William's Reviews > The Heroes

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
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Apr 09, 11

Read in January, 2011

I’ve really enjoyed Abercrombie’s “First Law” books and “Best Served Cold” so I was looking forward to “The Heroes” and I wasn’t disappointed - it may not quite be his best book, but it isn’t far behind. The biggest difference in this book is the scope, whereas his previous works crossed continents and covered a timespan of several months or years; “The Heroes” is more tightly focused on describing the three days of a battle between the invading Union army and the Northmen trying to retain control of their land. Inevitably for a book about a battle there are a lot of battle scenes in the book, but Abercrombie also does some excellent characterisation. All of the main point-of-view characters are interesting and they experience a lot of character development in the three days of the battle and there are also numerous memorable characters in minor roles, some new, some of them returning from Abercombie’s previous books. Many of the characters (on both sides of the conflict) are likeable and this helps the battle scenes be compelling, particularly as no character really feels entirely safe and several characters are killed off. The description of the battle is also done very well, the strategy behind the fighting and the consequences of the decisions of the officers are well thought-out and the battle scenes themselves are very effective in showing the chaos of war. Particularly good are a small number of chapters where Abercrombie repeatedly switches between characters, such as the scene on the first day of the battle where he starts following one soldier charging into battle, switches to that soldier’s killer, then to the killer of the second soldier and so on. The book is about more than just the action, the main theme (as the title suggests) is heroism, how heroes can be very different and how the people acclaimed as heroes may often not see themselves that way. It all comes to a satisfying conclusion, with a few surprises along the way.
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Tamara I rather think this *is* Abercrombies best yet. Its just so perfectly focused in its criticism, its practically Discworld (one of the best ones) only with swearing and no optimism.


William I agree it is probably the strongest book thematically and there's definitely an argument to be made for it being his best book. I think I slightly prefer "The Last Argument of Kings", there were plenty of good characters in The Heroes but none quite as great as Logen or Glotka, but there's not much to choose between them.


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