Kings of the Wyld

I've been meaning to read Nicholas Eames' King of the Wyld for quite a while. Given all the rave reviews and the fact that it's supposed to be the kind of book Terry Pratchett and Joe Abercrombie would have written if they had ever collaborated on a project, my curiosity was piqued in earnest.

Based on all the praise it has garnered, some readers might have lofty expectations that this novel simply cannot live up to. Kings of the Wyld is not a work akin to George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, or Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World, or any other work of speculative fiction that turned out to be a game-changer. However, it is the most fun you'll have reading this year. And that's worth a whole lot!

So just buckle up and enjoy the ride, for Kings of the Wyld is a real treat!

Here's the blurb:

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best -- the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk - or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay's door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It's time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

The worldbuilding is nothing special and can be decidedly generic at times. Most of the elements have been seen and done before, over and over again. Pretty much all the tropes are present. In essence, the plot often felt like an Advance Dungeons and Dragons campaign being played out. But à la Abercrombie, the author enjoys subverting said tropes and play with readers' expectations. Hence, he has a number of surprises up his sleeve. Nicholas Eames doesn't take himself too seriously, which is why Kings of the Wyld is so much fun to read. For example, the meanest badass antagonist has bunny ears. And the fact that mercenary bands are idolized like rockstars gave this novel its unique flavor. As is the case with music today, with so many people complaining that it's not as good and authentic as music from the 70s, 80s, or 90s, the new mercenary companies of Eames' universe are competing against one another to live up to and ultimately outshine the bands from the past. I believe that if you grew up listening to heavy metal and hard rock, this book might speak to you even more. It sure did for me! It's hard to put a label on such a work, for one minute it's moody grimdark and the other it's laugh-out-loud hilarious.

The characterization was by far my favorite facet of this novel. Nicholas Eames truly knocked it out of the park in that regard. Like the members of Twister Sister and Judas Priest, the men who comprised the legendary mercenary band Saga are way past their prime and are only poor shadows of the powerful figures they once were. Other than Ganelon, who spent the last decades frozen in time, Clay Cooper, Mattrick Skulldrummer, Arcandius Moog, and “Golden Gabe” Gabriel have seen better days. All are flawed, yet extremely endearing characters. And when Gabe's daughter finds herself in a siege and her life is in danger, the man somehow manages to get the band together for one last quest. The only perspective of Kings of the Wyld is that of Clay Cooper, and a more entertaining narrator I haven't encountered since Abercrombie's Sand dan Glokta. The most even-keeled member of Saga, I just loved his cynical and the-glass-is-half-empty kind of outlook on life. He definitely was the best choice of POV for this novel. Every band member has his moments, which makes for a nearly perfect balance between the protagonists. Furthermore, the supporting cast is made up of a panoply of engaging men and women, from Clay's wife Ginny, to badass Larkspur, to super villain Lastleaf, to Jain and the Silk Arrows.

If realism is important to you as a reader, then perhaps Nicholas Eames' debut may not be for you. This is a fantasy story that hearkens back to the popular quest books from the 80s and early 90s. True, there are grimdark elements meant to spice things up and the dialogue is more contemporary, but essentially the characters surmount seemingly impossible odds without getting killed and somehow find a way to come out on top at the end. It doesn't always make sense, but it is a hell of a ride nonetheless.

In terms of rhythm, there are a few rough patches in the middle portion of the book. Indeed, certain chapters serve little purpose other than having the proverbial shit go down the crapper and send our cast on another misadventure where they'll have to pull through and survive another ordeal to get them one step closer to their objective. But for the most part, the pace is fluid and I definitely ended up breezing through this book.

Truth be told, I haven't had this much fun reading in many a year. Eames' Kings of the Wyld really scratched an itch I wasn't even aware I had, and I went through this novel in record time. Trouble is, I doubt that this same recipe can work a second time around. It will be interesting to see if the author can do it again in the sequel, Bloody Rose. But if he can, this is an auspicious beginning that could see Nicholas Eames ultimately rank right up there with Scott Lynch and Joe Abercrombie.

If you are looking for a lighter and hilarious read, look no further. Nicholas Eames' Kings of the Wyld is just what the doctor ordered.

Fun, entertaining, action-packed, and at times touching; that's Kings of the Wyld in a nutshell.

Highly recommended.

The final verdict: 8/10

For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

2 commentaires:

Nick Borrelli said...

Great review as always Pat. I have tried to read this book on a number of occasions and I just can't seem to get that far into it. Probably because I'm just not a huge fan of humorous Fantasy and never have been really. I thought that the few chapters that I did read were well-written and the characters were cool, but the humorous aspect of the dialogue just kind of turned me off. I fully acknowledge that these books have definitely made their mark and have tons of fans, but they are just not for me unfortunately. I guess that's why we all have different tastes. But I wish Nicholas Eames well and hope he sells lots of books!

Rob said...

Your review was pretty much the way I felt about it. Nothing too serious and definitely a D&D campaign with the heavy use of the monster manual, especially earlier in the book. I enjoyed the characters, the banter, the tone. Just pure fun. It was perfect for my vacation a few weeks back.

Also, if you didn't know, there is an official Spotify playlist associated with the book!

Soundtrack broken down by chapter.