Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
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 made a decision earlier this year that I was going to try and read all the debut authors who are being published by Orbit in 2017. I’ve done a bit of research, and their books all sound right up my street. The first freshman author out of the gate is Nicholas Eames with his inaugural effort – Kings of the Wyld.
Saga were the best of the best, a group of mercenaries without peer. After years on the road they have all gone their separate ways, living on past glories and in some cases managing to almost enjoy a quiet life.
Back in the day, Gabriel was the voice of the band. Always ready with witty retort or scything remark. Time hasn’t treated him well and has left him a shell of what he once was. The only light left in his life is his daughter Rose, the one thing he managed to get right. When Rose finds herself stranded in a besieged city, Gabriel takes it up himself to save her. In a desperate move he has brought his friends back together so they can track down his estranged offspring.
If Saga had a heart, then it was Clay Cooper. Now a reasonably contented family man, he finds himself torn between his duty to his family and the bloodlust deep in his soul. Can one more adventure with the band finally lay this darkness to rest?
Matrick, the once nimble blade expert has grown fat, both physically and metaphorically, living off his legend. In the years since being a hero, he has managed to become a king which sounds like it should be great. Trust me, it’s not.
Ganelon is the oddity of the group, a man out of time. While all his friends have suffered the ravages of age, circumstance has left this warrior exactly as he was twenty years ago. The problem is that Ganelon was always a bit of a loose cannon in the past and he hasn’t changed at all. He is still one step away from being a full-on sociopath. You’ve got to love a brooding nutter.
All of the members of Saga are a great deal of fun, but I’ve left my absolute favourite till last. That character is Arcandius Moog, the band’s wizard. Rambling, occasionally incoherent, and often entirely unpredictable, he is an absolute joy. There is nothing I hate more than a stuffy wizard and I’m glad to say that Moog could ever be described as that. There is an unrestrained glee to everything he does. Monsters are fascinating, dungeons are chock full of historical interest and every legend needs to be investigated. Don’t believe me? Just ask him about owlbears, trust me, ask him.
Why all the waffle about so many characters? This is where Kings of the Wyld excels. Nicholas Eames gives each member of Saga the opportunity to shine, and the way they all riff off one another is a great deal of fun. You get a real sense that these men are more like brothers than warriors. Yes, they complain about each other near constantly, but when things get dangerous they will gladly die for one another.
There other thing I really like are very deliberate comparisons between the mercenary bands in Kings of the Wyld, and our very own rock and roll bands. When you realise that Saga can be viewed in the same way as Aerosmith or KISS, it all suddenly makes perfect sense. They’re a handful of legendary bands, like Saga, who act as the old guard. For every one of those there are ten groups of young pretenders, dreaming of carving out their own path and being remembered in story and song.
Sometimes I find fantasy novels have a tendency to get bogged down in too much exposition, or a terrifically complex narrative. Kings of the Wyld deftly avoids this trap and whips along at a good pace. There is a good balance between plot and character development and it left me wanting more. You would be wrong in thinking that there is nothing but action and adventure in this novel. There is also some unexpected comedy that caught me completely off guard. Saga arriving in a king’s bedchamber is one of the most memorable entrances into a monarch’s bedroom that I have ever read. The eagle eyed amongst may also spot some extremely geeky references that have managed to sneak into the story. I certainly counted a few and there were probably more that I didn’t catch.
Even the cover of the novel is worthy of note, the members of Saga all look like they have escaped for a ZZ Top tribute act that uses real axes rather than guitars. Being the proud owner of my own facial topiary, I’m always appreciative of a good beard or two. I only have two questions that remain unanswered – (1) Where do I get my Saga tour t-shirt? (2) When does the second book come out?
Kings of the Wyld is published by Orbit and is available from 23rd February. A highly recommended debut, I can’t wait for more.