Best Served Cold review

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Best Served Cold review Joe Abercrombie
Best Served Cold review Joe Abercrombie
Best Served Cold and its author, Joe Abercrombie don't need much presentation. The hype surrounding this book was pretty high and the reviews so far very positive. I enjoyed Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy (it's in my list of reviews to add to the blog), so I couldn't wait any longer for the North American release and I ordered my copy from the UK.

As the title suggest, this book is about vengeance. This is the years of blood in Styria and the mercenaries are getting rich. We follow the story of The Thousand Swords mercenary army leader Monzcarro Murcatto (everyone calls her Monza) on her vengeful quest to punish those who tried to kill her and her brother. After an unlikely recovery weakening her, she will soon discover that to kill these seven people, Monza's going to need allies to have any chance of success. Her path will meet with Shivers, a north man looking for a good man life in Styria (he was seen in The First Law trilogy), Castor Morveer, a loquacious master poisoner and his young apprentice Day, ex practical Shylo Vitari, Nicomo Cosca, 'famed soldier of fortune' and drunkard (the last two from The First Law again) and Friendly, a liberated convict bodyguard obsessed with numbers. She will travel all over Styria within the League of Eight with Duke Orso's head hunters at her back.

I was pleased to see that Best Served Cold reintroduced many characters from The First Law trilogy. Because of this, to fully enjoy Best Served Cold, I think you really need to read The First Law before, it will give you a better experience. Along with the main protagonists, there are some really nice cameos.

Let's shake off the somewhat negative aspect first. During the reading, I had some problems with Monza narrative. At times, you really don't feel like she deserves to get her revenge and it gets a little uncomfortable as she's the main protagonist. This probably didn't make it easy for Abercrombie while writing. There are some pretty hard chapters (when Shivers and her tell each other their plain truths) but it's understandable in a rough setting as this. But eventually, everything comes nicely together and you'll cherish all the main PoV. Best Served Cold was compared to Kill Bill in some reviews... I think it's probably an easy comparison because it's about a girl taking her vengeance but not a perfect analogy.

The only other annoying element for me was that the story had a little tendency to drag between each "killing sub plot". I feared that a book this long centered around a vengeance would be repetitive, but every time, everything got back on track. The book is separated in parts with each person to kill and it feels almost as if it was seven short stories. It gets more complicated as things evolve and in the long run, it feels epic in scale, which is a good thing (you can feel the Gurkish and Union influences in the conflict too).

Abercrombie's writing is as good as ever if not even better. I like the way he's able tell a tale this dark and serious while adding a nice layer of humor, I could even say plenty of it. There's still swearing and gore and sex but Joe really found a way of masterfully integrating all these elements in his writing just the right way. Speaking of those moments, he went even farther that in The First Law with Best Served Cold. I would like to add Kick-ass moments to my blog with some of this book scenes but I'm not sure it belongs to the web. :) The action sequences are really well rendered.

As far as the writing goes, the best part of it is the characterization. Besides what I mentioned about Monza, every characters (even the secondary ones) are a delight, they don't feel like clichés to me. Morveer's way of talking, especially with the not so learned Shivers is a real joy. Cosca is probably the most pleasurable. A lot of PoV are used, but the author returns more often with Shivers and Monza.

I won't comment much on the magic system since it's not important and not necessary in the book. Don't worry, it's still a fantasy novel. Some of the protagonists who can appear from dead air and others are exceptionally powerful (remember the eaters?). The world-building is quite satisfying. Since everybody Monza wants dead are in different part of Styria, we get to travel a lot of ground. Each city has her own characteristics and I could easily imagine myself walking the streets.

Little detail, I really think that Abercrombie's way of naming his chapters is a great asset, as are his "parts" quotes and Monza's past introductions.

Why should you read this book? Well if the review is not enough, I can tell you that Best Served Cold is a strikingly well written, humorous, gritty, sexy, darkly and unforgiving piece of work. You just can't pass over this one. The characters will totally compel you to follow them.

Technically, I think the Gollancz cover is beautiful and way better than the US Orbit cover with the bloodied girl. There's no complete map in the book but every book section start with a quote and in the background there's a map of the city area involved. The cover also shows the map in the background but for a clearer version you can go here. There is no appendix/glossary. The book is 534 pages.

Best Served Cold review score :

Characterization............. 9 /10
World building............... 8.5 / 10
Magic system................. N/ A
Story.............................. 8.5 / 10
Writing........................... 9.5 / 10

Overall (not an average) 9 / 10


Joe Abercrombie page


bloggeratf said...

Hey Phil,

Very nice review. I enjoy how you captured the flow of the book so well. You have a good way of explaining the pacing without giving too much away.

I am allowed to treat myself 1 hardcover this month and it is a real toss up between this and Terry Goodkind... and I really can't decide. BSC is obviously the better book, but I would get a good laugh out of Terry... gah the dillema!

Phil said...


Knowing a bit of your tastes I understand your dilemma but I think Terry can wait, go with BSC, you'll never regret it!!!

Unknown said...

When I read that the Bloody Nine and others wouldn't be in BSC I was a little sad. After the first few chapters I was over it. Abercrombie's characters are some of the best(or worst) I've ever read. Can't wait to see what he does next.

ediFanoB said...

So far I read 200 pages of BSC. That is enough to tell that did a good job with your review.

Anonymous said...

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