They say Black Dow’s killed more men than winter, and clawed his way to the throne of the North up a hill of skulls. The King of the Union, ever a jealous neighbour, is not about to stand smiling by while he claws his way any higher. The orders have been given and the armies are toiling through the northern mud. Thousands of men are converging on a forgotten ring of stones, on a worthless hill, in an unimportant valley, and they’ve brought a lot of sharpened metal with them.
Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts or even the strongest arms that prevail.
Three men. One battle. No Heroes.
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Narrator: Steven Pacey
Series: The First Law #5
Running Time: 23hrs 5mins
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Audio Release Date: 25/02/2011
My Rating of ‘The Heroes’: 4 out of 5
The Heroes has most of what makes a great Joe Abercrombie story.
It has wonderful characters, some of which are new, some of which are old, pretty much all of which are good fun and turn even the most normal of scenes into enjoyable ones. It has the ever-present struggle between the Union and the North, and it has Joe’s sublime writing style that seems to bridge the gap between formal, informal and all out banter between author and reader at the character’s expense. As far as modern authors go, in my eyes there just isn’t one out there that is as easy to read as Joe Abercrombie.
The one aspect of this novel that keeps it from being as great as some of the others is that it’s pretty much just one battle. Don’t get me wrong; it’s enjoyable, it’s well-paced and it’s pure, unabashed Abercrombie. But, at the end of the day, it’s just a battle. There’s no overarching plot that dips in and out of different settings or little subplots working in the background to give more depth to everything upfront. You do have different view points, and you do get subplots … but they all happen within and revolve around the battle. So yea, it’s five-hundred + pages of a battle or, if you have the audio book (like me) it’s twenty-three hours of the battle and the events that happen within it.
That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable, as it really is. It features certain characters that I’d go as far as to saying are some of my all-time favourites. I just wish it had more going on than the battle atop the Heroes. As, with it being what it is, I feel like it adds to the world of the First Law overall, but not enough to make it feel anything more than (possibly) a stop gap between the book before it and the book after.
As always, Steven Pacey was utterly sublime. He got my hopes up at one point when Cosca’s voice came into it … but it turned out he was simply using that voice for another character (which given where that character came from kind of seemed a bit odd, but he was still an awesome character (probably my favourite) so I’ll let it slide.)
Overall, I enjoyed this one and really look forward to getting to Red Country in the future, especially given who it seems to feature!