I took the boys down the beach because quite frankly they earned it ok?
Where to begin with Nicholas Eames’ Gemmell Award Nominated debut novel Kings of the Wyld? It stormed into the book community last year and everyone’s been raving about it; I’ve been desperate to read it whilst simultaneously worrying it won’t live up to the noise.
It is absolutely worth the hype.
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.
Now the “big thing” about this book, the thing I’m sure many of you have heard about it, is the whole “classic rock band” thing. I’d heard that it makes numerous references and that there was a classic rock themed analogy running throughout. I’d even heard that there’s a playlist of songs that inspired certain scenes and characters, and was excited to see bands like the Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Who, and Creedence Clearwater Revival on it (these were some of the bands I grew up on).
But this did worry me; I’ve read Ready Player One and got burned hard. Was this going to be another gimmicky read, chock full of references to make the rock-nerds scream but abysmally written and lacking in any plot or character development?
I was so relieved to discover this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The tone of Eames’ writing is immediately very easy to read; you tumble into this story and devour pages before you even realise. The language he uses is nuanced, I love his descriptive turn of phrase, for example this on the first damned page:
But his shadow, drawn out by the setting sun skulked behind him like a dogged reminder of the man he used to be: great and dark and more than a little monstrous.
It was laugh out loud funny, and had me crying by page twenty-three. It was utterly ridiculous (a wizard who makes his fortune selling a potion for erectile dysfunction) and in turn multi-layered and extremely clever. Despite all these conflicting attributes, it never once felt disjointed or over whelming. It’s fast paced, covering plenty of ground; to begin with, I didn’t think there was anything particularly complicated about the plot. Get the band back together, rescue Rose. But the further the characters go on their travels, the thicker the plot gets; more characters weave their voices into the song, new conflicts and past issues keep layering the harmonies and you’re swept along in the crescendo to the final resolution.
And yes, those references are all there. I was so excited to discover a reference to Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water, a reference to The Princess Bride, and there are so many familiar names from the world of rock and roll; Pete Townshend, Elvis, Neil Young, Slade. There are plenty I’ve heard are in there but went over my head; mostly they’re subtle enough, nods towards rather than crucial-to-the-“plot”-crutches of Ready Player One. I felt the analogy as a whole was clever and handled so well; a mirror held up to the music world, the rock gods of old retired and their antics lauded whilst none of these new bands these days can hold a candle to their flame.
This got me thinking of the fantasy genre as a whole though, and how it too has evolved over the years. The epic high fantasy of old, your typical DnD type adventurers squaring up to an encyclopedic array of fantastical monsters; what kind of heroes do we have in the genre now, now that all those cliched monsters have been killed? Do we feel the genre has to go bigger, go bolder all the time? Or is it carving a new path, it’s own more inclusive path, running away from home and sticking it’s Vs up at us?
This book certainly made me think. And laugh. And god, cry so much. Relationships are a crucial theme to the story; the ones we keep coming back to, that keep us going. Eames’ diversity of relationships is wonderful and his portrayal of them simply heart-wrenching:
He did his best to be a man worthy of a woman like Ginny, and of their daughter, his darling girl, who was his most precious legacy, the speck of gold siphoned from the clouded river of his soul.
Exquisitely written and at the same time the most fun book I’ve read… fuck it, ever.
Can’t wait til August when Bloody Rose hits the shelves!
P.S Hi Terry! Your son’s a genius k, bye! X