* {{Anvilicious}}: ''The Heroes'' is pretty unsubtle with its WarIsHell message...
* CompleteMonster: [[spoiler:[[ItsAllAboutMe Bayaz]] at first appear to be a kindly, if grumpy, old wizard-mentor archetype. The truth is far more sinister. Bayaz has been the secret puppet master of The Union for centuries, sending countless men to pointless death against his RivalTurnedEvil Khalul, who betrayed his and Bayaz's master and murdered his own daughter, who was Bayaz's lover. While Khalul is a threat with his incredible magic power and legion of Eaters, those who have gained sinister powers upon eating human flesh, Bayaz manages to be far worse. He sadistically dominates the new king when the young man tries to stand up to him, revealing him as nothing more than an expendable SonOfAWhore, and when Bayaz uses the magical equivalent of a WMD that [[BadBoss wipes out a huge faction of his own men]], Bayaz's only response is a satisfied grin and to say "It works", not caring that another of his brother's disciples was caught in it. Bayaz even sabotages any attempt at peace that would save countless lives, just so he can keep waging war on Khalul. It is then revealed that Bayaz was the traitor and murdered his own lover, and Khalul fell to darkness to bring Bayaz to justice. It's further implied Bayaz might even be a cannibal himself and has no compunction using the Eaters for his own benefit.]]
* CrazyAwesome: The ever-quotable Whirrun of Bligh.
* CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming: Glokta berates West for never coming to visit him after he returned from being tortured by the Gurkhish. West responds that he came, but was turned away--twice. Only moments before, Glokta had been thinking about how he did not have, want, or need friends. After this revelation, he suddenly sees his friendship with West as a precious thing.
* CrossesTheLineTwice: For the most part the books avoid this, but ''Best Served Cold'' provides one example. Despite the tone of the series, it's sarcasm.
-->'''Morveer''': "What could possibly be more amusing than orphan children sold into slavery?"
* DarknessInducedAudienceApathy: For some readers, this has been known to set in within the first 20 pages.
* DontDoThisCoolThing: Openly admitted by the author in the foreword to ''The Heroes,'' where he says his intention with the book wasn't so much to show that WarIsHell as to explore the reasons why stories of it still fascinate us.
* DracoInLeatherPants: Glokta's wit, PetTheDog moments and sympathetic backstory tend to obscure the atrocities he commits [[spoiler:and enjoys committing]].
* EvilIsSexy: Caurib, Bethod's sorceress, is described as frighteningly beautiful. [[spoiler:Tolomei]] was certainly a looker as well.
* HarsherInHindsight: One of the few heartwarming moments in the trilogy is early on, when Logen saves Quai's life by carrying the apprentice to safety, despite A) Being on the verge of starvation himself, and B) Hardly knowing the man he risked his life to save. [[spoiler:Later we find out Quai was [[KillAndReplace Killed And Replaced]] before the first book even ends, making Logen's heroism pointless]].
* JerkassWoobie:
** Inquisitor Glokta. He certainly doesn't do much that merits sympathy, but at the same time it's impossible not to pity his broken body and wish him a miraculous recovery, even if it would only serve to make him do horrible things more efficiently.
** [[LipstickLesbian Terez]], a [[DoesNotLikeMen man-hating]] RoyalBrat who [[spoiler: ends up having to become a baby farm for the king to prevent her lover from being tortured to death.]]
* MagnificentBastard:
** Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune, is here for dinner.
** [[spoiler:Bayaz is a truly evil bastard, but it's undeniable how impressive his manipulations are. This is a man who fermented a bloody peasant uprising just so he could call it off to give his chosen puppet king a bit more street cred.]]
** Glokta especially later on, judging by [[spoiler: Carlot dan Eider's words]] in ''Best Served Cold''.
** By the end of ''The Heroes'', [[spoiler:Calder is looking like he's graduated from SmugSnake.]]
* SomeAnvilsNeedToBeDropped: ''The Heroes'' has a lot of sub-messages that usually escape Anti-War books. Supply lines are long, arduous, and rarely efficient. Petty, stupid rivalries on your own side can be far more deadly than the enemy. Sometimes, the most unlikely men are actually courageous, and they rarely receive the glory they deserve. It goes on and on to subvert the stereotypical image of a [[HollywoodTactics smoothly-running, well-trained professional army.]]