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Best Served Cold [Mass Market Paperback]

Joe Abercrombie
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Jun 2010

Springtime in Styria. And that means war.

There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.

War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular - a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.

Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started...

Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 899 pages
  • Publisher: Orbit; Reprint edition (1 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316044954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316044950
  • Product Dimensions: 16.8 x 10.7 x 4.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (153 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,259,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

UK fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie is the author of the First Law Trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings, as well as the standalone fantasy Best Served Cold.

Joe now lives in Bath with his wife, Lou, and his daughters Grace and Eve. He still occasionally edits concerts and music festivals for TV, but spends most of his time writing edgy yet humorous fantasy novels.

Here are the First Law Trilogy in series order:

The Blade Itself
Before They Are Hanged
The Last Argument of Kings


Best Served Cold

Product Description


The battles are vivid and visceral, the action brutal, the pace headlong, and Abercrombie piles the betrayals, reversals, and plot twists one atop another to keep us guessing how it will all come out. This is his best book yet. (George RR Martin)

Joe Abercrombie is probably the brightest star among the new generation of British fantasy writers . . . Abercrombie never underestimates the horrors that people are prepared to inflict on one another, or their longlasting, often unexpected, consequences. Abercrombie writes a vivid, well-paced tale that never loosens its grip. His action scenes are cinematic in the best sense, and the characters are all distinct and interesting.' (THE TIMES)

A satisfyingly brutal fantasy quest. Best served cold? Modern fantasy doesn't get much hotter than this. (Dave Bradley SFX)

Spiked with cynicism, and indeed spikes, Best Served Cold has as much in common with a classic Hollywood caper as it does with the rest of the genre. Moral ambiguity, hard violence, and that weaving of laughter, horror and pathos make it breathe, though the brilliant characters are what really make this soar. This is the highest grade of adult, commercial fantasy we have seen for quite a while. (Guy Haley DEATHRAY)

Abercrombie weaves a dense plot, but not at the expense of the pace, and casts an ensemble of gritty, odd but always interesting characters to undertake Murcatto's revenge. Fans of Abercrombie's work will not be disappointed by his latest offering, which features all his usual hallmarks: cold steel, black comedy, fully realised characters and internecine struggles, both personal and epic. (DREAMWATCH)

This is deep, dark stuff but it's a mark of that nice Mr. Abercrombie's talent that he can wrap such complex themes in the kind of rip-roaring adventure that is so utterly compelling that, from the first page, it is impossible to put down. (SCI-FI LONDON)

All in all, we can't say enough good things about Mr Abercrombie's latest addition to the genre. It's intelligent, measure, thoughtful, well paced and considered, but retains a sense of fun that has flavoured the rest of his excellent biography. We can't recommend it enough. (James Rundle SCI FI NOW)

Best Served Cold exhibits Abercombie's trademark black humour in spades, and the standalone novel form provides him with ample opportunity to show off his plotting skills but don't let the glibness fool you, the author and his characters do recognise the terrible nature of the violence being described, and don't try to downplay the human cost. Best Served cold is definitely this author's best work to date. (BOOK GEEKS)

Of the great books in the genre this year, of which there are a few, Best Served Cold matches the best, without a doubt. For all its gruesomeness, its bleakness and its moral cynicism it is a rich, memorable tale, exciting and well structured. This will be a 'best of the year' novel for many in the genre. It is still a pleasure to see this author's talent develop. (SFFWORLD.COM)

Abercrombie is both fiendishly inventive and solidly convincing, especially when sprinkling his appallingly vivid combat scenes with humor so dark that it's almost ultraviolet. (PUBLISHERS WEEKLY)

Storms along at a breakneck pace. Each character has a history of betrayal and a wobbly moral compass, giving further realism and depth to Abercrombie's world. The violence is plentiful, the methods of exacting revenge are eye-wateringly inventive and the characters well fleshed out. A fan of Bernard Cornwell's historical escapades could easily fall for it. Believe the hype. (WATERSTONES BOOKS QUARTERLY)

Abercrombie's narrative twists and turns, playing with but also against the reader's expectations. His characters do likewise. Their realistic unpredictability means that it is almost impossible to determine what will eventually happen. One of the great pleasures of Joe Abercrombie's fiction is that his characters are so lifelike. (Maureen Kincaid Speller INTERZONE)

Joe Abercrombie's BEST SERVED COLD is a bloody and relentless epic of vengeance and obsession in the grand tradition, a kind of splatterpunk sword 'n sorcery COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO, Dumas by way of Moorcock. Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, could teach even Gully Foyle and Kirth Gersen a few things about revenge. (George RR Martin)

Abercrombie writes dark, adult fantasy, by which I mean there's a lot of stabbing in it, and after people stab each other they sometimes have sex with each other. His tone is morbid and funny and hardboiled, not wholly dissimilar to that of Iain Banks...Like Fritz Leiber you can see in your head where the blades are going, what is clanging off what, the sweat, the blood, the banter. And like George R. R. Martin Abercrombie has the will and the cruelty to actually kill and maim his characters. (TIME MAGAZINE) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

Violent, bloody and fast-paced; this is the ultimate revenge fantasy by bestselling author Joe Abercrombie. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed this serving of Abercrombie 3 May 2011
I'd not read Abercrombie's First Law trilogy before buying this book, but rather bought it because it was 1.99 in hardback in a book sale and I'd heard he was meant to be a pretty good author. After making sure that the book was a stand-alone novel (because I didn't want to get into another trilogy) I handed over my pennies and settled down to give it a go.

have to say, loved it. Loved his characters (more than two dimensional yet not quite more than caricatures) and thought the plot was great, with plenty of twists and turns and never knowing who will make it out alive. I especially liked the hinting at greater themes and larger plots working in the background. I enjoyed the book so much in fact that I finished it in three sittings and immediately ordered all three books in his debut trilogy.

If you're looking for a damn good fantasy read then buy with confidence.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Genuinely mystified by the bad reviews. 23 Oct 2013
Maybe it's because my life is an endless cycle of going to work and looking after small children, so I need some escapism. Maybe it's because I read this whilst struggling through Robert Jordan's Eye of the World. Or maybe it's because I found the story so gripping that I spent half term largely ignoring aforesaid small children, so I could immerse myself in the vaguely skewed version of earth as we know it; but I loved Best Served Cold.

Wy only 4 stars then? Well, partly because I never give top marks and party because...

What went well:

Non-stop action, with no interminable descriptions of travelling (Yes, Jordan, I mean you).

A group of misfit characters with few or no redeeming qualities.

HIghly enjoyable battles. I generally hate battle scenes almost much as descriptive passages, but Abercrombie manages them well - especially in the Heroes, but that's another story.

Strong female characters - keeping firmly away from the virgin/mother/whore thing; although by dint of the society Abercrombie creates, whores do tend to be the career move of the unfortunate.

Interesting take on the relationship between Shivers and Monza.

Development of Cosca. I liked him more here than in The Trilogy.

The vaguely episodic nature of the revenge.

Even better if:

There was more of Vitari, who actually emerged as the most interesting character, I found. Although perhaps that was because I'd met her before.

The Northmen could be a little more clearly delineated; Shivers came across as a little Nine-fingers-lite at times. And what's with the big softies falling in love at the drop of a pair of knickers? Can't they separate sex and emotions, or something?
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By John Middleton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Anyone who uses a quote from Wrath of Khan as a book title must be really cool, and it appears that Joe Abercrombie in fact is - and he even gives us the real author of the quote, proving he knows stuff, too!

This is a sequel, of sorts, to the First Law trilogy, which was one of the best pieces of low fantasy of the last decade. David Eddings, of all people, came up with a line in his story - although I cant remember which version of the story - to the effect that "rather than good and evil, I prefer us and them. It clears away distractions and lets you focus on whats important". Joe Abercrombie finally delivered on that sentiment with First Law, and proves it all over again with Best Served Cold.

The book opens with Monza Murcatto, mercenary captain, stabbed, strangled, and thrown off a mountain by her employer. She survives only because she lands on the corpse of her beloved younger brother, who met with the same fate and died before her eyes. She swears vengeance on the 7 men who tried to kill her, and puts in motion plans to kill them all, one by one.

Despite this, to an extent to book starts traditionally, with Murcatto gathering a "magnificent seven" of offsiders to help her in her quest: Caul Shivers, a northman looking for redemption in all the wrong places; Friendly, a psychopathic mass murdered just looking for order; Nicomo Cosca, a drunken husk of the man he used to be; and others, including a Castor Morveer, venomous poisoner and his ambitious assistant Day; and Vitari, who remains mysterious if you have not read the First Law.

The first few murders go to plan...and then it all goes downhill fast.

There is plenty of violence, cruelty, swearing, and sex, but I think it all has a purpose.
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40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best Served Cold is Luke Warm 5 Aug 2009
As there are a lot of other reviews going over story and plotline I wont bother.
This is a solid book, a good piece of writing but - its nothing special. Compared to the author's first trilogy this book lacks a certain something or somethings - perhaps its the fact the lead character isn't particularly interesting, shes a pretty buttoned down, unemotional, non quirky kind of gal with a dose of steel a mile wide, or that all the characters are far less developed than any of those in the trilogy, or... well whatever it is, this book doesn't thrill like the First Law set.
Although this book is a standalone - it does help somewhat if you have read the trilogy first, some vague hand waving and nods towards the greater political sphere will fit with a much more satisfying depth if you actually understand some of the bit part players threats, fear and doubt. Without it, I should say that some scenes will come across as a bit light - Who, What, How now ?
In short, this is a fine book, but it doesn't emotionally engage like his other titles, its much more 2D, and reads like its going through the motions in places. Just... another... 1,000 words... and then I'm done with this chapter. Not that its ever boring. Its just not going to set your world alight.
I seem to recall the author fretting that this book wasn't as good as the First Law trilogy, and rationalising that not everything can be great, but maybe his mind was playing tricks on him and it would be great. I would say his first instinct was right in this case - good, but nowhere near best.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent book builds perfectly onto the first law series with a totally different setting
Published 12 days ago by Frank
5.0 out of 5 stars Bad winners
Phew, brush myself off, sharpen my weapon, then clear out the dead bodies from my kindle. Great stuff, blood ,Gore, mayhem, sex & magic. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Lost boy
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read, fast paced and exciting
Excellent book, very well thought out characters with lots of interesting development.

Slows a little after two thirds but then delivers well in the last act. Read more
Published 1 month ago by simon
4.0 out of 5 stars served cold, but spicy hot
The First Law trilogy was excellent, and i didn't think Abercrombie could improve on it but boy was my doubt misplaced. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ben
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and eminently quotable
This is a very dark and cynical novel with deeply flawed characters which is utterly compelling.

Although standalone, the book comes after the First Law trilogy and has... Read more
Published 1 month ago by M. J. Johnston
5.0 out of 5 stars Revenge is joyful
Surprises, twists and turns, unexpected events. This book kept all emotions on the go, from tears to loud out laughter. It's no game of thrones but is sure close to the next best
Published 2 months ago by goryer
3.0 out of 5 stars Meh
Read the first law trilogy, enjoyed it, bought this hoping for more of the same. It's not there I'm afraid. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Stressed Mike
4.0 out of 5 stars good follow up to the first law
Best served cold is based in the same world as the first law trilogy, its a stand alone novel set in a different region to that of the original trilogy however a few of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jetvan2312
5.0 out of 5 stars As always, startlingly good
Joe Abercrombie has, in the space of the six books of his I've read, fast become my favourite current writer. His work is always gripping, taut, and highly enjoyable. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Craig Saunders
3.0 out of 5 stars Bleak
After having finished the excellent First Law series, I looked forward to reading this, a new storyline centred around new or minor characters introduced in the First Law books. Read more
Published 3 months ago by G. Duncan
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