|This was a bit of a departure for me, since I normally prefer
my fantasy on the high sidewhere the magic comes thick and fast. The
Heroes was more the fantasy equivalent of All Quiet on the
Western Front, gritty, realistic, and low in overt magic (though not
The titular "Heroes" are both a stone circle around which
much of the action in the novel takes place, and a theme for the whole book. This focuses
on the nature of heroism in a war that is essentially futile, fought between the Union who
seem almost Napoleonic in their military structure and style of warfare (with the Captains
and Colonels, but without the gunpowder) and the North, who are more your typical fantasy
barbarian horde. The politics behind this particular action are complicated, but the
reader becomes increasingly suspicious that its all down to a feud between mages.
So, lots of people get maimed and many get killed for no good reason
like in most
The novel is essentially character-driven, with the plot retreating into background,
just the battle progressing as battles do. The map is relatively small, and the timeframe
just a matter of days, though there is a cast of thousands. There are three main and
several minor viewpoint characters. There is Colonel Horst, whose genuine bravery is
conflicted with a serious lack of self-esteem (he is a brawny man with squeaky falsetto
voice). There is "Prince" Calder whose intelligence and military cunning are
coupled with cowardice and a total ineptitude for personal combatnot good when
youre son of the former King of the North. And lastly theres Camden Craw, a
Named Man and leader of his dozenwhos really getting too old for this kind of
thing. Theyre interesting characters to whom interesting things happenbut
whether or not they are actually heroes is not so easy to decide.
Its a novel that is both simple and complex, with some important things to say.
Said generally very cleverly and with wit, wisdom and good humour. Some of it said with
considerable profanity, so for that and the violence level youd have to call this an
adults-only novela pity perhaps, because there are things said here that many a
young man needs to hear.