“Please,” he prayed to whichever of Grandual’s gods was in charge of killing people at random with the corpses of chimeras, “grant me this one…fucking…thing.”
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames is a fantasy novel. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy it. Buy. It. Buy it.
What it’s about
Groups of adventurers – or “bands” – are the biggest celebrities in the world. And no band was bigger and badder than Saga, but it broke up years ago. Now, the daughter of Saga’s frontman is in danger, and it’s time to put the band back together for one last adventure.
What is it like?
My first impression of this book was wrong. You know the expression “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? You really shouldn’t in this case. I thought this was going to be some hardcore, super bloody, depressing book about some barbarian viking tribe.
Nope. It’s an epic adventure story in which some dudes get together to go rescue somebody. There is a lot of action, but it’s also really funny.* It feels like a mix of This is Spinal Tap!, Blues Brothers, The First Law Trilogy, The Lies of Locke Lamora, and playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons with your best friends from high school that you haven’t seen in a long time.
Should you read it?
There are no prerequisites to reading this book. It’s the first of a series, so anyone can pick it up and have a good time. However, readers that have experience with (1) Dungeons and Dragons (2) fantasy literature (3) rock bands or (4) getting old might appreciate it more. There are a LOT of references and Easter eggs for fans of fantasy and rock music, including quotes from other popular fantasy novels (like Game of Thrones and The Blade Itself) and references to some of the more obscure critters in the D&D Monster Manual.
It’s sort of like Stranger Things. To enjoy that show, it’s not NECESSARY to be familiar with all of the King or Spielberg source material, but viewers with that knowledge might get more out of it.
Why do you think it’s a good book?
The prose is easy-to-read-but-also-pretty. The action is well-plotted and easy to follow. There is never a dull moment, with the characters getting out of one scrape just to find themselves in another.
And this book has some terrific characters – the main POV character and the rest of Saga are flat out terrific. I could describe them, but I’m not gonna do better than the book itself.
Among them is a renegade king, he who sired five royal heirs without ever unzipping his pants. A man to whom time has imparted great wisdom and an even greater waistline, whose thoughtless courage is rivalled only by his unquenchable thirst.
At his shoulder walks a sorcerer, a cosmic conversationalist. Enemy of the incurable rot, absent chairman of combustive sciences at the university in Oddsford, and the only living soul above the age of eight to believe in owlbears.
Look here at a warrior born, a scion of power and poverty whose purpose is manifold: to shatter shackles, to murder monarchs, and to demonstrate that even the forces of good must sometimes enlist the service of big, bad motherfuckers. His is an ancient soul destined to die young.
And now comes the quiet one, the gentle giant, he who fights his battles with a shield. Stout as the tree that counts its age in aeons, constant as the star that marks true north and shines most brightly on the darkest nights.
A step ahead of these four: our hero. He is the candle burnt down to the stump, the cutting blade grown dull with overuse. But see now the spark in his stride. Behold the glint of steel in his gaze. Who dares to stand between a man such as this and that which he holds dear? He will kill, if he must, to protect it. He will die, if that is what it takes.
“Go get the boss,” says one guardsman to another. “This bunch looks like trouble.”
And they do. They do look like trouble, at least until the wizard trips on the hem of his robe. He stumbles, cursing, and fouls the steps of the others as he falls face-first onto the mud-slick hillside.
But the book is not just full of action-y stuff involving one-dimensional flat character archetypes battling against nefarious evil. Each of the members of Saga has a character arc, as does Saga overall. Themes of friendship, aging, a changing world, losing an edge, fame, glory, and family are explored.
It’s not just the heroes that shine. The villains, the world, the humor, the vibe, every single thing about this book thrilled me. I am eagerly anticipating the sequel to this one. If you are a fan of fantasy stuff, you really have to buy this. It should be part of the New Fantasy Canon along with Martin, Rothfuss, and Lynch.
My rating: 5 stars
*Don’t believe the reviews that say “It’s a mix of blah blah blah and Terry Pratchett.” It’s not. I think those reviewers read this book and say “It’s a funny fantasy….Terry Pratchett!” What those reviewers fail to consider is that there are different styles of humor. Terry Pratchett books are funny and good, but they have a very specific kind of silly humor. This book is funny, but its humor is grounded in callbacks and sarcasm, anachronisms and references. The situational humor is more grounded and realistic. Don’t buy this expecting Terry Pratchett, is what I’m saying. It’s different.