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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 11 May 2014
Read the first law trilogy, enjoyed it, bought this hoping for more of the same. It's not there I'm afraid. I didn't really connect with any of the characters, Shivers felt like a watered down bloody nine, other characters felt pointless (Day, Friendly) and Monza was too one dimensional to really feel anything for. I felt a little cheated by the 'twist' at the end too, I was hoping for a battle royale clash with Shenkt, and got nothing. Meh
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on 2 September 2011
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.
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on 10 April 2016
I've read stories about fantastical realms, monsters and magic, and love that about fantasy. This, however, won me over not with those things, but with the characters, each of which came across as real; pros and cons, failings and histories and emotions. I knew them all by the end... and oh what a tense, but satisfying end it was.
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on 3 July 2009
I usually enjoy the dirty realism of Joe Abercrombie's form of modern fantasy: Brutal violence instead of gallantry; shades of grey instead of good and evil; characters who swear real swearwords instead of muttering `by the three gonads of Zutheroth'; sex! It's all dragging the genre into some semblance of credibility and makes for good reading.

However, I felt it was all getting a bit OTT in `Best Served Cold'. At times I found the novel a real slog - I felt like all the spilled brains and loathsome characters were relentlessly bludgeoning me.

Here's the formula: Big fight scene, brains spilled, people die horribly, primary character questions their actions again, repeat.

As much as Monza was an interesting character in some ways, I never felt any empathy with her and she remained distinctly unlikeable throughout. It was interesting that the repeated questioning of her obsessive quest (which I guess was supposed to add that all-important `dirty fantasy' moral realism) made me believe in it less. If someone is that acutely aware their actions were wrong, wouldn't they question them and stop? And is it terribly old-fashioned of me to want to be able to identify with the 'hero' of the narrative?

I did finish the book, but I felt a bit like I have when I'm emerged blinking from the cinema after a Tarantino film or put down a Garth Ennis comic. Is so much crude sadism really necessary?
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on 9 November 2010
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!
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on 29 December 2014
I marked this 3 in comparison with the proceeding 3 books,(which for me were as good as it gets). This was in no way a poor book. The plot tied in perfectly with the wider story set previously and it introduced new characters and built on existing ones. It was well written and stylish. I read fantasy books for a break from reality and perhaps some of the scenes were more graphically described than I would have liked. This book explores the emotions of its characters and therefore didn't provide so much of that release from the real world I crave. If you like your story's bloody and full of attitude this is the book for you.
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on 27 August 2015
A few points on why I feel this is a 5 Star book:

- Continuity from the trilogy. Despite being set all the way on Styria, events from the previous books are felt in this instalment. Familiar well loved (or hated) characters return and over the course of the story develop naturally (sometimes for the worse).

- Style. Joe still has that magic touch when it comes to prose and dialogue: he has a way of making even the darkest moments absolutely hilarious, and manages to get you right under the characters skin, even the less sympathetic ones.

- Plotting. A well paced novel that never lets up. I also appreciate that he's experimenting with the genre by mixing fantasy with the revenge/thriller genre.

All in all a must buy for fans of Abercrombie or dark/gritty fantasy with wit and a sense of humour.
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on 10 December 2013
first works i read of Joe A was the First World trilogy set on offer by Amazon, and given i had been pining for the next GRR Martin installment, i was jumping for joy! Joe grabs you in the first pages and keeps you engrossed till the end And unlike Stephen King (sorr to say as i love SK works) this author knows how to finish a story

This story is dark and gritty and has some characters directly involved from FIrst World trilogy and references other's which was a good surprise. It also has excellent mix of humour light and dark/jack dee and lee evans style.

Whats endearing to these books is that each character is fallible and go through a whirlwind of emotions given the intesnity of the situations, we get a real feel for how much each of us may strive for change that we cant make or in the end didnt want

Got a coupleo more books to read by Joe by which time i seriously hope there will be more!
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on 11 June 2015
a strong story with familiar faces & new faces from Abercrombie's earlier trilogy. Still much blood & treachery & sex (though sometimes this is a bit predictable & unnesessary, not being prudish just . . . why I give 4 not 5 stars.) Knowing who is good & who bad is just as hard to know - if it matters. Looking forawrd to the next book!
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A fantasy novel that runs for six hundred and sixty two pages. It's divided into seven parts plus a prologue, and the parts are divided into shorter chapters.

It's also complete and self contained in one single book. And you don't need to have read the writer's earlier 'The First Law' trilogy in order to get into this.

It's a work of what they call heroic fantasy, in that there's no magic or elves or mystical creatures, just humans engaging in their daily lives and bloody battles. Although heroic wouldn't describe any of the characters in here. Many behave in just the opposite fashion.

It does contain strong language and scenes of an adult nature, plus a lot of violence, so it's for grown ups only.

The main character, a lady called Monza, is a very successful mercenary leader. She and her brother Benna work together. The prologue introduces us to them, as they visit their client. The opening few pages do take a bit of getting into as it throws you into the middle of this world and introduces a lot of things rather quickly. But once the plot kicks in and the siblings are betrayed, things do get going.

Monza is badly wounded and left for dead. But survives. And sets out to take revenge on the seven men who were responsible for what happened. On her quest to do this, she enlists the help of several others. Such as Shivers, a northern barbarian who is trying and not entirely succeeding to be a better man. Morveer, a smart, arrogant, and brilliant poisoner. His apprentice Day. And Friendly. A killer obsessed with numbers.

But someone has been sent to deal with Monza herself.

And as her quest progresses, bigger things are taking place. And the world may never be the same again..

This is a brutal setting, but it feels very realistic. As do the characters. Who are all quite strong creations and people you do get used to as the book goes along. It does touch on the notion of how healthy a pursuit revenge is, but any moral dilemmas never get in the way of the narrative. And in such a brutal setting, the characters have to be brutal to survive.

It does feel in the first half or so at times that the plot is a bit too linear, so whilst it's readable and involving it feels as if it could be slimmed down for pace at points.

But as things develop and bigger concerns come in, it all opens out very nicely and the final third of the book is pretty gripping reading.

All the characters grow and change over the course of the story and all are left very different by the end.

The plotting is pretty cunning also, and there are some decent surprises in the narrative.

This is a good and involving read. It's never quite five star material simply because it's not the most in depth of stories, but if you like this kind of thing it's well worth a look.
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