Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publication date: 23 February 2017
Genre: Adult fantasy
Page count: 528 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
Kings of the Wyld is one of those books I’d been hearing about for ages, bought, and then let languish on my bookshelf. So when Bethan from Bethan May Books suggested we buddy read it, I leapt at the opportunity. The rumours are true, friends, this book is just as fantastic as you’ve heard.
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.
I’ve been describing Kings of the Wyld as being like the most ridiculous DnD game you’ve ever played with your best friends. It is a throwback to the old days of fantasy with mercenaries, kings, quests, fantastic beasts, legendary heroes and weapons, and more. It feels so wonderfully old school, but without the hangups of reading older fantasy titles. But don’t be fooled — Kings of the Wyld is also one of the most touching and heartfelt books I’ve read in a long time.
Our point of view character is Clay Cooper, ageing mercenary and the heart of the band Saga. Things have changed for Clay ever since Saga broke up — he lives in a quiet town, has joined the city watch, and is married with a young daughter. He has no intention of giving this all up, but he agrees to help his best friend in his time of need. I absolutely adored Clay Cooper for this exact reason. You know he’s a good man from the get-go, and he continues to prove it again and again — he’s a grey area character that leans moe toward the lighter side than the dark. His slow, ponderous thought process, even in the heat of battle, shows that his every thought and action has a point. I found him to be an incredibly refreshing take on the mercenary trope and he’s one of my new favourite fantasy characters.
In fact, the entire band is absolutely wonderful. Their friendship and affection for each other is nearly tangible. There are a few really lovely moments that just summarise friendship and sacrifice so beautifully. Usually there is an odd man out when it comes to ensemble casts, but I really adored each member of Saga. Because Eames takes the time to craft backstories and motivations for each one, the reader is really able to connect with each character. He has a real talent for making the reader care.
My only complaint is that while the ladies we had in the story were amazing — Jain and the Silk Arrows are new favourites of mine — I wish there had been more of a starring role for a female mercenary. We sort of get one later on, however I felt she was one of the more lacking characters in the book. However, this doesn’t bother me much for two reasons. The first being that there are a fair few women in the book and they are all just as amazing as the men, although with smaller roles. The second is that the next book in the series, The Bloody Rose, sounds suspiciously like it’s going to have a female lead. I cannot wait to get my paws it!
Overall, I really loved Kings of the Wyld and it was a great fantasy find. I see it compared to Terry Pratchett’s books, which does both authors an injustice. While Kings of the Wyld is comedic fantasy, it definitely is a different type of humor, so don’t let that comparison draw you in. I highly recommend this book to all fans of epic fantasy, particularly if your sense of humor leans toward the crude side. It’s a book that will make you howl with laughter on the bus (not that this happened to me) and a few pages later punch you in the gut.
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