You might want to Kiss your free time goodbye for the next week, because you are going spend it motoring through this bad boy. It’s a story full of grody monsters, gnarly magic, and mondo amounts of tongue-in-cheek humor. Here’s the elevator pitch: what if your Dungeons & Dragons party was a rock band, and that rock band was twenty years past its prime? Cue the air guitar, this book is bitchin like a cherry Les Paul with its humbucker hooked up to an electric fence.
The basic framework of the story starts when Gabe shows up on Clay’s porch looking for help. Gabe is down on his luck, you might even say living on Skid Row. His daughter is in danger and the only way to save her is to get the band back together. But unlike a Gabe, Clay is content with his life. He owes it to his wife and kid to stay put and take care of them, but Clay Cooper is a good friend, and when it comes down to it … a fucking hero, kind of. So the pair sets out across the civilized lands to round up the remaining band members and strike out across the Wyld to save Gabe’s daughter Rose from certain Death.
What ensues is a well-paced, hysterical romp from one end of the world to the other. It’s no Cinderella story, the chapters are often episodic, with encounters analogous to role-playing game sessions featuring new settings, new characters, and new challenges. Along the way they assemble a Motley Crue of tagalong’s including a butt-ugly undead bard and a two-headed giant, whose story arc is a Testament to Eames’ talent that brought a genuine tear to my eye.
The characters in Kings of the Wyld Warrant a round of applause; they’re a well-conceived group and each monster Slayer serves the Saga to maximum effect. Most of them aren’t terribly deep, as is often the case in humorous fiction(and Rock bands?), but Clay possesses a rich emotional life and the remainder of the band each bring something to the table that adds to the overall depth of the story. Plus, I fucking love Moog. If you do not love Moog, there’s the door, man. Not remotely kidding. And then there’s Gregor/Dane. Not even a main character, but just a beautifully executed bit of creativity. Be like Gregor and Dane; Be excellent to each other.
Eames does beat the band drum in a steady rhythm that some readers may not enjoy, but it didn’t Poison my appreciation of the story in the least. It’s a go to reference that the author riffs off of over and over again. Like any good comedy it tosses a lot of rotten vegetables at the audience in hopes that something sticks. For me, I loved most of the humor, although there were a few real-world allusions that jarred me a tad. But it wasn’t a big deal. Mostly I loved the gags and bits. It’s all part of the tone of the novel, and it all works. The only real quibble I had with the book was that from time to time, things felt a bit easy for our intrepid band of heroes. They cover a lot of ground, and move briskly from one set of dire circumstances to the next, and there were a few points when it felt like the author needed to keep things moving and so decided to give them an easy out. But Judas Priest, it’s so good!
Kings of the Wyld is exactly what you need to break you out of your quarantine funk. It’s funny, it’s got heart, its well-written, and it is currently the only fantasy series featuring Arcandius Moog. If you don’t like him, seriously, GTFO.