“As individuals they were each of them fallible, discordant as notes without harmony. But as a band they were something more, something perfect in its own intangible way”
Synopsis: Clay Cooper, City Watchman, was once a legend. Now, he whiles away his days at an easy job before going home to his loving wife and daughter… That is, until the peace is shattered by the arrival of his old bandmate, Gabriel Golden. Gabe’s daughter is in trouble, and nothing will stop him from coming to her aid. There’s just one problem: an army of monsters, a war, and hundreds of miles stand between them. If Gabe hopes to stand a chance, he’ll need Clay’s help to round up Saga, once the greatest mercenary crew in the world. Now, they’re a bunch of fat old drunks. What could possibly go wrong? Time to get the band back together!
My friend Jay recommended this book to me, and I am very, very happy he did. While I’d heard good things about it before, I was dragging my feet on picking it up (as I had plenty of other reading material at the time). The moment I started reading, I just couldn’t put it down. It’s rare that I experience a setting with such flavor and appeal… imagine this: a world where your Dungeons and Dragons adventuring party is met with the same level of reverence as AC DC, Aerosmith, and Cheap Trick in their prime. Music is never far from the forefront of the novel, as adventuring parties are called “bands”, adventures are “gigs”, and bands have a “booker” to help facilitate getting those gigs. Nicholas Eames even set up a Spotify Playlist for the novel (and its sequel), relating a song to each chapter (Check it out here)). The pace of this story is intense. Rarely does one ever feel like things are calming down, and I quite like it that way. Some stories are simply better that way, and part of the pleasure is being pulled along irresistibly into terror and danger right along with the band.
Clay Cooper is a great protagonist, and a great hero. Part of what makes him a great hero is the very fact that he absolutely does not perceive himself in that regard whatsoever. Without realizing it, he represents the core of Saga, and his friends put a great deal of faith in his abilities and judgment. He is soft-spoken, patient, and slow to act (earning him the nickname “Slowhand”), setting him apart from many protagonists one would read about in the genre. Clay hits a very satisfying note for me, and I have to commend Eames for creating him. Also, he fights with a shield. A shield! Captain America he is not, but it’s still pretty cool. It is important to note too that while Saga is composed uniquely of men, there is little to no toxic masculinity present here. It was a pleasant surprise.
Let’s talk value: this book is sold in paperback only and retails for 20.99$ CAD (15.99$ USD); Orbit crafts a good book, and my copy is still in pristine condition after several reads. This one clocks in at 492 pages, which is entirely reasonable (especially given the pace and lack of any bits that dragged on). I would have loved a hardcover, but First Prints of those sold out extremely fast via Anderida Books and I was too late to the party. These are expensive and hard to find (Anderida sells a matching pair of Kings of the Wyld and Bloody Rose, signed and numbered, for 300 British pounds), but you can get a signed and numbered 2nd Print for 100 British Pounds if it tickles your fancy. I may still spend the cash someday, as it’s pretty hard for me to resist a Richard Anderson book cover (he’s so damn good…).
The tone of KotW is a jocular one, and there are many laughs to be had. This is not to diminish the stakes whatsoever, as Eames (he’s told me it rhymes with “screams”) makes those abundantly clear throughout the tale. These are not the grim, hard-bitten mercs of many other contemporary stories however; no, Saga is a band that has already seen it all and bought the t-shirt. The interplay between the characters is a very satisfying one, of old friends who are reliving the glories of their younger days. Certainly, there is hardship and trouble aplenty, but this is not the sort of story that rubs your face in a mire of misery: Nicholas Eames is, instead, presenting us with a story of laughter, joy, and hope for future generations.
I strongly recommend giving this book a chance; I’m certainly glad I did! Stay tuned, as I’ll also be reviewing the sequel, “Bloody Rose”, very soon.