They say Black Dow has 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 by smiling while Black Dow 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. Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honor on the battlefield. Obsessed with redemption and addicted to violence, he's far past caring how much blood gets spilled in the attempt. Even if it's his own.
Prince Calder isn't interested in honor, and still less in getting himself killed. All he wants is power, and he'll tell any lie, use any trick, and betray any friend to get it. Just as long as he doesn't have to fight for it himself. Curnden Craw, the last honest man in the North, has gained nothing from a life of warfare but swollen knees and frayed nerves. He hardly even cares who wins anymore; he just wants to do the right thing. But can he even tell what that is with the world burning down around him? Over three bloody days of battle, the fate of the North will be decided. But with both sides riddled by intrigues, follies, feuds, and petty jealousies, it is unlikely to be the noblest hearts or even the strongest arms that prevail. Three men. One battle. No Heroes. This audiobook is introduced and closed out by author Joe Abercrombie, who also reads the acknowledgements.
©2011 Joe Abercrombie Limited (P)2011 Tantor
"The Heroes is Joe Abercrombie doing what he does best but better than ever before: gritty, violent, morally ambiguous and darkly funny fantasy with a streak of intelligent cynicism." (The Wertzone)
Are you tired of stereotypes? Have you read too many books about kids trekking down a road discovering their magical powers and somehow triumphing against overwhelming evil odds in the end? Are you tired of shallow, predictable heroes and villains? If so, you need to read this book. Actually, you need to read all Abercrombie's other books first, and then read this one.
Abercrombie throws out all the tired old cliches in fantasy and writes an ironically titled book with no heroes and no villains - just people. This book has main characters on both sides of a conflict, and none of them are clearly right or wrong. There isn't a happy ending, and everyone's problems don't work themselves out. It's dark, and it's brilliant.
Michael Page is a good narrator. He voices Gorst particularly well. He only seems bad here in comparison to Steven Pacey, who is some kind of genetically engineered government narration super weapon. The narration will throw off fans of the first three books because the accents for some familiar characters have changed, but it's not that serious.
As usual for a Joe Abercrombie book, it is hard to tell the winners from the losers in this gritty, bloody tale. The Union and the North are fighting a vicious battle and both sides as a whole are as flawed as the individual characters within them. I was glad to see some old acquaintances from the first 4 books return, including Black Dow, The Dogman, Shivers, Bremer dan Gorst, Calder, and Bayaz.
The scenes range from absurd to tragic, and from humorous to merciless as a constantly shifting point of view gives the reader insight into events on both sides of the battle lines. The Union is it’s incompetent, bureaucratic self, but bolstered by the larger numbers and superior science. The North is full of hardened veterans who are ready for war, but they are just as happy to kill each other as they are the Union. These two flawed armies clash at a site called “The Heroes” and each does their best to win and lose the conflict at the same time.
When reading the First Law trilogy, I really enjoyed the scenes that involved the Northmen so I was happy to get a big dose of Northern culture and wisdom in this book. The interactions between the Northmen, even those on opposite sides of this fight, are always entertaining and often humorous. The Bloody Nine does not appear in this book but he is referenced plenty of times and his reputation has not diminished with his disappearance.
I found this book much more engaging than Best Served Cold and felt that it was on par with the books of the trilogy. There are interesting personalities on both sides of the battle lines and any of them could be sent back the mud at any time. The end of this book is similar to the end of the trilogy in that more details are revealed about what was really going on behind the scenes, so it wraps up nicely.
I see a lot of negative comments about the narration in other reviews but I feel that Michael Page does an excellent job. After listening to Steven Pacey’s brilliant performances in the first 3 books I too was disappointed to have Michael narrate the 4th; however, I must give Michael his due here. He brings ample personality to the many characters of The Heroes and I felt it was a step up from Best Served Cold. Of course his characters don’t sound the same as Pacey’s versions – get over it and enjoy them anyway! I certainly did.
Audible has opened up a whole new world of reading that I could not make work in the traditional page turning world. I am on a mission to listen to a wide variety of adventures, mysteries, thrillers, classics, etc. Thank you Audible!
If you are a fan of epic fantasy you owe it to yourself to explore the amazing adventures that Joe Abercrombie has created in his books. All five of his books in audible include wonderful characters that you can't help but love and/or hate. One of my major pet peeves is when an author devotes significant portions of each book recapping what occurred in the ones before it. Mr. Abercrombie is one of the few authors who rewards the readers that follow the progression of his books, but at the same time expertly inter weaves characters, adventures, environments, etc. throughout the whole of his books. He is a true artist when it comes to the development of his characters and the amazing details he uses to create a fantasy that allows the reader to feel part of it.
I highly recommend new readers to read the books in order even though each book is written with such quality that they can be read independently. By following the series it will allow the reader to more fully enjoy the many nuances of each book. Here is the chronologic order:
The Blade Itself - 2006
Before They Are Hanged - 2007
Last Argument of Kings - 2008
Best Served Cold - 2009
The Heroes - 2011
Red Country - 2012 (this book is not yet available in the Audible library)
I can’t wait for Audible to get Red Country as Joe Abercrombie has become one of my favorite authors of all time. I recommend that you be cautious when starting one of these books because you may end up having a hard time getting things done due to not being able to stop listening.
I almost didn't download The Heroes based on the reviews regarding the narration. You don't get a very good idea from the preview, since it's just him reading off the character descriptions at the beginning of the book, so I tried Best Served Cold first. I found Page to be acceptable, even if his voicing of some of the characters (Cosca) was jarringly different. It's a little like each subsequent actor who has played Bond. Some aren't great, some are pretty decent, none will ever be Sean Connery. That doesn't mean it won't still be a pretty cool Bond movie. So I decided to go ahead and give The Heroes a shot too.
Very glad I did.
Yes, again there were some odd choices in voicing. Dog Man has been mentioned by others, and it was indeed an inexplicable accent. Yes, I very much missed Steven Pacey, who was exceptional. Despite that, it did not ruin what was another down and dirty, ingloriously brutal tale by Abercromie. Grey areas of morality were wide, characters were full, and he did some great stuff with action scenes. In general I love how the author is giving us different stories with different characters from throughout his world, with enough old friends and undercurrents of the big picture to keep us happy and looking forward to more.
I do miss Pacey, I do hope they bring him back for future installments, but I still found this listen to be completely worth my credit.
First let me say I love Joe Abercrombie ! The first law was outstanding work! one of the best fantasy series put to audio this decade!! That being said What the hell happened to the narrator that they had to go with this new guy . I mean Michael page is an ok narrator when he does his homework (which he did not do for this book! ) This is not a stand alone novel but part of a series with already established voices from the last narrator (Steven Pacey) They were great voices and he did his homework .what was he too expensive .
And so a great book gets ruined yet again .. it is sad really
I loved the way all of the characters, motivations, and decisions operated in an ambiguous gray area where there was no such thing as a pure motivation, a good man, a heroic act, or a clean decision. The fight descriptions were top notch. I found myself emotionally invested in the characters and this book took the tedium out of my Los Angeles commute. Sometimes I'd sit in my car for ten minutes after pulling into my garage waiting for a chapter to conclude. It was that good. This is why I gave it 5 stars even though the narrator was damn irritating. The publishers really need to bring back the buy who narrated the First Law series.
Definitely a new story-line in the series. This book takes place exclusively in the battlefield with rare appearances and references to the favorite characters of past volumes. And given the type of fighting these Heroes are doing...don't expect to lose your hearts to them. The Heroes is just another name for a graveyard after all. I liked the grittiness and honest endings found in this book. A fitting end to a series, although I am not so sure it is a fitting end to THIS series as it feels quite out of sync with the previous books. A good listen for all the blood and gore and gristle!
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.
Abercrombie is brilliant and "Heroes" is Abercrombie distilled.
This book does not have the wonderful epic sweep of the previous stories Abercrombie has set in The First Law world. There is none of the complexity of plot, and the setting is entirely circumscribed within the environs of a single, meaningless battle. In many ways it reminds one of "Matterhorn," the superb glimpse of the Vietnam war penned by Karl Mariantes. Dark and deeply cynical about the romantic ideals of combat even as it celebrates courage, comradeship and a kind of mad endurance. There is glory here, but it is not the glory of triumph or even of nobility in defeat. It consists, rather, in the persistence of humanity in the midst of the most inhumane of all our enterprises, killing for a piece of useless ground.
There is also dark laughter, insanity, shards of the ridiculous, a great deal of blood, a few unexpected shafts of light and an extraordinary menagerie of characters. All the pungent ingredients of the absurd stew of war. Abercrombie fills our gob to bursting with it as few writers can and still makes us believe him when he shows us a soul weary veteran forsaking his quiet seat by his own hearth to trudge off again into the madness.
Clearly some listeners have a problem with Michael Page's delivery and much prefer Steven Pacey. I have loved the work that each of them has done on Abercrombie's books, and this was certainly no exception.
I agree with the other posts...
Go back to the narrator from the original 3 audio books for all future releases!
I have never finished a book narrated by Michael Page. I bought this book without looking at who the narrator was and i regret it. I will go buy the real book and read it. The other books in the series were great so i just bought. Never going to make that mistake again.
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