Heroes Die is Stover in top form. Review by Violet Kane

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I confess that I have read Matthew Stover's currently unfolding cross-genre epic out-of-order. But that is the beauty of Stover's work. The novels of The Acts of Caine, thus far, are intimately connected at the same time they are self-contained. Furthermore, Heroes Die was quite frankly one of the most enjoyable novels I read this year—a keen feat considering I already knew what was going to happen from having read Blade of Tyshalle. And nobody, simply nobody, does the sum of action and character better than Stover.

Heroes Die is the first novel which follows the story of Caine and his adventures in Overworld, putting Stover's unique breed of action-oriented, character-driven, R-rated fantasy on the map. What is more, it is one of the most ambitious science fiction/fantasy crossovers I have ever seen. I won't go into the details now, because his world-building is so complex and I have already spent considerable verbiage on Stover's inventive milieu in my review of Blade of Tyshalle. Suffice to say that Stover's "future Earth"/"fantasy Overworld" dynamic makes the most controversial reality show look tame.

At this point, you may have noticed that this review is atypical to my usual format. I have skipped the usual story synopsis in favor of drawing attention to those of Stover's strengths that are so startlingly rare that my mentioning them takes precedence over telling the premise of the story. The action sequences are among the best in written fiction, but the author doesn't write action just for action's sake. They are always well-integrated into issues of character and motivation. Fight scenes are driven by the decisions, pressures and conflicts of the characters involved. Caine, aka Hari Michaelson, is—as in Blade of Tyshalle—one of the most fascinating and dark heroes in fantasy today. But where Stover really shines in this book is the characterization of Pallas Ril. Literary types always talk about the fabled men who write women well and vice versa, but Stover actually does it. His portrayal of Pallas Ril in this book rings amazingly true in all its complexity. Stover's real talent comes out as a man who writes women with earnest realism, and not a male author who writes women in a way that people—including women—think is the way to write women realistically.

Ultimately, Stover's allegiance to character over anything else combines with his skill at penning action and constructing concept to make for one of the most stunning and absorbing fantasies of this decade.

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Violet "Violanthe" Kane is the Webmaster and Founder of ARWZ.com. She is an editor of ARWZ Literary Zine and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Medieval studies.

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