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on January 1, 2015
Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold is even darker and more sinister than the First Law trilogy. But, despite some flaws in the (predictable) plot and in the depth of the characters, not to mention some un-mentionable sex scenes, I enjoyed this single volume well enough to recommend it to readers of the First Law trilogy. The setting is exactly the same as the world in the First Law trilogy, some secondary characters being propelled to the front stage, while other major characters become accessories to the story.

Although this will sound paradoxical to any reader of the book, Best Served Cold somehow feels more “homely” (than the First Law trilogy) in that the plot follows a single character, Monza, in her senseless quest for revenge. Once again, there is no “good guy” in the novel and every character enjoys some dark side. Monza builds up a motley group of mercenaries to carry out her revenge and most of them end up in dire circumstances. Once again, Abercrombie is able to forge a very unforgiving universe with characters that are far from flawless but attractive nonetheless. The whole story shows a world on the brink of a barbaric collapse where mercenaries keep switching sides, cities are looted and re-looted, local heads are repeatedly assassinated, and harvests destroyed… This is definitely a mature book, to keep away from young adults attracted by heroic fantasy. but the unravelling of the story is (mostly) fast paced enough to make reading the book compelling and above all enjoyable. (Okay, I must add that the happy ending could and should have been avoided, but then no major character would have been left alive by the end of the book! And the supernatural natures of the characters Shenkt and Ishri leave a large part unexplained…)
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on December 17, 2014
People seem to be complaining about the 'ulikeability' of the characters, particularly the protagonist. But in my opinion, that's exactly what is so riveting. The players in this political game are flawed and selfish and driven by both petty and personal motives, but that's exactly what makes them so real. Their cutthroat tactics and overall callousness lend credibility to their professions - I would probably be disgusted if they were all perfect bunny-hugging human beings when they're not being mercenaries and warlords. Monza especially is a memorable character. It's been forever since a female character has been portrayed as tough yet vulnerable, beautiful but gritty. Mostly those types are pigeonholed as femme fatales and completely relegated to the 'male gaze' - their sexuality hyped up and their backstories and thought processes consigned to the background. Not the case here. The character is sexual, yes, but in a deeply human way. Abercrombie doesn't shy away from constant reminders of how she is always in pain from a bad injury she suffers, or glamorize scars and disfigurements, and during the sex-scenes, the character's body isn't treated as a descriptive buffet the way most (male, but sometimes female) writers tend to portray women in literature (think heaving bosoms and creamy thighs and an overall existence as nothing but a prize/receptacle for the hero to schtup). More to the point, Monza has an agenda she never loses sight of, her strategic mind is constantly in the forefront to drive the plot forward, and the way in which she slowly regains a semblance of humanity and learns that vengeance isn't all it's cracked up to be is handled with a refreshing twist and with startling depth.
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on May 26, 2016
I find myself always in an awkward position when trying to review a book. Always too much time has passed since reading. But to say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and series would be an understatement. I had heard of Joe Abercrombie and had planned on reading his books for many years, but never got around to doing it. There was always another book from my growing list of authors to read. I've read gifted writers, and Abercrombie ranks as one of the very best! Recently, I've been reading and listening to the audible narration, and if you haven't done that, I wholly recommend it. I don't remember ever being so entertained by both the writing of Abercrombie and the narration of Steve Pacey; had me trembling with excitement and shock while at the same time laughing out loud. I really can't give the author and this series enough stars.
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on February 4, 2014
Very good fantasy world; could be earth in the far future. Warfare among city/states with bloody characters, cowards and heros. Caution: has lots of sex. This is the same world as his original trilogy. This is book one of some independent books that include some of the same characters. All good.
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on June 28, 2015
Wasn't a life changing novel, but a pretty good read. Characters started off semi dark and got darker. A fantasy noir with some relieving humor. The heroine gets thrown off a cliff, stabbed, jabbed, sliced, diced, and beaten. She still remains beautiful, albeit with a bent flnger and a drug problem. That's about all the fantasy in the book and it's unintentional. I liked the mercenary general, an old backstabbing, lecherous, drunk. (Someone I can identify with.) I enjoyed the book and would have given it five stars except for the ending. I wasn't expecting happily ever after, but a little more resolution would have been nice.
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VINE VOICEon July 23, 2015
This novel follows the fate of Monza Murcatto, a mercenary general fighting in a fictional kingdom with medieval weapons. As we begin the book, she is cruelly betrayed by her employer, the sinister Count Orso, who fears that a string of victories has made her too popular and a threat to his rule. She and her brother are set upon by seven men; the brother is killed and the half-dead Monza is hurled off a turret into a ravine below. Against all odds, she miraculously survives, although partially maimed, racked with pain and addicted to smoking a narcotic to relieve her suffering. Thereafter, her sole reason for living is to be revenged on the seven who betrayed her and killed her brother. One by one, she begins to hunt them down with the help of a motley crew of fighters, poisoners, harlots and fellow mercenaries.

The premise is promising but the book is increasingly gloomy and very bloody. Many limbs are hacked, eyes gouged out and many gruesome and ghastly deaths occur. Monza herself is not a sympathetic character and halfway through the book (which is overlong) she begins to ask herself what it is all for. The revenge she wreaks does not make her feel good and does not bring back her brother, who himself was less than admirable as we discover.

So although this is a worthy endeavor, it's not that enjoyable for the reader.
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on August 16, 2010
I have become a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie. I've been recommending the Trilogy to all my friends. Those books were diverse in characters, riddled with intrigue from start to finish and just a pleasure to read from start to finish. This book is NOT in the same league of the Blade Trilogy. I admired that Joe wrote characters that you didn't have to be in love with. His char's are far removed from the stereotype of fantasy writing and I love that he is both graphic and is not afraid to tackle the uglier side of killing in battle. Furthermore I don't mind bad language if it promotes some insight into either the character or the landscape but let me start with that as my first critique of Best Served Cold. The horrid language while lending some credibility to the realism of the characters in the previous books were wasted in this one and in fact just seemed to show some lack of writing maturity on the authors part. The sex scenes in this book were mostly ok but again drifted to obscene but for no reason I could articulate. And trust me when I say bad language does NOT bother me, in fact sailors come to me to learn new words from time to time but again it was just unnecessary throughout most of this book.
The book was entirely too linear. We focused on one story line and while I admire it goes against stereotype (not having to find the one sword, ring, battle the one entity that will destroy all etc...) this book didn't bounce around at all. While that may work if the central char is strong but this character was truly a despicable person, so full of flaws that it made it hard to care whether she lived or died. Again, many of the characters from the trilogy were crusty loathsome people but there was enough bouncing around that you could trudge thru one section of that book b/c each chapter he moved onto another thread he was weaving together.
My last major problem with this book is that it would have been a great short story or just one part of this book but Joe seemed to get into the Robert Jordon trap of starting off each chapter writing a 2 to 3 page summation of what the each character had done that brought them to this point and that kind of reflection is only necessary if you haven't read the first books and even then only necessary to reflect once or twice on a characters past and then move on. Simply put, too much time was spent telling us what Shivers was thinking about what he had done in his past, not writing about his past, but rather telling us what he was feeling or thinking. 1/4 of this book just seemed to be page filler.
So while this wasn't that strong a book i'm still committed to seeing what Mr. Abercrombie has in store and will buy his next book.
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on December 22, 2015
It's rare to find such a villainous group of heroes, and yet root for them all the way, but the characters created by Abercrombie make for an irresistible combination of dry wit, jaded cynicism, unyielding resolution and bloody mischief. Their medieval fantasy world is as rough as it gets, and their nemesis richly deserve our scorn and a violent end. The characters are complex yet coherent, and evolve with the story. Cliffhangers and surprises further add to the flourish of this dark epic.
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on October 8, 2010
I REALLY love his First Law Trilogy. Probably 3 of my favorite books. However this one was REALLY long and for the last 150 pages I was having trouble staying with it. So much so that I read another book while trudging thru to the end of this one. Loved the ending but it took me a while to get there. Last 30 or so pages wrapped things up nicely for me. A lot of fighting and war in this book and you really have to pay attention and keep track of all the people. I recommend this book if you are into the battle stuff and war. If you prefer more of his First Law Trilogy stuff then I would skip this one.
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on April 2, 2014
Really enjoyed this fast paced, gritty story of revenge set in a fantasy world similar to medieval Italy. The characters, some of whom we met in "The First Law" trilogy, are finely crafted with complex personalities. No one is entirely good or bad, however, torture and death are the solutions of choice to interpersonal problems. Joe Abercrombie does a great job of making the living conditions of the time come alive, as the realities of life on the battle field, in the cities and even in the castles without the modern conveniences and sanitation we take for granted create an atmosphere of realism. Fighting scenes are harsh and cruel with graphic descriptions of wounds and death blows that make you feel the horror of the event. Even though the reader could feel somewhat like a voyeur watching the detailed accounts of life and death play out in gory and graphic detail before him, there is an underlying story of retribution that carries the novel, giving reason to the actions of the characters and making it a good read.
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