Kings of the Wyld is about bands of mercenaries, with the modern concept of musical bands thrown in: the mercenary bands are small (four or five people), and have fans and booking agents. The primary characters are the older members of a band which broke up long ago, but one of them has an emergency and needs some help.
I enjoyed the “getting the band back together” structure of the early chapters. Starting with a single character, then adding another, then adding another, gave each one a chance to gel and solidify in my mind. I felt that I got to know each of them in a way I wouldn’t have if they’d been introduced simultaneously as a five-man group. I also enjoyed how each new person dropped an ominous hint about how hard it would be to get the fifth guy on board.
I’m trying to think of other books where I’ve read this type of opening, but I’m mostly coming up with films: The Blues Brothers, possibly Seven Samurai / Magnificent Seven, and to a lesser degree, The Dirty Dozen. The opening works even better in a book, because a film audience can quickly latch onto something to distinguish a character, like a moustache or a black hat, but an author can’t repeatedly refer to a physical characteristic without seeming awkward to readers.
I also enjoyed the fight scenes in the book. There was enough description that I could visualize what was happening, but not so much that I felt I was watching it in slow-motion. I’ve seen a number of authors blow off their fight scenes recently, having characters in a face-off in one paragraph, then surveying the aftermath of the battle in the next. That can work occasionally (I think it was done once in this novel), but if that’s all you can do for an action scene, you probably shouldn’t write stories about soldiers or mercenaries. You could write about an old ladies’ knitting club that solves mysteries in a small town with an improbably high murder rate.
Kings of the Wyld is longer than my average read (544 pages in paperback or nearly eighteen hours in audio format), but the pacing was good and the story not only kept my attention all the way through, it made me look forward to the next chapter. There were only a couple of slow bits, and they were very short, quickly giving way to something interesting. The modern band references (and Dungeons and Dragons references) added some humor to the story without breaking its flow.
I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in epic fantasy stories or roleplaying games. I’ve decided to make it my nominee for best novel of 2017 in the Planetary Awards, edging out the other novels I’ve posted about. Another novel set in the same world, Bloody Rose, (I’m not sure if it’s a sequel or a prequel) is scheduled for release in July of 2018.