A war story that is against war.
That’s the best way I can sum up this book. Knowing Abercrombie, it’s easy to go into The Heroes thinking, “Whoa! A three-day battle! How awesome, this sure will be a fun ride. Blood, guts, and shrieking, yes please.”
And it is.
But it’s not about the violence or the killing. It’s about the twisted camaraderie that surrounds soldiers (think a la Steven Erikson), and how people who are fighting in wars think it’s an incredibly stupid idea.
It’s almost a slap in the face to the Tolkien and Jordan era of writing huge battle scenes with pitched armies and inspiring leaders. There is no glory or honour in killing. It’s either you, or the man across from you, and that’s it. Abercrombie puts forth some of the most cynical and sarcastic characters. Their narrative voice bleeds through the page and colours the experiences we see.
War in the end solves nothing, and Joe Abercrombie made me understand it in a way I never have before.
You know how there’s a stereotype about fantasy authors that we spend all of our time just doodling, and world-building, and coming up with currencies and trade routes and mountain ranges and such?
Joe Abercrombie is like that with creating his characters. There are no stereotypes, and no easy ways out. He thinks hard about each one, and comes up with unique and clever twists to their personalities. I’ve never seen so many fascinating characters introduced in such a short time, many of which don’t even last the whole novel or even a whole chapter.
Believe the hype.
Go out, read this book, and be better for it.