The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie is another stand-alone novel in the world we first explored with The First Law trilogy. It comes after Best Served Cold, and before Red Country.
Black Dow took the North from the Bloody-Nine by stabbing him in the back and now rules with a black and iron fist. The Dogman and in turn the Union have come to make war, to get revenge for the death of Logen Ninefingers, and to further other agendas. Both sides are stubborn, both sides claim they’re in the right. But what’s right about war?
It was great to read a story about war from both sides, something I enjoy from other writers like Erikson and Weeks, and all that comes with it. Both sides had legitimate claims, and I couldn’t even decide which side I was rooting for. Both? Neither? All I knew was which characters I didn’t want to see go back to the mud.
One thing about Abercrombie’s characters I’ve noticed is that very few of them are actually likeable. Even fewer keep you rooting for them the entire book. I think, of all the characters I’ve gotten to know while reading his books, I only truly cared about less than a handful. Logen Ninefingers and The Dogman (and the other members of their Northern group of brethren) – ever since reading the trilogy – and now I can add Curnden Craw to the list.
Though Jalenhorn and his desire to do good did move me, and I felt myself connecting to Gorst at times, but that connection kept getting severed by his…well…his true personality. Calder was a prick, but he had some good points. Black Dow was – interestingly enough – actually quite human. I didn’t expect that.
I think this book was a great example that in war there really are no winners. And that there are always different agendas, even when people are on the same side. Bayaz and the dark-skinned witch both have their own agendas, and care less about the soldiers who are dying in battle than the actual outcome from the battles fought. Whatever they’re playing at, it’s not good.
I was going to read Red Country immediately afterwards, but I feel a bit drained – which seems to happen whenever I read one of the stand-alones by Abercrombie. I don’t recall feeling drained by the trilogy, but maybe I did and I just don’t remember. So, I’ve decided to read something a little lighter instead.