Flipping heck, what a book. I've seen this seems to have some mixed reviews - I don't know what everyone is on because I thought every last second of this was ruddy fantastic, giving me even more reasons to count this world as one of my absolute favourites. You're even giving George a run for his money, Joe...
Catching up with some old faces, and plenty of new, it's been some time since the events of Best Served Cold and the Union are at war again, manipulated by the bastardly Bayaz and supported by the Dogman's dozen (thus shaking my loyalties a little, though he's got not much more than cameos in this).
Ranged against them are Black Dow, having taken Bethod's chain and standing as Protector of the North, with a huge cast of brilliantly colourful characters behind him (well, when it suits them) setting the stage for even more bone-crunchingly brutal violence, with life as cheap as it ever was, and war as terrifying and futile.
I find it hard to write properly about the books I really adore without descending into fan-girl wibbles, but amongst the many reasons why I loved this are:
* Whirrun of Bligh, and the Father of Swords. Utterly nonchalant, slightly spooky and completely hilarious, Whirrun's become one of my book crushes. I should probably save up for some form of therapy.
* The inner monologue of Bremer dan Gorst.
* Calder and his scheming. I've always had a soft spot for schemers.
* Seeing what's become of Shivers, and how others see him.
* Craw, who I now feel almost as warmly about as I do Dogman.
* Possibly the most incredible battle scenes in the whole of bookdom. Particularly the first big one about a third of the way in as we jump from each man as he kills, and is killed in turn.
* The tantalising set up for the future of this world, and the prospect of more adventures to come soon.