Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: The Band (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Comedy
Pages: 528 pages (UK paperback edition)
Published: 23rd February, 2017 by Orbit (UK) & 21st February, 2017 by Orbit (US)
Every avid fantasy reader, pay attention and let me do you a favor. Make sure you read this book no matter what. As of now, I’m calling Kings of the Wyld one of the best fantasy debuts of all time.
Imagine this: legendary rock bands that have disbanded, such as The Beatles, Led Zeppelin or Nirvana, come back for one more tour. Now replace the rock bands and concerts with mercenary bands and killing monsters. I won’t go into any details on the music allusions, but it’s ubiquitous throughout the whole book and you should experience it yourself; but in my opinion, they’re a Joy To the World of fantasy.
Clay Cooper and his Band, Saga (The Kings of the Wyld) were once the greatest of the greatest mercenary Bands, but now the members have separated and grown old, fat, drunk or a combination of the three. Until one day, one of Clay’s band mates, Gabriel, came asking for help with an incredibly dangerous quest that will require the Band getting back together for one more tour across the Heartwyld, a gigantic forest filled with a plethora of monsters, beasts, and many other deadly sentient beings.
KotW is a rollicking adventure that managed to raise within me a variety of emotions ranging from happiness to poignancy. It’s a rarity to read a novel that makes me grin like a fool throughout the whole book while also making me tense within those same pages. You should know though that despite the book being very humorous with its pun and dark humor, it shouldn’t be viewed as a complete comedy since Nick knows how to shifts your emotions swiftly. One moment you’re smiling or laughing, but before you realize it, you’ll be holding your breath or on the brink of tears. It’s safe to say that I’m genuinely pleased by the storyline itself since Nicholas (or Nick) has crafted a splendid hybrid between epic fantasy and Grimdark, resulting in a superlative blend of marvelous action sequences, hilarious humor, and heartfelt scenes.
How did he achieve this marvelous result? With an impressive combination of lovable characters, gripping actions, intricate world-building and well-polished prose.
Every character in the book, whether it’s the five members of Saga or the side characters, managed to make me really care about their fate and circumstances, and did all within the span of a single book. They are unique, lovable, believable, and compelling to read. The witty banter between these characters, their puns and random behaviors never failed to entertain me. However, when it comes down to it, what made me really attached to Saga was their brotherhood, friendship, loyalty and familial love. Like a vacation or road trip you take with your best friends who will always wait for you, every time I took a break from reading it, I found myself compelled to pick it back up again to continue my tour with the Band.
“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”
If I have to choose one favorite (IF, okay?), it will have to be the main character, Clay Cooper. Reluctant heroes have always been one of my favorite protagonist tropes in any kind of story. Clay Cooper falls to this category perfectly and it’s why he’s my favorite character of the book; heck, he’s even included into my personal list of my favorite book protagonists. I love how these type of characters, despite their reluctance and circumstances, are willing to do what’s right, either out of friendship or conviction.
Picture: Clay Cooper Charges the Rasks by Felix Ortiz
Have I mentioned that there are a lot of great action sequences in the book? Every action scene is intriguing, dynamic and engaging. The buildup to the climax, in particular, is fantastic to say the least. However, this build-up leads me to believe that the climax could have been better if it had received more pages. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still amazing, but it definitely could have been even better with more exposition because the buildup to and the setting of the climax was so gripping, well written, and unexpectedly epic.
Picture: Lastleaf and Ashatan by Felix Ortiz
If you’ve been following the frequency of my reviews and updates, you should know by now that gaming is one of my biggest passions. Imagine my happiness upon finding out that there’s actually a myriad of video game elements infused into the world-building. Music allusions aside, I envisioned the world that Nick created as a stunning mix of epic fantasy and Role Playing Games. Skyships, legendary swords, lots and lots of beasts and mythological creatures such as Chimera, Wyverns, Dragons, Golems, and many more elements that can be found in mythologies and RPG are all here. There’s even a character named Firaga, which is the name of the highest fire magic tier in the beloved Final Fantasy series. As a great bonus, Nick even implements the popular gaming reference “the cake is a lie” from Portal into the book perfectly and my nerdy self was completely delighted by all these features. I could go on for so much longer about the magnificent world building intricacy in its lore, maps, and settings, but I’ll stop it here.
The prose itself contains no resemblance to a debut work; it’s extremely well written and polished. To sum up Nick’s prose properly, it’s a mixture between Joe Abercrombie (one of my favorite authors), Scott Lynch, and Patrick Rothfuss. Abercrombie’s dark humor and dramatic vivid scenes, combined with Lynch’s crude dialogues and banters, and add a bit of Rothfuss’s simple and genuine prose; there is nothing left to say other than this is a work of brilliance.
The talk about life and death, in particular, is probably where Nick’s prose really shines (excluding the hilarious dark humor, of course) for me, here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book on the topic:
“Life was funny, and fickle, and often cruel. Sometimes the unworthy went on living, while those who deserved better was lost.
Or not lost, he considered, since they lingered on in the hearts of those who loved them, who love them still, their memory nurtured like a sprig of green in an otherwise desolate soul. Which was, he supposed, a kind of immortality, after all.”
There are tons of other gems like this to be encountered in the book. It’s simply incredible how the prose managed to always pull me back into the story swiftly.
For those of you who usually prefer to wait for the next book in the series to come out first before starting, you certainly can do so but if that’s truly your only reason, I’m saying that you’re postponing reading one of the most excellent debuts of all time for the wrong reason. Trust me, I’m a binge reader and most of the time I follow the same behavior. Luckily, this book can absolutely be considered as a standalone for the story itself has concluded wonderfully within this installment. Think of The Band as a standalone trilogy. Nick himself has stated that although there’s something of an arc throughout the trilogy, each installment will be a standalone story starring a different Band. This means a new story with new casts of characters and maybe a new locale (there’s still so much left to explore in this world), there’s no reason why you should wait for the next book to come out first before reading this stunning debut.
Similar to one of the main themes of the book where the new generation of mercenary Bands tried to outshine the old legendary Bands in their pursuit of glory, in my opinion, it will be tough for Nick to top his debut with its sequel, Bloody Rose. Let’s just say I can’t wait for him to prove me wrong.
Kings of the Wyld is a new addition to my ‘favorite debuts I’ve ever read in my life’ list, along with The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and Malice by John Gwynne. It was a marvelous, fun and full-hearted wyld (see what I did there?) experience. The fantasy genre has got a new voice, and it’s singing gloriously. I’m brave enough to claim that just from his debut, Nicholas Eames is the next name to enter the big leagues in the fantasy genre.
Recommended? Hell fucking yes, to every fantasy fan, you should read this ASAP. In terms of debut or the first book of a series, it’s one of the best out there. Also, you have a very talented son, Terry!
Side note: The physical form of this book is damn gorgeous. Richard Anderson did an amazing job with the book cover, here’s the proof. Trust me, it looks even better in real life.
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)
Review originally written on May 12th, 2017