The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings reviews Joe Abercrombie’s stunning The Heroes, a gritty, take-no prisoners standalone fantasy novel published by Golllancz in the UK and Orbit in the US.

“Wow. The Heroes is unputdownable, action-packed and very enjoyable. Joe Abercrombie’s novel is probably the best Fantasy Book of 2011, in the year that gave us A Dance with Dragons, Prince of Thorns and more.”  ~The Founding Fields

Alright, I know that I’m about a year late to the party, but I figured I’d get around to reading this before I delved into Red Country, Abercrombie’s 2012 novel. I’m also going to start this review by saying that I haven’t read all of Abercrombie’s The First Law Trilogy, only the first novel - The Blade Itself - which is is something that I need to remedy and I think one of my reading targets for 2013 will be to catch up on what I’ve missed.

But in the meantime though, The Heroes was absolutely superb, and if I manage to read Red Country before the end of 2012, then there is certainly a possibility that it may even outclass Mark Lawrence’s brilliant King of Thorns, especially if The Heroes is anything to go by. It was that good – and this is only my second Abercrombie novel.

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.

Abercrombie’s 2011 novel hits all the marks for me. The pacing is fast, the novel is action-packed, and this is firmly gritty fantasy, sharing more similarities to George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire than JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. It’s a standalone epic that doesn’t have to be read after the First Law Trilogy, which was why I picked it it up after the initial series. The novel manages to bring something exciting, enjoyable and entertaining to fantasy and keep you hooked right the way through.

The book has access to various characters that are each very different, and no two sound the same. A handy dramatis personae is provided at the end of the book allowing you to keep track of what characters fight for which side, but you shouldn’t really have that problem as despite the large amount of characters in The Heroes, Abercrombie manages to weave all the threads together over a mere few days of intense fighting. It’s a character focused, war story that truly gives voice to the reality of conflict – and what I love about this novel is that nobody is safe.

There’s even a touch of dark humour added to The Heroes as well. Whilst the story may seem standard – rebels vs. a King and his army, the novel is far from it. As a result, this is probably my favourite fantasy novel of 2011 and I just wish that I’d read it closer to its release date. Although the book may start slowly, it does take time to establish the setting, so you get to understand who is fighting who, why they’re fighting and where they’re fighting, but once it gets going, The Heroes really gets going.

You won’t be able to put this down. Put aside whatever you’re reading now and go out and buy this book.

Verdict: 5/5


Bane of Kings is one our most senior book reviewers here at The Founding Fields, based in England. He’s a prolific reviewer that has contributed to many things here and around the internet.


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