Review: The Heroes

Posted: February 7, 2011 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Joe Abercrombie, Dark Fantasy

The best part about this February? No, it isn’t the manufactured holiday of Valentine’s. No, it isn’t the fact that there are only 28 days in it, thus making this work-month blissfully shorter. The best part of this February is Joe Abercrombie‘s THE HEROES (Amazon).

THE HEROES is about a hill called The Heroes. It is a useless hill that both the armies of the Union and the North want… mainly because the other side wants it. Before you ask why these groups are fighting over this useless hill, there are two things you should know. First, Bayaz is in this novel (if you’ve read the First Law trilogy, you know why this is important). Secondly, this is a Joe Abercrombie novel. People in war make stupid decisions.

The first thing I noticed while reading the novel was how smooth it was. The pacing of the entire novel flowed perfectly. I have loved every single novel Abercrombie has written, but they all have had pacing issues at times. Not so in THE HEROES. It also didn’t follow any type of formula like BEST SERVED COLD did. I had no idea where things were going with the novel… just that it would involve all sorts of people dying the way heroes do: simply, brutally and without regard for who they are or what they did. As the novels point out, the Great Leveler is no respecter of station.

Hopefully you read Abercrombie’s short story The Fool Jobs. It will give you an extra little glimpse into the characters of THE HEROES. Abercrombie draws from the characters of his prior novels as well as create all sorts of new ones for the readers to enjoy. From Craw’s dozen to Bremmer dan Gorst, every character was easy to love. Of course having characters like Bayaz, Dogman, Black Dow and Shivers return is bound to make any novel better. The way Abercrombie writes, it is easy to love every character no matter how good or terrible they are.

Oh and just in case you were wondering, there’s a lot of action here. Remember, this is a Joe Abercrombie novel. Action is his thing. Bloody, chaotic, brutal action. What struck me this time around wasn’t just how amazing and relentless the action was, but how different each scene was depending on the character PoV. Calder’s PoVs in battle were radically different from Gorst’s. Each of these was completely different from Craw’s PoV. Abercrombie doesn’t just write action well, he writes it amazingly well from every possible type of character.

Abercrombie's THE HEROES is one of the best Dark Fantasy novels I've read where you learn that "doing the right thing" is different for each person.

The one thing I will point out is that THE HEROES really had a feel of being setup. It was an amazing setup novel, but some people just don’t like that type of thing. In this particular case I didn’t mind. Abercrombie seems to be getting the world set just how he wants it for a new series. Really, whether this is a positive or a negative is up to the reader, and will differ for each person.

When it gets right down to it, Abercrombie’s THE HEROES is one of the best Dark Fantasy novels I’ve read. One of his points in the series has always been that “doing the right thing” is different for each person. THE HEROES illustrates this clearer than ever, and is (in my opinion) his best written work to date. THE HEROES firmly cements Abercrombie as one of the finest fantasy authors currently out there.

  • Recommended Age: 17+
  • Language: You've read Abercrombie before right? Then you know the language is strong throughout the full novel.
  • Violence: Duh
  • Sex: There is only one scene, and it isn't really visual at all. However, Gorst fantasizes through internal dialogue the entire novel.


  • nicksharps13 says:

    Very well written review. The Heroes has been catching flak for being a set-up novel but I feel like it was a great fan service and a testament to the Sword and Sorcery genre.

  • DavidW says:

    I don't understand how you guys can like the second from the First Law Trilogy. The entire book is the group travelling to some remote location to find something. When they get there it's not there and the next paragraph they're home. Only one character showed any development and that was mostly undone in the next book. The relationships that were formed broke apart on coming back home. In short, the book did nothing.

    • To you the novel didn't accomplish anything, but to me it did. Different strokes for different folks and all that. This review isn't about that novel though. It's about THE HEROES. My opinion, which I stated in the review, was that I think THE HEROES is his most well written novel. It was all sorts of fun, and it showed me that Abercrombie is working hard to improve his craft.

    • Mick says:

      DavidW, dude, the second one was awesome. The travelling to the spot was full of massive amounts of character development, and the fact that the item at the end was missing is just another example of why that series is great, in that it turns every fantasy trope on its head.

      I mean the sheer amount of fantasy trope destruction may be my favorite part of the first law as a whole. Glotka's parts are awesome as well, as his castle defense slowly turns to complete shit, and the fencer kid gets completely fucked up, plus the hilarious relationship between logen and the chick? man.

  • SeekingPlumb says:

    I LOVE Abercrombie!! I've read all of his books so far, and have been craving a good gritty Abercrombie book for months now!! Finally it's here!

  • Mitch says:

    I absolutely loved The First Law trilogy, problems here and there of course from him being such a new writer and all but the essence behind it was great. Best Served Cold seemed to lose that greatness feel behind it, and i didn't find myself caring about the characters or the plot.

    Does Abercrombie get back into his first law momentum or has this book lost it's edge also?

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