The Heroes

This is the title of the last book by Joe Abercrombie. As the four previous books, it takes place in the same universe and with mostly the same characters. Then, why bother (reading it or reviewing it)?! First, the style and humor are also the same as before, which means The Heroes is rather well written, with witty dialogues. (Here is a sample.) Moreover, while the First Law trilogy had a great collection of anti-heroes, this book sets the bar higher, with no single redeemable character! The setting is much closer to classical tragedy (in the theatrical meaning of the term) than the previous books, with a unity of time (3 days), place (The Heroes) and action (a battle). While there are many characters, most of whom were involved in the earlier books (which means it reads better as a sequel to the other books), three stand above the others, with personal viewpoints.

The backcover concludes with an prophetic “No heroes” and the only heroes found in the novel are standing stones (or menhirs or cromlechs) set on top of a hill central to the battle. There is much cynicism in this allegory: only frozen stones can be heroes in such an hopeless world where courage, honour, valiance have no meaning left! The premises of The Heroes are thus quite exciting and unusual, even though I understand some readers have read more than enough of those witty dialogues and gritty descriptions, as shown by this hilarious pastiche on amazon.

The main theme of The Heroes is the highly random nature of battle outcomes. Well-bred generals from the Union versed in war sciences with complex hierarchies under them are unable to react to sudden attacks from disorganised Northerners, while the command structure of the North is so ridden with feuds and rivalries that everyone suspects everyone of foul play and plays one’s own agenda. The battle lasts three days (as the three books of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller’s Chronicles) and both major and minor characters are dying by the dozen, while most face doubts about their role in the war as well as bouts of either cowardice or berseking madness. I find it rather funny that Shiver, who was the “nicest” (or at least most innocent) character of Best served cold, becomes such a cold-blooded killer in The Heroes while Bayaz remains his absolute-evil self… (I am not certain he was such an essential component of the plot, the same applies to the Magi on the other side.) The final chapters (after the battle) are  a bit disappointing in that they are in a spirit of “all-is-well-that-ends-well” wrapping (modulated by Abercrombie’s ultimate cynicism, of course!) and we could have done without them, sticking with the madness and lack of purpose of those three days of battle. However, this remains a great book altogether.

One Response to “The Heroes”

  1. […] the above heroes are far from the down-the-shelf heroes (in the same way Abercrombie’s Heroes are anything but heroes…!) Actually, there is a lot in common between Morgan’s and […]

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