18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed this serving of Abercrombie
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...
Published on 3 May 2011 by Jolly Roger
38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best Served Cold is Luke Warm
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...
Published on 5 Aug 2009 by JingoBingo
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed this serving of Abercrombie,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Paperback)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.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Violence, cruelty, swearing, and sex, with a purpose,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Paperback)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. There is a superbly written sex scene - you cant in good conscience call it a "love scene", because it isn't - which contains a great, if perfectly logical, twist.
Nobody is quite who they seem, nobody trusts anyone else, and certainly there are no knights in shining armour here.
Having read the book, I decided that the book was not really about Monza's revenge, or even Caul Shivers' attempt to be a better man, but about Nicomo Cosca's redemption. Perhaps that's my sunny personality, but in the end I think he is real protangonist of the book, and Monza's machinations are just the background to it all.
Of course, if you have read the First Law, you see how Monza's actions will affect the world as a whole, which is really the last thing on anyone's mind at the time.
Abercrombie has done a superb job of writing here, with a dirty gritty tale that is great fun to read, providing you can handle violence, gore and sex. But here's the thing - none of it is gratutious. It all has a point and advances the story. Maybe its not a nice, clean story - and probably Abercrombie would protest that of course the sex and violence is gratutious, course that's how he rolls - but if you only like neat nice bloodless fairy tales, then this book is not, perhaps, for you.
If you like a full-throated adventure that grabs you by the throat and never lets up, and don't mind getting dirty, then this is just the book you have been looking for.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top Class!,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Paperback)I've read the First Law trilogy so I was really looking forward to this book and I wasn't disappointed.
It's a big book and at no point did it seem to amble on just to fill pages. I enjoyed it cover to cover.
Violence, sex and horror (not the ghosty jumping out horror, the other "Oh my God" horror.)
Mr Abercrombie goes from strength to strength. Can't wait for "Heroes"!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Served Cold,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Paperback)George R. R. Martin, in his never-ceasing effort to get his name on the front of every single fantasy book out there, says: "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. His cast features tyrants and torturers, a pair of poisoners, a serial killer, a treacherous drunk, a red-handed warrior and a blood-soaked mercenary captain. And those are the good guys ... 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."
Sometimes I think that if good ol' George spent less time writing blurb for other author's books and more time writing his own, he might actually finish A Song of Ice & Fire some time this side of the end of the world . . .
Anyway, Best Served Cold . . .
I love the way Abercrombie's books are presented. There's something very tactile about them, like you're holding a piece of some other world's history, something old(e), like they're made out of parchment. You can't get that with an ebook or an audiobook. And the fact that the covers of both this and The Heroes are effectively maps of the places described within is inpired.
I was really looking forward to reading this book, but with a little trepidation. Last year, I came to The Heroes with comparatively low expectations. I read his 'First Law Trilogy' about four years ago and, whilst I thought it was okay, I didn't think it was as spectacularly brilliant as many other people do. The result of which was that I didn't bother with Best Served Cold when it was initially published (lukewarm reviews on Amazon further put me off). Then along came The Heroes and it totally changed my mind. The day after I finished it I went straight out and bought this one. I've still held off reading it for all these months and, of course, it means that I've read the two out of sequence. Yes, they are stand alone stories, but this one takes place a few years after 'First Law' and a few years before The Heroes (which takes place a few years before Red Country), and it did kind of spoil the outcome of a particular character's story as I knew they'd be back in the next book. Still, it's sat there on the shelf taunting me for quite a few months, but I guess I had this niggling feeling that it might be a let down, and that it might tarnish my view of The Heroes.
Abercrombie's stories aren't necessarily the most complex. At its heart, Best Served Cold is a revenge story, pure and simple. He takes his main character, Monzcarro Murcatto, and puts her in the deepest, darkest place you can imagine. It's her climb out of that pit, her thirst for revenge, that drives the novel through its 660 pages. So no, not a complex tale, but it's in the characterisation that the complexity reveals itself. Abercrombie writes brilliant characters. In The Heroes he had Curnden Craw and Whirrun of Bligh and Caul Shivers. Here he has the outrageous drunkard mercenary leader Nicomo Cosca and the brilliant, self-proclaimed 'greatest poisoner in the world', Castor Morveer - who's proud of his ability to fool others by taking on the identity 'Rotsac Reevrom'.
Abercrombie does Gritty, with a capital 'G'. On top of that, this book does DARK. Abercrombie forces his characters to stop and think about what they're doing, to examine their motivations and lay them bare. Each and every character changes through the course of the book, driven by what happens to them and those around them, some for the better, some for the worse. None of them come out unscathed, and all of the developments are brilliantly handled and completely believable. Abercrombie takes great delight in undermining your expectations of them, constantly, as he leads them to a quite marvellously orchestrated finale. He leavens all the grimness with plenty of his trademark gallows humour and occasionally even offers some of the characters a glimmer of hope, a chance of redemption. Whether they grasp it or not is another matter . . .
It's a hefty old book, but I didn't want it to end. Whether or not it is because my tastes have changed over the last few years, I don't know, but Abercrombie's writing now seems perfectly matched to the way I like my fantasy novels these days. It's books like this that remind me why I've struggled so much with more traditional fare in recent times. Best Served Cold won't be for everyone, certainly, and I can't really say whether I liked it less than, as much as, or more than The Heroes. It's a different kind of tale, but it's a good 'un and - if my preference falls one way or the other - there's only room to squeeze a cigarette paper in between.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb standalone novel,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Paperback)After reading the First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, I was quite reticent about reading "Best Served Cold".
After all, it's a different set of characters, a standalone book rather than trilogy, and well - there's a sense of expectation that you fear won't live up to itself.
However, I found this to be the most satisfying of his books to date.
- By telling the story in a single volume, it keeps the storytelling fresh and concise.
- Everything is set in the same world, it self-references, so never feels particularly divorced from First Law
- There's a clear sense of completion by the end of the novel, with no sense of loose ends
And that's before we even get to the point that the characters are great and the story telling is superb.
I won't write a synopsis of the story - you don't need one.
But what I will say is that this is a seemingly typical Abercrombie book - he starts off presenting a set of assumptions, and then slowly, bit by bit, these are soundly reversed.
The writing is artful, the characters absorbing, and the telling is never quite what you expect.
Overall, this is a compelling read and definitely one of the best books in the epic fantasy market right now.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revenge has never tasted so good.,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Paperback)A few years ago Joe Abercrombie burst on to the fantasy scene with Scott Lynch and a host of other authors. Joe was largely lauded as the best of these new wave authors and after devouring the First Law trilogy, I found it hard to disagree with all the praise that was being heaped on him.
If I am honest, I didn't rate him as highly as George R R Martin, Bernard Cornwell, Stephen King or Robert McCammon but then they are my four favourite authors. With Best Served Cold, Joe Abercrombie has taken a large step to breaking into this upper echelon on my persona list.
Best Served Cold is dark, gritty and in places pretty funny. Joe has a general theme running through his standalone books. His next book (after Heroes that is) is rumoured to have a strong western influence (as in cowboys not dress code). Best Served Cold is specifically about vengeance.
There are both new and some familiar characters from the First Law Trilogy on display here and although the theme lends itself to some graphic and uncomfortable situations, no matter how abhorrent the actions of the lead characters are, you can't help but route for them.
All of the characters go through some sort of transformation as the book unfolds. The best of these is Murcatto, who on a moral scale, some argue is the only likable figure in the tale. Although Murcatto is obsessed with revenge and dammed if anyone gets in her way, she unwittingly learns the most about her self. Shivers, on the other hand, probably learns the least. His journey is a fascinating portrayal of how one is a victim of circumstances and reacts to the everyday struggle to trying to be a better man.
The supporting cast are all well realised. My favourites of these are Cosca the loveable, mad rogue and Friendly, whose need for order is also quite amusing.
By the very nature of the plot, Abercrombie could have easily fallen into the trap of becoming a tad repetitive. Instead, he skilfully avoids this by bringing a different feel to each act of revenge. At times the book was reminiscent of Scott Lynch in the planning and deception that the characters carried out.
As always, the action sequences are extremely well handled as is the dialogue. In fact I am struggling to come up with a minor complaint about the book. At a push I would say that there is a scene between Morveer and Day that did not quite work for me in that it felt a bit amateurish but that is being picky. To refer to its exact location will spoil the book too much, but you will probably know what scene I mean.
I normally have a good break before going back to authors, but with Abercrombie on this kind of form, I may just pick up Heroes sooner rather than later.
38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Best Served Cold is Luke Warm,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Hardcover)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.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly served tepid,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Paperback)The plot is covered at length in other reviews so I'll cut to the chase. This is a spin-off from Abercombie's First Law trilogy, but is sadly very mediocre in comparison. It's perfectly capably written, with some exciting passages and some stretches that are even close to page-turner status; Abercrombie is a quality author after all. Some of the nods to the preceding trilogy and the larger world hint at what could have been.
But in the final analysis this book fails to engage. Where the trilogy offered three-dimensional characters with a dash of uniqueness like Logen Ninefingers, Sand dan Glokta and co, the lead protagonist here - Monza Murcatto - is paper thin. Lacking depth, empathy, humour she is also inconsistent - a supposed master tactician whose tactics are crude and blunt. Only Nicomo Cosca, a mercenary who also appeared in the trilogy, has anything at all about him.
For those who know the BBC programme - this book could have been a "Hustle"-style gem. A sequence of clever little plots neatly strung together in an entertaining fashion - good, simple fun as befits a spin-off. Instead it's formulaic and crude and - from an author who really did break the mold with the First Law - "formulaic" is probably a disappointing epithet!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I have seen hell, and it is a great city under siege.",
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Hardcover)I don't read a lot of fantasy but every so often I get fed up with `here and now' and fancy dipping my toe in entirely different waters. Even so, I don't care for vampires or the undead, and I like a certain amount of realism, and, if possible, a reasonable helping of sex and violence. This one pushes most of the right buttons for me, with it's beautiful but flawed central female character, Captain General Monza Murcatto, expert soldier, returning from a successful campaign and, as the novel opens, about to get a very nasty surprise.
A little later and very much down on her luck, she comes across the second main character in this novel, Caul Shivers, a man from the North lands, rough as they come and trying hard to change his luck by being a good man, rather than just a thief and/or hired sword. To say he doesn't quite manage the transformation may be an understatement. Monza and her motley band almost all end up with ugly scars, not to mention the odd missing bit of anatomy. The central device is revenge, (telling you for what would spoil the shock of the opening) and Monza is nothing if not determined to exact it. Empires tremble, old friends become enemies, new friends become enemies, but to be honest, you just can't trust anyone and we meet poisoners, prisoners, torturers, mercenaries and spies, whores and princes, kings and courtiers. No one quite matches Monza for snakish double-dealing, though a couple of the cast of well-realised characters come very close.
The book is tremendous fun, often quite witty (though to be honest I only laughed out loud, twice, maybe three times - Pratchett it is not). The humour though is black throughout, which I happen to like, in the right mood. 534pp, but they do zip along very satisfactorily. Give this a whirl if you like your fantasy hard edged and battle-scarred.
I see from other reviews those who read a lot of fantasy don't tend to give this a good write-up - dare I say reading too much of the stuff gives you a jaded palette? To be fair to Abercrombie, he does very well with a story crammed with reverses and betrayals you didn't quite see coming, but there isn't time in this crowded itinerary to give more than a modicum of flesh to the bones, nor does the story require it - I like it like this.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ... and the moral of the story is?,
This review is from: Best Served Cold (Paperback)Whilst not a direct sequel to the excellent First Law trilogy, Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold returns to that same brutal medieval fantasy world and populates it with a handful of the same characters. All of the expected Abercrombie trademarks are here - explicit torture, sex, cynicism, Machiavellian back-stabbing and some incredibly vivid battle scenes. With empire building on a massive scale, its scope is certainly no less grandiose than its predecessors, so why just the 3 stars? Well, I have to confess that, whilst the previous novels rattled by at a terrific pace and I devoured them in just a few sittings, I really struggled with Best Served Cold. Quite simply I didn't warm to any of the characters. The main heroine (that is SO the wrong word!) who we dally with for most of the book, is downright loathsome. Her chief consort evolves from a fairly thuggish brute into a fairly brutal thug. The high and mighty who cross their path are inevitably effete, perverted or both. It is only in the roguish and vaguely Falstaffian Cosca and the strangely other-worldly (autistic?) Friendly that a degree of more satisfyingly 3-dimensional characterisation is developed. A couple of characters, who I would have liked to survive into further instalments meet gruesome ends. Most disappointingly of all, everyone's favourite torturer Glokta, who stole the show in the original trilogy, is only referred to by reputation here.
Not wishing to be too critical though, I did still quite enjoy this novel and I believe there are signs of Joe Abercrombie doing for heroic (or villainous!) fantasy what Iain M Banks has done for sci-fi with his inspired Culture series. The theme of sinister bankers holding states to ransom is quite a topical one too I suppose! Please though Joe, let's have more wit and characters we can relish along with the cynicism next time!
So, a fairly grim read, but just about worthwhile.
Oh, I almost forgot - the moral of the story .... hmmm... well it's either that revenge will probably not bring you satisfaction or that human nature is pretty damn base, selfish and greedy.
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Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie (Paperback - 1 Jun 2010)