Kings of the Wyld
Published: February 2017
Page count: 502
Genre: Fantasy / Humor / Adventure
Plot at a Glance:
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.
As a book blogger, one tends to accumulate more books than one knows what to do with. You stop by bookstores or yard sales more often then you should. You hunt down ARCs of all the shiny new titles that haven’t even hit the shelves yet. If you’re really lucky, publishers sometimes surprise you with a book or two in the post. All of this adding and adding books to your collection ends up resulting in a backlog of titles you have every intention of reading, but struggle to find the time for.
Deciding what to read next from my many shelves of owned and unread books has been my plight since I started book blogging in earnest. But finally having read this book, I wanted to start this review by making it very, very clear right off:
I waited way too long to finally get around to reading this book!
Kings of the Wyld had absolutely everything that I look for in Fantasy: compelling and memorable characters, an engaging plotline, and wonderfully descriptive and lyrical writing that was drenched in humor that served to elevate this story from a standard fantasy adventure romp to something truly enchanting.
It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel – Eames’ narrative voice is that strong. There’s a flair for the dramatic throughout the story – not in a way that I found over-the-top – that rather lends itself very nicely to making this book an absolute page-turner from start to finish.
One thing I really loved about the experience of reading this book is Eames’ ability to craft each chapter into what felt like their own miniature stories. Each chapter follows a natural rise and fall with an opening that hooks you, the middle is the meat of the “story” for that chapter and it’s followed by an ending that feels satisfying in that characters learn something important or experience growth, and you the reader is also hooked to continue the journey via the next thread Eames’ has laid out for you to follow.
Too often fantasy can feel bloated by pointless scenes and or plotlines that just meander or end up nowhere as authors pad the page count up toward the epic proportions that publishers are looking for. Eames has carefully crafted each and every detail of this world, of his characters and even of the humor and voice he uses to convey it all to the reader – creating what was to me a truly unique experience that stands apart from the fantasy genre as one to remember.
The idea of mercenaries existing as this fantasy world’s version of actual rock stars is an incredibly fresh take on fantasy. They travel the realm, they have groupies, they have bards – the ones that survive the mayhem anyway – who sing their stories to crowds after the fighting has finished. The notion too that our heroes in this story are all aging rock stars (mercenaries) 20 years past their prime, called into action by one last noble and heroic quest brought such a huge smile to my face as it was enacted.
By the end of the story, these characters were not just characters to me: they felt like old friends.
Art from Nicholas Eames’ official website – found here. Art by Felix Ortiz
It helps too that the characters are each so strongly built. They have backstories that are unique, and cultures that are different from one another. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a gay character represented among their ranks, and such a wonderfully memorable character at that!
Fantasy involving multitudes of male characters also has the tendency to wash away or sanitize the emotional connection between the male characters. It’s really difficult to express the humanity within characters that are also the swords and shields of the realms that they live in. Eames’ was able to depict his band of mercenaries as both weapons against the darkness, but also as friends and brothers to one another. I was very pleasantly surprised to see how their connection to each other was written, and how those bonds grow over the course of the story too.
Also, I’ve just got to rave about how creative this all is. This book is pretty much steeped from page one in fantasy lore. It feels like a magical place, when characters are reminiscing about the beasts they’ve slain or facing down some new horror on their way through the Heartwyld. The first few chapters eases you into it, but before you know it you’re as surrounded by magic and mythology as the characters are.
This is helped too by the fact that the characters aren’t all generic human beings. Yes, the human mercenaries make up the main cast, but there are other fantasy races that rise up into the spotlight along the way. The Druin were a fabulous addition that I was fascinated by and can’t wait to continue to learn more about. Also, I’m just going to say it now, Gregor and Dane were such fantastically conceived characters – they might have been my favorite in the entire book.
The plot expands in similar ways along with the lore of the world. As the characters move closer to their destination, the reader is naturally exposed to more and more information that is both important to the history of the world, and serves to further the plot. There’s constant movement here from a clear beginning, through a frenetic journey, to a very satisfying conclusion.
If you’ve read any of my reviews, and you’re going to give any book I recommend a try this year, make it this one. I actually ran right out and bought the sequel, Bloody Rose, before I’d even finished this book – that’s how much I was enjoying it. Nicholas Eames has deservedly captured my attention and gained a new fan – while I’m the lucky one who has gained a new book to shelve with the rest of my favorite fantasy novels.
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 5/5 stars and a new favorite for me!
Have you read this? What did you think of it? What other fantasy tales are a must for you?