I received a free copy of Kings of the Wyld in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Nicholas Eames, Nazia, and Orbit Books.
Saga were a world famous band containing five legendary mercenaries who were feared, respected and completely admired. Bards' sang their praises, ladies wanted their babies, and children wanted to emulate them. Essentially, everyone throughout the lands of Grandual knew the tales of this crew's awe-inspiring exploits when they tackled the unbelievable dangers in the notorious Heartwyld but that was nineteen years ago…
Then, Clay Cooper receives a knock on his door from the band's ex-frontman Gabriel who looks aghast, dishevelled and like a ghost of his former self. He had approached Clay because he truly believed that there were no other options. The news which Gabriel presented to him was harrowing. The task proposed being completely preposterous. However bizarre that all seemed to Clay - his once best friend and former band mate pathetically pleaded to him, stating that "it's time to get the band back together." And so it begins…
The main positives to me in this narrative were the brilliant humour throughout which makes Kings of the Wyld a hell of a lot of fun and also the main ensemble that we follow, the way that they have been excellently crafted and their "friendly" banter. Such conversation is usually along the lines of how they have aged, are stupidly drunk, have gotten fat and occasionally the humour is just caused by certain individuals downright weirdness. Moog is the only person over the age of eight who believes in Owlbears! It isn't all humour and bags-of-laughs though, otherwise this wouldn't have made me care as much if I thought that I was following the adventures of five comedians. Every individual in the band has had more than ten lifetimes worth of horrors, confrontations, and sometimes heartbreaking moments. This juxtaposition made me really empathise with and root for these guys. perhaps even made me feel as if I was in the crew myself. Much like an 80's metal band, the individuals flaunt and worship their instruments. The Saga members each have distinctive weapons (Blackheart, Vellichor, Syrinx...) for their tours and gigs, some of which even hold legendary status and in addition, Moog the magician and my favourite character has a magical hat. He is this world's equivalent of a keyboard player after all. ;) Do not get confused though. Saga do not get up on stage and play amazingly atmospheric renditions of November Rain. Tours and gigs in this world usually mean destroying monsters or almighty foes for a fee.
This is a fast-paced, excellently written, and extremely enjoyable fantasy story. I will go so far to say that it could even be some fantasy book readers wet dream especially with the amounts of monsters, mythological creatures and races presented here. At some points, it was as if I was reading a Final Fantasy game, including Skyships! Truth be told, this isn't recreating the genre or pushing it in extravagant new directions by any means, but imagine this if you will. Eames is a crazy fantasy writing chef. He has a pot preparing a meal/book over his self-made fire in a Heartwyld-like forested area where he plans to rest beneath the stars for the evening after he creates and then eats some grub. He enthusiastically throws in his favourite genre influences and then some unfamiliar bizarre fantasy elements into this metaphorical mix, stirs it up with the good characters, spices it with the humour, and throws extra obscure ingredients in that he finds lurking around and befitting his taste (a talking doorknob anyone?) Perhaps this composed mixture shouldn't work but fortunately, it really does. That being said, for someone brand new to the genre, I would say that this isn't the best place to start and that isn't a negative; I just think Kings of the Wyld wouldn't be fully appreciated by that person yet.
A few final points: To begin with I believed that the whole band terminology usage here would get slightly annoying but it stayed on the right side of awesome and was original. The finale was excellent but I think it ended perhaps a bit too promptly and could have been fleshed out to focus slightly more on characters feelings following the conclusion rather than just the outcome itself. The pacing throughout the whole story was excellent with shortish, action packed chapters that gave me the "just one more chapter" buzz. In addition, I thought I would point out that there are some very cool and strong women characters in this book as I haven't mentioned them so far. This book is a complete standalone so if you are a reader who has to have all six books about before beginning them then do not worry. The world here is huge and the map is beautiful. The Band #2 when it is released will throw more adventures our way in this realm but who knows if it will be Saga we follow or a new up and coming band many generations later.
Like my pal, Peter Tr at Booknest stated, this could very well be the debut of the year. If I hadn't read Ed McDonald's Blackwing already then I would agree now. Both are brilliant, both taking completely different directions with the stories they wish to present and of course, it isn't a contest, it just shows avid readers and fans like me that the fantasy scene is in excellent hands with these great new authors.
Below is a quote from the book:
“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.”
Nicholas Eames, Kings of the Wyld
Review by James Tivendale
Andrey from Russia
The impression is really mixed. The book starts out pretty well, with a good bit of dark humor and a seemingly impossible quest laid out before the main characters. It really amused me, how they overcome everything thrown at them, being not so young and physically fit, Just like in Duma's "Twenty years after". The main characters are fleshed out pretty well, with their thoughts and emotions written out so that you believe them, they feel natural. What I expected from a good narrative for an impossible task is that their "quest" setup may gradually change, stray from the original direction or even turn around up to 180 degrees in reverse. E.g. maybe the baddies are not that bad, and the goodies have their own agenda, keeping the main characters in the dark, or the approach to the task has to be changed completely,,, Their adventures evolve somehow, staying believable, without sudden improbable events and miraculous "salvations at the last moment". However, roughly the second half or last third of the book becomes a snowball of disappointing events where you know that every now and then, when things go south for the heroes, something weird will happen and save the day or a person will make a strange decision, its motive not explained. The world setting ends up an incoherent patchwork that you don't really want to return to, i.e. I decided not to read a (kind of) sequel "Bloody Rose"...
7.4/10 from 2 reviews