Posted on | December 24, 2012 | 2 Comments
Quite a few things conspired against my reading Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes. Most prominently, it is a book hyped left and right, and I have grown wary of overhyped books. Secondly, it is a fantasy novel, and there are very few fantasy stories I really find engaging – a few classics like Tolkien or Howard, maybe, and some of the modern “knights who say fuck” books, like Martin. Being seaside at the time, however, I decided to give it a shot, ready to toss it away in a heartbeat if it turned out to be boring or simply uninteresting to my tastes.
I could not put the godsdamn book down.
Yes, there are problems with it, such as the myriad of names the reader has to wrestle through and distinguish to be able to follow the plot, but this is unavoidable with the sheer number of people converging on the central location. Helpfully, since the book is about the progress of a bloody three-day battle for control of a sort of fantasy version of Hamburger Hill, the number of names one has to keep track of rapidly starts to dwindle once things get cracking. And boy-oh-boy do they ever get cracking.
Abercrombie’s writing skills are excellent, insomuch that even when he occasionally treads clichéd waters, he still holds the reader’s attention. However, this seldom happens in the novel – none of the characters are exactly sympathetic, though naturally you do grow fond of some of them by the end, and none of them are in it for a higher cause. Many are in it for the power or loot, many are stuck in the situation due to accidents of birth or a simple lack of other marketable skills, and the only undoubtedly good people seem to be the many refugees running from their farmsteads and homes as war draws near – although they are suspect as well.
Although slightly gimmicky at first, with their cinematic chain-reaction description, the deaths, when they come, and they come in troves after the slow buildup of the introduction, are mainly unpredictable, as are the end results of the battle. When it was all over, I was eager to follow the detachment of survivors that went on to the next battle, since, naturally, there is always a next battle, but unfortunately, the next book doesn’t seem to head that way. Luckily, there are three prequels that explore the background with, apparently, lots of blood a-flowin’ and plenty of heads a-rollin’.