Friday, December 01, 2017

Review: "Kings of the Wyld" by Nicholas Eames

We’ve all heard the argument that there are no new ideas, and maybe that’s true. But new spins are always fun, and that’s just what Nicholas Eames delivers in “Kings of the Wyld” ($15.99, Orbit).

Eames introduces us to a world where mercenary bands are regarded as rock stars, but their day has faded. Where once-great bands ventured into the Heartwyld to fight hordes of horrible monsters, the bands of the new generation are manufactured stars. They’re all flash as they travel from arena to arena battling beasts that have been raised in captivity or captured and enslaved.

“Slowhand” Clay Cooper, former member of Saga, one of the most legendary classic bands, now lives a quiet life in the town of Coverdale with his wife and daughter. He works as a city guardsman and dreams of opening an inn where he can display his magic shield Blackheart above the hearth and tell tales of his glory days.

Then his old bandmate Gabriel, formerly known as Golden Gabe, shows up at his door. Gabe’s daughter Rose has become a merc and she’s trapped behind the walls of the city of Castia, under siege by a monstrous horde like the world has never seen, led by a being named Lastleaf of the magical Druin race. There’s no hope for them, but Gabe is convinced that Saga can rescue her. Though he initially refuses, Clay has a change of heart and thus begins their quest to put the band back together for one last tour.

So we’ve read the reluctant over-the-hill heroes coming out of retirement to save the world sort of thing quite a few times, going all the way back to David Gemmell’s “Legend” in the mid-1980s and probably a few beyond that I’m forgetting or unfamiliar with. But I’ve not read one of those stories quite like “Kings of the Wyld.” Eames infuses gritty and dark fantasy action with a rebellious rock ‘n’ roll spirit and a healthy dose of humor, and the combination is fun and fantastic.

It’s a bit like what might have happened if Joe Abercrombie had written “Spinal Tap” with a little help from the Monty Python crew.

The cast is among the most colorful that you’ll find, with even minor and secondary characters capturing your imagination. Improbable characters versus impossible odds in a seemingly ridiculous situation, but the reader is riveted and invested fully through the whole tale, hoping against hope that somehow, these guys can pull it off.

Aside from that, though, half the fun of this book is picking out the rock references, which come rapid fire, particularly at the beginning and the end. When it’s over, I wanted to read it again with an eye toward the references to see what I missed while I was caught up in the story.

All in all, “Kings of the Wyld” is a very fresh spin on an old idea, and it’s probably the most pure fun that I’ve had with a book this year.

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