four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
37-Nov-Dec-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-The-HeroesBritish fantasy writer and freelance film editor Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy (The Blade Itself [2006], Before They Are Hanged [2007], Last Argument of Kings [2008]) and a sequel, Best Served Cold (2009), grabbed the attention of a legion of fantasy fans. The Heroes, a stand-alone novel set in the same world, ups the ante on the battle for glory, honor, and blood.

The Story: Several years have passed since the events of the First Law Trilogy and Best Served Cold, and Black Dow, who reigns in the North, struggles to maintain power. Logen Ninefingers and the Union champ at the bit, and the Gurkish stir in the background, along with the last honest man, Curnden Craw, the disgraced Bremer dan Gorst, power-mad Prince Calder, and a host of others. Over three brutal days, they will determine the fate of the North, fighting for power and glory ("I used to think you were a decent man, but I see now I was mistaken. You're a hero," one man scoffs at another). But often in Joe Abercrombie's world, survival is enough.
Orbit. 576 pages. $14.99. ISBN: 9780316193566

Guardian (UK) HHHHJ

"The Heroes is an indictment of war and the duplicity that corrupts men striving for total power: bloody and violent, but never gratuitously so, it's imbued with cutting humour, acute characterisation and world-weary wisdom about the weaknesses of the human race. Brilliant." Eric Brown

AV Club 4 of 5 Stars"Abercrombie has his faults--chief among them an over-reliance on clever dialogue that's nothing but--but he's a genius at creating believable characters and situations that are neither too heroic nor too antiheroic. ... Abercrombie's shifting viewpoints and ability to portray the rare bits of magic that invade his universe as blinding moments of terror, incomprehensible to his non-magician characters, recall [George R. R.] Martin the most, but he has literary flourish to spare." Todd VanDerWerff

SFF World 4 of 5 Stars"This is Epic Fantasy on a small scale, not an epic battle of the scale of Waterloo, yet the horrors and futility of war are shown just as clearly, perhaps more so by focusing on smaller, more identifiable assemblages of characters. ... Like Best Served Cold, this works well as a stand-alone, though for those who have been here before there are a few nice connections to previous novels." Mark Yon

SF Reviews 4 of 5 Stars"Abercrombie has quickly risen to the top ranks of heroic fantasy. This novel, a stand-alone epic that doesn't require you to have read his others, makes it abundantly clear why." Thomas M. Wagner

Strange Horizons 4 of 5 Stars"In short: Joe Abercrombie is a lean, mean, killing machine, and The Heroes is his best yet. Smarter, funnier, and harder than The First Law, more considered than Best Served Cold by a great, gory swathe, miss this one and heads could very well roll." Niall Alexander

Fantasy Book Critic 3.5 of 5 Stars"On finishing The Heroes, I found myself conflicted--the book is very well written, maybe the best technically of the author so far and with all the stuff I came to expect from Mr. Abercrombie; it even transcends somewhat its limited setting but I still wish it would have been about more as he clearly has shown he can do it in his First Law trilogy and in the superb Best Served Cold. I came from The Heroes feeling I read a side episode in a saga--a long one at over 500 pages--but something that will later be regarded as a minor part of it." Liviu Siciu

Critical Summary

In fantasy circles, there's no bigger compliment than to be compared to George R. R. Martin. So Joe Abercrombie has that going for him. And with his cinematic eye for violence and a knack for portraying mayhem of all sorts, the author paints a picture both relentless in its intensity and clear in its purpose. But the characters in Abercrombie's dark fantasy worlds are, above all, human--and that alone separates his work not only from most fantasy fiction but much fiction of any sort. Despite being set in a familiar world, The Heroes stands alone. The First Law Trilogy would make a good starting point, though, for readers keen on discovering a quality fantasy series--and a talented genre writer entering the prime of his career.