“Heroes Die” By Matthew Woodring Stover
This book is my favorite fantasy/sci fi book of all time. I have a digital copy and a paperback copy, because I panic when I loan it out and I don’t have a copy to read. The world and magic are engaging and I love the idea of a science fiction and fantasy book.
But more than the world, the magic, and the interesting social satire, this book is about character development and it’s about love. Here is how Stover describes Heroes Die:
“It’s a love story: romantic love, paternal love, repressed homoerotic love, love of money, of power, of country, love betrayed and employed as both carrot and stick. It’s about all different kinds of heroes and all the different ways they die.” – Stover
Don’t be fooled. It’s not your typical romance.
Also, this isn’t my typical LGBTQ read. Caine, the protagonist, is as straight as an arrow, but I thought it would be fun to introduce Berne, the antagonist. He’s intelligent, sexy, a master swordsman, and definitely on the spectrum somewhere. Not that I am stereotyping, but the dude wears magenta hose (kinda an eye opener for that world), and he expresses his gayness in…frankly violent and unconventional ways. He really is a delight.
Caine, is also sexy, intelligent, angry, and broken: the perfect antihero. Berne and he go way back, from before the story’s start, and there is a lot of unresolved anger and tension between the two. Hell, even though Caine is straight, I’d call the tension a little gay.
Caine, Ma’elKoth, and Berne are all fascinating characters and endear themselves to the reader in the most surprising ways. In essence they are all assholes and they let you down over and over again, but they also give you hope; hope in them, the future, and even humanity.
The scaffolding of this brilliant character piece is a raw and bloody structure of nonstop violence. Stover’s diction is gritty and powerful, and he uses profanity like an art form. He is a student of mixed martial arts, and this is one of the only books where I felt like I was “real timing” the action. And the action is continuous from the beginning to the end. Be prepared to blow out your freaking adrenals. I’m serious.
Don’t read before bed.
Do read before you are ready to perform violence against injustice.
Just remember, all heroes die.