Best Served Cold: Comes with a price

Joe Abercrombie Best Served Cold fantasy book reviewsfantasy book reviews Joe Abercrombie Best Served ColdBest Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie is the new master of dark, gritty, realistic fantasy, and Best Served Cold might well be the masterpiece that represents that subgenre. Monza Murcatto is a renowned and very successful mercenary … or was until she was stabbed, beaten, and thrown from a mountainside by her employer. Monza wants revenge, so she contracts a party of unsavory characters to aid her. Monza’s story goes from dark to black to “a wet match in the bottom of a dark cave” — everyone suffers, lots of people die, and the trail of blood and tragedy that Monza leaves in her wake is unprecedented.

Abercrombie takes what appears to be a simple tale of revenge and twists it into a sanguine journey of self-discovery on the part of each character. The heart of Best Served Cold is how Abercrombie strips our “heroes” down to their core and reveals who they truly are. No other author I’ve found works so hard to create likeable characters out of such nasty individuals. Best Served Cold is exceedingly well-written, so I have to give it 5 stars. It really is a great work.

Reading Joe Abercrombie is always bittersweet for me — I know I’m going to get an amazing story with unique characters told in Abercrombie’s special way. But the wonderful writing comes with a price: you change a little. His books have altered my perception of fantasy literature. Before, I was blissfully unaware of how truly brutal and tragic fantasy can be. Sure, George R.R. Martin loves to kill off his main characters, but I never had any doubt that I was observing his story from the outside. In contrast, Abercrombie brings you in: I feel the character’s spirit break in the hands of the torturer. I know that the person on page 112 has become someone else by page 113, and it makes me sad. There is no redemption — no “making it up” later — they’re irrevocably changed. It’s a very real and unsettling thing for a reader to experience, and it’s a feeling that’s not commonly found in the fantasy genre. I have a love-hate relationship with Joe Abercrombie’s books. I will most certainly continue to read them — they are just too incredible not to. But I need something exceedingly optimistic to read afterwards.

Best Served Cold is technically a stand-alone novel, but I would highly recommend reading The First Law trilogy first because I get the feeling of an overall “Big Picture” taking place in this world. Read Best Served Cold if you are ready to challenge your thoughts about fantasy literature. Do not read Best Served Cold if you like your fantasy to be a pleasant escape from the harsh realities of life. ~Justin Blazier

Joe Abercrombie Best Served Cold fantasy book reviewsfantasy book reviews Joe Abercrombie Best Served ColdBest Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

When the infamous mercenary captain, Monza Murcatto, seems to be getting too powerful, her employer, Duke Orso, attempts to have her and Benna, Monza’s next-in-command, killed. Short work is made of Benna, but, by a cruel twist of fate, Monza survives, just barely. And her quest for vengeance sets a spark to the powder-keg that is the country of Styria during the Years of Blood.

Best Served Cold is a stand-alone novel that takes place in the same world as Joe Abercrombie’s acclaimed The First Law series. To his many fans (of which I’m certainly one), I say: you’ll be more than pleased with Best Served Cold. Along with a colorful array of new characters — criminals, henchmen, assassins, power-hungry nobles, and mercenaries — several of the second-string characters from The First Law play a major part. I’d list them, but half the fun of this book is guessing just who will show up. I will just give you this much: if you liked the despicable soldier-of-fortune Nicomo Cosca before, or maybe even if you didn’t, you’re gonna love him in Best Served Cold.

Mr. Abercrombie’s stories have been called “fantasy noir” and I can’t think of a better description. Think Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie doing a fantasy movie and you just about have the right idea. Mr.Abercrombie’s First Law and Best Served Cold has edginess, a multitude of criminals, raw and gritty dialogue, horrifyingly realistic violence, and dark humor.

Best Served Cold drags the reader along on Monza’s grim and unyielding vendetta which in turn ignites vengeful repercussions that only throw other deadly events into motion. It was fascinated to watch how one person’s obsession can drag so many others down with it and how once someone starts down a dark path, their whole self-concept can change. But, there’s no need to lose heart in the darkness. There just may be (according to the individual reader’s interpretation) a small ray of light at the end of the tunnel.

I do feel compelled to warn that Abercrombie may be too dark for some readers, and the sexual content is raunchy — but it is on par with the tough, roguish characters. I almost knocked off a half star for this, but the ending more than made amends. ~Greg Hersom

Best Served Cold — (2009) Publisher: Springtime in Styria. And that means war. There have beennineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. Armies march, heads roll and cities burn, while behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king. War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employer’s taste. Betrayed and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die. Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers anda Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started… Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge. BEST SERVED COLD is the new standalone novel set in the world of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy.

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff September 2009 – September 2012) Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on Tolkien. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. Justin lives in a small home near the river with his wife, their baby daughter, and Norman, a mildly smelly dog. He doesn't have much time for reviewing anymore, but he still shows up here occasionally to let us know how he feels about stuff.

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GREG HERSOM’S (on FanLit's staff January 2008 -- September 2012) addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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  1. I am hoping to get to this book in 2010. I have read the first book, First Law, in the trilogy. I have the other two sitting here to be read as well. I really enjoyed it and look forward to the next two and this one as well. Thank you for the great review. I knew this book was a stand alone but wanted to read his trilogy first because it is the same world and wanted to get to know that world better first. I am really looking forward to this one as well.

  2. Once you finish the trilogy be sure to stop by and let us know how you liked it. I’m always curious as to how various fantasy fans react to Abercrombie’s books. Hope the review was helpful.

  3. I will have to make a point to stop back by after the trilogy. I am actually getting anxious to get into book 2. I have been reading it along with a friend so I am trying to wait for her. I don’t know if I can wait much longer.

    The review was a great help. I am more glad now that I decided to read the trilogy before diving into Best Served Cold. This review helps make me feel better on the choice and now I really look forward to the book more. Thanks!

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