- Seth Saunders
Hero's Die: By Matthew Stover
Matthew Stover is an excellent writer, and this is a good book. I just didn’t like it. It’s likely a good series overall, but that’s for other readers to discover. Hopefully I can help you decide if you perhaps fall into the audience in question.
Heroes Die as any fan of Mr. Stover’s work within the Star Wars Expanded Universe will likely anticipate, is superbly written, with enviable ease and artistry in the prose, intriguing depth to the characters and world(s), and a creativity that pushes past the clear inspirations. I also simply didn’t like anyone, which tends to be a dealbreaker for me.
As a simpleton who likes liking his protagonists, I didn’t really find much to keep me pressing on through this series, but this is simply a matter of personal taste. In striving for objectivity, I can still confidently say that many readers will enjoy what they find here.
Purely from a visual aspect, this is very much a case of (please, I’m begging you) not judging a book by its cover. The artwork does little to sell a reader on what awaits within, and it’s honestly a great premise, taking cues from fantasy and sci-fi greats while putting a unique spin on things.
Put succinctly, so as to avoid spoilers, our protagonist, Caine, is essentially an action hero movie star, the catch being that he really is the lethal killer he portrays…in another world. Ankhana exists as a sort of fantasy parallel to Earth, and, unsurprisingly, powerful people have found a way to exploit the discovery of how to hop between the worlds. Caine is resignedly part of the system but is on the outs with most everyone but his fans. As the story picks up, he’s your tired antihero dragged in on “one more job.” Adventure ensues.
And said adventure is bloody. I mean…yikes. Mr. Stover’s flair with colorful language is on full display here, and this is quite the adult fantasy. I’m not generally a squeamish reader, but there were certainly some descriptions that drew involuntary responses from my gut area. If you’re completely unflappable with that sort of thing, by all means carry on! For me, it was just a bit much.
That’s about all I have to say concerning Heroes Die, I suppose. If the premise sounds interesting enough that you don’t mind following a protagonist who proves difficult to like through a creative but bleak take on the science fantasy genre, this would be the book for you!