Book Review: The Heroes

I just finished “The Heroes” By Joe Abercrombie last night. It arrived in the mail on Friday evening. A fairly long novel (over 500 pages, hardback), it was quite the page turner and delightfully British. If you dislike coarse characters, extensive vulgarities, and a lot of blood, then you should probably stop reading my review and start looking for a different book.

The book followed a pretty standard plot and never pretended differently. Instead the author focused on a wide variety of characters, most of whom would be hunted down and exterminated in modern society as murderous monsters. The point of view shifted around a fair bit between different characters, but I did not find it jarring. Instead I found it the constantly changing perspective on the events of the novel (a three day battle) to be an aid to keeping the storyline alive and the gore and violence tolerable. Most, no, all points of view, were in the first person and the characterization was outstanding in my opinion. The author even took advantage of this point of view to poke some fun at himself.

I do have a slight quibble with how destructive Mr. Abercrombie portrays medieval weapons of war, (and if I was one of his characters I would not wear armor. It does little good for anyone, except in dramatically appropriate moments that the plot demands.) but otherwise thought that the battle scenes conveyed an excellent sense of confusion and chaos.

The political intrigues were rather transparent but served to draw out the characters and provide them with more motivation than sheer puppets. Being a military member, I found the several scenes depicting the utter ridiculousness and confusion of the orders that are issued rather amusing. All said and done, I wished the battle could have ended a day sooner, for that would have ended the book sooner. It is not that I did not enjoy the read, (because I did, and it really does keep you turning the pages) but I found the realism a little to gray and pessimistic to endure for long. There were only two characters I actually liked, and a third that I kept going back and forth on. Oh, wait. There was a fourth but he was a minor role and didn’t last long.

In other words, however cliché it may be, I like my heroes to have some redeeming qualities. The theme of there being two sides to every issue, and that war is not some glorious game, is carried very strongly throughout this novel. The writing is well done, and it is thought provoking, but I honestly could not call this entertainment. Which is rather what I was looking for.

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