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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2011)
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 neighbor, 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.


For glory, for victory, for staying alive.

581 pages, ebook

First published January 27, 2011

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About the author

Joe Abercrombie

120 books26.9k followers
Joe Abercrombie was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Manchester University, where he studied psychology. He moved into television production before taking up a career as a freelance film editor. During a break between jobs he began writing The Blade Itself in 2002, completing it in 2004. It was published by Gollancz in 2006 and was followed by two other books in The First Law trilogy, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. He currently lives and works in London with his wife and daughter. In early 2008 Joe Abercrombie was one of the contributors to the BBC Worlds of Fantasy series, alongside other contributors such as Michael Moorcock, Terry Pratchett and China Mieville.

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Profile Image for Petrik.
689 reviews46.2k followers
May 4, 2023
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

4.5/5 Stars

The Heroes depicted an unforgettable three days of intricate battles; Joe Abercrombie has once again proved himself to be my shining star in grimdark fantasy.

For me, there’s simply no one that can write grimdark fantasy as good as Abercrombie. The Heroes has been claimed by many Abercrombie’s fans to be his best book so far, and although I disagree because in my opinion that crown still belongs to Last Argument of Kings, I rank The Heroes as his third-best work so far. I loved it almost as much as I loved Before They Are Hanged, which is a LOT.

Picture: The Heroes by Raymond Swanland

The year is now 584 AU, it’s been four years after the events in Best Served Cold. The entire setting of The Heroes takes place in The Valley of Osrung in the North, located between Uffrith and Carleon. The story revolves around the three bloody days of the climactic battle between the Union and the North. That’s it; this is the main plot of the book. The Heroes is thoroughly a military grimdark fantasy; Abercrombie doesn’t shy away from displaying the horror of war, both physically and mentally, to the participants of the battles. The preparation, the wars, plus the aftermath of each battle were written magnificently. It was utterly impressive how gradual the flow of the book felt; the intensity of the war became more palpable with each passing day.

“All you can do is take each day as it comes. Try and do the best you can with what you're given. You won't always do the right thing, but you can try. And you can try to do the right thing next time. That, and stay alive.”

There are no heroes in this book; each protagonist is a villain from the opponent’s perspective and vice versa. Although The Heroes can be read as a standalone, and it indeed has a self-contained story, I strongly suggest that you read The First Law trilogy and Best Served Cold first. This is crucial; many side characters from the first trilogy and Best Served Cold played a bigger role this time. Bremer dan Gorst, for example, has become one of the main POV characters in this book. There’s a huge cast of characters in The Heroes, and Abercrombie made sure to introduce the characters to the readers first. Readers need to feel invested in the characters first, and this, I feel, has been successfully delivered. As expected, Abercrombie’s characterizations towards his variety of characters—both returning and new characters—were incredible. The character development of the six main POV characters was outstanding; whether physically or mentally, almost every character in the novel ended up being changed by the three days of mayhem. There is no exception; war changes you.

“It is easy to forget how much you have, when your eyes are always fixed on what you have not.”

Terrific characterizations aside, one of the best strength of the book definitely lies within the stupendous battle scenes. Abercrombie’s masterful usage of consecutive perspective change exhibited the relentless coup de grace dealt from both sides of the armies brutally. This was also the first time I read a fantasy novel that utilized the view of war from the eyes of a common soldier, and they’re terrifying as hell. The action sequences felt incredibly cinematic; it’s brutal, visceral, and bloody thrilling. I’ve read plenty of epic/grimdark fantasy, and other than John Gwynne, no one else can write realistic and explosive close-quartet combat scenes—imbued with raw emotions—as good as Abercrombie does. Every action scenes were truly breathtaking; most epic fantasy books featured one climax sequence to conclude their story, but The Heroes featured five. Consisting of five parts, each part displayed a compelling vivid war or duel scenes. Combined with Abercrombie's impeccable prose, The Heroes is filled with memorable and rewarding battle sequences.

Picture: One of the interior arts by Raymond Swanland for The Heroes Subterranean Press edition

The first time I fell in love with grimdark fantasy novels was after reading The First Law Trilogy, and The Heroes will mark the fourth time his book entering my favorites of all time shelves. Thank you for reminding me once more why I love grimdark fantasy novels. All hail Joe Abercrombie, the Lord of Grimdark. I absolutely recommend The Heroes to fans of grimdark or military fantasy. I’m closing this review with this little beautiful quote or advice from the book that I think every one of us should always try to remember.

“Savor the little moments, son, that's my advice. They're what life is. All the little things that happen while you're waiting for something else.”

Bonus Picture: My gorgeous UK paperback of The Heroes

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping) | The Broken Binding (Use my code: NOVELNOTIONS121 for discount!)

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50 reviews181 followers
August 6, 2012
The Piles

“Fuck this shit” grumbled Slicker Gutwruck as he wearily limped up the hill, bile tickling his tonsils. “I couldn't give an arse about war anymore,” he spat. How ironic that I'm so good at it he mused, as his rag-tag squad of soldiers showed off their cool moves on a group of unfortunate peons they got the drop on. There was Broody McBrooderson, master of the garotte; Slicker's second-in-command, Little Miss Sunshine, tougher than any man, and more than capable of commanding Serenity, er, the squad, on her own; wise-cracking Esposito from Brooklyn; Ole Five-Finger Discount; the triplets, Gramps, and the rest. A hard bunch. Sick of fuckin' war. But fuckin' good at it.

Back at HQ, the Big Chief grimly sat in conference, looking over the hardest men of the North like a hamster considering pellets of its own shit. There was Brandis Bowel-burster, clawed face fixed in a rictus of hate, scowling while he stroked his axe made of sharpened pelvic bones. Next to him loomed the always dangerous Farnsbury Flopper, commander of the 3rd Signal Corps, as hard as un-rinsed oatmeal that has dried on a bowl for two days. And eyeing them all cynically from the back of the tent was the Gooch, another complete arsehole.

The last to enter the tent was He-Who-Heaves, green of face and unsteady of gait. The other war chiefs inched away warily, vomit frothing in their gullets.

“We have to show the Confederacy who's boss,” growled Brandis. “Those fucking arseholes are too effete and corrupt for my liking. And they're a perfect stock antagonist for our hard Northmen trope.”

The Farnsbury Flopper swirled his granite eyeball in a mug of lager and hissed “Fucking retard, we don't know where the arseholes are.”

“Retard?” queried the Gooch from the shadows. “What's with the anachronism?”

“This is a gritty fantasy story, playing with the genre conventions by mashing up movie, television, and other source material familiar to its audience,” growled Brandis. “Just enjoy the story, you butthead.”

“So there's no internal consistency, even within the conventions of the setting as depicted by the author?”

“Nope,” sneered the Flopper. “That shit don't fly with our crew.”

The Big Chief raised his mangled hand menacingly. “Enough! We do know where the Confederate forces are” he gloated. “Slicker Gutwruck's expert scout/commando/spy/hand-to-hand combat squad has found the whole fucking Confederate army. They're south of Toad Hall, split into three divisions, marching in mutually-supporting columns, converging on this obscure hill called the Piles.”

“The fuck,” interjected the Gooch. “The division was introduced during the Napoleonic era as a military unit containing all the necessary arms – infantry, cavalry, artillery - to sustain independent combat. It was facilitated by the tremendous growth in the size of armies nations could field at the time, owing to improved roads, conscription, the mass production of arms, innovations like canning -”

“Shut it!” shouted the Big Chief. He resumed, glowering. “As I was saying, the first division is commanded by Harold Lacksack. The second, by Marshal Fritz Loober and his chief of staff Colonel Quiff.”

“Whoa, whoa – his chief of staff? What kind of staff work is necessary in a pre-gunpowder army living off the land, without the logistical network, let alone the command and control capabilities, that would support a system of centralized staff planning?”

“Stop thinking and just enjoy the story, you fucking douchebag!” bellowed the Big Chief. He ripped out his own kidneys and waved them in the Gooch's face menacingly. “Any more chirping out of you, mate, and it'll be your kidneys next time.”

The Gooch raised his hands. “Whatever,” he murmured. “Mellow the fuck out.”

The Big Chief resumed. “They're supported by two brigades of conscript cavalry -”

The Gooch couldn't help himself “Conscript cavalry? You mean civilians drafted to fight on hugely expensive animals that take years of training to simply learn how to ride properly, let alone manage in battle? There's a reason every fucking cavalryman in the history of warfare was either born to the saddle, or was an aristocrat who had the means and time to raise his own horses and gallivant around on them all day. And you're suggesting some out-of-work bakers assistant will be assigned to the cavalry, like learning to be a mounted soldier is as easy as cleaning latrines.”

Shaking with fury, the Big Chief drew his dread sword Dreadblade, shimmering in the torchlight, and brandished it balefully before the mouthy critic.

The Gooch carried on, heedlessly. “This is supposed to be a gritty military story, about armies and warfare and all that cool shit. Shouldn't it have at least the basics right in regards to military structures and tactics? I mean, if the author has free license to go completely off the grid about this stuff, why not include jeeps and predator drones? That's about as plausible as an ostensibly renaissance-era army set up like a - “

The Farsnsbury Flopper whipped out a twinned pair of repeating crossbows and shot several bolts into each of the Gooch's eyes, which burst in sprays of glistening gore. The Gooch groaned and sunk to his knees, clawing at his eyes, as puke jabbed his molars.

The Big Chief stepped forward and grunted in rage as he swung Dreadblade in a murderous arc, cleaving the Gooch in two. He shit himself and collapsed on the ground with a deafening crash, lifeblood streaming out of his shit-stinking body like the rivers of beer pissed in Northern halls on the eve of hard-won victories.

“Fucking troll” growled the Big Chief.

Slicker Gutwruck, who had a knack for being at the right place at the right time, stepped out of the shadows and spat. “Waste of a good man. A good, hard man. The poor bastard didn't know how to suspend his sense of disbelief and overlook lazy cliche and awful prose. But those are the times.”

He scowled at the blood-oozing body. “I'm sick of genre fiction,” he grumbled. Sick to my arse of it.
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
June 2, 2011

"HE WAS AS UGLY AS INCEST"...now that is funny!! Okay, so do not...DO NOT listen to those who call this a less than a stellar performance by the god-king of grit, Joe Abercrombie. This is not only a 541 page manual on the art of breezy, muck-dripping proseology, but it also sports an intricately layered and well designed plot, three dimensional characters that are just saturated with nuance and some powerful evocative statements on the “underpants loading horror” of war and the pain-burden born by those who must fight it.

Despite the “war is pretty shitty business” sentiment expressed throughout the book, the common soldier and those doing the actual fighting are shown, for the most part, to be men of quiet bravery and just trying to do their best and get through in one piece. Of course, there are certainly a lot of venom-filled cannon-shots fired across the bow of the leaders and instigators of the conflict and some fun poked at the conventions of war, but I found that Abercrombie was generally respectful of the fighting soldiers and didn’t portray them as murderous meatheads out to rape and pillage.

The majority of the story takes place over three days with the Union Army and the Northmen fighting for control over a strategically located hill called “The Heroes.” That is the story’s cover, but underneath it is so much bigger and so much bolder…….OH, OH, OH, and lest I forget, this book also includes a whole bounty of Abercrombie’s always amazing and often amoral Ass-kickers, Ass-kissers and Ass-holes, including:

BAYAZ: The First of the Magi: The most amazingly complex and compelling wielder of magic that has ever been inked on paper. While the Bloody-Nine is an awesome character, it is Bayaz that has all TEN fingers on the strings of the world.

HARDBREAD: A named man and the early proof that Abercrombie has new memorable characters growing in his brain like a fungus. A terrific character developed fully in the space of a handful of pages.

CAUL SHIVERS: Supporting star of Best Served Coldand early proof that Abercrombie can take a character we have seen a lot of and shine a brand new light on him that feels as natural as life. Shivers is a new favorite character of mine.

WHIRRUN OF BLIGH aka CRACKNUT: Wielder of the Father of Swords and yet another in a seemingly endless supply of fresh, original and epic kickers of that we call ass.

PRINCE CALDER: Another great character and without giving away spoilers, I think the character arc that Abercrombie gives Calder is the best in the book. I loved the nuanced complexity of his final “decisions” because I was completely not expecting them. I also think that his character arc shines a massive OMG spotlight on how deliciously complex BAYAZ plans are.

SEFF: Yes, I would have been happier had there been more female characters, but this is the story of a three day battle out on the front lines so I guess it is forgivable. That said, Seff is an amazingly well realized female character and I thought she was terrific.

STRANGER-COME-KNOCKING: My favorite new character and a top 10 favorite character of all of the Abercrombie stories…the Giant who would be a Gentleman….Stranger-Come Knocking. I sense BIG things coming from him down the road.

I see the complete gush I have left all over this review so I will try and rein it in and wrap it up. In summary, I loved the book from the opening pages to the unbelievable ending and at all blood, gore and humor in between.

I will leave you with a quote that is pretty close to the exact opposite of what Abercrombie’s central “war sucks” message is, but I really liked it so I thought I would share. Whirrun of Bligh (aka Cracknut) in describing his affection for war says:
“The smell of it. The feel of it." He rubbed one hand up and down the stained sheath of his sword, making a faint swishing sound. "War is honest. There's no lying to it. You don't have to say sorry here. Don't have to hide. You cannot. If you die? So what? You die among friends. Among worthy foes. You die looking the Great Leveller in the eye. If you live? Well, lad that's living, isn't it? A man isn't truly alive until he's facing death." Whirrun stamped his foot into the sod. "I love war!."
…Well he is called Cracknut after all.

Joe Abercrombie has yet to write anything that I have not loved. I can’t wait for the next one. In the meantime, this is definitely a book that I think could be even better upon a second reading because there is so much going on. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!
Profile Image for Robin Hobb.
Author 294 books99.1k followers
February 24, 2013
Forty-eight hours. So much can happen in such a short span of time in the middle of a war. This tale shifts between varying viewpoints, from soldiers to commanders to camp followers. There are no good guys and no bad guys. The reader will wind up caring about all of them, and knowing that not all of them can win, let alone survive. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for oyshik.
219 reviews693 followers
January 19, 2021
The Heroes (First law world,#5) by Joe Abercrombie
It's lower quality in my opinion. I feel no real empathy with the characters. Although the book is set over a very short period, it seems to drag to its conclusion. However, the second half of the book was far better than the first. But the book was a disappointment.
The truth is like salt. Men want to taste a little, but too much makes everyone sick.

Profile Image for William Gwynne.
376 reviews1,715 followers
July 13, 2022
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

“The truth is like salt. Men want to taste a little, but too much makes everyone sick.”

Continuing my recent Joe Abercrombie First Law binge with the second standalone story, The Heroes. But, do not be fooled by the title. There are no heroes, just in keeping with everything in this world to date. No glory. No winners. No heroes. As always, most of the characters are self-serving, calculating and traitorous figures with a variety of power, with the main goal being just to survive. But, despite that, as a reader I love to accompany them.

The Heroes returns us to the north, reuniting us with some characters who survived the original trilogy (which isn’t many), as well as a nice variety of new characters. All the PoV characters are one of these new figures thrust into the story, with the older ones being seen around them, but still acting a pivotal moments throughout.

“Get what you can with words, because words are free, but the words of an armed man ring that much sweeter.”

Whilst I did not connect with all the characters, as I did in the original trilogy, there are some amazing ones, and many of the perspectives are genius. I really enjoyed the arc of Craw and also Beck, and Gorst was hilarious as I was expecting, but with a depth I was not expecting as well, in a good way. So, whilst I probably prefer the cast overall in the trilogy, those in The Heroes still surpass the majority of other books I have read. Joe Abercrombie is known for the strength and depth and originality of his characters, and once again he delivers in The Heroes.

Whilst trying not to regurgitate what I have said for every other Abercrombie book I have reviewed, I will mention again that his prose is brilliant. It is used to reveal so much about the characters, depending on the perspective he is with, with specific vernacular and structure enforcing the creation and crafting of character. Also, whilst talking about prose I cannot ignore a certain chapter in this. In an action sequence, we follow about a dozen perspectives who we do not follow again before or after. You change to the perspective of the killer of the previous character. And the way it is done is absolutely masterful. It has become iconic since, and for good reason.

“It is easy to forget how much you have, when your eyes are always fixed on what you have not.”

The drawbacks for me was, firstly, not feeling attached to Tunny, so there were points I just wanted to get back to other characters. And secondly, one of the major events at the end made me feel a bit cheated. It didn’t feel as real to me, in absolute contrast to everything going on. I found that a bit jarring. But otherwise, everything was fantastic. When these are the only two things that detracted from the story a bit, then it is obviously still great.

“Names turned over by time, like the plough turning the soil. Bringing up the new while the old were buried in the mud.”

The Heroes is the second standalone in this world, with its own nearly wrapped story within the larger world of the First Law, but it still has a feeling of gravitas and also of high stakes. It has brilliant characters, wonderful prose, and an awesome concept.

4.5/5 STARS
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
March 13, 2016
I’ve got a really great idea for a novel. Do you want to hear it?

Okay, so here goes:

Well I was thinking I could create a story in which everything relates back to the title. That way I could say the title over and over again.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

I mean I could write about heroes fighting at a place called the Heroes and then they could have a crisis about being heroes whilst worrying who has taken the Heroes and if enemy heroes are going to kill them. And then I could say heroes a few times more and relate all the events to heroics and consider what makes a hero a hero.

Doesn’t that sound like one big heroic headache? See! I can do it too Joe. Maybe that makes me a hero. Damn I’m getting good at this.

That isn’t the only reason I hated the novel, but it did piss me off the most. Nothing speaks the word redundancy more than an overly used metaphor. The entire novel also felt restrictive. It is essentially one big battle sequence. So, its layers of action upon action in the same boring place. I hated the end. I hated the beginning too. And I especially hated the middle. This is Joe Abercrombie’s worse book. Please bear in mind that I’m actually a big fan of this author. I’ve read all of his books, and this is the only one I strongly dislike. So, don’t hate me. I do like Joe Abercrombie, but not this book.

Joe keeps telling us the same thing throughout. The characters keep lamenting (or rejoicing) the fact that they are not heroes. I mean……I think we get it. After the first few chapters it is clear that these guys aren’t nice people. That’s not a bad thing. I like dark characters, but I don’t need to be told every chapter what they are. SHOW IT TO ME. It became incredibly annoying. I think I can draw my own opinion; I don’t need to be told the author’s intent. So many chapters ended on the reminder; it became ridiculous. It’s a shame really because this novel could have been good. I just think it lacked the balance of his usual style. Abercrombie can do wonderful things with words. Sometimes it’s the short sentences, the phrases that hold so mush dramatic effect. In this he overused them that they only resonate with one thing: WEAKNESS.

I don’t care about any of it

The characters that tell the story are just as bad. I really think Black Dow should have been the protagonist. The cover certainly made it look like it was his tale, but I can’t exactly blame the author for a misleading cover. That fault resides with the publisher. But at least Dow is interesting. Instead Abercrombie uses a bunch of weak and flat characters. I can’t even remember half of their names because they’re that unmemorable. One of them was a basic warrior, not much else. Gorst was an annoying blubbering wretch with some weird inferiority complex that made no sense because he was a huge and attractive brute. Calder was okay, but lacked motivation and presence in the story. They were a rather meagre bunch to be honest.

See? I’m turning into a critic, though this did have some real problems.

But I just didn’t care if these men lived or died. It felt like the author just shoved all the random non-essential characters from The First Law series into here and then let them fight it out. All it needed was the annoying, and overused, Cosca then it would have been a full house. There was no room for character development or investment, only cheap, thoughtless, blood. I just hope Abercrombie doesn’t write anything else like this in the future because this was nothing short of terrible.

Profile Image for Lena.
200 reviews93 followers
August 29, 2022
I hesitated between 3 and 4 stars review due to the good ending, but end up giving 3 stars because this book didn't strike me as the previous ones. At first glance it has everything that other novels do, though I couldn't attach to any of the characters.
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
265 reviews3,993 followers
April 1, 2022
A great addition to the First Law universe, but ultimately not as good as the larger scope books

The Heroes was a very good standalone book that shares many similarities to the First Law Trilogy, but doesn't quite hit the same "highs".

The idea of writing a whole book about one battle over the course of three days felt somehow both refreshing and stale. I've never read a fantasy book that has such a limited scope before, which will good also made me hungry for the larger world and the grand scope of things that the First Law Trilogy did so well.

Some of the First Law favorites are in this book, such as Bayaz, Black Dow, and Dogman. It features particularly unique and well rounded new characters along with seeing some older characters in greater detail like Bremer dan Gorst.

I am looking forward to finishing up these standalones and getting back to Abercrombie's bread-and-butter, which is his series work. Having said that, this really is an enjoyable book for any fan of Joe Abercrombie, and I would not encourage anyone to skip over it.

Check out my new youtube channel where I show my instant reactions to reading fantasy books seconds after I finish the book.
Profile Image for Overhaul.
321 reviews707 followers
July 20, 2023
"En cuanto un hombre está bajo tierra, ya sólo es barro. Barro e historias. Y las historias y los hombres de las que éstas surgen no suelen tener mucho en común"

Joder, por las santas barbas de Abercrombie, qué puñetera obra de arte cruda salpicada y manchada con total impunidad y cinismo.

Cuentan que Dow el Negro ha llegado al trono del Norte subiendo una montaña de calaveras. Mientras, el rey de la Unión ha decidido que hay que pararle los pies y sus ejércitos ya han invadido el Norte. Miles de hombres están convergiendo en un antiguo círculo de rocas (los Héroes), en un valle anónimo que se convertirá en escenario de una de las batallas más sangrientas que el Norte ha presenciado. Al mismo tiempo, los dos bandos están infestados de intrigas, rencillas y envidias, que hacen el final imprevisible...

Para mí simplemente no hay nadie que pueda escribir fantasía épica tan bien, dura, cruel y cínica como Abercrombie. Muchos han afirmado que este es su mejor libro. Por ahora coincido.


Esta historia gira en torno tres días que marcaron la historia, tres días sangrientos de la batalla culminante entre la Unión y el Norte. Eso es todo. Esta es la trama principal del puto libro. Tres jodidos y sangrientos días de guerra tan llenos de barro como de gente que vuelve a el, no deja indiferente y ahora venero bajo un altar.

Perdí la cuenta de cuántos. No se corta en usar el hacha este autor y no lo ves venir.

Es una "fantasía" dura, muy sombría, militar; Abercrombie no rehuye mostrar el horror de la guerra. Además física como mentalmente, a los participantes, novatos y los más curtidos de las batallas.

La preparación, las guerras y las secuelas de cada batalla escritas impunemente sin rastro de piedad. Fue absolutamente impresionante lo ágil que se sentía el flujo del libro, lo devoré sin pausa pero sobretodo la intensidad de la guerra que se hizo más palpable con cada página hasta llegar al orgasmo final.

No hay héroes en este libro, cada protagonista es un villano desde la perspectiva del oponente y viceversa. Aunque se puede leer de forma independiente recomiendo la trilogía principal y también "La Mejor Venganza".

Pues aparece un personaje que evolucionó en ese libro, de no muchas palabras pero de locas acciones que te dejan con la boca abierta y sin saber qué decir. ¡¡CAUL ESCALOFRÍOS!!.

"—¿Alguna vez has pensado en ponerte un parche? —inquirió Craw, mientras tomaba su espada y la deslizaba en su vaina.
—Llevé uno una temporada —contestó Escalofríos, señalando la enorme cicatriz alrededor de su ojo—. Pero picaba de cojones. Así que pensé: ¿por qué voy a llevarlo? ¿Sólo para que estos cabrones se sientan más cómodos? Si yo puedo vivir con esta cara, ellos pueden vivir viéndola. Y si no, que se jodan."

Las caracterizaciones y diálogos que se saca de la manga este genio, con una gran variedad de personajes, los que regresan como los nuevos, fueron increíbles. Increíbles.

El desarrollo de los personajes principales de los puntos de vista fue sobresaliente; ya sea física o mentalmente casi todos los personajes de la novela terminaron cambiados por los tres días de caos y desesperación. Al menos los que sobrevivieron..

Sin excepción, la guerra te cambia.

Un libro complejo sobre una sola batalla en el transcurso de tres días enteros que puede dar lugar a engaño o una falsa densidad, se sintió refrescante, muy ágil, engancha que hay que joderse. Es una guerra fría, cruda y rancia.

La narrativa y prosa de Abercrombie es algo sublime, bien pulida, es accesible y logra ser vívida para el lector. Los diálogos son un puto orgasmo crudo y cínico. Una delicia a la par con los personajes. Abercrombie para mi es el mejor en esto. Una verdadera gozada. Y ha mejorado por increíble que parezca.

Con una gran habilidad Abercrombie consigue que llevando unos pocos capítulos leídos nos resulte imposible soltar el libro. Si tengo que mencionar una cosa de este autor es que sabe cómo escribir frases y personajes memorables dándole a todo un gran toque de realismo y se nota que es algo que domina muy bien.

Abercrombie nació para esto, tiene un don para escribir y regalarnos joyas así. No solo a nivel narrativo es muy bueno, lo que escribe por muy enrevesado, detallado o complicado que pueda llegar a ser, él consigue que el lector lo lea de forma ágil y fluida.

Extremadamente recomendable y necesario leer a este maestro bajo pena de pecado mortal.


"El momento de la muerte siempre coge a la gente por sorpresa, incluso cuando lo ven venir. Siempre se creen especiales y, de algún modo, esperan que llegue el indulto. Pero no hay nadie especial"
Profile Image for Edward.
377 reviews1,014 followers
February 17, 2022
3rd read - this will always be my favourite First Law book. Gorst, Whirrun of Bligh, Bayaz' death-tubes. I love everything.

Re-read - My favourite First Law standalone. Gorst is the king.


One of the best books I've ever read. Gorst is my new favourite character. FRTC.
Profile Image for Library of a Viking.
182 reviews3,044 followers
August 1, 2022
The biggest surprise of 2022?

I have postponed picking up The Heroes for a long time, even though I am a huge fan of Abercrombie. Prior to reading The Heroes, I had read 7 of The First Law books – but there was one specific reason why I was worried about reading this book. I have been told repeatedly that The Heroes is a massive battle from beginning to end, and my least favourite parts of fantasy books is usually the fighting. So, what was my experience reading this book?

The Heroes is arguably my biggest surprise of 2022. Not only did I enjoy this book, I LOVED IT! While it is true that this book focuses on a large battle (or battles), the focus in this story is very much on the characters, the themes and the different experiences people have in war. Let’s start talking about the characters. As always, Abercrombie’s character work is top-notch. It is astounding how well Abercrombie is able to flesh out each character in this book. Each character has such a distinctive tone and voice and is deeply flawed. Almost none of these characters are likeable, but Abercrombie is somehow able to get you fully invested in everyone’s story.

However, what really makes this book stand out is the exploration of role models, the absurd glorification of war and human cynicism. This book is rather ironically titled “The Heroes”. While we follow the so-called “heroes” of this war, Abercrombie masterfully highlights how flawed our role models often are. Consequently, this book focuses heavily on the downfalls of human nature, which you would think would make this a depressing read. However, Abercrombie’s humour perfectly balances out the “grimness” of the story, making this feel like a very entertaining and thought-provoking read.

The Heroes is without a doubt the biggest surprise of 2022 as of yet. I went into this story expecting not to enjoy it. However, Abercrombie has again proven worthy of the title “Lord Grimdark”. The Heroes is a riveting, entertaining and thought-provoking story with incredible characters. I can’t wait to read Red Country next!

5 / 5 stars

Thanks to my Patreons Erin, Peturious, Blake, Mark, Mel, Melissa, Áron Sofus, and Matus.
Profile Image for mina reads™️.
545 reviews7,039 followers
December 29, 2021
“The man is a monster. The worst I have ever seen, in fact, since I last looked in the mirror. The truth? I am rotting too. I am buried alive, and already rotting. If I was not such a coward I would kill myself, but I am, and so I must content myself with killing others in the hope that one day, if I can only wade deep enough in blood, I will come out clean.”

Joe Abercrombie’s brain is huge and I love him, that’s it, that’s the review.
Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews315 followers
August 14, 2014
War, War never changes.

The Heroes unflinchingly chronicles a 3 day battle between two warring nations. It's a story filled with visceral fighting, complex characters and constant danger and suspense. For me this is the best of Abercrombie's standalone novels and is on a par with his 'First Law trilogy'. Being a massive Abercrombie fan as I am the fact that this is my favourite of his works says a lot. The Heroes combines Abercrombie's dark fantasy with a war story and while the entire novel revolving around a single battle limits the plot in some ways it still manages to be inventive and gripping.

A brutal land war serves as a brilliant backdrop to Abercrombie's typical cynicism and exploration of human flaws. The 'shit rolls downhill' philosophy espoused throughout is reminiscent of the Wire and one of my all time favourite war stories (and TV shows) Generation Kill. In perhaps Abercrombie's biggest subversion of classic fantasy to date he mercilessly describes the pointlessness and brutality of a Medieval land war. There's not a force of pure evil bent on world domination nor a prophesised hero to be found. Instead we see scheming politicians, bloodthirsty warriors and grunts just trying to survive.

The character I most wanted to read about in this book was Bremer Dan Gorst. He was one of my favourite minor characters in the first and third (especially the first) books and I was excited to get inside his head. Ultimately this was probably my biggest disappointment in the book. Gorst is shown to be a typical Abercrombie protagonist: selfish, neurotic and flawed. While I normally like this in Abercrombie's work and feel it makes his characters more realistic I felt that Gorst was completely different from the character I liked so much in earlier books. In the first book especially Gorst seemed the epitome of Logen's 'seem less than you are' philosophy. Gorst gave the impression of a stupid brute but was in fact a brilliant swordsman and was implied to be incredibly intelligent.. I admired his complete disinterest in what people thought of him and seeming scorn for attempts to be liked. In the first book everyone at the Contest hated him and yet he cooly demolished all the snotty fan favourites. In 'The Heroes' he completely abandons his plan to kill an arrogant noble who beat one of his friends because they complimented him. His constant, annoying desire to be liked seemed completely at odds with his personality in the trilogy. Also in the first book when he lost the contest (because Bayaz completely stole his rightful win, his first dick-move in the series but not his last...) he was the bigger man and immediately congratulated Jezal for his undeserving win. In The Heroes he is a whining man-child constantly trying to blame others for his failures. Based solely on this book Gorst is an interesting, complex character in his own right however I was still disappointed with how his (previously awesome) character seemed completely changed from the previous trilogy to suit the needs of this book. I also noticed these dramatic changes in character's personalities to suit the plot occurred with other characters as well (Black Dow, general Kroy). While it makes sense that people would change over the 10 years or so since they last appered in the series it was still jarring. I understand Abercrombie's desire to make Gorst less perfect in the typical mould of his protagonists but... WTF Abercrombie? Did you have to destroy one of your coolest minor characters? WTF.

Probably my favourite POV character in this book was Finree, who's become my favourite Abercrombie POV female character to date. She's even surpassed Carlot Dan Eider as my favourite Abercrombie female character and is now among my favourite POV characters full stop. Unlike Abercrombie's other female POV's she isn't a scarred, impossible deadly warrior woman. Finree's skills are politics and intrigue. I've never liked 'warrior women' in fantasy especially when they're used as excessively as with Abercrombie. I've always found them both improbable( there were ALOT of barriers to a woman fighting in most societies throughout history, that most male authors tend to ignore) and unfair in how they imply that the majority of women who aren't warriors are inherently weak and worthless. Despite her flaws I found Finree a really likeable and admirable character.

My other favourite character was Curnden Craw. Craw was a really atypical Abercrombie protagonist: an honourable man in a world without honour. His interactions with his 'dozen' were a really cool study in the camaraderie and trust that develops between soldiers in war and was one of my favourite parts of the book. It also reminded me of the Northman crew in the original trilogy. (I loved those guys and was super bummed about how the trilogy ended for them). 'Red' Bek provided interesting parallels to the typical Abercrombie characters with bloody pasts. His desire to be a warrior followed by his experiences of the horrors of war provided a nice contrast to the cynicism and experience of the hardened warriors who comprise the main cast. As a sidenote I didn't understand the point of Corporal Tunny. He didn't interact with any of the other main characters and didn't have any real effect on the battle.

Other than the main POV characters we get some brief POV's from other characters. 2 of these were really interesting as in the first the POV character is killed and the narration passes to his killer who is killed in turn and so on. This was really well written and creates a mounting sense of genuine danger to the characters especially when a major POV character takes over. In another chapter we follow a command as it is passed, along with the narration, down the line from the general. This scene shows us the arguments that can exist even among the same side in a war. While the third chapter like this, which this time just jumped around randomly, was disappointing this was still a cool feature that broadened the perspective on the battle. Highlights included a good soldier reflecting on his girl at home as he dies 'she'll probably marry her cousin, terrible business that', two officers (validly) criticising each other in consecutive POV's and a mortally injured cavalryman leading a doomed charge. I also enoyed how Heroes presented war as a hypocritical, horrific endeavour without ever becoming preachy or self righteous.

In conclusion this is a great entry into the world of one of the best fantasy authors around as well as a great war story. Not for the faint-hearted but definitely worth reading.

Profile Image for Kaora.
585 reviews282 followers
October 9, 2016

This one has been on my To-Be-Read pile for a long time. In an effort to clean out some of my older books I finally got around to reading it.

And now I'm not sure what took me so long! Heroes is a gritty book about a war between the Northmen and the Union, which takes place around a hill called the Heroes.

It's a dark book, with rough characters and some pretty gorey deaths. Ambercrombie does a great job with his battle scenes, showing the confusion of war and the costs of being a hero.

But with a war comes a lot of downtime. But scenes without fighting are boring right? Wrong! Some of the best quotes came out of the downtime, and many times I found myself laughing out loud.

The fool's tasks lined up in crushingly tedious procession. Run. Practice. Shit a turd. Write a letter. Eat. Watch. Write a turd. Shit a letter. Eat. Bed.

Or nodding in agreement to some sound advice:

An unarmed man is like an unroofed house. They'll both end up leaking.

Through this great story however I found a deeper meaning. The book is divided into 5 parts:
1. Before the War
2. Day One
3. Day Two
4. Day Three
5. After The War

On coming to after the war I found myself stumbling on lines I had already read in before the war. Was this laziness on the authors part? Or was he saying this is just an endless cycle. Is before and after the war the same thing as after one war at some point becomes before another war?

And its books where I continue to think on them after I've put them down that show a talented writer. Mr. Abercrombie you have a new fan.

Everyone needs to read this book.
Profile Image for Elena Rodríguez.
686 reviews309 followers
December 26, 2021
-Supongo que lo importante es llegar al final de cada día.
-Es el signo de los tiempos.
-¿Crees que habrá otros tiempos distintos?
-Esperemos que sí.

Un año y medio he tardado en volver de verdad a la primera ley. Todo por esta novela, la que fue por estas fechas el año pasado mi talón de Aquiles.

“Si la victoria vuelve a los hombres valientes, la derrota los transforma en cobardes”.

Este libro pertenece a las novelas independientes de la Primera Ley. Sin embargo, yo no lo consideraría como tal. Si algo he aprendido leyendo por orden estos libros es que te destripas mucho sobre los personajes de la primera saga. Además, te los encuentras en estos libros bien como protagonistas o como personajes secundarios.

Los héroes es la novela más densa que he leído por el momento de La primera ley. Además, si yo pensaba que en la primera trilogía bien no sucedía nada a lo largo de las páginas, esta novela se lleva la guinda del pastel. Estás advertido.

Más que una novela de aventuras es una reflexión sobre la guerra y todo lo que conlleva para bien como para mal. He aquí una de las citas que más destacaría de la novela.

“Miren deben tener en cuenta que las personas se comportan de manera estúpida casi todo el tiempo. Los viejos cuando se emborrachan. Las mujeres en las ferias de las aldeas. Los chavales cuando les lanzan piedras a los pájaros. Así es la vida. Está repleta de necedad y vanidad, de egoísmo y de derroche. De una mezquindad y tontería. Pero creen que en la guerra eso va a ser distinto, que va a ser todo mucho mejor. Que como la muerte aguarda a la vuelta de la esquina, todos se unirán frente a las adversidades y juntos combatirán al astuto enemigo, que la gente pensará más mejor y mas rápido. Que todo será…mejor. Que serán héroes.

Pues no. Todo sigue igual. De hecho, por culpa de tanta presión, de tantas preocupaciones y de tanto miedo es todo mucho peor. Hay muy pocos hombres que piensen con mayor claridad cuando hay algo en juego. Por eso, la gente se comporta de forma más estúpida en una guerra que durante el resto del tiempo. Siempre están pensando en como esquivar las culpas, o cómo salvar el pellejo, en vez de en algo que realmente sirva para algo. No hay otro trabajo en donde se perdone más la estupidez que el soldado. Ningún otro trabajo la fomenta más".

Como siempre, los personajes de Abercrombie es lo que yo consideraría como su punto fuerte. Ni buenos ni malos. Totalmente grises. Me han gustado los que aparecían en esta novela, sobre todo los nuevos. Sin embargo, echo de menos a algunos personajes en específico. Solo espero que las historias cortas me den un poco de ellos.

Ahora mismo el 3 y el 4 de la primera ley se quedan entre mis favoritos. Esta novela, por su parte se merece una relectura mucho más calmada para poder captar totalmente su potencial, pero por el momento no. Le tengo muchas ganas a la nueva saga. Eso sí Abercrombie esta en mi top de autores.

"Cuando un hombre muere en tiempos de paz, todo son lagrimas y cortejos funerarios, y los amigos y vecinos se ofrecen mutuamente consuelo. Pero si un hombre muere en tiempos de guerra, tiene suerte si consigue que lo entierren bajo suficiente barro para que deje de apestar."
Profile Image for Ivan.
436 reviews284 followers
August 13, 2018
600 pages for only 3 days of battle and more grittiness, dark humor, blood and guts than in any other First law book and that is saying something.There isn't much else to say just Abercrombie at his best.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,381 followers
April 4, 2021
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me

“Armour …’ mused Whirrun, licking a finger and scrubbing some speck of dirt from the pommel of his sword, ‘is part of a state of mind … in which you admit the possibility … of being hit.”

I have to admit that after reading Best Served Cold my expectations kind of skyrocketed for this one and I ended up slightly disappointed. I have to agree with George R.R. Martin who said this was Abercrombie’s best book up to this point in the series.

The problem with The Heroes is that it reads more like a philosophical book! I know the book is called the Heroes but I did not expect to see the word every other page specially that we know most of the characters from before and they were not so concerned with being heroes in the past.

The main problem I faced with this one is that it had too many characters for my liking and the way they are introduced did not work for me. I don’t mind books with many characters if they are introduced well and given the appropriate time to do that but I do mind it when it feels like info dumping and it becomes too hard for me to remember who is who. If there was not a character’s list at the beginning of the book, I would have probably lost interest much faster. I prefer when characters are introduced gradually and given the time to become realistic which was the case for BSC. To be fair, after 40% of the book, we say goodbye to many characters and the ones that stay are more fleshed which made the second half of the book better than the first half!

“The truth is like salt. Men want to taste a little, but too much makes everyone sick.”

The thing I like is Abercrombie’s writing, the humor works for me most of the time, it is atmospheric and the moral compass of all the characters is broken! There are very good quotes and the internal monologue of some of the characters is the best thing ever (Gorst gets a special mention). I can’t say I connected to the characters as much as I wanted to but it was still good.

The world is dark and that’s not a surprise since it is an Abercrombie book. I like how some of the secondary and minor characters from the older books gets bigger roles here and are thus more fleshed now for me. I think if I reread the first trilogy it will be a much better experience now!

“All you can do is take each day as it comes. Try and do the best you can with what you’re given. You won’t always do the right thing, but you can try. And you can try to do the right thing next time. That, and stay alive.”

Summary: It was a good book but I still prefer BSC which raised my expectations of the books to come. The writing and world are as good as usual but the characters and philosophy were not my cup of tea. I am still excited to continue my journey in this world!

Profile Image for Kyle Erickson.
420 reviews208 followers
June 11, 2022
This is the First Law standalone that I was most anticipating, and I'm really glad to say it mostly met my expectations!

The Heroes follows a three day battle from both sides as they fight a battle over...some hills known as The Heroes. And it has all the things a three day battle would entail- pointless death, the tedium of campaigning, violence, pointless death, politicking, commander hubris, great duels, pointless death.

Because without a doubt, Abercrombie has some things to say about war in this book. And for a book that is, on its face, about battles, it is certainly pretty critical of the whole shebang. The commentary on war was some of my favorite elements of this one, and what elevated it over Best Served Cold for me.

The character work was also, as always, excellent. Abercrombie was able to make me invested in several new characters - Craw, Whirrun, Finree, Beck- as well as several returning characters from the original trilogy that are expanded here. I also think The Heroes has some of his most "good" characters - most of (all?) the characters in the last four books are various levels of trash bags, but several characters in The Heroes I would describe as atleast mostly good people. It was refreshing.

Two of my favorite characters from the original trilogy return in this one, and one is utilized excellently and one is, unfortunately, just around for a cameo or two. The fight scenes were once again excellent, especially the more intimate fights. The chapter "Casualties" is one of the best chapters Abercrombie has written, showing a bunch of regular soldiers during battle. The humor was outstanding, once again. Genuine laugh out loud moments. The cheese trap!!! Now that's progress.

My only criticisms of this book is that one POV, Tunny, is just a waste of page time. I think the book would have had better pacing if he was cut. I also think Abercrombie got a bit too into his whole "there are no heroes" bit. We got it, Joe.

I'll leave you with a piece of wisdom by this book's real Hero, Whirrun of Bligh: "Armour is part of a state of mind in which you admit the possibility of being hit."

Profile Image for Alex W.
119 reviews4 followers
June 3, 2023
Probably my favorite First Law book so far.

An incredible look at the harsh reality of war told through Abercrombie’s fantastic characters, gritty violence, and dark humor. I could not put this book down at all and the last 100 pages or so tied everything together so perfectly. I am beyond happy I finally read this. On to Red Country…

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews50 followers
January 2, 2020
The Heroes (First Law World #5), Joe Abercrombie
The Heroes focuses on a three-day battle set in the same world as the First Law trilogy, about seven years after events of the trilogy itself. Union commander Lord Marshal Kroy leads the Union forces against the much smaller Northern army led by Black Dow. The story features many characters seen in previous First Law novels like Bremer dan Gorst, Lord Marshal Kroy, and the Dogman.
The Heroes first published January 2011. 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 neighbor, 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.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش نسخه متن اصلی: روز دوم ماه دسامبر سال 2019 میلادی
عنوان: قهرمانان؛ نویسنده: جو امبرکرامبی؛

کتاب پنجم از سری «نخستین قانون»، با عنوان «قهرمانان»، درباره ی نبردی سه روزه، در همان دنیای «سه گانه نخستین قانون»، یعنی بر حدود هفت سال پس از رویدادهای سه گانه، تمرکز میکند. فرمانده اتحادیه: «لرد مارشال کروی»، نیروهای اتحادیه را، علیه ارتش بسیار کوچکتر شمال، به رهبری «بلک داو»، رهبری میکند. داستان شامل شخصیتهای بسیاری است، که در رمانهای «نخستین قانون» حضور داشتند، همانند: «برمر دن گورست»، «لرد مارشال کروی» و «سگمن». ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Krell75.
300 reviews29 followers
January 7, 2023
Abercrombie conferma il suo fantasy atipico.
Nella trilogia della Prima Legge si è divertito a sovvertire i cliché del genere puntando tutto sui rapporti tra i protagonisti tralasciando la storia che ricopre solo un ruolo marginale.
Nel romanzo successivo, "Il Sapore della Vendetta" racconta una classica storia di vendetta ma con una protagonista decisamente antipatica e dura da digerire. Poi arriva "The Heroes" e scattano nuovamente gli applausi.

Un romanzo di 700 pagine, nel suo stile nudo e crudo, dove racconta una battaglia.
Suddiviso in tre giorni, con un prima e un dopo lo scontro, in cui si muovono una moltitudine di personaggi di entrambi gli schieramenti, ognuno approfondito in modo magistrale, con sogni, rancori e motivazioni personali o politiche. Ma se questa gran moltitudine di personaggi da corpo al romanzo, la vera protagonista è indubbiamente la guerra in tutta la sua atrocità.

Abercrombie fa un ottimo lavoro, sia nella preparazione della battaglia, puntando sui molti personaggi coinvolti, sia nelle incredibili scene di azione in cui il realismo e la drammaticità emerge impetuosa. Magistrale.
Un fantasy militare in cui di fantasy non troverete traccia.
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews211 followers
September 2, 2016
I was eager to put my eyes on “The Heroes”, because I was still high from Best Served Cold and I didn’t read Mr. Abercrombie’s book for some time. The fact is that “The Heroes” decreased my fangirlism a little bit. But let’s start from the tasty bits.

Joe Abercrombie always has smth tasty in his books. “The Heroes” is a military fantasy novel, which offered me a rather unique and interesting glimpse into war and warriors who are annoyed with fighting a war.
I always love to find the so called Abercrombie’s realism in his characters, action and the gritty fight. The characters feel real. They aren’t perfect (in a good way) and they have emotions. Their manners, speech and thoughts allowed me to imagine them better. I could live and feel their life in my thoughts. The battle episodes were like a good, disgusting, bloody and gritty movie. Quite a lovely stuff :D

Moreover, with the rivers of blood, loads of deaths, toils of political intrigues and grim, dark humor there is a story here that is very real and in places even touching. The story is told from different points of view: the sly cowards, the courageous honorable heroes, the greedy mercenaries or the ones who were forced to fight. I liked how Mr. Abercrombie blended fantasy and military in the story. It was interesting and new to me because I love fantasy and I avoid military books.
Some things weren’t tasty for me and as I mentioned before – decreased my fangirlism. At first I was put off by a slow start and the Gorst's attempts (not quite successful) to match Glokta (<3) with his inner dialogues. Also I found quite a bunch of characters, so I had to stop sometimes to go back to clarify who's who. But (as usual) these things make an individual story and I ended up quite enjoying it. As a matter of fact it took me about 100 pages to put all dots on i: who was who, where they were going, who and why they were fighting for and etc. Once it was settled I felt myself thrown into a dark, gritty world with sharp fighting scenes and realistic characters.
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
681 reviews621 followers
November 11, 2019
‘Unhappy the land that
is in need of heroes’
Bertolt Brecht.

From all Abercrombie's books that I've read, this book is by far my favourite, its a military fantasy with a dash of politics, this book is in five parts, Before the battle, day one to three of battles then after the battle, the whole book is filled with gruesome explicit battle, it was awesome, the detailing is what I love most. Do not even get me started on the characters, almost all of them are morally ambiguous, I can count on one hand the number of actual good people in this book.

"Take victory quiet and careful, Rudd Threetrees used to say, ’cause you might soon be called on to take defeat the same way."

The world building and writing is one of the best that I've ever read, its no surprise Abercrombie is good at what he does, I think its safe to say that he's the best Grimdark author. The writing style adapted here is easy to comprehend and lots of old English is used, its unlike when authors use contemporary English for Epic Fantasy. This book is written in third person multiple POV of the main characters but during the battles the book was narrated by random characters.

‘You can’t say that civilisation don’t advance,
however, for in every war they kill you in a new way’
Will Rogers

The war in this book is about the Union and the North men, this book took place after Best Served Cold The three days battle happened on a valley called The Heroes in the North. The different factions of each army was so well portrayed, this book shows that when it comes to war, staying alive is more important than things like honour and following orders.

‘Only the truly ignorant believe they have thought of everything.

Bremer dan Gorst is one of the protagonist of this book and even after been in his head I have no idea whether to like or hate him, Calder Bethod's second son reminds me of Prince Jalan in Red Queen's War by Mark Lawrence so of course I love him. Beck is another interesting character, he realised that war isn't all about glory but about blood, suffering, gore and death in the worst way possible. Sergent Tunny is also an awesome character, I totally understand his part in the book, not all soldiers are in the army for servitude.
Profile Image for Dave.
3,108 reviews353 followers
October 23, 2020
Nasty, Brutish, and Short

Life is nasty, brutish, and short in Abercrombie's First Law World. But perhaps that's just the Great Leveller talking as they say in the North. "Heroes" is the second of the so-called standalone novels following the initial trilogy, but one should still read these novels in order to get the full background and history that adds so much depth to the story. On the surface, "Heroes" is a simple war story, detailing three days as two armies face off separated by a river and a pile of rock. It has a huge cast of characters. Don't worry about remembering all the names, by the end of the book they'll be old friends although heaven help us if we have friends like these.

The real power of this novel is on the exploration of the characters on both sides of the scrimmage, measuring what makes a hero and what makes one something else. On the North side, you have a crew of barbarians akin to Vikings or Cimmerians to whom battle is all. Indeed, many of these mighty warriors can do little else. And, it being the North, one man's enemy today is one man's ally the next and vice versa. Loyalty is great, but it can change like your wardrobe.

On the Southern side, we get more of a Catch-22 situation with officers promoted well past their ability and men stuck following orders even to their doom. There’s a sense in the more civilized army that those who are rewarded rank, nobility, and such didn’t come up through the ranks and prove themselves. Indeed, the only one among them near invincible in battle is neither looked up to nor given a high rank.

Perhaps more than most fantasy novels about swordsmen and such this one offers up ironies about war. It’s not always a great battle between absolute good and absolute evil. Sometimes it doesn’t even make sense what you are fighting for or why your allied with this one who was your bitter enemy not too many moons ago. Those who fight these grim battles often know survival and death are often close at hand and often but a hair’s breadth away.
Profile Image for Петър Стойков.
Author 2 books284 followers
May 31, 2023
Много "обичам" да чета писанията на българските националисти и национал-историци за героизма на нашите прадеди, които с гърди напред се хвърляли в атака на нож срещу поробителя, геройски дали живота си за татковината и други подобни романтични изхвърляния, по-подходящи за фентъзи жанра.

Отдавна обаче храня опасението, че героизмът в действителност не е толкова героичен, колкото го изкарват в последствие - точно по същия начин, както битките и войните не са изобщо толкова славни, велики и героични колкото са в историческите книги, а по-скоро са противни, кални, мръсни, скучни, страшни и с миризма на отрязани крака, които бавно изгниват захвърлени от полевия хирург в подгизналия от кал и лайна окоп.

Джо Абъркромби е направо майстор в предаването на тая кална, кървава и изгнила миризма, в събличането на сияйната броня на героичното фентъзи и показването на мърлявата, покрита с петна от пот, пикня и повръщано ватенка под нея.

В най-силната си книга до сега, Абъркромби ни напомня, че героите все пак са обикновени човеци, че във войните в огромната си част участват хора, които искат да са където и да е другаде, само не там и че след стотина години от тия хора не остава нищо друго, освен някой ред в историческите книги - и ако имат късмет (егати и късмета де), може би "паметник" от няколко покрити с мъх камъка, забучени в кръг на никому неизвестен баир на майната си.
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
737 reviews1,264 followers
March 19, 2021
The Heroes was an entertaining read even though it’s my least favorite of the saga so far.

But not by much. True, it didn’t offer a lot of variety in setting and plot (which I think accounts for why some may not have liked it as much) but it did make up for it considerably with good characters and a really creative execution of the story. It’s essentially a series of battles in the north that take place over the course of just a few days. Bouncing around POVs, it provided insight into what the battle experience was like from every perspective. In that regard I really appreciate the total immersion. There was one battle scene in particular that was done so creatively I’ve never seen anything like it before. Abercrombie’s deft writing style continues to impress me more with every book. He’s definitely solidified among my favorites.

I’ll admit it took me a good 25% to get acclimated with all the characters. I had to use a few more brain cells than normal to keep straight who was on which side. I also thought the POV bounced around too much for me to really get invested at first, but eventually we came back to the same ones often enough that by the halfway point I was super into it. It helped considerably that many of these characters we’ve seen before and I love how Abercrombie expands his reach to give secondary characters a moment to shine. It’s not something you see many authors doing. It’s also cool that some now have a ton of depth and development because we’ve been with them in past novels. It feels like a giddy secret knowing the history behind certain characters when they are still enigmas to those around them. I’m excited to see how Abercrombie ties in the stars of this show in future books. Not surprisingly, Gorst was my favorite here (though they were all good). Reminiscent of Glokta with his many dualities and entertaining inner dialogue, he added that heavy sardonic flair that I’m starting to crave from Abercrombie’s works. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope when I finally get caught up in the series.

This is one of those books which compared to other Abercrombie novels is a bit more modest, but compared to any other book on the market is still superb.

Recommendations: I highly recommend anything Abercrombie as a staple in the fantasy genre. He’s a master of character and writing and the more time I spend with him, the more he solidifies as a new favorite author. Don’t be like me and let the books sit collecting dust for 10 years before picking them up. They’re worth a jump in the TBR.

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.NikiHawkes.com

Other books you might like:
Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1) by Steven Erikson Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, #1) by Brian McClellan Child of a Mad God (Coven, #1) by R.A. Salvatore The Warded Man (Demon Cycle, #1) by Peter V. Brett The Grey Bastards (The Lot Lands, #1) by Jonathan French
Profile Image for Em Lost In Books.
907 reviews1,818 followers
March 4, 2015
My sixth book by Mr Abercrombie and as always he never cease to amaze me with his writing, especially when he is writing about “War”.

So ‘The Heroes’ is story of Black Dow, the Northern King, and Union army finding themselves battling over an old monument called, The Heroes.

As it is war, so there are tons of characters and with them lay the beauty of the book. its the story of famous names, fallen and new names. its the story of people who are strong headed, cruel, ambitious, self-centered, vicious and people who knows how to survive a war. And Abercrombie has done a wonderful job of doing justice to every character in this book.

There are two things that I liked most about this book. First is how Mr. Abercrombie has described the battle scenes, from one person to another, almost in a sequence. He made these battles alive with his words. Second thing that I liked is I really never got settled for one side. Sometimes I wanted Union to win the war and at other times I was rooting for Northern side. None of the side was good, at the most they’re the evil sides led by equally evil leaders.

I didn’t liked any of the Union warriors, not that there were many. Only Gorst caught my attention and he too was annoying as hell when he was not fighting. Other than him no other Union troop is worth mentioning for me. But I liked most of the characters in Black Dow’s army. Craw, Shivers, and even Calder, all were very good.

So if you like action, war, treachery, then this one is for you.
464 reviews401 followers
April 3, 2018
I can’t get enough of this series, it’s a problem. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself when I finish all of the stand alones, which is coming up fast. I burned through this one on the audiobook version – and didn’t take notes. Please forgive names that are spelled wrong. If you haven’t read First Law trilogy yet, I’d absolutely say start there.

More war, such is life in the First Law world, this one has some crossover characters from some of the other books. Black Dow is King of the North now, and he’s not any more of a peaceful leader than his predecessor was, he’s waging war against the Union and it’s proving to be a tough fight.

This book had fewer plot threads than the first trilogy, or at least it felt that way to me. It’s pretty straightforward, The Union is pitted against the Northmen, and neither side has much of a clear advantage. As soon as one side has a battle victory, the next day’s victory is claimed by the other side.

This is more about showing the atrocities of warfare, a lot of the first trilogy was spent building up, there were skirmishes and fights in The Blade Itself, but the war didn’t come until later. This book is basically one long battle, the entire thing takes place in just about a weeks worth of time, but a lot of action happens within that time period.

We watch a bunch of different characters viewpoints from both sides of the war having it out and trying to win the day.

A young boy named Beck is trying to earn his name in some great battle, he’s left his family’s farm behind determined to walk in his fathers’ footsteps – who was also a famous warrior in the north.

A disgraced officer named Tunny who would rather laze around than fight is begrudgingly teaching new recruits “how to be soldiers”, and he hates it.

We also follow Gorst, who was seen in the first trilogy is madly in love with a generals daughter, who herself is married to an officer in the army. Gorst is bitter and resentful towards his position in the army, writing angry letters in the night to the king, then burning them as some sort of therapy.

The general’s daughter, Finree, is also featured and she’s trying her best to hoist her husband higher and higher in the army. He’s the son of a traitor and has to scrape his way to every promotion, he works himself twice as hard as anyone else trying his best to prove he’s no traitor. She’s a very gung ho and ambitious person who speaks up often, which grates on the patience of First Magi Bayaz and other higher-ups in the military – it causes some problems.

Craw is fighting for the north, and he’s one of the last “straight edges” left, meaning he regards honor as much or more than just brute strength in a fight. He’s trying to be a better man and lead people into doing the right thing even if it doesn’t get you anything but bloodshed in return. He’s struggling with his loyalties because he’s not a fan of Black down and his blacker ways of doing battle. His loyalty gets tried further when the ex-prince comes into the mix because he and Dow are obviously enemies, and Craw had been around Calder since he was a child and helped raise him in some respects.

And we also have Bethod’s son, “Prince” Calder who’s no longer a prince now that his father is dead and Dow holds the crown in the north. His wife is being held captive to ensure his good behavior, but this guy sort of reminds me of Jalan from Mark Lawrence’s Red Queens War. He’s kind of a slippery bastard, more likely to lie to you than not. He’s also a self-professed coward and truly terrible in a sword fight – he’s mostly just trying to survive the battle.

Final Score: 14/15

Beck is sort of a jerk to the rest of the trainees he’s grouped with, he’s convinced he’s the baddest new recruit and is thirsty to win his name. I didn’t really know if I liked him all that much, he was pretty immature, quick to a fight, and there wasn’t much in the way of redeeming factors. However, watching him try to navigate through his first battle does make you sympathize with him, and he turns into a rather tragic character.

Gorst is OBSESSED with Finree and it plays a major part in his story arc, he has a lot of inner dialogue each time he speaks with her, which is pretty creepy but also funny at points. He’s a very tired and bitter person, he resents his current station as Observer for the king, what he really wants is to be reinstated to his old position which he lost in disgrace some time before the events of this book. As the book goes on he gets more and more bitter and depressed and fed up with his life.

Calder is fairly cowardly and instead of trying to fight Black Dow head on, he’s trying to sew seeds of disloyalty in Dow’s thralls. Trying to get each of them to turn against Dow one by one by whispering things in their ear, some true, some not. He has a wife, but he’s not faithful – although he says he loves her and does think of her a lot. He has a stressed relationship with his half brother, who’s more of a warrior than a thinker.

Finree is extremely ambitious and it almost seems like no matter how high she gets, she just wants to go higher. She’s very bold and very brave, enduring some battle scene hardships the way some warriors would. She has to stand up to Black Dow at one point and manages to make demands and keep eye contact – which a lot of Dow’s own men can’t do. She has a lot of good ideas and strategies, but she’s ignored due to her gender and she finds it infuriating. She and her husband have an interesting relationship, she’s never quite certain how she feels about him, although he seems fairly besotted with her. She’s definitely the backbone of the relationship and does seem to at least care about her husband even if it’s not the most passionate romance.

Final Score: 12.5/15

World Building:
Much the same of the first trilogy, so to keep this brief – The Union is “civilized” with those fancy mother fuckers eating with forks and having holes where the poop gets flushed away. The north is full of warring clansmen, it’s colder, it’s harsher, and it breeds a hard society.

Final Score: 12.5/15

This is a much faster paced book than the original trilogy, and it’s a stand alone so it sort of has to be. There’s no real build up, you’re thrown into it from almost the very beginning. There’s a battle scene in this were I was listening with furious intensity, I was so into it. If I had been reading the physical book I would have been flying through it.

Final Score: 14/15

The writing continues to be amazing in this book, Abercrombie has a way of using repeated phrases that really hammer home certain personality traits or overall takeaway messages and instead of being annoying, they are deftly done and work well. He uses a straight forward writing style that’s sprinkled with metaphor and simile, not being flowery, but creating interesting imagery that doesn’t slow the pace.

Final Score: 13.5/15

Again, this isn’t exactly the most trope busting book that’s out there, but I couldn’t care in the least because of how strong the plot and characters are. What was unique about this story was a battle scene done unlike any other I’ve read, so it definitely earned some points from me there.

Final Score: 11/15

Personal Enjoyment:
I really liked this one, I think my favorite Abercrombie book is still Before They Are Hanged, but, this one is a very strong book that I really enjoyed listening to – the audiobooks are just superb.

Final Score: 9/10


For people who have read First Law
For people who want more twisted characters with grey morals
For people who want a lot of action
For people who like low level magic
For people who like a lot of violence and bloodshed
For people who like characters struggling with depression
For people who like seeing two sides of a war
For people who like fast paced books

Final Score: 87/100
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
435 reviews482 followers
August 12, 2015
War in all its misery. Did you expect anything else? This book is as Abercrombie as it gets. As The Bloody Nine would say, you have to be realistic about these things.

The story takes place a couple of years after the first law trilogy (read it first!) and centers mostly around a three day battle between the Union & the North. There are quite a few of the characters we have come to love present, but sadly, also a few key ones that have gone back to the mud in between books. I mention them only because I was really hoping to read more of them. Abercrombie has a knack for writing characters that you just want to keep on reading about. In some of his other books I have found the plot to sometimes stall a bit, but the strength of the personalities he has captured on the paper always pulls him through and thoroughly makes up for any shortcomings in the story-line. The plot did not need any assistance this time round though.

I must mention the excellent sequences where multiple POV characters are used in battle, with a change in the POV triggered by death, and POV changing from the victim to the perpetrator each time. Superb.

The only thing I disliked was the death of my fav character in this book. Oh, and also the tying up of the different characters story-lines which seemed slow after the huge final battle. Necessary, but slow.

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