Title: Kings of the Wyld (The Band, #1)
Author: Nicholas Eames
Are there LGBTQ+ characters? Yes, one gay character. There is only one point of view character in the book, and the gay character is a close ally of his.
Brief summary / book review: The premise of this book can essentially be summed up as “This is Spinal Tap” meets Dungeons & Dragons; mercenary groups are known as bands in this universe, and they are essentially treated like rock gods. The main character was a member of a band called Saga, one of the greatest bands of all time, having long since disbanded, with each of the members having gone their own way.
The main character is Clay Cooper (also known as Slowhand), and he’s living a mostly comfortable retired life, when the frontman of Saga, Gabriel, says that his daughter (a mercenary in her own band now) is caught in a siege, and he needs to rescue her, and in order to do that, he’s getting the band back together.
In a discussion with Locus Magazine, the author Nicholas Eames talked about how each member of Saga correlated with an archetype for a rock band:
The glory-seeking lead singer, the uber-talented axe-man, the drink-addled drummer, the overlooked bassist, and that crazy dude that rings the cowbell, or plays the flute, or pounds the keyboard like madman with a wasp in his pants.
Clay Cooper is the bassist, and he carries a shield; Gabriel is the lead singer; Ganelon, who wields an axe, is the lead guitarist; Matrick, who wields a pair of knives (or sticks) is the drummer; and then there’s the wizard, Arcandius Moog (get it? Moog?), who, when we meet him, is wearing pajamas and runs a phallic phylactery.
If that all sounds very silly to you, that’s because it’s supposed to be. This book is meant to be an entertaining, fun read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, is heavily laden with references to not only rock and roll, but to other fantasy archetypes.
Moog, the wizard, is the gay character in this book. There’s very little in the way of romance in this book (with one spoilery exception which I won’t get into here), and Moog’s sexuality is sort of a feature, sort of not. He had a husband, and nobody batted an eye at that; but his husband is dead, killed by a disease that he’s since spent the prior 20 years researching how to cure. So his gay relationship is only important in the sense that we have a motivation for him, but it’s a non-issue otherwise. He doesn’t have any new relationships over the course of the book.
And that’s fine! I’m not implying it’s a bad thing or a negative or anything like that; in fact, it’s a great thing having a gay character portrayed as ordinary and unremarked upon (his sexuality is the least interesting thing about him). Him being gay is just a part of life, and that, ultimately, is the place where I think a lot of members of the LGBTQ+ community would like to be — to simply exist and be treated equally.
Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in, what with Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill, or the raft of anti-trans legislation sweeping across the country that could, literally, have deadly impact on the lives of trans people in the United States, and anti-gay sentiment found around the world — the ordinariness surrounding a gay character is all the more refreshing.
So when I say that Arcandius Moog’s sexuality is no big deal, it can read as flippant or even a strike against the book, when the opposite is true. Kings of the Wyld isn’t really a book that explores relationships in that way; the main character is happily married; the frontman is a dad trying to save his daughter; the drummer is unhappily married; and the wizard is a widow. It’s not much more complicated that. If you want books that focus more heavily on queer relationships, I’ve reviewed a few here; if you want a book about aging rock stars getting the band back together for a farewell tour, featuring a wizard in pajamas, dragons, flying airships, a horn that blows bees, a villain with bunny ears, references to Spinal Tap and Terry Pratchett side by side, and more, then this is the book for you.
About the ‘Are There LGBTQ+ Characters’ series of posts: Being a gay reader, I am interested in LGBTQ+ books, but I haven’t always seen reviews clearly note if there are LGBTQ+ characters and how significant they are. These mini reviews are my way of addressing this problem.