Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Anime review: "Baccano!"

I usually don't do rewatches of anime, but it's been a very long time since I watched it, and I read something about additional episodes, so I decided to give a go. Additionally, it is relatively short (13 episodes without additions) so it was perfect to do something while waiting for my copy of "The Wise Man's Fear" to arrive. I was satisfied with the rewatch, but definitely not these three extra episodes I watched. I will first give a review of original anime, while these "new" episodes will be in separately paragraph.

Best comparison I could come up was that "Baccano!" is the "Pulp Fiction" of anime, happening in time of Prohibition and being even more complicated to watch. Why complicated, you ask? Because it is happening simultaneously in three years (1930, 1931 and 1932), often without distinct separation between them (there are years showing at change of scene in first episodes, but they got rare later), with a big cast and extravagant characters. Central story (year 1931) is the travel of the "Flying Pussyfoot", a transcontinental train arriving for New York. Second story (year 1930) explaining the meeting of some characters, happening in New York. Third story (year 1932) is just a resolution, showing some consequences of of previous events. Take note, these three stories are shown simultaneously, so we know the ending practically from the beginning. But do not be fooled by this: it is very surprising, unpredictable and exceptional anime. I would hate to spoil the revelation of its story for you. Let's just number who does it involves: several confronted gangster and Mafia groups, newspaper agency with informational network that infiltrates high and low, young girls trying to save his (undeserving) older brother, unbelieving duo of klutzy thieves, immortal alchemists older of that 200 years, homunculus, group of kids that steals from Mafia and make bombs, group of sadistic killers led by a man that wants to violently kill whole world (especially those who think they are untouchable), group of people trying to save their immortal leader from government that wants to do tests on him, a man who "know" that he is center of the world, a Rail Traces (a monster that eats trains)...

Plot will at turns looks completely incomprehensible, especially at first. Even though I watched this anime once before, first two episodes were very confusing. But soon you will realize that everything fits into place perfectly. Of course, you will not be able to understand everything, but that is intentionally. It is one of those shows that leave you with myriad of questions and begging for more. As for characters, they are even more flamboyant than the plot. Most of them are criminals, murders and psychopaths, people you wouldn't like to meet at the dark street, but they are extremely likable. The show doesn't have main character/s; instead, you could found yourself a favorite group and root for them, or just simply hope that everyone will see the end alive.

Word of caution, this anime is extreme in one more aspect: violence. And it is very explicit in it, so expect to see blood and bones in large amount. There is even one scene where one of the characters bites off another one's fingers...

About three additional episodes: DO NOT WATCH THEM! Especially if this is your first time watching, because it will ruin the feeling of "Baccano!" for you. Plot is left unfinished with original 13 episodes, but this is how it was intended and it works great that way. Adding these few episodes that explain what happened later and why only badly tries to explain things that are better left to one's imagination. It feels totally cheap: cheap storytelling, cheap animation, cheap design, cheap ending. True, there are few interesting facts to learn here, but I would survive without them. I was especially offended with the way the mauled Vino; they completely ruined my picture of him. New characters are generic and only a cheap imitations of original. So again, do no watch any episodes after 13!

When I was reviewing "Durarara!!", I mentioned that it was written by the same author as "Baccano!", meaning it as a compliment. So the reverse is also true. If you liked "Durarara!!", you should will PROBABLY like "Baccano!", too. It is darker, more violent and more complicated, but the two share the same spirit. "Baccano!" is not anime for everybody, but if you like noir, complicated plots, extravagance and seinen, and don't mind violence for violence's sake, you could like it. But it's definitely worth of try.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Movie review: "No Strings Attached"

Yesterday my girlfriend and I watched "No Strings Attached", a romantic comedy with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. We try to avoid sleazy teen comedies, so we pick only those with stars included. My friends, on the other hand, when they watch such movies (which is not often), don't use this "method of filtering", so results often vary much.

So, Ashton Kutchers play Adam, a young man, some kind of movie assistant, easygoing, cheerful and sensitive. Natalie Portman is Emma, a medical student with tight schedule and no liking for relationships. They have met briefly several times in past, always feeling something but never doing anything. Until one night when Adam gets drunk and accidentally ends sleeping in Emma's apartment. Since then they will start a purely sexual relationship, with rules made by Emma that will keep things simple. Of course, at first things go smoothly, but slowly Adam will find that he has more feelings for Emma. Emma, on the other hand, has fear of relationships, but she will also realize that she is not completely immune to Adam's care and happiness. But how long will he be able to fight against her fears...

Not to drag this, this is a typical romantic comedy. Introduction, happy part, sad part, happy ending, all crisscrossed with humor. I like this concept, and shorter the sad part, happier me. It has a nice kind of humor, based a lot on sexual jokes, but nothing crass and no nudity - a kind of humor you would expect from big stars that also act in serious films (well, this is true more for Portman than for Kutcher). It has weird, but funny friends, and even a bad guy. Acting is solid and movie actually gets more serious than I expected based on the beginning.

So, in short, "No Strings Attached" is a nice romantic comedy which will not disappoint if this is what you expect and want. A good evening watch that doesn't ask much of you.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book review: "The Warrior-Prophet" by R. Scott Bakker

I didn't plan to buy this book so soon after after reading the first part. I was thinking of buying something from different series, or watching some anime. But I was still on vacation, with too much free time and nothing to read. So, when I was passing by a bookstore, I just couldn't resist entering. Since I couldn't find "The Dragonfly Falling" by Adrian Tchaikovsky, which I planned to order next, I bought "The Warrior-Prophet". And of course, after buying it, I couldn't leave it off my hand so I read it in few days... Good thing my vacation is over, because I would be "forced" to buy the next part, "The Thousandfold Thought".

About the book, now. I found this review a bit hard, because it is very similar to the last one. Same characters with no additions, same setting with only small new revelations. R. Scott Bakker obviously went more into depth that width with this book.

"The Warrior-Prophet" starts immediately after "The Darkness That Comes Before". There is even detail synopsis of previous events for those that read the first part too long ago. The book continues with the model of multiple points of view; since all the major players are traveling together, it can't be said this is really multiple plots novel, but it's not far from it. Drusas Achemian (A.K.A Akka) is finally reunited with his lover, the prostitute Esmenet. But this will not last long and they will be separated; and events that will happen will change Akka much, to a man of more resolve, but much sadder. It will also lead Esmenet to fate she couldn't even dream before. Cnaiür is having hard time adapting to his new circumstances. He has become a war-leader of his enemies, praised by them, even though to him they are less than human. But much more problematic is that Sërve, his prize and one of few things he can use for defining himself as Scylvendi, is not anymore his; she got seduced and became a believer in the Warrior-Prophet. The Holy War, and the Great and Lesser Names that lead it, continue to fight their way to Holy Shimes (in some ways this is the central plot of the book). But each member of it plays his own game: some for faith, some for fame, some for vengeance. And the hidden player, the Consult, plays the ultimate game, a plot to bring the Second Apocalypse. They have an easy time, since no one even believes in them.

And in the midst of all this we have Anasûrimbor Kellhus, the central character of the series. This man is something really special. He has no super-powers, no magic, not one impressing talent: only his training. But his training enables him to always take the Shorter Path to his goal, whatever that is. And his current goal is to take the hold of whole Holy War, and use it as a tool to defeat his father, Moënghus. To do this, he will take the mantle of Warrior-Prophet, a man who is a voice of god. But as his plan progress, he will find variables that are incalculable even to him. The magic, which doesn't yield to logical though he was trained to. The prophecy, which shatters the basic rule of his order. And the Consult, which abilities surpasses even his. But his biggest question will come from things he uses to enslave others: faith, emotions, God... What if he really is the Warrior-Prophet?

As I said, book introduces almost no new elements, but the existing ones are explored in much more details. We learn more of the setting, the world of Eärwa and its history. As in previous book, the worldbuild is flawless: I really look forward to learning more of it. Facts there were only suggested in previous book get explained in more details, but also suggestions of new facts arise. It continues using historical references and models (e.g. Holy War), like Guy Gavriel Kay, although with less parallels. The same is true for the characters: we got a lot better measure of them, but no a complete one. Even at the end of second book they are able to surprise and delight us. We have several new characters, but it is clear that the major ones were introduced in the first book. As before, there are no black-and-white characters. Everyone has his or her own agenda and his moral standards which to his or her actions have to be judged.

There are few things that bothered me in this book. It follows the pattern on large period of time being covered descriptively in few pages, than short, but monumental events with much coverage. This is fine, I like when authors do this. But Bakker use too much small characters in his description, whose names are all very unusual and hard to remember. This sometimes makes it hard for me to pay attention to what I am reading. And this is extends to his descriptions of battles. They are intense and detailed, but the wagonload of names of captains, tribe-leaders, and so on, doesn't help me to create a clear picture of what is going on.

On the other hand, I really appreciate Bakker's imagination; even though I read this book once before, I was surprised how tough he was to the people in it.

One more thing, just a warning. Bakker gets very graphical in his description of sex and violence. Also, if I am not mistaken, there is much more sex that in first book.

Despite these small flaws, my statement that this series present the best what epic fantasy can offer still stand. Not the best series that I ever read (because the beauty is in imperfections), but great in every aspect. Let us hope that R. Scott Bakker succeeds with his next books as he has with "The Warrior-Prophet".

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Book review: "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss

This was a second time I read "The Name of the Wind" by Patric Rothfuss. First time was when I bought the book, almost a year ago. I bought it because it was much hyped at that time, and I see that still is. This time I read it almost accidentally. I was planning to read it next month, when I receive the sequel which I ordered, "The Wise Man's Fear". After finishing "Princess Jellyfish" I wanted to watch another anime, because I didn't have any book at home (except "The Game of Thrones", which I am saving for big ASoIaF reread, when I collect all books). I even run the first episode, but two things decided that I stop it and start reading this book. First, my neck was a bit craned at the time (probably the draft) so I wasn't feeling comfortable sitting before my screen. Second this, I was running some heavy-duty programs on my notebook, so picture kept skipping. So I decided to reschedule this reread.

"The Name of the Wind" is told from two time-lines. Book starts with the present, in small village of Newarre, in the Waystone Inn. The owner, Kote, is obviously something more than an ordinary innkeeper. After accidental meeting with Chronicler, a wandering scribe, student and famous collector of stories, where he saves him from scraels, spider previously believed demonic and mythical, it turns out that he is actually Kvothe, a young and famous hero who was thought dead. After some struggling, Kvothe agrees to tell him his story, in three day. Most of the book consists of the day one, with several short interludes in present. This first day consist of a story of Kvothe's childhood in traveling troupe of performers, first teachers, death of his parents by mysterious Chandrian. After that Kvothes loses his memory and first lives feral in forest, then lives almost feral for three years in a big city as a beggar and a thief. Finally, after regaining his memory by hearing a story of Chandrian, he travels to the University, where he starts a study to become an Arcanist. This takes the most part of the book, and we follow him as he study medicine, artificing, some regular studies, some magical; looking for clues for Chandrian, becoming a famous player, chasing his first-love Denna, and many other things.

First thing that has to be pointed out that this is very fun and easy to read book. This doesn't mean that it is not complex, or that is shallow. It is a regular high fantasy, with complex history, lots of characters and facts. But it is very flowing and it easy to forgot the time with it. There is much humor in it, both verbal and situation. Kvothe is sometimes clumsy and sometimes unbelievably overwhelming, but is never dull. He is the only main character and the story in past is told exclusively from his point of view. As it should be, since he is telling it. Other characters are clearly only supporting him, but they are nevertheless described in detail. Most of them are in some ways pictured comically, but that is the trait of the storyteller. Book gets very serious when it needs.

You know when you read some fantasy book that follows the usual tropes and there is a part when a young hero does his training? For example, like in "The Painted Man" when Arlen trains his Warding and other skills (forget which ones exactly). Well, this whole book is stuck at this part. And in this case, it is a good thing, if you like these parts. It doesn't have much plot, and it's not very original, but this is primary the book about characters. They, on the other hand, are very original and very deeply pictured.

There are two things in this book that could be the downfall of this series. First, Kvothe is sometimes too good. It is true, he often gets wounded, most of his victories are bitter-sweet at best, but nevertheless, he is described as practically invincible. In this book it was only rarely irritating. Second this is connected to first. Kvothe is so hyped that I am afraid Rothfuss will be not be able to deliver such bad-ass character. I mean, look at this:

"'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. My name is Kvothe. 

You may have heard of me"

And all this before his 25th year. It's a big bite, especially for first series. I was before afraid that this will be another case of great first novel, but much weaker sequel. But since the sequel was published few months ago, I head only praises for it, so I presume Rothfuss pulled it off for now. I guess I will see was it a success next month.

In any case, I think "The Name of the Wind" is a book that can be safely recommended to most fantasy fans. It is not overlong; it is easy and fun to read but not shallow or too simple. It follows the classical story of a hero in emergence, but with a bunch of new ideas that keeps it original. Treat yourself!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Several movie reviews: "Forgetting Sarah Marshall", "Cowboys & Aliens", "Bad Teacher", "The Lovely Bones"

In past weeks I watched several movies that I didn't have the time or was lazy to review. With this post I am making a compromise with myself and I will write a paragraph for each movie.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is a light romantic comedy starring Jason Segel (never heard of him), Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell. Peter (Segel), after being left by his long-time girlfriend Sarah (Bell) decides to go to Hawaii to forget her. Unfortunately, she is also there, with her boyfriend, to make things worse. What follows is a typical for this kind of movies: fights, some romance, meeting crazy locals, some dirty scenes... All in all, I was very satisfied with this movie: jokes were very good, no shameful moment and it features a very good in-movie song. A recommendation for those who like romantic comedies.

"Cowboys & Aliens" was expected to be a hit of this summer, but I would skip this movie. Maybe if you are younger than 10 this movie could work for you. It features Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford, although I don't count this as a plus. I can't say much about this movie because I wasn't really concentrating on it and I left before the end.

"Bad Teacher" is on the other hand a straightforward comedy, starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel (ha, I didn't notice before). I don't usually like Diaz, but she was actually good in this movie. She plays a young woman who, after being dumped by her fiancée, is forced to work in high-school. She is not very likeable: she likes men only because of money, she curses, smokes pot, steals from students... What you expect is that she changes toward the end and becomes a nice person. Well, this is only partially true. I liked this movie and I think it is a good evening watch for those who can stomach a teen-comedy.

"The Lovely Bones" is a hit from few years ago. It is a story of young girl who gets killed by a perverted serial killer. Instead going to Heaven, she gets stuck somewhere between because she is not ready to leave yet. So she follow the life of her family (dad is Mark Wahlberg and mum Rachel Weisz), her sister, her almost-boyfriend and her killer (Stanley Tucci) for few more years. It is a slow, hard movie, something between thriller and fantasy. I didn't like it after watching it whole. Thriller parts were OK, but there are better such movies (like "Zodiac Killer" I watched few months ago). Fantasy parts were mostly confusing, overlong and ultimately unnecessary. I ending was something of anticlimax. Even though I didn't like the end, I would recommend it to everybody who can concentrate for two hours.

Anime review: Princess Jellyfish

Few days ago I finished "Princess Jellyfish", a short (11 episodes) josei anime. I decided to watch it precisely because it is josei, and even better, a comedy based on manga. Minus was the image on AniDB that was a bit off-putting. I almost stopped watching it when I saw the design and colors (which are the same aforementioned image). But I am very glad I didn't; this anime only strengthen my liking of josei anime.

In few ways it reminded me to "Paradise Kiss": it's a comedy, it has fashion and it josei. But on the other hand it's quite different. The premise looks quite ridiculous: Tsukimi is a young girl living in Tokio with several other girls and women in Amamizukan, an apartment complex. Except that they live together, girls are connected by fact that they are all nerds, NEET, otakus, afraid of society... Tsukimi likes jellyfish; Banba is obsessed with trains, Mayaya with some martial-fighting/fantasy/China franchise, Chieko with dolls and Jiji with old men. They are all quite unbelievable and exaggerated, but likable. Most important rule of Amamizukan is "No boys allowed". Their routine will be broken when Tsikimi accidentally meets Kuranosuke, a son of important politician, who lives in neighborhood and likes to cross-dress as fashionable girl.

There is not much to say about plot without revealing spoilers, since this series has only 11 episodes. First few use as introduction to characters; surprisingly, later episodes start an actual plot, dealing with fight against redevelopment plans of their neighborhood. I was surprised with this, especially after watching, because the plot, and series itself, gets abruptly ended. But after checking Wikipedia, I saw that anime is based on ongoing manga, so it's probable that there will be sequels further developing this plot. All in all, much more than I expected in this department: an actual plot with reasoning.

As I said, characters are at first caricatures of people, but on the other hand, they are likable and get more solid after. This especially stands for Tsukimi, Kuranosuke and characters that get introduced later. Kuranosuke's cross-dressing actually gets a reasonable explanation.

This anime is mostly comedy, with just right amounts of drama and romance. It is not ambitious like "Nana" or "Hachimitsu to Clover", but it delivers what it promises. Only flaw that I can state is a poor visual quality. Better design and brighter colors would probably help much, but this is of secondary importance to me. Audio side of it is much better; I especially liked Chieko's voice.

I don't think "Princess Jellyfish" will be a popular show, but all josei-fans should be happy with this little finding. Even if you don't like it much at the end, you won't regret it since it relatively short. I definitely liked it and will watch its sequel if it ever gets out.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book review: "The Darkness That Comes Before" by R. Scott Bakker

First I have to say I already read "The Darkness That Comes Before" and its sequel "The Warrior-Prophet" once. The books were published in Croatian and I was a member of public library at that time, so this wasn't something that I, a fantasy-fan, could miss. When third book, "The Thousandfold Thought" arrived, I wasn't a library-member anymore. Once a friend tried to borrow a book for me, but it was out at that time. And I wasn't really into buying English version of books I have already read when there are already dozes of book on my wish-list that I haven't read. But some time ago I stumbled on Wikipedia article about R. Scot Bakker and read that what I though was only a trilogy was actually a big series with some eight or nine books planned. This of course piqued my interests since these were some of the finest fantasy-books I ever read, so I decided to buy them, one at time, as time allows me.

As I said, I read this book few years ago, but only once, so this was something between read and re-read. I recognized character and events, but I didn't remember them in advance, except in most general terms.

This is a book of multiple plots, presented from sever points of view, just the kind I like. A main character, or at least the most pivotal character, is Anasûrimbor Kellhus. He is something of a monk, trained in psychology, observance, physical skills... His level of skill is actually such that other people are like children to him and most consider him a more than human: he can read their though by noticing small changes at their faces, pulse rates, etc.; he can learn language only by hearing it for few days; he can catch arrows in flight. But he is not the only one; there is whole order of people like him. Thankfully for the world, they are secluded and never go out of their fortress at North. But that has changed when thirty years ago Anasûrimbor Moënghus, Kellhus' father, got corrupted and left them. But now, he is back, at least in their dreams, commanding them to send his son to him, to Shimeh. Kellhus is now sent to journey to find his father, find him and kill him.

It is important to note that Kellhus' order has been isolated from the world for two thousand years, so he knows nothing about it. Two thousand years ago a First Apocalypse occurred: No-God tried and almost managed to destroy humanity. Not much about this is revealed, only few facts that rise more questions (in best Erikson's style). Whatever did happen, things have changed much since Kellhus' ancestor for ruler of largest human Empire of the time. Humanity is now centered on Three Seas, where they have forgot about No-God and turned to their petty human squabbles. Few of those who remember and who are always vigilant about the Consult, whose focus is the return of No-God, the Second Apocalypse and they are the members of Mandate School of sorcery. But since no one seen or heard about Consult, there are not many who believe them. One of their members is Drusas Achamian, sometimes a teacher to kings, but most often a spy in lowest quarters of Three Seas. He is sent to investigate what will Maithanet, new Shirah of the Thousand Temples (absolute religious leader of larger faith) pronounce as a target of newly proclaimed Holy War: sorceress that Faith sees as blasphemers and rivals in power, or Fanims, southern infidels that have occupied their holy city Shimeh...

It would take me to much too describe every faction, plot and important character in details, so I will just number few of them. We have Emperor Ikurei Xerius III and his nephew Conphas who are trying to restore their Empire to former glory, not shirking even from using Holy War for their purposes. There are Crimison Spires, a most powerful school of sorcery, having their own private war with the infidels. There is Cnaiür, a chieftain of Scylvendy, a warlike human race, who is shunned by other chieftains because of helping a persuasive stranger to kill his own father thirty years ago. Then there are the Fanims and their own powerful school of sorcery, Chishaurim, different from any other. There are rulers of small and large kingdoms of Three Seas, and there are small, regular people. And finally, there is the Consult, who is not so dormant as everybody believes...

In many ways, "The Darkness That Comes Before" presents the very best what fantasy can offer now. It is a beginning of long epic fantasy series, but in doesn't follow the usual tropes. Main characters are not teens or young people with no experience going out in the world for first time; here we have people in their middle years, with much experience and much going on already. We have a great worldbuilding and very imaginative setting. World here has a very rich history and detailed background, but most of it is only suggested, not openly revealed (as I said before, in style of Steven Erikson). Characters are not black-and-white and definitely not shallow: they have their own agenda, own morality, doubts, little flaws. Plot is very complex, with many subplots and small sidetracks, but it is still enjoyable, believable and easy to follow.

There is not one thing I could object about his book. Unfortunately, it lack some small detail that would make it universally loved, like ASoIaF, WoT or MBotF. When I say universally loved, I don't mean that everybody likes it; but there are lots and lots of people who like it, and even those who don't know about it and it can always be a topic of heated discussion between fans and dislikers.

Nevertheless, "The Darkness That Comes Before" (and I hope its sequels) is a great book, with great content and great style. I would recommend it to everybody who likes high and epic fantasy and is not afraid of ambitious books.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Book review: "The Heroes" by Joe Abercrombie

I have read all five Joe Abercrombie's books now. I really adored his first book "The Blade Itself", but unfortunately he also suffered from the problem that troubles many debutantes: sequels are never as good as original. Thankfully, the original was so good that sequels, even though not so brilliant, were nevertheless great books. Then, after first trilogy, Abercrombie wrote a stand-alone novel, with same setting and some old characters, but following different plot: "Best Served Cold". Book was still good, but far from first one in quality. So when I learned about "The Heroes", I was a bit afraid that it would follow this decline and be not so good. I am happy to say that, even though not in level with original "The First Law" trilogy, "The Heroes" is very fine book in his very own style.

First I must explain something. I read once that screen-writer don't know how to write description, but they have a way with dialog that makes characters feel live (it was in Raymond E. Feist's novel "Faerie Tale"). I don't know what film-editors exactly do, but Abercrombie (as ex-one) sucks with plots and excels with characters. Well, I can really say it absolutely suck (only relatively compared to his characters), but they are not as complex or original as they could be. You can feel it is here only to support its characters.

The same it true for his latest novel "The Heroes". We follow are large cast of characters in course of several days: a preparation for battle, three days of pitched battle, and the short description of its consequences. For the battle itself, although central to book, I don't think it takes more than three (short) chapters. Plot is carried by dialog and inner monolog of characters.

And such characters they are... Prince Calder we know from before. A son of dead King Bethod, he is not in very best of circumstances, since the throne of his father is now occupied by Black Dow, who is not his best friend. On the other hand, he has no options but act as Dow's best friend, due the fact that Dow has his wife (one of only two persons Calder cares about). But that will not stop him doing what he does best: scheming. Curnden Craw is a new face, a Named Man in different circumstances. He is "the last honest man in the North" and honesty is not really on price now. After spending his life fighting, he is constantly thinking about retirement, but there are not many things he knows to do except fight. And Bremer dan Gorst is an old character, but first time with POV. Due to his shyness and quiet manner (result of his girlish voice) everybody believes him to be an honest and worthy man, a real hero. But Gorst is actually a very sad man, whose only wish is to return to King's grace and he will not exactly chose his was back there.

Except these three "main" characters, we have a host of other. Some of them we know from before and they haven't changed much: Bayaz, the First of the Magi, Black Dow, Dogman. Some we know but they are much different from before: Lord Marshal Kroy, Shivers and General Jalenhorm. And then there is bunch of new faces: Finree, Kroy's daughter and wife of Colonel Harod dan Brock; Corporal Tunny, a picturesque member of Union army; Beck, son of Shama Heartless, who only wish is to live up to his father's name; and many others.

In some ways, Abercrombie books are a study of human evil, cruelty and ignobility. I think that he exaggerates some, but this is what gives his book this unique feel. A consequence of that is that you can never know what to expect, which is rare for fantasy books. For example, in "The Wheel of Time", you know for the start who if the Good Side and who will (or better to say, who should) win in the end. With Abercrombie, you don't know who is the good side and who should you cheer for; but you know, that even after somebody "win", it will not feel like a victory. In this way, it is very similar to "A Song of Ice and Fire".

I also have to bring up the fact that Abercrombie doesn't rely on his old characters. I am biased about it. From one side, Logen Ninefingers/Bloody Nine and Sand dan Glotka were his best creations and I would really like to travel with them again (or at least to know more about what happened with them, because they are splendid characters). On the other hand, I appreciate his decision not to recycle old characters until they transform in something less.

To summarize, "The Heroes" is a very good standalone book. Not Abercrombie's best, but deserving to read. I hope to he will continue the good work and give us more of his unique characters. And I would advise to all who haven't already, to read "The First Law" trilogy, his best work.