Abercrombie’s Heroes

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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.

To say that fantasy author, Joe Abercrombie, has attracted a lot of attention for writing the bloodiest, most visceral of stories would be an embarrassing understatement. They don’t call him the god of grit for nothing, and after reading some of his earlier work, I was both excited and a little guarded to return. It’s similar to how I feel about watching a Terantino film. I have to armor myself up to be horrified by the display of violence.

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I hope I look this serious when I become an author. “Read my books or bad things will happen to you.”

But I know I won’t be able to put it down. (Which is more than I can say about Terantino movies, although I think some people would disagree with me)

Bloody or not, it’s undeniable that Abercrombie has a talent when it comes to writing. And The Heroes might just be his best yet. Don’t think for a second that he forgets to craft well-rounded, interesting characters in the midst of all that swordplay. This book is as gut-wrenching and as heart-warming as Saving Private Ryan. There are plenty of “D-Day scenes” to wade through. There are just as many moments of interaction that really inspire me as an author – glimpses of beautiful friendships and camaraderie.

I have a new favorite character in Curden Craw, the old and hopelessly loyal soldier who wants the best for his crew and wishes the whole time that he had become a carpenter and asked that pretty girl in town to marry him all those years ago. But seeing as he’s here now, he’ll be as honest and good as a man can be while carrying a stick of pointy metal at his side. Seeing this story through the eyes of  Craw adds a fresh breath of morality to Abercrombie’s work that brought me a good deal more hope in Abercromie’s view of humanity than the characters in Best Served Cold did.

After reading The Heroes I don’t just enjoy reading Abercrombie’s work with the usual faint sense of horror. I respect him. His views and his writing. And that surprised me because this was not just a bloodbath. The Heroes has a message buried under those layers of violence, and it left me with something to hang on to when it was over.

I want to demonstrate that.

As always, I think a good book is not only one that is well-written, one that you enjoy. A good book – a really good book – will in some way change you. That can be interpreted in a lot of ways, but here are some quotes from The Heroes that might clear up that statement:

“There’s always good men on both sides of a good question,” said Craw. (8)

“A war is no place for heroics.” (33)

“First thing a fighter has to learn is when not to fight.” (68)

“That’s what it is to be a hero. Everyone wants a little bit of you.” (79)

“People like simple stories…but people ain’t simple.” (81)

“You get no happy songs after a battle. The jaunty tunes come beforehand and they usually do some injury to the truth.” (95)

“Would have been nice if, just one time, the right thing could’ve been the safe thing too.” (312)

These are a very small portion of the type of things that caught me up in this book. You might have some idea now what sort of book The Heroes is, and while its certainly not for everyone, it should definitely be for some of you.

To further the idea thread from before:

At the very least…a good book should provoke you to thoughts that land outside the world of that novel.

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