Read This: The Heroes

the-heroes-cover.jpgMy latest review for Shelf Awareness is a look at Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes, an epic fantasy novel that’s equal parts J.R.R. Tolkien and Steven Pressfield. Or, to paraphrase my own opening line, if Sam Fuller had ever made a sword epic, it would have looked a lot like this.

Like Fuller’s war movies, The Heroes is a profoundly unsentimental look at combat: Before the fight begins, (nearly) everybody jockeys for the position they think will bring them the most glory; once the swords come out, everyone just scrambles to stay alive. The particulars of this conflict are almost beside the point, although Abercrombie does do a fantastic job of outlining a complex political scenario underpinning the battle between the fragile alliance of chieftains under Black Dow and the advancing Army of the Union. As I suggest in my review, Abercrombie may be drawing on a lot of historical parallels here—in particular, I think American readers may find echoes of the Civil War—but the novel’s strength lies in the ability to create an entirely new reality out of those real-world influences. The Heroes depicts no war you’ve ever seen, but you will believe that this is how people like these characters would behave in circumstances like this—and that, to me, is a mark of truly great fiction.

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25 February 2011 | read this |