Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie, a review


“Who cares who’s buried where?” muttered Craw, thinking about all the men he’d seen buried. “Once a man’s in the ground he’s just mud. Mud and stories. And the stories and the men don’t often have much in common.”

—Joe Abercrombie, The Heroes

Although it’s classified as fantasy, don’t be fooled: Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes is every inch a war story, knee deep in mud and blood, with the term “heroes” used in a rather ironic fashion. You won’t find any heroes here, just a bunch of men trying to live through another day on the battlefield.

It’s also bloody good. While it’s not at the level of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels, and perhaps doesn’t quite stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the same shieldwall as Steven Pressfield’s brilliant Gates of Fire, The Heroes is certainly one of the best books of its kind. Chock full of vivid combat and the incredible stress and strain of war, with a cast of memorable if not particularly deep characters and enough twists to keep you guessing to the end, it’s a terrific read for those who enjoy the sights and sounds of combat on the printed page.

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7 comments:

Wickedmurph said...

This is pretty much Abercrombie's best, I think. Best Served Cold was just too dark - this feels more alive to me. Abercrombie can do vast scale, but I think he writes better books when he focuses more tightly.

David J. West said...

Great review Brian. This was my favorite fantasy novel of last year.

Brian Murphy said...

Thanks for the comments, guys.

This is pretty much Abercrombie's best, I think.

I haven't read any of his others...anything you'd recommend?

Wickedmurph said...

The First Law trilogy is worth a read. It's an interesting take on the whole epic fantasy, and you'll get a lot of interesting things out of it, having read The Heroes first.

It's almost a send-up of the whole fantasy genre, but it hangs together well. You've talked about Richard Morgan's fantasy series here - the First Law trilogy depicts the same sort of world that Morgan is trying for, but with much defter handling.

Heroes is Abercrombie's take on Killer Angels. First Law is his take on Lord of the Rings. Best Served Cold is his take on Kill Bill, and is the weakest, I think. But if you like Caul Shivers in the Heroes, Best Served Cold shows you where he comes from.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Just to chime in with a different take, I liked Best Served Cold considerably better than the First Law trilogy. I have a copy of The Heroes but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

David J. West said...

As much as I liked 'The Heroes', I still liked the third book in the First Law Trilogy 'Last Argument of Kings' best-and it has Caul Shivers too.

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Good good fantasy from a writer who's style I admire. Not a read for younger minds due to some of the content. My only regret to getting into Joe Abercrombie is that he does not have a lot of books out and does not seem to be motivate to write. However, if you like the genre I would strongly suggest buying the first in the series and readig on.