Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

Reviewed by:

The Heroes follows a set of characters – some known to dedicated readers, and some newly introduced – on two sides of a bloody battle between the (dis)organised forces of the Union under Lord Marshal Kroy and the chaotic carls under the command of Black Dow, the Protector of the North. Switching perspectives from hour to hour, The Heroes goes into all the muddy, gruelling detail we expect from Abercrombie, and then some.

I did not listen to the audiobook by Steven Pacey, because I found a copy of The Heroes in the local thrift store. But every other line, I imagined Pacey’s narration in my head – I really missed him!

The Heroes is the best book by Abercrombie I’ve read yet. Rather than telling a single character’s story over a long span of time, he tackles a single event – a battle spanning a couple of days – and describes it from the perspectives of commanders, participants and onlookers from both sides. The multitude of characters might seem daunting at first, but there was not a single instance in this book when I was confused as to who was who – which does Abercrombie great credit.

The book’s best sequence, in fact, comes when Abercrombie lets loose all narrative convention and follows a string of about a dozen nameless characters from their introduction all the way to their death in the battle, a few seconds later. Though gruesome, there is something bizarrely funny about this passage. It is writing like this that really underlines Abercrombie’s ability to drive home the horrors of his medieval grimdark world while keeping the reading experience light with a nice dosage of dry British humour.

Abercrombie’s prose, as always, is a delight to read. The scenes are violent and gory, the story dark and desperate, and the characters cold and cunning. I realise many people would hate a book like this, and I understand that it is not for everyone. But this book was just perfect for me. The idea of following a battle, in detail, from all angles, is brilliant, and the execution is equally well done. I loved the returning characters, and I especially loved how Abercrombie chose to switch whether these characters were point-of-view characters, which means that readers get a completely new either insiders- or outsiders perspective and a completely new version of the character. Abercrombie even manages to tie the story into the bigger picture of his First Law-setting.

I just loved The Heroes – I couldn’t think of anything to criticise it. So I went with a five-star rating instead.

I think that The Heroes could be read independently of any of the other works in the First Law-world, though reading Best Served Cold first is no punishment (quite the opposite in fact), and that will give some context to a few of the characters in The Heroes. The Heroes is actually linked more closely to the First Law-trilogy itself and features more characters and events from that series than Best Served Cold did – but even without intimate knowledge of the Union’s king or the history of the Bloody Nine, The Heroes is an absolutely amazing read that should be on every fantasy lover’s radar.

Share this post: