Joe Abercrombie – The Heroes

My first post and review was Joe Abercrombie‘s previous novel Best Served Cold. Now, 200 posts later, I review his next novel The Heroes (2010). It is a standalone sequel to the above mentioned novel while also being a sequel to The First Law trilogy. Abercrombie introduces many new characters while a fair number of earlier characters return to the scene. This creates the more familiar setting as the story itself is standalone enough to be taking place anywhere. Previous knowledge is not really required.

Perhaps inspired by other authors using a similar concept, Abercrombie decided to try something different. The story focuses on one event, a battle, taking place over several days. In it he has selected several viewpoints from different sides. Some viewpoints are from important characters, others from minor characters. He also picked them to be able to provide sufficient attention to the different details of the events of the days that take up the event. In effect the general plot is not that complicated, but by creating so many different storylines he creates a thrilling story that never bores. He plays with several small themes. He keeps thing low to earth, recognizable while still allowing the great character of the universe he has created to shine through, with his typical small surprises and gritty action with humoristic moments when he can add them.

Abercrombie uses the different storylines to great effect. Aiming and achieving character development for all his main characters within this short period of time. It is an event, so it is not strange that it will have a strong effect on them. The characters themselves are very distinct and far from cliché.

Abercrombie pretty much manages to avoid them even though the risk of doing so is easy. Writing about a single battle taking place over several days is not something original. The outcome has limited possibilities, so it all depends on the smaller character storylines that fill up this event. So this novel all depends on its characters and it is there that Abercrombie delivers. So well that this novel with a rather simple plot is a large one. Abercrombie uses everything he can think of to expand it into a great weave that will grab the reader and not let go.

So how to rate this novel? The previous novels were better in the sense of the general plot. This is unavoidable as this novel contains only one major event that could have been a minor event in those other novels. In the matter of details The Heroes manages to shine more strongly. In the end however, the impact is less. It is a great novel, a must read and a great addition to the existing universe. A succesfull experiment, but lacking in giving significant progress to the greater plot. Either way, highly recommended.

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