I’m fussy about fantasy. I need more than a D&D transcript and those epic series of epicness (looking at you, Jordan, Martin, Eddings etc) are work. But sometimes the freshest thing you can do to a genre doesn’t involve razing everything to the ground, but tweaking one aspect and taking that change very seriously.
Enter Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames, which starts with a simple concept: what if those bands of heroes you read about in Tolkien were like rock bands? What if they had fans, tours, promoters? What if they broke up because of a girl? Twenty years ago, Saga was the biggest band of the Heartwyld. They’re older now, washed up, gone their separate ways… until now.
This could be used as a joke, but it’s not. I mean, there’s humor aplenty (I love the fact that the wizard is named Moog) and references and asides galore, including one I didn’t notice until I was most of the way through the book. But it serves as a framework to hang the rest of the genre on. The story is personal: the daughter of one of the band members, who went on to form a band of her own, is trapped in a dire situation and to rescue her, he will get the band back together. And even as the story escalates in scale, that’s the focus of their story. Even as the heroes learn just how big this gets, they have one mission.
And so help me, I was hooked. Hooked enough that I was happy to hear that Eames had a follow-up come out in August that I can’t wait to get my hands on. If you’re looking for a fantasy romp that’s neither Epic nor Stale, definitely give this one a go.
–Chris Blakeley, Seattle, WA
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