Book Review: Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames
Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld is essentially a Blues Brothers version of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). It’s pretty awesome.
The story is set in a fantasy world teeming with a monster manual’s worth of beasties. Mercenary adventurers chase glory by hunting these creatures, and the most famous group of exterminators was Saga—“was” being the operative word. Two decades after going their separates ways, the groups’ members are old, fat, drunk, married, etc. But when the former leader’s daughter lands herself in mortal danger, he sets out to reunite the other legends for one last job.
“We’re getting the band back together,” his first recruit says at one point, an exact quote from Blues Brothers. Other parallels include fetching one of the bandmates from prison (which, in this case, means reversing the basilisk’s stare that turned him to stone), dodging a female assassin, and raising hell in the name of a high-minded yet seemingly impossible mission. More generally, this is a culture where the best mercenary groups are celebrated like rock stars, the leaders are known as “frontmen,” and “bookers” arrange “tours” for their bands at various arenas. Saga was even (in part) broken up by a woman (à la the Beatles). The music influences are heavy.
This might seem like a strange pairing, but it works. The language, while modern—there aren’t many Tolkien stylings here—is frequently funny. Eames also does a good job of threading backstory throughout rather than dumping it all at once. Most importantly, despite the silliness, Kings of the Wyld has depth, and its point-of-view character is the heart: I liked Clay Cooper.
I thought the first act and its “getting the old fogies back together” dynamic was the strongest. The second act hinges on convenient encounters in the wilderness, and the ending relies on shortcuts that were established by telling rather than showing. But it’s all fun, and it made me wonder what other combinations of classic movie and D&D might be worth trying. The Goblinfather? Boogie Knights? Dude, Where’s My Centaur?
Those are all terrible titles. But if Eames wrote the story behind one of them, I’d probably read it, because Kings of the Wyld was a blast.
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