#REVIEW: Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames

Y’all, this one was delightful.

This isn’t going to be a long review; in fact, I’d be surprised if the cover art doesn’t take up more real estate than the actual review. Suffice it to say that this is the kind of book where I can identify the characters on the cover by their weapons (left to right: Patrick, Gabe, Clay, Ganelon and Moog) and I enjoyed it enough that I ordered the sequel before I’d finished it and almost went directly into the sequel afterward. It won’t be on the unread shelf for long, I can assure you of that.

Kings of the Wyld is a pure epic fantasy adventure, featuring a gang of murder hobos fighting monsters that any D&D player will recognize, with the minor exception of substituting rabbit-eared immortals called Druin in for the expected elves. The hook, such as it is, is that these guys have been retired for a while and most of them have gained a bunch of weight, gotten old, moved on from the adventuring life and have spouses and children. The story kicks into gear when a giant horde of monsters nearly takes over and besieges a town far to the north, a town that Golden Gabe’s (adult, also adventurer) daughter happens to be among the defenders of. Gabe’s plan: get the band back together (that phrase is literally used, repeatedly) and go rescue his daughter. The problem: even before you get to the city surrounded by tens of thousands of monsters, you have to get through the massive forest full of other dangerous monsters in between them.

Toss in some Pratchett/Adams-level humor and you’ve got yourself quite a book. I gobbled this up in just a couple of days, and enjoyed every page of it. I have a few gripes– I’ll get to those in a second– but all in all this was a hell of a treat.

So: the gripes. The book remains firmly locked into the third-person perspective of Clay “Slowhand” Cooper, the guy with the big shield (it’s more important than the sword) on the front cover there. Clay wants to get back to his wife and daughter but his loyalty to his friends is what gets him to go on this one final mission. The problem is, I feel like a few chapters here and there from another perspective might have helped. In particular, I’d like to have seen some chapters from Rose, the daughter trapped in the city. Gabe is nearly frantic with worry for most of the book, but we never really see the danger Rose is in because they spend 85% of the book trying to get to her. At one point they’re able to contact her via a scrying tool of Moog’s, but she rather brusquely tells her dad to stay the hell away because she doesn’t want him to get killed and … well, he doesn’t take it all that well.

This is also very much a Dude Book. The five main characters are all men, and the representation level isn’t great: one of the five is gay, but his husband is Tragically Dead before the events of the book start, which is kind of annoying. Now, the dude-heavy nature of the team might be part of an ongoing commentary throughout the book of How Things Have Changed Since Our Time, and I’ll point out that while the main story thrust of the book is the Damsel in Distress trope, Rose herself is an ass-kicker, she’s just an ass-kicker surrounded by a hundred thousand demons, and most of the younger bands of adventures feature women rather heavily, including one exclusively female group that manages to rob Clay and his team multiple times over the course of the book. The sequel, starring Rose, will presumably be better on that front.

I think it’s fair to say that if those things are going to bother you, you can probably pick up Bloody Rose, the sequel, because I’m pretty sure that you’re not going to have to have read this book to know what’s going on, and given the quality of the writing I feel safe recommending Bloody Rose unread. I was not bothered by them so much as I noted them and moved on; your mileage may vary and adjust your expectations accordingly. But I loved this one, and I can’t wait to get to the sequel.

On Nazis and pregnancies, but not at the same time

I’ve been playing Sniper Elite 5 on the PlayStation 5 lately, because setting the difficulty to something obscenely low and shooting Nazis in the face from a hundred yards away has been about where my brain has been at lately. I like this series, but not as anything I take seriously; I don’t want to be challenged in Sniper Elite 5. I want to be an invincible force of death. I want the Nazis to tell their children that I’ll find them if they’re not quiet and well-behaved, and then I want those kids to tell me where their parents are, because their parents are Nazis and that means I can shoot them in the face.

Also, it’s the anniversary of D-Day. Also also, any time the anniversary of D-Day rolls around, I start thinking about my grandfather, who wasn’t actually at D-Day but joined the Allied assault in France a bit later, eventually being wounded in the Battle of Nancy, being handed a Purple Heart, and rotated back Stateside with a piece of a mortar shell in his ankle that, presumably, is still in his coffin with him, since the surgeons never bothered to remove it.

And today something hit me: I have an aunt named Nancy. And I tried to think about the timeline, and ended up calling another one of my aunts, the one I can bother relatively early in the morning with nonsense like this, and asked her about the timeline between Grandpa getting home and Nancy being born and named. Had my grandfather named my aunt after the battle in which he’d been wounded? It seemed possible, at least; I had to know.

No, as it turns out. Grandma was pregnant with Nancy when Grandpa shipped out, and she was born while he was overseas and named him herself. Tantalizingly, though, apparently my grandmother named Nancy herself and wrote Grandpa and told him the name, and my aunt tells me that his response was that she should “take it (the name, not my aunt) out and bury it, because it stinks.”

It is perhaps indicative of the type of woman my grandmother was– this is the one the name Siler comes from, by the way– that she ignored his, uh, suggestion, and her second daughter kept the name that she gave her. It’s also possibly an indication that Grandpa knew when he wrote the letter where he was heading and where he was likely to see combat, but I’d have to know a lot more about timelines– they’re both gone, so who knows where those letters might be– before I could make a supposition like that.

This led, somehow, to a conversation about the timing of the conception of various and sundry of my relatives; turns out one of my cousins is the product of a “lunch quickie,” and that my grandparents were in the house when another of my cousins from her was conceived. I changed the subject as soon as the phrase “lunch quickie” came up, by the way.

(My birthday is July 5; my mom’s was October 3. I have always assumed I was a birthday present; Dad, if that was not the case, I don’t need further details.)

OK, Zoomer

The following is a true fact: I am an Old. I have written before about how I’m at an age where I straddle the line a bit between Gen X and Millennials; my preferred nomenclature is the Oregon Trail Generation, but that’s not exactly what the cool kids call it. All that said, one thing I definitely am is Old. Yes, the oldest Millennials are old now. They have mortgages– some of them, anyway– and cars and kids and are starting to worry about paying for their college, and whether debt is going to be declared inheritable before they die.

Anyway. My wife and I were out doing some running around today, in two cars because one of the jobs involved bringing the last carload of stuff that we’re keeping back from my father-in-law’s apartment, and I told her that I was going to stop at a local gaming shop that is up by his place. The place is far enough away that if I drive past it I’m probably going to stop, just because I’m not up there very often. Anyway, I puttered around for a bit and decided to buy something and got behind a couple of high school-aged kids who were also checking out. Both of them, as it turns out, were buying card booster packs of some sort; Magic, I think, but I’m not sure and at any rate it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the booster packs were expensive, and I heard the cashier quote a hundred and seventeen dollars to one of the kids, who pulled a handful of twenties out of his pocket, counted them carefully, and handed them over, receiving his change in the expected fashion.

And then the whole world went sideways, as the kid looked at his friend and said “I love these things. The money doesn’t come out of my account, so it’s like I’m not really spending anything.”

There was a moment of frozen silence. The cashier, a man of about my age, made eye contact with me, as both of us realized at the same time that this young man had just used the construction these things to refer to twenty dollar bills as if they were some sort of exotic and rare form of shell- or bead-based barter, and I don’t think either of us really knew what to do for a second. The kid’s friend saw the look we shot each other and also saw that I was either having a stroke or trying not to laugh, and rolled his eyes at his friend without saying a word and ushered him out.

I walked to the counter and placed my purchase in front of the cashier.

“Credit or … these things?”, he said.

And then I ceased to exist.

In which this is what I’ve become

Apparently this four-level monstrosity that I just spent 45 minutes putting together is the next step once three cats are the only pets in the house. I used to be a dog person, goddammit!

The little bastards are ignoring it, of course, as is their wont. We haven’t settled on a final place to put it; a giant cat tree is not the first thing I want people to see when I let them into my house.

I survived work today. I have to do it three more times. It should be possible.

Teacher bloopers

Last day of the quarter today, and my seventh grade classes were working on story problems, because, well, they’re bad at them. I was talking to my second hour class and going over some of the more common errors first hour was making in an attempt to not explain the same exact things five thousand more times for the second class in a row. Unfortunately, some of the errors they were making were errors of volition and not of comprehension: to wit, the student who put dollar signs in front of every single answer when only two or three of the questions were involving money may have not been doing his very best on that assignment, and if you turn in a sheet of paper with 10 answers and not a single other pencil mark on it it is fairly likely that I’m going to suspect you may not have actually done the assignment.

So, yeah, I’m talking about all that. And in the process of having this conversation with the students, I point something out that is especially true today, when it’s the last day of the quarter and the assignment must be turned in on the day it is assigned: I would much rather have something turned in half-finished by someone who has clearly been working than a completed assignment from someone who, and I quote, “wrote down a bunch of random-ass nonsense for ten answers and turned it in.”

Wait.

What did I just say?

The class is blinking at me. Did I just–

Yeah, I did.

Uh.

Obviously the appropriate thing to do was to apologize and then watch as both I, my co-teacher, and the entire class collapse into laughter, because fuck it, it’s early in the morning on the last day of the quarter before a five-day break and, well, y’all, apparently Mr. Siler ain’t completely on his game today. So, yeah, I don’t usually swear, at least not accidentally, in front of my students, but apparently today my filter isn’t set quite as high as usual?

I shoulda had more caffeine during first hour, is the take-away here.