The Heroes is my first introduction to UK based author, Joe Abercrombie. As a author who writes dark and gritty fantasy books, what’s not to like? Fans of the author should be more familiar with his claim to fame, The First Law trilogy. While The Heroes is a stand alone novel, there are some mention of characters in his past work. Make no mistake about it. The Heroes is a very dark novel about war and the many nasty faces of it. Throughout the book, you’ll be introduced to numerous characters and learn of their story about how they are involved. Many people have different stories to tell and how one person views war itself can be completely different from the person they are standing right next to. While I first started reading the book, I was thrilled and excited. After a while though, I realized that this book has only a couple of tricks up its sleeves and the main one is that the author keeps hammering into your head is that war is ugly. Very ugly indeed.
To put it gently, I think that The Heroes is a very overrated piece of work. The entire story takes place within the time of three days or so. During these three days, the Northman and the Union troops (South) battle it for land domination and supremacy. Throughout the many chapters, the book will put you through the eyes of a different character on either side of the battle. Once again, each person has his or her reasons for joining the war either it be earning a name for themselves or looking for ways to profit from it instead. What the author tries to do here is paint a picture that war is not a good thing. If by now you’re getting sick of me telling you that same thing over and over again about this so called event called a “war”, well, you better get used to it because that’s pretty much the only thing you’ll be getting here by reading The Heroes. It’s funny because although there are many battles that were fought throughout this book, I still have that weird feeling that not a whole lot happened.
There will be many, many different characters you’ll be needing to keep track of throughout reading The Heroes. Quite frankly, many of them are just plain boring except for a select few. What irritates me the most is that the author will put a character high up on a pedestal like Black Dow about how such a wicked man he is and how he is feared by nearly everyone in the North but throughout the book (the present), he doesn’t do anything to instill that same level of fear to the reader. Characters like Corporal Tunny is wasted because once again, not a whole lot happens. I was strangely into his character because I thought it interesting him doing what he do and still lasting in the army for so long. But what do I get? I get to read about him stuck in a forest for the entire book. I’m sure a lot of folks would love to have read more about Cracknut Whirrun but sadly, this isn’t so. Instead we get the likes of Calder who is better known for having more brains than brawn. You would think that to for him to be portrayed the way he is, something incredible would happen through his scheming alone. Again, I’m left disappointed in the end because I felt the author could have used the characters in a bit more interesting fashion. I believe that Gorst is the most complete character out of the bunch. As a man who will do anything to restore his lost honor, he will stop at nothing until he reclaims it back.
The many different battle scenes in the book is mediocre at best in my opinion. It’s not bad but nothing really stands out as well except for a few select parts. Understand that The Heroes is not just about one big battle after another. There is a lot of planning that goes along after each battle. Remember that this is set in the old days. There are no guns and many a times, a battle is won by either having more men on your side of the field or through cunning and strategic maneuvers.
While The Heroes is definitely not a bad book by any means, I just don’t see how it got all the praise that it did. It started off pretty strong but then started growing tiresome. Some might say that this can be attributed to the fact that this is a depressing book in general with humans dying left and right, mind you. I guess it might have been a bit better if I had read a different book in between reading sessions. Now that I think of it, I do have to admit that The Heroes is one of the most depressing books I have ever read. If this was the author’s intention, then I salute him. Because as we all know, war is ugly and there are no heroes in the end.