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Showing 1-10 of 304 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 394 reviews
on February 9, 2011
The Heroes embodies everything I like about the fantasy genre right now.

I was an English major once upon a time, and used to read plenty of serious literature. But as I've grown older, I have less patience for that kind of fiction. Writers of genre fiction, and fantasy in particular, haven't forgotten that great books are ultimately about great storytelling. It's about putting interesting characters in tight spots and seeing what happens. Everything else is secondary.

And The Heroes is a bloody great story. It's tightly focused on a single battle over a three-day period. The action is well done, but it's mainly the very flawed characters making good and bad decisions in desperate situations that make the story so entertaining. Each chapter has a point-of-view character, and the tone and style change, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, as the story shifts between them. (The dialog and language of the northmen is just one example, and Abercrombie deliberately draws some humor out of this.) Each chapter reads like a well-honed short story, with a mini story arc for that particular character. I found each of the points of view interesting and entertaining -- there wasn't a single chapter where I found myself skimming to get to the next good bit, because every page is a pleasure.

There is a theme here (the nature of heroism), but it's not heavy handed and adds some emotional depth to the story. I even had a tear in my eye at one point. But mostly the book struck me as honest, funny, touching, and vastly entertaining.
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on July 11, 2015
The Heroes is another Fantastic book by fantasy author Joe Abercrombie. Its about the struggle between the Union and the North focusing in on a 3 day battle that takes place in a valley located near a small village. It has a good number of familiar characters that have been in the First Law trilogy such as Black Dow, Shivers, Prince Calder, the Dogman, Lord Marshal Kroy,Bremer dan Gorst, and Bayaz.It also introduces us to some new characters and you get alternating perspectives throughout the battle. The characters are great and really get a sense of each of the main characters. The characters aren't one dimensional and like in his previous books aren't purely good or evil but some of both.

Again like his previous books there is Great action and allot of it considering that its a 3 day battle. Similar to how he describes his characters, Abercrombie describes war in a very realistic way. Its not something to be glorified and have heroes triumphing over the odds. Even though its a fantasy novel, he shows us how bloody and savage war is. That it is confusing, at times boring and will make even the bravest man scared enough to shake in his boots.

Even though this all takes place on a battle its not all about fighting. There is allot of scheming going on and furthers the shape of the First Law landscape.

If you are a fan of Abercrombie or have read his previous books, I can tell you that they just keep on getting better.
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on May 2, 2017
Dark, then funny, then action packed, then gritty, then hopeful, but in the end - you have to be realistic. Don't expect happy endings just to send people home feeling good. At the same time, Joe Abercrombie doesn't fall into the trap that a lot of modern fantasy writers are falling into - and that is having every plot line end terribly for every character "just to prove that I'm willing to write unhappy endings." You truly never know how things will go, and that's the mark of a writer who crafts a story. This guy has become my favorite author in the genre.
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on October 27, 2015
Another knock-out by Joe Abercrombie. To get down to the meat of my love for Joe's writing quickly: no one does characters like Joe. The characters strive to be better than they are, but nope, they're just themselves. His characters are like real life people. They have goals, and dreams, and expectations they want to live up to, but a lot of them just keep to their same old ways expecting things to change. It's a fantastic commentary on humanity as a whole.

The book itself is a good standalone novel. You're introduced to the viewpoints of many different characters, all of whom are wildly different but interesting. The plot is pretty straightforward, but this book isn't trying to be overly complex. It's a solid book, filled with great characters, fantastic action, grit, gore, hope, despair, heroism, cowardice, and cleverness. Like all Joe Abercrombie, it's more gray vs. evil than good vs. evil, maybe even gray vs. gray. Definitely a solid read if you're in need of a standalone novel, even better if you've read other Abercrombie books.
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on July 2, 2014
Arguably the best WRITTEN of any of the First Law extended series. 75% of the characters will be (and need to be, for most of it to make any sense) familiar to a fan of the series, and they often are expanded upon from the parts they may have played before (Black Dow most notably and everyone will like seeing Caul Shivers again from Best Served Cold). For sheer ingenious world building, suspense and complete WTF! moments, I guess I'd have to choose LAST ARGUMENT OF KINGS as my "favorite" of the series, but I found myself really appreciating the clever ways The Heros novel unfolds. For now it'll be my second favorite.

In THE HEROS what we have are much more subtle story lines (I know that seems hard to believe in a story of almost continuous blood-letting). But what I mean is that when the big surprises happen, they feel much more organic and less forced or for easy excitement. And though his other books also had scoundrels become somewhat redeemed, and quite a few "good guys" that went bad, this book handles the same sorts of character transformations with more nuance and believability. A number of scenes, I have to say, were just about as good as one could hope for by ANY author, and they had a dramatic, almost cinematic weight to them that really stood out.

And although I often got a guilty thrill when previous novels in the series would "pull the rabbit out of the hat" a la The First of the Magi, there were a number of times when it all felt like Deux ex Machina on Abercrombie's part (generally after having written himself into a corner). This almost never happens in The Heros and the story is better for it. Best Served Cold probably was the most guilty of using "Super Magic" to change the course of events just when things seemed most dire or stuck, and it often read like not that creative scene knock-off from the Matrix.

Another interesting aspect of the novel one will notice here is also the fact that it all takes place over around 4-5 days. Mostly in the middle 3 days actually, but it's all told via the widest panoply of characters possible, often in direct parallel. This can both be a great way of keeping you grounded as to all the action, and as opportunities for a lot of humor (in the "one mans fortune is anothers doom" kind of manner).

Bottom Line: Plenty of fun and action, more character and environmental detail to enjoy, improved writing technique, plot twists that are surprising AND believable!
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2014
I really, really like Abercrombie's writing. I thought the First Law Trilogy is one of the best fantasy trilogies I've ever read. I thought 'Best Served Cold' was a BRUTAL follow up for some of the characters. This book is also very good, but it is the first of Abercrombie's book which I thought had a bit too much fat on it. Some of the battle scenes go beyond realistic and bloody to a bit . . . well, tedious.

Still, a good book by Abercrombie is better than a great book by a lot of other fantasy authors. And if some of the characters seem a bit similar to those in the First Law (sorry, but Bremer's narration sounds an awful lot like sand's) it doesn't matter because it's just so amusing to read.

If you like Joe's World and a lot of the characters from the First Law who only had small parts, you will like this book. Let's face it, any book with more Bayaz in it is a fabulous book.
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on November 6, 2015
If you don't like this book, I think you are missing the point. This is not high fantasy quest adventure storytelling. Abercrombie introduced this world and cast in such a tale, but I like The Heroes, BSCand red country better than first law, because they are familiar allegories set in his ultra violent fantasy world. This is a war story. Replace the details and it could have been set in Stalingrad. In fact the whole narrative is reminiscent of Gettysburg. Red country is really a re telling of both both the Searchers and The outlaw Josey Wales. Best Served Cold is a mafia like revenge take, like The Godfather. His prose is electric, his characters unforgettable. Whirrun of Bligh is one of the most interesting fantasy characters I have seen in some time. The violence is visceral but not celebrated. I could read books like this endlessly. Also, the author has a gift for great names for characters. Fantasy novels often have lackluster or goofy sounding names for characters, or too,obvious " hero" , "evil wizard" " barbarian " or " princess " names. The names are fantastic especially the Northmen. It really helps the characters standout, and the whole hierarchy of Named Men illustrates this brilliantly.
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on October 18, 2016
The Heroes is set in the same world as Abercrombie 19s First Law Trilogy, and is more of a direct sequel than Best Served Cold so I would recommend reading it after that series. The Heroes takes place over only a few days during a battle between the North and the Union. Because the novel takes place over such a short time it 19s more of an exploration of the horror, brutality and uselessness of war, where men called 1CHeroes 1D are more butchers than anything, and a man 19s own commanding officer could be the biggest threat to his survival. If you 19ve read other books in the series you know these are themes Abercrombie likes to explore but he does so in a two-fisted, blood and guts way that doesn 19t skimp on action, even when it is used to underline how horrible the whole business is. <br/>There are a few interesting narrative techniques he uses, such as following the perspective of one man in battle then when he is killed transitioning to the perspective of the man who killed him as he continues through the battle. <br/>A solid entry in the series, maybe a little less narratively involving than the other books but I think it makes up for it with interesting and engaging characters., some new and some old.
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on July 28, 2013
Outstanding fare as always. It seems that after the initial First Law trilogy Abercrombie is trying out different genre hybrids: first the revenge tragedy with Best Served Cold, now a war chronicle. Excellent results so far.

Bayaz shows up again this time, and the metaphor gets even heavier as the inexorable, inevitably successful banker. When I read the original trilogy I was conflicted about him: the magician cold war felt jarring and artificial in an otherwise magnificent epic of mundane horrors. However, written less as wizard and more as nascent capitalist he's a fascinating (and no less loathsome) part of the conflict.

The unreliable narration is back in full force, and it's as splendid as always.

The fighting is a great break from the standard fantasy war epic. The carnage is almost gleefully random: in one early chapter he skips between combatants on each side, all dying in ignominy, without accomplishing anything.

And it still has that weird sense of micro optimism. Everything is terrible, people are monstrous, and yet things improve. Progress is glacial, unjust and miserable, but ultimately individuals do influence events by...small degrees, to borrow from a previous book. It's great fun to read and Abercrombie shows no sign of slowing down.
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on September 23, 2011
Warriors meet. Arrows fly. Swords slice. Axes chop. People die. That's just how it is. Sign of the times, I reckon.

The Heroes is a stand-alone book in Joe Abercrombie's First Law Series. You'll enjoy the book more if you've read the First Law Trilogy, but it is not necessary.
(But you should.)

This isn't your typical war story with good guys and bad guys. Instead, the story is told from the perspectives of the leaders and footmen on both sides of the battle. Both sides have their flaws as well as their strenghs.

Union Soldiers from the south march to the northern border to claim a strategic landmark called The Heroes. The Heroes are a circle of giant stone slabs standing at attention atop a steep hill. Barbaric mercenaries from the north occupy The Heroes and will fight to the death to defend them. The battle lasts three unpleasant days and nobody will ever be the same.

Joe Abercrombie's world is gritty and realistic. The world is muddy. The weather is terrible. Magic is powerful, but scarce. Leadership is incompetent. Battles are vicious. Men are very, very flawed. This book focuses on the border between the northern highlanders and the southern union. The lands in the north are unforgiving and the men are hardened by the constant struggle to survive. The climate in the south is much more moderate, allowing a civilization with abundant resources to thrive. The Union troops are equipped with superior armor and advanced military tactics, while the Northmen are tough, blood thirsty, and bold. However, both sides are full of incompetents, cowards, traitors, lunatics, and heroes.

There are a lot of characters in this book. Keeping track of them all is a challenge. Luckily, there is a character list with descriptions at the front of the book. You can refer back to this if you ever get confused. The first 90 pages are dedicated to character development. They're all gritty and a bit psychotic, but very human at the same time. These definitely aren't the heroes from fairy tales. Nobody is valiant or honorable. They're just people trying desperately to survive in a bad situation.

Writing Style:
Joe Abercrombie sets the scene and the mood with short declarative sentences and 'to the point' dialogue. You get a good sense of the character's motivations and you start liking them... all of them are likeable in some way... or dislikeable in other ways. You really start to feel like you know them. The battles are the most gritty, chaotic, and exciting that you'll ever read. If I had to compare them to a film, I'd say, "Remember the first time you saw, `Saving Private Ryan.' Pure Chaos!" You feel every slash of the sword and feel pain for every death.

The story structure is interesting, too. There really isn't a long drawn out quest or an Act I, Act II, Act III. There is just character development, a battle, and reflection. It's refreshing! Although, 90 pages of character introductions is a bit overwhelming.

Also, the short descriptions help the pacing of the book, but there are quite a few parts that are hard to visualize. I had to re-read a few pages now and then so I could envision the scenes. But there are some character driven scenes in the book that remind me of classic literature or the movie `True Grit.' You'll definitely remember parts of this book months after you've read it.

There are battles, duels, assassins, more battles, tactics, and battles. These battles are gritty, gory, and violent. Heads roll, limbs fall, torsos are hacked, and many die horrific deaths in the mud. This book also takes the battles one step further. Most of all, the action is not without consequences. Characters lose their limbs, their lives, and their humanity. At the end of each day in the story, they show a map and where the north and south forces are placed. Black Dow is here, General Jaelenhorn is here, etc... It's a great way to show progression.

Maturity: Adult or Late Teen
Violence, Gore, Language, Sex... This is not for kids... or anyone who is idealistic about life.

This book is Gritty, Exciting, Entertaining, and Dark. It has memorable yet sinister characters and visceral battles. What it lacks in pacing and description, it makes up for in style and action. If you love fantasy battles, then this book is for you.

Buy it if you love violence.
Buy it if you love shady characters.
Buy it if you enjoyed the First Law Trilogy.
Buy it if this 'story structure' sounds appealing.
Buy it if you like stories told from different perspectives.
Avoid it if you like your heroes to be virtuous.
Avoid it if you like verbose descriptions.
Avoid it if you don't like the idea of a 400 page battle.
Avoid it if you need to follow one main character through a story.
Avoid it if your fantasy needs to have elves and dragons. This book has more in common with Braveheart than Lord of the Rings.

If you enjoyed this book, check out the Blackhearts Omnibus set in the Warhammer Universe, The Black Company by Glen Cook, or Legend, Winter Warriors, The Lion of Macedon, and Waylander by David Gemmell. They all feature real men in violent battles.
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