“Go get the boss,” says one guardsman to another.
“This bunch looks like trouble.”
I generally avoid super hyped books for fear of disappointment, but Kings of the Wyld is definitely an exception. Who’d have thought a fantasy quest story featuring a ragtag bunch of ageing mercenaries who all have better things to do would be so engrossing?! Despite hearing nothing but rave reviews about it, I was a bit skeptical – surely it can’t be that good? But it is, my friends, it is.
Led by frontman Golden Gabe; Slowhand Clay Cooper, magician Arcandius Moog, thief Matty Skulldrummer and, all round badass, Ganelon, make up Saga: the legendary band to beat all others. In their prime, these men were unstoppable. For ten glorious years they battled monsters deep in the heart of the Wyld and drove away any threat to the peace of surrounding lands. They even killed a dragon! They were heroes. This book follows their last adventure, nineteen years after they disbanded.
” We were giants, once. Kings of the Wyld” – Golden Gabe
It is rare to read an epic fantasy that weaves diversity and humour together as well as Eames does here. All the characters are so well developed and consistent. There was never a scene where I thought, ‘hmm, I can’t believe he just did that, that doesn’t feel right!’ At its heart, this is a quest story, and offers plenty of nods to the world of Dungeons and Dragons and video games, but with tonnes of tragedy, humour and the fantastical thrown in for good measure. Honestly, we have cyclops, centaurs, goblins, spiders, giants, gorgons, druins and more! Personally, I didn’t pick up on any of the references that this is famed for, as I have never been part of the gaming/D&D world, but that did not affect my enjoyment of this novel one bit. I particularly enjoyed how all the diverse characters were considered normal and accepted. There was no extra emphasis on them as if to say ‘look at me, I’m being diverse, how clever am I’, and that is how it should be. Although the band are all male, there are still some kickass females that carry the plot forward (Larkspur, Jain, Lilith to name a few) and that was great too. I am however, looking forward to the sequel, where more strong female characters have been promised.
I liked the way stories and gossip from their notorious past followed them on their journey and we were able to glimpse the glory they enjoyed in their youth, without letting it take over their current situation. It was nice that the focus was on their task and the best way to achieve it, rather than long sections of detailed flashbacks, which could easily have been the case. Luckily, there was nothing to detract from the ‘present day’ storyline and the story flowed easily. That said, I would love a prequel following Saga in all their glory!
“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.”
This book was so refreshing. Fantasy is without doubt my favourite genre, and as such, I have read a lot of it. But I often find myself escaping into worlds where everything is dark and twisted, with little hope or light relief. This novel does have sections like that, where you really feel the despair and potential futility of their quest, but then, then there is the humour. I really enjoyed the swearing and the banter between the friends. The love between the group was evident and the joking around felt natural. Moog is one of my favourite characters, ever the optimist he was hilarious. His great lines combined with Slowhand’s dry sarcasm make for great fun.
My only qualm with Kings of the Wyld, is the ending. The majority of the book is well paced and thoroughly enjoyable. And don’t get me wrong, the ending was great, but I felt certain elements could have been improved. Obviously I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling the story for you, but I felt that after such a fantastic build up and battle that the last few scenes (before the epilogue) could have been explored a bit deeper. After all, we read the whole book in order to discover how it would conclude. It was perhaps a bit rushed as I felt it ended quite abruptly, albeit after a pretty awesome stunt by the wonderful Golden Gabe. I also would have enjoyed a bit of closure between the band at the conclusion of their tale, particularly with the object of their quest (sorry, I’m being vague on purpose, go read it!). One character falls out of the battle (ish – again, trying to avoid spoilers!) and then is only briefly referred to in the Epilogue, and it was a character I was quite invested in too so I would have enjoyed a bit more closure for them too. Also where was the character that relays the Epilogue during the battle? I did feel a bit confused as to what ultimately happened to some of the characters too, but overall I came away pretty satisfied. I’m only saddened by this as I believe the sequels will each follow a different band, so I know I won’t get the full explanation I would have liked. But still, what a fun ride! There are so many excellent things about this story but I think they are better discovered by reading it fresh with no spoilers rather than me spelling all the good parts out here.
You’re in for a treat. Packed full of interesting, funny, flawed but lovable characters, Kings of the Wyld is a truly fantastic novel. I am sad I have finished following Saga on their final quest, but so grateful that I was able to go along for the ride. (and that it got me out of my two month reading slump!) The fact I finished KotW yesterday morning and already miss the characters is the mark of a great author and I expect even greater things of Nick Eames as he continues this series. Go read it, right now!
“As individuals they were each of them fallible, discordant as notes without harmony. But as a band, they were something more, something perfect in its own intangible way.”