Wow, what a pleasant surprise this was.
I found Kings of the Wyld like I find most books these days, by tooling around on Amazon and looking for authors similar to those I like. The process can be hit or miss (hence the creation of this blog!), but occasionally one does strike gold. I was initially a bit skeptical of the book’s premise, which sounded like it could get old quick.
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.
Reviewers went on to explain that in this world, mercenary “bands” paralleled modern rock bands (e.g. each band has a “frontman,” they go “on tour” through the wilderness, etc.). I fully admit, I was skeptical of this premise, which brought to mind some of the really terrible 80’s fantasy that I read when my library started running out of more promising candidates.
But take it from me: this is a truly charming book, and like The Shadow of What Was Lost, it’s that much more remarkable for having been the author’s debut effort. Perhaps the highest praise that I can give the book is this: it is laugh-out-loud funny, to the point that I have trouble coming up with good comps elsewhere in the fantasy tradition. It’s not quite zany like Pratchett, though does share some similarities with his work. Maybe The Princess Bride? Readers, help me out if you have suggestions!
Here’s a typical passage, as our protagonist tries to extricate himself from an opponent’s grasp:
The stitches in Clay’s face had come open again, and his left cheek was scraped raw. He climbed groggily to his feet, trying to reconcile in his head how he’d spin this story to Tally if he lived to tell it.
What’s that honey? What I was doing while Uncle Gabe was dueling a god with all of civilization at stake? Why, I was wrestling in the muck with an exceptionally tenacious cow.
The book is an engaging, funny work that somehow both inhabits and subverts many of the traditional fantasy tropes. I’m kind of running out of superlatives here. I understand there’s a sequel in the works, and it’s immediately shot to the top of my waiting list.
So to sum up: if you’re looking for a quick, fun, satisfying read, then this is a great choice. I eagerly await Eames’ future work.
Rating: 4 – Mandatory Reading