Top critical review
60 people found this helpful
on October 21, 2009
I wanted to love this book. I really did. But I should have known, from the First Law series (which i actually enjoyed, but was also disappointed by) that this book was going to let me down.
There are a few spoilers ahead, but I've told you about them beforehand - just FYI.
The book was entertaining and well-written, with a beautifully-crafted world, peopled with believable races, cultures and customs. The characters were 3-dimensional - as their personal stories/tragedies were revealed, I came to understand their motivations and actions. They loved and hated according to their pasts, they experienced individual joys and sorrows that shaped them into the people they became on the pages of Best Served Cold. But the story- and the characters- totally fell flat in the end. What a disappointment. I can forgive a bad writer, if s/he has a good story (Greg Keyes's Briar King series comes to mind, as well as Brian Sanderson's Mistborn tril., Karen Miller's Godspeaker tril., and Sherwood Smith's Inda series), but I CANNOT get around an exceptional writer spitting out rubbish (Anne Bishop [EVERYTHING after the Dark Jewels tril.]comes to mind, Melanie Rawn's Spellbinder series, Gail Martin's Necromancer tril. and Terry Goodkind's Sword and Truth series [EVERYTHING after Stone of Tears was redundant and crap]).
As Logan Ninefingers always said, "You've got to be realistic" - so I wonder if this is what Abercrombie was/is attempting with his Circle of the World books. People never change, he seems to be telling us. Ever. No matter how many chances people are given to change what they are, and become who they WANT to be instead of what circumstances have MADE them in to, the world is always going to expect you to be who you WERE, so there is no use fighting against it. Stagnation is inevitable. Optimism is futile; the world is crap, and move on.
As a fantasy geek, I find that hard to accept in the novels I read, but accept it I do, so that my opinion of what I'm reading doesn't become jaded. The problem here, then, is WHAT IS THE POINT?
What was the point of the story? (spoiler ahead, sort of) It's like it serves as a prequel to "How Monzcarro Murcatto Came to Power and Entered Talins Into its Golden Age" or some such drivel. It's a list of things that happened in order for her to reach the throne she claimed she didn't want. But, really, what happened, of any significance, along the way? Out of all the petty, little things that actually DID happen in the book, all the main characters ended up in exactly the same positions they were in when their characters were introduced, except Monzcarro. (spoilers ahead)
1. Caul arrived and left as a brutal, barbarian killer, minus one eye
2. Nicomo came and went as a self-centered, pathetic alcoholic
3. Friendly's ridiculous part in this book served as proof that many criminals are conditioned to the institutionalization of incarceration
4. Castor, self-proclaimed "king of poisoners", received the reputation and awe he always wanted when he met his end
5. Vitari came and went as a retired torturer who happened to be a mother
6. Shenkt saved the day at the start and finish, saved Murcatto's life multiple times, for ridiculous reasons - he saved her life so he could get revenge, even though ALL of his fight-scenes proved that he could have taken revenge NUMEROUS times on his own
This is ridiculous. In addition to nothing changing from the beginning to the end of the novel, Abercrombie has the SAME themes in each of his books:
1. torture scenes
2. gruesome, bloody fights
3. graphically-written, almost unbelievable - or maybe too believable - sex
4. a know-it-all, babbling buffoon that everyone hates but respects for his skill
5. a dangerous, vicious, blood-hungry, vengeance-seeking woman who only misses the stereotype by not being a lesbian
6. a barbarian who goes into blood-lust in almost every fight
7. a great battle
8. an unsatisfactory conclusion
Don't misunderstand - I am not too "delicate" for these themes. In fact, I appreciate them, which is why I have bought and read the all 4 Circle of the World books from cover to cover. But, come ON, can it be switched around at all? Reading BSC was like reading a condensed version of the First Law trilogy. Additionally, each "section" of BSC followed the same tune (more spoilers): Murcatto enters a new country, finds the people she wants to kill, goes to kill them but there are some difficulties, eventually kills them but with more casualties than she'd anticipated, M & C have sex while she thinks of Benna, then the next section starts.
As I said, I wanted to love this book - but the negatives (the crap story and all the main characters being un-redeemable) far outweighed the positives (being well-written and having 3-dimensional characters). So far, I have paid $75 plus tax on these overpriced books, and I wish I would have checked them out at the library, instead. If Abercrombie writes more books, I will probably read them - in hopes that the story changes. But I know, deep down, that they wont, so I will not be buying them. I am a sucker for good writing. It just sucks when good writers have nothing interesting to say.