Top critical review
10 people found this helpful
on 22 April 2014
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. It opens rather well, taking a Northman across the sea to another new map and introduces the main characters in Abercrombie's normal style. I thought that from there, it would spin off into another un-put-down-able yarn which I would finish off within a week.
A year later, and I was sadly mistaken. This isn't a bad story, by any means. It's got several nice twists, some memorable characters that are transformed along the way ... it's just the problem I have with this revenge book is that there isn't enough balance to make it an enjoyable read. If you are at all familiar with Abercrombie's work, you will go into this expecting to be (darkly) amused, both by the wit he invests in his characters, and the ironies that play out in the stories they create.
It's disappointing then, to find that as relationships between characters become mangled (as with the characters themselves), the opportunity for humour and amusement is dampened like so much wasted Gurkish Powder. As much as you want to invest in the characters, their intrinsic unworthiness is extrapolated out before halfway, ensuring that you have a pretty insurmountable barrier of dislike to overcome before you even begin to try to enjoy the actual story. Which is pretty bleak.
Best served cold is definitely served cold, as opposed to spicy; the main character is a maudlin model of incest (wrung from the same loins as Jaime Lannister somewhat), largely dead of wit and hollow inside. Her forced relationships are as contrived as her circumstances, which drag you on through a monochrome landscape of war and redshirts, mercenaries and dukes that culminates somewhat predictably in the main characters surviving some pretty heinous treatment, their perspectives and outlook of life shattered into new reflections along the way.
So it goes without saying that this book is a bit of a trial. I'd pick it up one night, and then put it down for a month. It's definitely not (by the author's own admission, no less) one of the best Abercrombie books out there.