Kings of the Wyld is a fantasy novel about a band of warriors who were once the best in the land but have grown old and gone their separate ways.
Our protagonist, Clay, who’s known for his shield Blackheart, settled down to a comfortable life and has started a family. Frontman Gabriel, a.k.a. Golden Gabe, also married and had a kid but didn’t settle into the peace and monotonous comfort of family life. Moog, the band’s magician, started a lucrative business selling his invention – Magic Moog’s Magnificent Phallic Phylactery; while quick, knife-wielding Matrick grew fat and became a cuckold king. The only member of the band who remained unchanged over the years is badass Ganelon, who was turned to stone.
When the story begins, Gabe has travelled long and hard to ask Clay to help him get the band back together so they can save his daughter, Rose, who’s much like her father at his prime as Golden Gabe and has ran off to the city Castia to save it from a horde of monsters. Clay is reluctant to leave the comfort of his family, but decides to go because he too is a father and would be willing to do anything to save his daughter if she were in a similar situation.
The crew reassemble but realize that they are out of shape and will probably die in their attempt to save Gabe’s daughter. For not only do they have to fight through the horde of monsters before attempting to breach the walls of Castia, they also have to cross the Heartwyld, a dark, evil forest where one can contract the rot, a disease that infects one’s limbs. Also, Matrick’s queen has sent an assassin after them and the druin Lastleaf, leader of the horde of monsters, hates this particular band of warriors and would love to bring about their demise. So it’s a wonder if the band will succeed in their mission.
I liked the story. It didn’t stand out strongly to me, but it was entertaining and I enjoyed reading it. However, I expected it to be REALLY funny because that’s how all the reviews I read prior to the book described it. But I guess my expectation was a bit too high because though the story has many funny moments, it didn’t make me laugh as much as I’d expected. (I thought I’d have belly-laughs the whole time.)
Apart from the humor, I looked forward to reading this story for its characters, who are all older men. I guess I can call them veterans since they are experienced warriors who have been in several battles and have all retired from that life. It was interesting and refreshing to read from such a perspective since I’m used to heroes in stories being young, eager, and inexperienced. I’ve also realized that this is now a favorite perspective to read from. So far this year, I’ve read only one other novel that provided such a perspective and that’s The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold. I believe that was my first time reading from an experienced warrior’s perspective and it was refreshing. Kings of the Wyld is the second time and it has cemented that perspective as a favorite for me.
However, sometimes I would get frustrated with the characters because of their age. Since they are older, the men aren’t as fast or agile as they used to be, which often gets them easily captured by bandits. But their experience usually gives them an edge in a fight, and their shortcomings contribute to the story’s humor. Because they are experienced warriors, they do not feel the need to prove themselves, but their reputation proceeds and exceeds them, which also adds to the story’s humor by getting them in trouble.
I also liked how that story is written, or rather how Eames describes things. The prose isn’t overly descriptive, but the comparisons in the descriptions are so on point, like this description of the city Fivecourt:
“The air itself was a wild brawl of smells and sounds: the punch of unwashed flesh, the scream of a scratching mandolin, the jab of tobacco smoke, the glee of a whistling pipe, the occasional head butt of sour urine, the aching sorrow of a moaning lute. All that, and voices singing, laughing, yelling, swearing, and groaning in myriad different ways.”
Eames quickly gets across not only the atmosphere of the city — how it smells and sounds, — but also its personality. From the punch, scream, scratch, jab, glee, and occasional head butt, we get that this city is not for the weak or those who quickly cower in difficult situations. It’s a tough city. A city for fighters and brawlers.
I think it’s here, when the characters visit Fivecourt to get the last member of their group, that we discover the issue at the heart of the story, which is the lack of understanding between monsters, or those considered monsters, and humans. It’s here we learn that all monsters are not monstrous and that the culture of forming bands to fight monsters perpetuates the lack of understanding between both groups. Those “monsters” who are allowed to partake of society are limited in their ability to do so and that leads some to turn against humanity.
I liked this bit of complexity, which becomes even more interesting when the religion of the world is factored in. I got SOOO excited about that (the religion) and also the story/myth about the seasons and who exactly the gods of the world are. But I don’t think this issue, lack of understanding between the two groups, was resolved by the end of the story and that disappointed me. Sure, the main characters worked with some “monsters” to achieve their goal and became “friendly” with them, but it seems, for the most part, that nothing has been resolved and that was disappointing.
I debated this with myself because it is hard to negotiate or come to a compromise with many of the monsters in the story since the majority of them want to kill and eat anything that walks, but I’d have liked if there was some resolution for that issue.
On the other hand, I liked the final battle. There was even a dragon and the battle scene with it looked really awesome in my mind 😀 . Also Clay’s fight with the minotaur was fucking hilarious (yeah, that scene really cracked me up), and I liked when the daeva entered the fight because she’s a wildcard. Speaking of the daeva, this book has so many fantastical creatures and I loved it for that! Most of them I’m unfamiliar with and I wondered if Eames made them all up; like the daeva, a badass woman with wings on her back. She is a total diva, by the way, and is one of my favorite characters. I like that she doesn’t lose her edge by the story’s end.
My only critique about the fights is that to me Clay often isn’t doing much because he’s injured or something, but I think that’s because he’s needed to narrate what’s happening. I also didn’t like that help is always conveniently available whenever the characters are in tough situations. Because of that, I began to view the book as a feel-good story despite all the fights and griminess.
The story is entertaining and funny and filled with loads of fantastical creatures. I enjoyed reading it and will probably pick up the next book in the series. If you enjoy reading fantasy novels, I’d say give this one a try.