Review: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Kings of the Wyld
Written by Nicholas Eames

Published: February 21, 2017

Publisher: Orbit

Series: The Band

Fantasy & Science-Fiction | Action Adventure

A retired group of legendary mercenaries sets off on one last impossible mission.

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best, the most feared and renowned 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 — 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.

I was really excited to read this book from the moment I saw it in stores. The concept just sounded incredible: former heroes, reliving the days of their youth, and seeing just what happened after their adventuring days came to an end.

It’s rare that fantasy remembers the heroes that live past the happily ever after, and those that do are often there just to train the next generation of Chosen Ones before dying in a terrible heroic fashion before the halfway point.

Giving them their own adventure? Now that’s interesting.

The story is fairly straightforward: the former leader of the Kings of the Wyld, a once legendary band of mercenaries, appears at the door of his former bandmate, Clay Cooper, with a desperate request. His daughter is trapped, under siege in a castle far across the land, surrounded by terrible monsters, without any hope of escape. And he needs help to save her.

Like the book says, “it’s time to get the band back together”. And that’s how we’ll spend about half of the story: going from place to place, slowly finding the different members of the band wherever their fortunes have taken them, and convincing them to join this suicidal mission.

The story is probably the weakest element of the book. The premise is solid, but the story itself doesn’t evolve far beyond this initial call to action. New obstacles and enemies are introduced, but the majority of the story involves the protagonists walking around the country. Even when the band is reunited, there is still a long journey ahead, and the stakes are never quite raised beyond that first point.

Luckily for the reader, the characters are what make this story truly incredible.

From the rogue-turned-king who desperately wants out of his royal prison to the scatterbrained wizard who almost always remembers what trick he has up his sleeve, Kings of the Wyld has an incredible cast of characters.

Eames clearly put a lot of thought and effort into each and every character the band encounters. From thieves and rivals, to queens, and beggars, the author has created backstories and motivations for each and every one of them. Even the briefest side characters feel fleshed out and important, as if they had their own stories elsewhere and were simply passing through.

It’s the band itself where this dedication to characterization really shines. These guys are the real heart of this novel, and Eames knows how to use them to their best effect.

The story becomes richer and more enjoyable as each member of the band reappears, treating each other with the kind of long worn exasperation that comes from being friends for years and years and years; constantly trading jibes and snaps, but also willing to step between them and a charging minotaur without a second’s thought.

It’s fascinating to see what became of each of the characters after the band split up years ago. The sense that the band still has work to do, work that they can only truly accomplish together, is woven into the story beautifully.

It becomes a very heartfelt novel, not just regarding a father’s desperate, impossible search for a way to rescue his daughter against all odds, but about a makeshift family – a true band of brothers – finding each other long past their glory and youth to find that the friendships that formed between them were not only real, but lasting.

It’s easy to see how Kings of the Wyld has been compared to a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and in the best of ways. The majority of the fun and excitement comes from the characters and their – often unexpected – reactions to events and obstacles as they fight their way towards their goal.

Despite my criticism towards the storyline, I still enjoyed this story very much. The setting was interesting, the characters entertaining, and the humor hit on almost every note. If you enjoy fantasy with a mix of references, dry wit, and deadpan delivery, I promise that you will most certainly enjoy this book.

Kings of the Wyld also has a sequel, Bloody Rose, which came out in 2018. I’ll be getting to that one soon!

Definitely my kind of book. Anyone who loves fantasy, tropes, and making fun of fantasy tropes with some great humor and wit will love this book.

Thanks so much for reading everyone!

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