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Review of 'The Heroes'

I'm going to preface this post by stating that it will contain spoilers, for those of you who are reading or are going to read the book, you may not want to read on. I don't think spoiler tags are really going work here, due to the overall review of the book. So with that said, let the reviewing commence!

Personally, I find myself totally disappointed by this book. Abercrombie has completely violated one of Twain's cardinal rules of writing: That a story shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere. This book is 541 pages of wasted time. The story is set ten years after the conclusion of The First Law trilogy, yet nothing seems to have happened in those ten years, or in the four days that the book covers.

Abercrombie's style remains unchanged, showing the gallows humor and dark edge to fantasy that he has established as his trademark, and overall remains pleasant to read, except that his plot is virtually non-existent, and his characters are mostly dull.

My favorite characters from the original trilogy are conspicuously absent, without even a cameo appearance throughout the entire book. Glokta is completely unheard from, and Logen has vanished and is presumed dead. I thought it was a setup to have him pop up at the end of the book, but no such luck.

There are six points of view in this novel:
Bremer dan Gorst
Corporal Tunney
Finree dan Brock
Cunden Craw
Prince Calder
Red Beck

Bremer dan Gorst's POV is depressing and nearly painful to read. Ever talked with a depressed person? How they continually harp on the three reasons their life sucks and they want to die? Welcome to Bremer's POV. He has no character arc. Zero. He spends his entire portion of the story whining about how he was banished from his post as the king's bodyguard unjustly, and how badly he wants to sleep with Finree. That's it. He has some splendid action sequences, but he really has no purpose in the story.

Corporal Tunney also has no character arc. He begins the story as a lazy, shirking soldier in the union army, and ends it in exactly the same manner. During the course of his story he proceeds to sit on his rear end in a bog for 75% of the novel and berate his underlings. He also really has no purpose in the story.

Finree dan Brock has no character arc. Well perhaps that is unfair. She has a period shortly after she's captured where she acts differently, but soon rebounds to her scheming ambitious ways, ending the tale in exactly the same mindset as she began it in. Literally, the text is pretty much a repeat of her thoughts from her first chapter. Except for getting captured by Black Dow and used to carry a peace offer to her father, Lord Marshal Kroy, she serves no real purpose.

Cunden Craw is a poor replacement for Logen. He does have something of a character arc, at least, though like Finree, he swings back to his old ways in his final chapter. He makes for somewhat interesting reading, but his increasing cowardice and endless stream of complaints about how miserable the times are gets old.

Prince Calder is one of the only two characters that actually have a real, honest to goodness character arc. Calder, elevated from a supporting cast member in The First Law to a POV character in this novel shows his transition from complete and utter coward to growing the beginnings of a spine.

Red Beck is sort of the morality thread going through the whole tale, about how terrible war truly is. Straight off his farm, he joins up in a Named Man's dozen to earn his own name, and discovers that he is an inveterate coward. He hides in a cupboard, kills one of his friends, and gets credit for the four men his friend killed. Gets his name, and more or less spends the rest of the story doing nothing but moping about and finally goes back to his farm, having discovered that war is not for him. Again, an honest to goodness character arc, despite the fact that I loathe the character.

I'll make a side note in here for a non-POV character, 'Cracknut' Whirrun of Bligh. If I were forced to pick a favorite character in this book, it would without a doubt be Whirrun. I'm sure this partly stems from the fact that he's clearly nuts, which makes him more entertaining, and he serves as the comic relief in a lot of scenes. However he was the only character I actually gave a damn about when he died.

Abercrombie has completely and utterly nailed one of the tenets of war, which is that it's 99% boredom and 1% sheer terror. Unfortunately this makes for less than stellar reading. Coupled with his typecasting of every union soldier as either lazy, stupid, incompetent, glory-mad, or some horrific combination of the four; and his repeated typecasting of all the northmen as secret cowards or insane, the book was utter crap compared to his previous works.

I'm not saying that people march into battle without fear. I'm a soldier myself. I know better than that, even if the standards of battle have changed drastically from what is being written here. But constantly harping on that fact in over half of your POV characters is excessive.

These are only my opinions, and of course can be taken with a grain or two of salt by the rest of you. Everyone will react to books in a different way, after all. Personally, I think Abercrombie may have produced what good work he had, and is now pushing out inferior stories to meet the demands of his publisher.
Kudos, DB. A very informative review.:)

I haven't read any JA since I finished Last Argument of Kings. There's just something about his style which failed to catch my imagination. In many ways, I don't think he's doing anything David Gemmell didn't do years before. Still, at least you've warned me that I'm not missing anything of value.


New Member
what makes joe abercrombie a great author is not his storytelling but his dialogues that are quite unique.he reminds me of a young stephen king of fantasy.i would like to add that i didn meet caracter more romantic than whirrun of bligh from a long time.who said he s mad.he s a man of war and he s dutifully consacred to his mission ,live and die as a hero.how hard it is,none knows but the heroes themselves.you look for a flaw in his caracter and you don t find as he s in love only with his sword and his statue of warhero.closest to him would be gorst.the same involvement in warheroism,the same detachement for life.his weakness is his love for finree who affect his statue as hero.nowadays it s hard to find a author who can make you laugh in the middle of horror.joe abercrombie does it since his first book.