I received a copy of Bloody Rose, the sequel to Kings of the Wyld, as part of My Chronicle Book Box in November 2018. While I was assured that Bloody Rose could be read as a standalone, I wanted to start the series at the beginning, and I’m so glad that I did! This is a fun fantasy novel with some great characters, and I’m now even more excited about reading the sequel.
Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best – the meanest, dirtiest, most feared and admired crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld.
But their glory days are long past; the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then a former bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help: his daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy horde one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of impossible 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.
There’s been something of a trend in recent years for “grimdark” fantasy, and while this is subgenre that should appeal to me – I do like a bleak novel after all – for some reason in fantasy it just isn’t to my taste, and it has made me a little wary of picking up new fantasy titles. In this way, Kings of the Wyld came as a refreshing surprise – it’s not dark at all, I loved that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fun, and written with great humour that often made me snigger (obviously in ladylike manner). There’s still plenty of danger involved and some real “oh no!” moments, but it never strays into grimdark territory, and for that I was extremely grateful.
The characters in Kings of the Wyld are all flawed. Every. Single. One. There are some who are better than others, but none of them are perfect, not even the members of Saga. I think that this is refreshing. I think that flawed characters are easier to relate to, and I find that they make the novel significantly more interesting than might otherwise be the case. Given the nature of the band, this novel is quite male dominated. There are women present, and Jain was one of my favourite characters in the novel despite having a relatively minor role. While there may not be many ladies present (and I expect that the sequel may have a better balance, given that the titular character is Rose), they are as far from damsels in distress as you can get, and they are as capable of wielding a sword or firing a bow as any of the men, giving as good as they get.
Saga themselves are fantastic. With Gabriel’s daughter caught in a city under siege, he’s desperate to get her out, but for that he needs the help of his old band. While they might have been the best mercenary band back in the day, they haven’t fought together (or at all, in some cases) for twenty years. They are older, slower, and in some cases heavier than they used to be, and this all takes its toll in the journey they face and the battles they have to fight. They can still put on a good show though, and their teamwork helps them where their skills and reflexes might let them down. It’s quite refreshing to see the heroes at this stage of their lives, and I thought that this was an original element to the novel that worked really well.
Their mission is far from straightforward, and while they get a few lucky breaks along the way it’s far from plain sailing. The first part of the book sees Gabe and Clay getting the guys back together as well as equipping themselves for the journey. There’s then the matter of the Heartwyld, a vast forest region that they have to cross and that is home to all sorts of monsters. It’s a region that few enter willingly. Should they survive the Heartwyld, there are mountains to cross, taking them to Castia, which is surrounded by a large and violent horde that is holding the city to siege. It’s a long and complex journey, and every step of it is thoroughly entertaining.
Well written and with exquisite world-building, Kings of the Wyld is a great debut, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.