see a lot of places and meet people who are trying to rebuild, but I really hope that we’ll see progress with that as the series continues. Are they making a difference?
In computer games, I’ve always been disappointed, because I never see my character making a difference. In Oblivion, he was the “Hero of Kvatch” quite early on. But throughout the game, whenever I returned to Kvatch, it remained the same smoking, burned-out city ruin it was when I first saw it. And the remaining townspeople stayed camped out on the road, doing nothing at all to start rebuilding. Very disappointing!
Oh, well, enough rambling. Sorry. Obviously, you don’t want to get me started, huh? 🙂