I often struggle when someone asks me what my favorite fantasy book is. I’ve read so many great books that it’s very difficult to pick one above all the others. I don’t have that problem anymore. My answer now is easily Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes. I cannot think of another book I have enjoyed so much on so many levels. That’s a bold statement, you say? Yes it is. This book deserves it, and I will do my best to try and explain why.
The overall plot of The Heroes is relatively simple. It follows a battle over the course of three days. The battle is being fought between “The Union” and “The North.” The Union is an entity that has much in common with medieval England. The North has much in common with Vikings or some other barbarian state. They’ve been brought together in war through a series of convoluted events that happened in previous novels. The reasons they are fighting are completely unimportant. The focus of this story is the individuals doing the fighting, not the fight itself. They all have their own reasons for being there.
If you are familiar with Abercrombie’s work then it will come as no surprise to you that there are no “Heroes” in this story. These are flawed human beings, and over the course of three days you follow several of them through their various trials and tribulations. Abercrombie paints the most realistic characters you can imagine. He’s so good at writing these colorful and disturbed individuals. Abercrombie will have you siding with mass murderers and feeling sorry for psychopathic killers, and you won’t even notice.
As with Abercrombie’s other works, this book is violent, vulgar, and often absolutely hilarious. Abercrombie is a master of dark humor and uses profanity with an artist’s touch. The profane inner monologue of Col. Bremmer Dan Gorst nearly had me weaving into oncoming traffic with laughter while listening on audio. Entire complex and awful situations are often summarized by characters in a single expletive. I absolutely loved it.
The writing is superb. Abercrombie has honed his style to a razor’s edge. He continues to improve upon excellence. I thought Best Served Cold was nearly flawless, but I would have to say The Heroes is one step closer to perfection in my opinion. If he continues this trend I will have no choice but to sell my worldly possessions and start a cult in his name.
I listened to The Heroes on MP3 by Tantor Audio, narrated by Michael Page. Mr. Page does an excellent job with the voice characterizations. The North men tend to sound similar, but there are only so many “gravel rough” voices a guy can do. The voice acting was just enough to draw you into the story without being overdramatic. I was very pleased with the overall production and would not hesitate to listen to more from Tantor or Michael Page.