The Heroes

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Joe Abercrombie
Orbit, 2011, 581 blz.

Het is soms niet te bevatten hoe de tijd vliegt: ik herinner mij als de dag van gisteren dat ik Joe Abercrombie aan het lezen was, en toen ik aan dit boek begon was het alsof het ergens een paar maanden geleden was — maar het was wel degelijk al twaalf jaar geleden dat ik Best Served Cold las.

Het was als een comfortabel oud paar schoenen aandoen: oude mensen die klagen over allerlei, een veel gebroken mensen, oorlog die alleen in het hoofd van idioten glamoureus is.

Drie dagen, dat is wat er in het boek beschreven wordt. Een veldslag tussen de Union en het Noorden, op en rond een heuvel en een dorp.

Geen enkel personage is volledig goed of volledig slecht. Niemand heeft plot armour: iedereen kan verminkt worden of doodgaan. En elke personage is anders!

Ter illustratie: de dramatis personae in het begin van het boek. Letterlijk elke naam hier is levend, écht, en totaal onderscheiden van alle andere personages. Ik zou van 95% van die mensen zó kunnen vertellen wat er allemaal met hen gebeurt en wat hun motivaties zijn. Een auteur die er in slaagt om dát te doen, is enorm goed bezig. Vooral als het dan ook nog eens boeiend en spannend en grappig is ook.

THE UNION

High Command

  • Lord Marshal Kroy—commander-in-chief of his Majesty’s armies in the North.
  • Colonel Felnigg—his chief of staff, a remarkably chinless man.
  • Colonel Bremer dan Gorst—royal observer of the Northern War and disgraced master swordsman, formerly the king’s First Guard.
  • Rurgen and Younger—his faithful servants, one old, one … younger.
  • Bayaz, the First of the Magi—a bald wizard supposedly hundreds of years old and an influential representative of the Closed Council, the king’s closest advisors.
  • Yoru Sulfur—his butler, bodyguard and chief bookkeeper.
  • Denka and Saurizin—two old Adepti of the University of Adua, academics conducting an experiment for Bayaz.

Jalenhorm’s Division

  • General Jalenhorm—an old friend of the king, fantastically young for his position, described as brave yet prone to blunders.
  • Retter—his thirteen-year-old bugler.
  • Colonel Vallimir—ambitious commanding officer of the King’s Own First Regiment.
  • First Sergeant Forest—chief non-commissioned officer with the staff of the First.
  • Corporal Tunny—long-serving profiteer, and standard-bearer of the First.
  • Troopers Yolk, Klige, Worth, and Lederlingen—clueless recruits attached to Tunny as messengers.
  • Colonel Wetterlant—punctilious commanding officer of the Sixth Regiment.
  • Major Culfer—his panicky second in command.
  • Sergeant Gaunt, Private Rose—soldiers with the Sixth.
  • Major Popol—commanding the first battalion of the Rostod Regiment.
  • Captain Lasmark—a poor captain with the Rostod Regiment.
  • Colonel Vinkler—courageous commanding officer of the Thirteenth Regiment.

Mitterick’s Division

  • General Mitterick—a professional soldier with much chin and little loyalty, described as sharp but reckless.
  • Colonel Opker—his chief of staff.
  • Lieutenant Dimbik—an unconfident young officer on Mitterick’s staff.

Meed’s Division

  • Lord Governor Meed—an amateur soldier with a neck like a turtle, in peacetime the governor of Angland, described as hating Northmen like a pig hates butchers.
  • Colonel Harod dan Brock—an honest and hard-working member of Meed’s staff, the son of a notorious traitor.
  • Finree dan Brock—Colonel Brock’s venomously ambitious wife, the daughter of Lord Marshal Kroy.
  • Colonel Brint—senior on Meed’s staff, an old friend of the king.
  • Aliz dan Brint—Colonel Brint’s naive young wife.
  • Captain Hardrick—an officer on Meed’s staff, affecting tight trousers.

The Dogman’s Loyalists

  • The Dogman—Chief of those Northmen fighting with the Union. An old companion of the Bloody-Nine, once a close friend of Black Dow, now his bitter enemy.
  • Red-Hat—the Dogman’s Second, who wears a red hood.
  • Hardbread—a Named Man of long experience, leading a dozen for the Dogman.
  • Redcrow—one of Hardbread’s Carls.

THE NORTH

In and Around Skarling’s Chair

  • Black Dow—the Protector of the North, or stealer of it, depending on who you ask.
  • Splitfoot—his Second, meaning chief bodyguard and arse-licker.
  • Ishri—his advisor, a sorceress from the desert South, and sworn enemy of Bayaz.
  • Caul Shivers—a scarred Named Man with a metal eye, who some call Black Dow’s dog.
  • Curnden Craw—a Named Man thought of as a straight edge, once Second to Rudd Threetrees, then close to Bethod, now leading a dozen for Black Dow.
  • Wonderful—his long-suffering Second.
  • Whirrun of Bligh—a famous hero from the utmost North, who wields the Father of Swords. Also called Cracknut, on account of his nut being cracked.
  • Jolly Yon Cumber, Brack-i-Dayn, Scorry Tiptoe, Agrick, Athroc and Drofd—other members of Craw’s dozen.

Scale’s Men

  • Scale—Bethod’s eldest son, now the least powerful of Dow’s five War Chiefs, strong as a bull, brave as a bull, and with a bull’s brain too.
  • Pale-as-Snow—once one of Bethod’s War Chiefs, now Scale’s Second.
  • White-Eye Hansul—a Named Man with a blind eye, once Bethod’s herald.
  • ‘Prince’ Calder—Bethod’s younger son, an infamous coward and schemer, temporarily exiled for suggesting peace.
  • Seff—his pregnant wife, the daughter of Caul Reachey.
  • Deep and Shallow—a pair of killers, watching over Calder in the hope of riches.

Caul Reachey’s Men

  • Caul Reachey—one of Dow’s five War Chiefs, an elderly warrior, famously honourable, father to Seff, father-in-law to Calder.
  • Brydian Flood—a Named Man formerly a member of Craw’s dozen.
  • Beck—a young farmer craving glory on the battlefield, the son of Shama Heartless.
  • Reft, Colving, Stodder and Brait—other young lads pressed into service with Beck.

Glama Golden’s Men

  • Glama Golden—one of Dow’s five War Chiefs, intolerably vain, locked in a feud with Cairm Ironhead.
  • Sutt Brittle—a famously greedy Named Man.
  • Lightsleep—a Carl in Golden’s employ.

Cairm Ironhead’s Men

Cairm Ironhead—one of Dow’s five War Chiefs, notoriously stubborn, locked in a feud with Glama Golden.

  • Curly—a stout-hearted scout.
  • Irig—an ill-tempered axeman.
  • Temper—a foul-mouthed bowman.

Others

  • Brodd Tenways—the most loyal of Dow’s five War Chiefs, ugly as incest.
  • Stranger-Come-Knocking—a giant savage obsessed with civilisation, Chief of all the lands east of the Crinna.

Back to the Mud (dead, thought dead, or long dead)

  • Bethod—the first King of the Northmen, father to Scale and Calder.
  • Skarling Hoodless—a legendary hero who once united the North against the Union.
  • The Bloody-Nine—once Bethod’s champion, the most feared man in the North, and briefly King of the Northmen before being killed by Black Dow (supposedly).
  • Rudd Threetrees—a famously honourable Chief of Uffrith, who fought against Bethod and was beaten in a duel by the Bloody-Nine.
  • Forley the Weakest—a notoriously weak fighter, companion to Black Dow and the Dogman, ordered killed by Calder.
  • Shama Heartless—a famous champion killed by the Bloody-Nine. Beck’s father.

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