First Law Along #5: The Heroes

With this second phase of the FirstLawAlong I feel less urgency to read on, since the next books are only marginally interlinked and can mainly be read as standalone books, albeit in the same world as the original trilogy with cameos from characters we’ve met before.
It was a bit difficult to motivate myself to read this second standalone novel and already the fifth book in this readathon, considering the premise of the story didn’t really appeal to me. However, I am nothing if not stubborn in my perseverance, so I gave this one a fair chance, but unfortunately my reluctance turned out to be well-founded.

Joe Abercrombie – The Heroes (First Law World #5) DNF

Genre: Dark Fantasy

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 neighbour, 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.

Bremer dan Gorst, disgraced master swordsman, has sworn to reclaim his stolen honour 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 honour, 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 any more, 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.

DNF after ±40% (just after the first day of the battle)

“He’d thought it through, and this was the right thing to do. Or the least wrong thing, anyway. Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.”

Even before starting this book, I had an inkling this one would not be for me.
A 600+ pages book which mainly focusses on a 3-day battle seemed very tedious to me. As a fantasy fan, battle scenes are of course unavoidable and I do like a good sequence now and then, but they are only impactful in moderation.
So even though this author has surprised me before, I expected this one to be a struggle, though of course I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

“Armour… is part of a state of mind… in which you admit the possibility… of being hit.”

Unfortunately, my expectations were met and there was nothing that could keep me interested.
What I really liked about the previous First Law books were the character studies and humor, and while this one once again had enough humor to balance out the gritty goriness of the intense combat, it wasn’t enough to make me care about anyone or anything.

”An unarmed man is like an unroofed house. They’ll both end up leaking.”

I found it really hard to concentrate on anything.
Half the time I didn’t know where I was or who’s side I was reading from. I couldn’t tell the characters apart and there really wasn’t anyone I was rooting for. Every death was just a name to cross off the huge character list. Eventually my attention disappeared completely and I found myself reading chapters without taking in a single word. I was just tuning out completely.
So when the first of the three days of battle was over and I couldn’t really say what had happened, I decided it was time to throw in the towel.

“It is easy to forget how much you have, when your eyes are always fixed on what you have not.”

I’m definitely not writing off this author or series yet. With four surprising books and one dud, chances are looking good that I’ll be enjoying the next ones in the series. So I will be continuing with the First Law World and #firstlawalong as planned. This one just wasn’t for me.

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