Kings of the Wyld (The Band #1) by Nicholas Eames
Published by Orbit
Release Date : February 21st 2017
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.
“This is not a choice between life and death, but life and immortality! Remain here and die in obscurity, or follow me now and live forever!”
Kings of the Wyld is a grim dark fantasy inspired by the wild rock n roll 80s era bands, like Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, Queen, etc. Replace the musicians with mercenaries and instead of stadiums with screaming fans replace it with roaring spectators thirsting for blood spill. Instead of touring from city to city, they tour the Wyld, a place where mercenaries test their abilities against nature, cannibals, monsters, devils, and any other creature under the sun; bringing home spoils from their tour to parade them around town. Reading this book it feels like a love letter to those bands which songs you just put on repeat and adore so much you’d go to any of their gig if they were ever in town; until one day, when you think they’re at their peak of their prime, maybe one of the members went solo and the rest trickled off, one by one, going their separate ways. While you, heartbroken, hope that one day they might reunite for one last tour.
We start off the story following Clay “Slowhand” Cooper, a member of the most renown band in all of Grandual, Saga, but now they separated and have grown old. Everyone knew who Saga were, some would relish at the thought of being that famous but for Clay he only wanted a simple life after the band separated. He distanced himself from his old life, took up a job as a watchman by day and come home to his wife and daughter when the sun would set. Until his old friend, Gabriel, also a member of Saga, came knocking at his door with a deadly proposition : to get the band back together, crossing the most dangerous place, the Heartwyld, and saving his only daughter, Rose, from danger. This premise alone won me over, with every page of this book you feel a mix of emotions, ranging from grinning and laughing like an idiot to shedding tears of both happiness and sadness. A rollicking adventure of old friends reuniting and reminiscing on their past glory days as they band together one last time reigniting a spark that was long lost with time.
“We were giants once, remember? Kings of the Wyld.”
I was truly blown away by Nicholas Eames debut work. Kings of the Wyld is probably the best debut book by an author I’ve read. The world building is thoughtful and intricate that I was thoroughly impressed by how well the world manifested in the pages. Each place the band visited has its own character and history with the band; from the mud ridden law less streets of Conthas to the big city of Fivecourt and its giant floating arena called the Maxithon. The places they visited had its share of memories that came with it, I loved reading the times when Clay and the band started reminiscing of the things they’ve done and the people they’ve met during their tour.
In this book there is no defined magic system, the narrative heavily relies on martial combat. The only time magic is mentioned is when Moog (the wizard of the band) does his tricks. This book contains many combat scenes that are well written, Nicholas Eames describes each scene in great detail. I can imagine everything that happens even during a large battle scene with multiple characters. I usually get lost in large battle scenes in other books but I find the battles here as streamlined. Nicholas Eames definitely does not disappoint in this regard. The author even slipped in a few comedic moments which I enjoyed A LOT. For avid fantasy fans that enjoy an epic battle, these comedic jabs could be a turn off as it shifts the mood. I loved these moments regardless though. These comedic moments also extends in many ways throughout the book.
“A pinecone?” “Ha! Can you imagine? All this at stake and I give you a pinecone?” Moog’s cackle died in silence, and everyone simply stared until he went on. “Okay, yes, it’s a pinecone. But it’s a magic pinecone.”
I had my eye on this book since I started watching adult SFF booktubers. This particular book caught my eye as one booktuber said that Kings of the Wyld is built like a D&D campaign and in fact, after reading it, it is built like one. I am a fan of D&D, eventhough I never actually played, I’ve been watching Critical Role for over a year now that I understand the game fully without ever having playing it. The elements I loved from a typical D&D campaign are present in this book such as a thrilling adventure and ridiculous strategies the players come up with to succeed a mission. Moog, the wizard in Saga, comes up with the most ridiculous plans. I don’t know how many times I laughed at the sheer chaos of events that happened after Moog says “It’s risky though”. My favorite would have to be the one involving a mirror and certain potion.
One other element that I crave from a good campaign are a cast of characters that are lovable and diverse. Each one having their own contribution into the progress of the story.
In Kings of the Wyld the characters are all a standout, each of them are different in their own way even the side characters. The main focus of the story is of course, Saga, but you can’t help but grow attached to every character that the band meets in their journey. I adore a certain thief turned mercenary named Jain in the book. She is the wackiest character they stumbled upon. Not to mention, the running joke in the book turned ironic after the band met Kit the bard. His pure existence is entertaining and I’m glad the author created this character.
What I love most about Saga is their bond. The bond between each member was strong throughout the book even after they split and reunited. They picked up where they left off like the years had never even passed. I love stories like Kings of the Wyld that have relationships as a core that drives story forward. The impossible wouldn’t have been done if it weren’t for their brotherhood, loyalty, and trust for each other. The author wrote the most beautiful scene before the last big battle happened, a private moment between the Saga members that displays how much love they have for each other. You can’t help but feel that same love they have as you read.
Funny enough this book is not written in multiple POV’s but I could easily grasp what each character is like from Clay’s POV alone. It seems that Clay knows more about his friends more than he thinks. Which is why he is my favorite Saga member.
“Ganelon sighed, “Slowhand…”
“Never again,” Clay said. “Where you stand, I stand.”
Clay “Slowhand” Cooper is the first of the Saga members that Gabriel recruited. He has known Clay longer than any other member so he trusts Clay’s judgment on everything. Clay, though reluctant at first, agreed to Gabriel’s proposition to save his daughter because it is the right thing to do. I love that! He has all the reasons to say no to Gabriel but he helps him. The moment that made him agree to help Gabriel is the most heart warming moment in the book. I shed a few tears reading it. I adore Slowhand, even under his large intimidating exterior, deep down he is a kind man that would support his friends. In battle he became the shield for his friends using Blackheart (his shield) covering any blind spots and supporting everyone the best he could.
I want to praise one other character and that’s Golden Gabe or Gabriel. His speech before the battle made me cry SO HARD. I felt it deep in my being when I read his lines. He is a character that grew a lot in this book. He was broken man when I started reading this book but by the end, he became the man that he was, a confident and righteous fighter that didn’t give up no matter how hard the world is. I felt how much he loves Rose and I want to praise the author on how well he wrote Gabriel’s story. I cried SOO HARD (AGAIN)!
I highly recommend reading this book if you’re up for a fast paced adventure with a set of lovable characters. It is an entertaining and action packed book that any fan of SFF should read. Nicholas Eames will certainly be on my list of favorite authors. His debut work is one of the strongest and I have high hopes for his future works. I will certainly pick up his sequel “Bloody Rose” which centers more on Rose and her band that we only got a glimpse of in this book.