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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
The Heroes (First Law World 2)
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on 6 May 2014
Black Dow and the Northmen have becoming a thorn in the Union’s side. The Union is getting pushy and starting to encroach on land held by Black Dow. There’s only one way to settle this . . . FIGHT!!!
Craw and his dozen have been sent to secure a hill, crowned by ancient standing stones known as The Heroes, which is being held by some of the Dogman’s men. He manages to pull it off without violence. But neither he, nor his dozen are aware of how important that hill is going to be in the coming days, for the Union is marching all of its legions North.
Somehow Abercrombie has managed to take a simple concept as a war, and a pointless one at that, and turn it into a 500+ paged novel, and managed without even having any one main protagonist. What he does do is introduce a rogues gallery of fighters on either side of the war, so instead of one main story arc, we get six arcs that enjoy almost an even amount of page space. The North has its named men, with Black Dow, a charismatic but murderous leader, as their chief. Craw is the ‘I’m too old for this s***’ warrior that tries to the right thing in ever situation, whilst looking out for his crew; amongst whom are Whirrun of Bligh, a legendary warrior who carries the Father of Swords and Wonderful, the only female warrior who can hold her own against any of Black Dows men. Also on the Northmen’s side is Prince Calder, the scheming son of the former ‘King of the North’, who’s smirk and double-edged words only seem to land him in deeper waters. Then there’s Beck, a farm boy who has dreamed of earning a Name and following in his heroic father’s footsteps.
The Union is led by Lord Marshal Kroy, a seasoned general who takes the loss of men personally but is surrounded by sycophants and the King’s old drinking buddies. His daughter, Finree has come along to show support for her husband, a nobleman who’s family has fallen from the King’s favor, whom she hopes to advance through her own politicking. Another man who has fallen from favor is Bremer dan Gorst, a warrior with very few equals but only allowed near battle as the Royal Observer, though his only wish is to fight his way back into the King’s good graces. Then there is Corporal Tunny, a seasoned soldier and slacker. He’s that guy that get you anything you need, polish, extra rations or a blanket, for a price. The characters are colorful and well-realized, making you care for what happens to them and hope for their safety every time they face danger. This in itself is no mean task, as Abrecrombie manages to strike such a fine balance that the reader doesn’t care what side the characters are fighting on, but rather empathise with each characters personal situation instead.
The world-building is gritty and believable. There are no undead, demons or dragons to distract from the action, and the battles are every bit as muddy, bloody and confused as you would expect a battle to be, but even the gore is tempered by that underlying sense that the violence is pointless and dehumanizing. The Union could very well be the Roman Empire trying to conquer the Northern lands of the British Isles, which quickly helps to establish the style of armour and clothing, the style of the architecture and the lay of the land, within the readers mind.
The writing may not be written in stanzas, but Abercrombie has managed to tell the story of an epic battle in the tradition of Homer’s Illiad, choosing to focus on the heroics of individuals rather than force the reader to pick sides and politics. The plot might not enrich your lives, but you will most certainly remember his motley cast of characters and no doubt will find yourself browsing for other titles by Abercrombie.
The Heroes can be read as a stand-alone novel (as I did), or can be read as part of a linked series of books that started with The Blade Itself. What is certain is that Abercrombie has made himself a ‘Named Man’ amongst writers of Fantasy and a contender for the crown of ‘King of Heroic Fantasy’.
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on 4 October 2017
As a stand alone story about as good as it gets. Wonderfully dark, duplicitous and morally ambiguous characters mixed in with the usual Abercrombie references and side plots. The battle scenes where it switches from character to character right up to the point where they're killed each in a running chronological narrative is pure genius. My only complaint is that Black Dow is killed off, I absolutely love that guy. So completely and utterly wrong but at the same time you can't help but like him.
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on 1 February 2013
Compulsive reading with imagination
This is the fourth activist book I've read and I'm still impressed by his storytelling. He develops his characters and has you on their side even when they are killers and thieves. Always plenty of action and a few twists to keep you interested. This is a pick up and read from start to end that anybody interested in fantasy novels will love. Recommended.
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on 27 May 2017
Would recommend to fans of military fantasy, tactics, politics, battles, heroes and villains.

Fantastic writing, deep characters, all the gore, tactics and war cries you could ask for.
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on 22 November 2013
This is my first book by Mr Abercrombie having had his previous work on my wish list for some time. What was I waiting for? I cannot recall a bigger collection of duplicitous, scheming, cynical and cowardly individuals anywhere else in print.
It is a testament to the author that such repellent characters remain engaging throughout.
I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who likes it grim!
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on 20 July 2011
Quite simply the best fantasy I have read for years... and if anyone has been watching or read The Game of Thrones then you'll see a nod to that!
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on 29 August 2017
Just read this for he third time and it's still just as good
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VINE VOICEon 3 August 2011
Joe Abercrombie has become one of the UK's top fantasy writers after only 5 books. Many suggest he is similar to David Gemmell which I would not agree with, Gemmell's characters had a nobility and sense of right about them, Abercrombie's are lacking in a sense of nobility and justice and have the whole range of emotions and traits including many that are not at all nice.

So while Abercrombie does play in the Gemmell's genre of fantasy with swords and occasional sorcery, Abercrombie is strong on rich and often deliciously self serving characters spun into a violent and unforgiving world. His first three books, the First Law trilogy were a joy, followed up by a standalone novel set in the same world.

The Heroes is his fifth novel and it is an ambitious and unique take on the traditional fantasy battle story. The Heroes as a title is a clever sleight of hand - it refers to a circle of rocks on a hill, not any set of characters involved in the story. The Heroes are the central strategic goal for two opposing armies, The Union and the North and we see a battle over three days from the perspective of many of the participants. Abercrombie is making a few points here and turns the traditional fantasy battle on its blooded head, here there is no great evil to defeat or bigger picture, it's all a bit pointless. The loss of life for a small bit of ground was much like the trench warfare of WW1 with equally poor judgement and waste of life. There are no good guys or bad guys in this, just two opposing forces being slaughtered for nothing more than a pile of rocks. Wrapped in this mess we have a variety of strong and interesting characters and Abercrombie's trademark dialogue and banter.

It takes a while to get used to the vast cast but the effort is rewarded with a strong reminder as to how good a writer Joe Abercrombie is. Not for the fainthearted or those offended by earthy language though!
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on 9 December 2012
I have read the first law series and A dish served cold all written by Joe Abercrombie. All these books is set in the same world and why i love these books are the hard truth about life and people. And how he sets up that there are no good guys or bad guys just "ordinary" people if you could say that. And let not forget the way he writes them always keep me interested so when i buy a book it will be many sleepless nights and still days laying in bed just reading, unable to put it away. And the books the heroes are all i though up it to be the cold north and it's hard people shaped by endless supplies of war and conflict. And the union's army reclaiming what is there's to take. i would recommend this who read any of the previous books. and all in all cant wait to read the next one.
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on 27 April 2017
Great follow up book looking forward to reading the test
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