A First Law Novel (World Of The First Law Series)

By Joe Abercrombie

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Readers` Reviews

★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michael trigilio
I buy this book for people. Fast paced and incredibly fun, and I love every single evil lunatic in it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tim mcintosh
A very dynamic story and dynamic characters with the intense delivery Abercrombie always gives. The morally grey world is the best in the genre.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
ronald
A good follow up to the First Law trilogy. I'm looking forward to reading the next from Abercrombie. The man can write.
You Are Special (Board Book) (Max Lucado's Wemmicks) :: Silent Spring :: Silent Spring By Rachel Carson :: God Save the Queen: Book 1 of the Immortal Empire :: The Heroes: A First Law Novel (First Law World 2)
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
l angolino di sasi
He just keeps getting better
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
karin kronborg
You feel like you really get to know each character and actually care what happens to them. And incredible pacing and action to boot. My first Abercrombie but in no way my last.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kyo kagami
Joe Abercrombie delivers yet another great installment into the First law universe. If you are a fan of his other work you will enjoy this.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tabitha bethelmy
Superb book set in the fantasy world already explored in the First Law Trilogy. Some old characters are back. The new characters are all really interesting. This tale of vengeance is really gripping, bloody and treacherous!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
neil mcgarry
I think it was a better told story from start to finish than the first law trilogy. But no characters as memorable as Glokta in this one. Cosca is always fun but no Glokta.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tara kindberg
Good book. Written well like the three before it, has a couple good twists in it as well.

Definitely worth reading
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sharad bhatia
Gritty and dark and captivating! Well worth a read if you enjoyed the first law trilogy. I can't get enough of Abercrombie's books.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nick lewis
I felt a little more for the bloody nine and th cripple than for the group's in this book
. But it is nice that the stories are set in the same "world"
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
harmanjit bansal
I Couldn't put it down. Great characters, story, and visuals.
If you haven't read the first law trilogy, read that too.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
pegah ebrahimi
no revioew
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
mackenzie
Not up to his previous work. Predictable and not as clever as he thinks it is. I was definitely disappointed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
valerie a
I really enjoyed Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy, so this is his fourth work that I've read - so far. I'm only about halfway through, but enjoying it as much as the first three. With great characters and such fine writing I can't get enough of this genre I usually don't read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
debra nemsick
This book is truly amazing, Joe Abercrombie has some series chops, cant wait to read what ever he writes next.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tschai
Interesting characters. Lots of action.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ole nadreas
Good, but nowhere near "the first law"
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jazmin
If you want gritty, nasty, violent anti-heroes, nobody does 'em better than Joe Abercrombie. Every character in the book is horrible, and for different reasons. Loved it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
alison zemanek
Another good gritty fantasy from Abercrombie. Not my favorite from him but still worth a quick read. If you haven't read The First Law Trilogy I strongly recommend it.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
littlekidd
Awesome book
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
benjamin finley
Very nice book. Mind you it is for adult readers. Same League of the Games of Thrones saga. Must read for those who like the genre.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
alyss
I have always enjoyed stories of the Mercenaries on renaissance Italy and this book fits the era perfectly (although it is set in a different world)
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kerry price
Great dialogue, interesting characters
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
maura finkelstein
better than most book but not as good as the first law series. Still worth reading, i plan to read all books in this world.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tania stephens
Another good book down. Love the writing style and the action is great. Story building and characters never disappoint. Keep it coming
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
edward garnett
excellent
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
paul nelson
Great book!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
christine kennedy
Fantastic! Would like more!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
deanna joseph
I mostly enjoyed Best Served Cold, but I definitely started to suffer from a bit of battle fatigue by about 2/3 of the way through. A LOT of blood. Probably a character or two too many, as there seemed to be a couple pointless directions that the plot took which weren't filled out. But, overall, a good read which had a twist or two that I didn't expect.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
denice
Really loved this one. Best book in first law universe yet. All the despicable characters are so easy to like.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mairin
Very gripping, I couldn't put the book down
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
travis hathcock
A great book! Maybe even better then the trilogy itself.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cristol rippe
Best book I have read for a while.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
matthew buell
Very good,very realistic war enactment
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kamna
brilliant story held you to the end
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mike pescuma
What a great read - it doesn't hold back.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hossameldib
I've read a lot of fantasy books this year (50+) and this is one of the best.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nikki quinn
His best work yet!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
tyrese patterson
Was excited to start this book after finishing the First Law trilogy (which I loved). Started fast and hooked me right away, the way Abercrombie can do. But man, the vengeance on 7 took forever!

And I had expected the story to circle around to finish some loose ends from the trilogy, but never did.

Too much blood, too much death, way too long.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dorsey
Best read with a worldly perspective. Treachery, intrigue, cold-blooded killing and plenty of fantastic characters. Moral flexibility a must, but such flexibility fits the circumstances. Fantastic. Abercrombie is awesome.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
brad kuhn
The adventure continues in Styria, with characters new and old, and is even more grimly satisfying.

One of the finest works of fiction I have ever read, and unpredictable as a bull in a china shop.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
shae cottar
Really enjoyable read - Joe Abercombie does a great job developing characters and pulls you into his story. I highly recommend this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
harry
I know it was not a full size novel, but I wish it had been
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
mike may
Another great tale from the Master of the First Law Trilogy.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
christopher m
I picked this up as soon as it came out since I was such a huge fan of the first law trilogy. And on the surface, this book reflected many of the same strengths: Gritty, dark, realistic, great prose. The problem is that whereas first law was a cohesive, flowing, journey with each turn revealing a new layer of a complex but elegant story, "served cold" was basically just a series of gory vignettes: Monza moves from town to town and city to city butchering people. While Abercrombie eventually tries to unify the story around the ongoing war, it seems forced by the time he gets around to it in the last third of the book. The professional reviews that compared this to the Count of Monte Cristo have it dead wrong. Dumas created tension and drama by crafting a wonderful character, sharing his suffering with us, and building up over hundreds of pages to a carefully crafted and brilliantly executed plan for revenge. In "Cold", the revenge starts in the first 20 pages, so we don't care about the character, and there's no planning or intelligence that goes into the revenge schemes, so there's no awe, no drama.

Wait for paperback unless you are desperate.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
immadoll42
This book has some interesting characters, but would have benefitted from editing and rewriting. It started off in a promising vein, but lost me along the way. If I read another volume by this author, it would only be if some very positive reviews came out. Three stars may be slightly generous.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
pam tedder
My favourite from Abercrombie!

Brilliant storyline filled with his best characters! A must read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jeani
Not Aberchrombie's best but an enjoyable read. Highlighting the futility of revenge and the way events have of overtaking your own plans.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
liana stamouli
What book is perfect? Too many 5 stars. This is a superb novel. Characterization is acute, pace is head on and implications are abound. Enjoy!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nimit
Can't wait to start another book. This is my fourth. I've read the first law trilogy and now this. On to the next.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
libby young
It's far from a polished gem like Game of Thrones but it has a solid storyline and kills the time while waiting on the next George R.R Martin release :D
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
judith ivester
I saw the movie version. It was called "Kill Bill, Volumes I and II."
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
jonathan kart
Went well with brown rice and soy sauce. Yum.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
erick ortiz
I like Joe Abercrombie's work. The First Law trilogy was very enjoyable, but even those three books were poorly edited. "Best Served Cold" has great characters. Joe's dark sense of humor is his best writing tool, but his use of passive verbs almost kills this story right from the start. I read a lot of fantasy and this same problem plagues almost every indie author out there, as well as most writers who have made a name for themselves. Guys, get a decent freaking editor, will ya? I know you don't want anyone to molest your 'baby', but, jeez, let go of your egocentrism for a minute and let someone help make your book better. You might even find that a major publisher might actually give you a shot! Hell, I might even do it for free, just so I can read a well-written tale!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
martha karran
Very disappointing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dan young
Great read
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ryan waller
Excellent read
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
brittany petersen
Due to the lack of empathy rewarded to the characters, it was impossible to really care about the outcome of the story. I found myself not really caring how the story ended, and when it did, was close to being relieved that the ordeal was over. Reading a fantasy story should not feel like a chore... but Abercrombie made it feel that way.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
felito
Great story. I haven't read an Abercrombie book yet that wasn't worth the time. I am rereading all his books now and they are all still great.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
alvin rogers
This book is beyond the pale when it comes to the language that had no corresponding value. I got half way through the book and couldn't finish. What a waste of money. I've read many books with this type of language, but this was repeditve and add nothing to the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
pcho
Good stuff! cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc cc c cc ccc cc cc ccccccc cc c c c c c cccccc
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
deepswamp nicklasson
This book lacks the power of Heroes and the epic format of the trilogy (first three books). I hope Abercrombie gets his groove back in the latest book to be released in the fall.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ellen chow yan yi
Too much of a standard adventure form standard. Please take your required number or words off my computer, I am a client, not a==-
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
ryan d
Tediously violent, ridiculously explicit and invariably ugly. This was recommended to me in a reading group. It's even worse than it sounds. In this story, the 'female' protagonist serves as a puppet for the author's playful obsessions with revenge, violence, sexual conquest and did I say violence? She's no more 'female' than a pair of bra inserts. It's a fetish. The whole book. Go for it, fetishists! Strap on those pointy bits! I crawl away in mock surrender looking for non-vengeful books where 'fun' doesn't have always mean eviscerations, dismemberments and the opposite of everything human, or humanlike. Robots beating each other for spare parts would be more entertaining.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
hippiebitch
But I could care less for the "world" the author has created. The good parts just don't outweigh the drudgery of the rest of the story.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
sarah chrosniak
I am sorry to say that this book is not really worth reading and I felt that Mr. Abercrombie hurried the ending of this book. It is not up to the same quality as his earlier two works which is very unfortunate since I greatly enjoyed those books.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
jennifer melito
from an author who had me hooked with his debut trilogy.

Nothing in "Best Served Cold " compares. Characters are shallow, and when not, are authentic circus clowns.

The story is tediously long without any reason whatosever, with childish turns and twists that add nothing but the number of pages one has to plow through to try and find some meaning.

What a disappointment.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
tammy nickerson
I didn't warm to Monza Murcatto for different reasons. I enjoy Abercrombie's work but this wasn't one of my favorites. Actually I somewhat hate this story. I believe the story was well-told at times despite some of the critical reviews found via a google search. The supporting characters such as Friendly, Nicoma Cosca, and Shylo Vitari help make the book fun, even funny. The only funny part I found containing Murcatto was when she stepped on a plank that bucked up knocking her in the face.

Otherwise we are served with a cold humorless lead. She lacks depth, quality and is boring. She was either angry, bitter or angry and vicious, if she wasn't engaging in hot sex. She's not clever. I don't recall any sections of her dialogue that resonate as smart.

Murcatto's early life was tragic. Alone in the world, she was orphaned, poor, illiterate and left to care for her little brother. Sadly, one day raiders burn their farm. Young Murcatto joins the fight against the group who set fire to her land. As luck would have it, the raiders are found and Murcatto makes her first kill. Her little brother sees the corpse's coin purse and steals it. Here is the defining moment where their roles are set, she the fighter, he the thief. In the years to come, as she flourishes as a soldier for hire, he flourishes as their publicist and accountant. Meanwhile she stagnates with her asocial type persona; she hates public speaking, social engagements and greets people with a snarl.

Initially, the beginning is awesome with her being thrown off the balcony. She survives thanks to bouncing off her brother's corpse. The way Abercrombie writes the scene, it's comical. After she's revived, I'm thinking ok here we go, this woman's story is going to be worth my attention. Murcatto's story is about revenge. Who wouldn't want to revenge their sibling? The problem is Murcatto cuts her way thru men and never once stops to consider her brother's treacherous ambition, drug use and willingness to stab a man in the neck for money. I found this particularly vexing because leaders consider offense and defense positions before going to war.

Ok so she was emotional after losing her last living relative and maybe she went mad after losing Bena. The bitch starts a minor civil war! Hundreds die! After his death and her near death experience, she vows to enact retribution on the men present during her attempted murder. Ironically, she nor her brother were due justice because they represented exactly what they were accused of being. Her brother had plans to ursurp their boss.

She returns to find an entire town slaughtered, with her brother being the leader left in her place. What does she do? Dead children in the street? What does she do? She holds him to her breasts and soothe him as he, deep in a drug haze, blubbered his lack of knowledge of the slaughter. Any true general, as she is titled, worth spit would of slapped him or better yet, cut his throat, if she was worth respect but she's not. Nope denial, she played dumb. Also where Abercrombie had me like really is how he writes Murcatto and Bena would have loud sex, never hiding their sexual liaisons from their soldiers. Yes, incest! She, a GENERAL, is banging her brother loudly no less where her men can hear her. That’s just terrible writing. Maybe Abercrombie had the flu while adding this tidbit in the story.

So how does one come to love this bitch of a mercenary? One shouldn’t because this is poor character development that insults my senses. She was guilty. Again sex with her brother! An entire company of men and they’d celebrate a successful campaign by engaging with each other. I’m sorry she had the pick of the litter and she prefers a man who’s butt she helped clean versus a big, muscular warrior. Gross!

Troubling and rather confusing how readers could enjoy this... a story where sister and brother ambitions lead to hundreds of deaths including children left dead in the streets. The lead protagonist, Ms. Murcatto lacked the common sense to stop and consider her next play before starting her revenge.

For all her kills, leading hundreds of men, when it comes to her brother she's weak. She reflects upon their conversations and eventually comes to the "ohhh" moment. Again, she's depthless and glosses over the realizations with little thought for all the harm her lover/sibling caused and she never expresses any betrayal by him. Any emphatic realization lacked any conviction and Abercrombie failed to convince her worth beyond a pretty woman who can fight. Even then she's rescued by men over and over. If it wasn't for Shivers, a hired killer, her head would of been bashed in more than once.

At the very least be prepared for the consequences, having disobeyed direct orders but she strolls into her masters chambers with her brother alongside her reporting the coin gathered? She expects a warm welcome. How does slaughtering a whole town bring true wealth? All the while she completes her quest like a justified woman recovering from being cheated and betrayed. She was neither before her tumble from the window. Yes she was used, and allowed it with her selective short-sightedness where her brother was concerned.

Disappointing storyline, unconvincing, unmoving with a female lead who's an ignorant, worthless, uneducated trashy criminal. I love strong women, but she's pathetic in more ways than one. I say heave hoe her ass off another mountain and let’s never hear of her again. Please JA, spare us.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
stargazerpuj
If you're an Abercrombie fan like me, you owe it to yourself to avoid this book. Overly long, dreary, plodding, bleak and predictable, it suffers from the following unforgivable sins:

1) There is no character growth, unless it is to grow worse. Good fiction is all about character growth, and unless for you this means taking mildly optimistic characters and turning them into 'I could really care less if I died today' cardboard, you're not going to be happy with this book.

2) Revenge, revenge, revenge and <gasp> more revenge. Its hard to like a character whose sole motive is based on such an ugly need, let alone when that character happens to be the main protagonist.

3) Characters you won't really care about. Not the main character, not the barbarian, not the old drunkard, nobody.

4) There is no real point. When you find yourself having to ask why you should care about anything you are reading, you know questions like 'how do I get those X hours of my life back?' are soon to follow.

5) The book is far too long. Why should a study in revenge conducted by such unredeemable scum take such a great amount of exposition? Is it because revenge is such a difficult subject to grasp? Maybe there was a surplus of trees available to the publishing house?

6) There is no plot. Okay, there is 'X, Y, and Z must die, die, die!' but don't make the egregious mistake of thinking this is somehow a fantasy 'Count of Monte Cristo'.

This book is best not served at all. If you need to spend money, invest it in something with an actual story to tell, like one of Adrian Tchaikovsky's books, or even any of Abercrombie's other works.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
faith barr
A worthwhile read that, if you're like me, will leave you feeling empty and concerned for the future of humanity. This novel, like all of Joe Abercrombie's novels, has great characters who are all, unfortunately, terrible human beings. Unique, even charming at times (Nicomo Cosca of course), and always murderers, rapists, thieves, or cowards. Although it's refreshing to not read a book about a saint, Abercrombie takes it a bit too far with an entire cast of undesirables. Worst of all, the MC, Monza Murcatto. A murderer, a thief, and all around bitch. She's the worst part of the entire book and is less of a female MC and more of a man in a woman's body. Abercrombie's innate ability to somehow make a drunk or a whore endearing somehow failed miserably with Monza. The negatives aside, I can't give it less than 3 stars because I felt a need to finish the book and the writing was, indeed, well done. It simply left a bad taste in my mouth that could only be washed by reading another book with an MC that isn't so... Disgusting.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
patrick sullivan
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
scott pinyard
Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold is pretty much perfect. Brimming with intricate and intriguing characters – none of whom you’d probably want to meet after dark – a labyrinthine plot full of twists, turns, and surprises that moves at a sprinter’s speed across an epic fantasy world; lean, gritty prose, sharp as the titular heroine’s Calvez sword; and ultimately satisfyingly like a lusty banquet of the finest sweet meats and spirits, Abercrombie delivers a novel that blows the doors off just about anything else I’ve read this year. Epic, engrossing, and raw – the mythic world of Styria isn’t at all pleasant – but it is absolutely bewitching in its blood and treachery.

It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a fantasy book this much – so seriously, you should go get read this right now! – or found a book that hits all the right beats so perfectly. It is grim – so not for the faint of heart – graphic in its portrayals of violence and sex – so probably not for kiddies – but there are few stories that can completely enrapture a reader for 600-plus pages. Abercrombie could have held my attention for triple that.

I would also add that I read this book without having read any of the preceding novels in The First Law trilogy – the Orbit hardcover wasn’t all that clear the books were connected – but, it didn’t matter in the least. Best Served Cold completely stands alone … though my appetite is certainly whetted to go back to the prequels and get the full story.

Broken soldiers, master poisoner and apprentice, torturer, barbarian, and convict – the best of the worst – gathered together to hack out an unforgettable story of revenge and ripping adventure. Seriously … if you like fantastic epic fantasy … go get this one … right now!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
roziah
Best Served Cold is a stand-alone novel that takes place in the same world as Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series, to be precise, a few years after the end of Last Argument of Kings. It follows in the same style as the previous trilogy and with the author’s delightfully twisted mixture of noiresque plots and flawed characters, including even some second-string characters from The First Law. If you’ve read his previous books, you know what to expect of Best Served Cold and Joe Abercrombies particular brand of ‘Fantasy Noir’. The only question is, how good is this book?

Best Served Cold takes place in Styria, and follows Monza Murcatto. Amidst a backdrop of an already nineteen-year war and with one Grand Duke Orso locked in a vicious struggle with the League of Eight, Monza Murcatto and her brother Benna after seemingly getting too powerful are betrayed by Grand Duke Orso. Monza survives her brother, his death then leading her into a quest for revenge that will directly impact the outcome of this nineteen-year war.

The book is completely stand-alone, and this plot is brought to a close by its end. It is raw and gritty in every sense, and with the author’s typical dark humour. It drags the reader along on Monza’s revenge and all its repercussions, focusing on the characters as much as on the wider plot. Best Served Cold is beautifully crafted and with a fulfilling world which includes believable cultures and customs. The characters are deep and three dimensional, and all of their personal stories and tragedies are dealt with well and fit perfectly. They love and hate according to their pasts, and are oh so human. Something always great to see in the genre and perhaps expected of the author.

The book starts out excellently, and is a real page-turner. It isn’t neither too long nor too short, and though the revenge plot is hardly surprising in terms of originality, the excellent writing and characters make up for it. I loved the raw and gritty dialogue, the horrifying violence, and the darkness of it all. It was an excellent read, and it really grabbed me.

My only complaint, was that despite all of the great things about Best Served Cold the story and characters fell flat towards the end, and that towards the last pages the book was quite disappointing. Not in a really major way or enough to ruin the reading for me, but instead enough to notice it. It wasn’t bad by any means, just disappointing considering this was written by Joe Abercrombie and was set in the same world as The First Law. There didn’t seem to be any change at all for the characters, who seem to be stuck in who they were. Optimism is something one can have only in vain, and only Monza seems to change somewhat. The themes seem to make this book a more condensed version of The First Law, something which may cause some readers to dislike this book at least slightly.

Overall, and despite the negatives, I must say that I really enjoyed Best Served Cold. It generally lives up to The First Trilogy, and though I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as I did with the latter, it is truly excellent. The characters are beautifully crafted and the plot manages to be fascinating and dark. Though some readers will definitely not enjoy Joe Abercrombie’s brand of fantasy – a personal opinion on The First Law will serve for one to tell whether they’ll enjoy this book – it isn’t something to miss out if you enjoyed Abercrombie’s previous work. At the very least, Best Served Cold will thus be an entertaining read from cover to cover.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sarah case lackner
I loved this book. From the first chapter it threw you into a complicated and exciting story. I fell in love with characters only to have them slaughtered minutes later. And from there, the story began to unfold.

There was violence, sex, adventure, surprises, poison, and lots of bad choices. Characters we loved back in the first part of the First Law series came back up but showed a different side. We met several new characters in this book, and I can’t wait to see them again. I definitely recommend this book to anyone willing to put in the hours—it’s not as long as some of Abercrombie’s books, but it’s still 24 hours long (it took me about a week to get through).

One of the things I love about Abercrombie is his writing style. There is so much clever repetition, he drops subtle hints, and little things come back to show their face that you didn’t expect. Of course it was expertly and beautifully narrated by Steven Pacey.

Literally the only thing I didn’t like about this book is the fact that when I looked it up and went to find the cover image, it has a blonde on the cover. GUYS IT CLEARLY SAYS MANY TIMES THAT MONZCARO MURCATTO HAS BLACK HAIR. This is not complicated.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tarar
Best Served Cold is a stand alone fantasy set in the same world as his more ambitious First Law trilogy. None of the main characters or plot from that larger work appear in this novel, but a whole host of minor characters do, often in much expanded roles and the overall style and tone are very similar.

First a note about that. This is very adult fantasy with its share of graphic sex and a whole lot of gritty violence. In fact, one of the great pleasures of Abercrombie is his strength at describing combat. He loves both sieges (all four of his books I’ve read feature them), duels, and melees. He has a particular knack for blow by blow combat — literarily. He doesn’t spare you the crunch of bone, the spray of blood, but makes it seem very accurate and visceral. His protagonists take a beating — again literally — and come out worse for the wear (if sometimes swift recovering). Each battle has its clever turns and reversals. The only thing you can expect is a bit of the unexpected.

This is also fantasy without a ton of life saving, healing, resurrecting magic. What magic there is is mostly used for disguise, or more often as more amped up lethal methods of slayage. All this makes the stakes fairly high.

Abercrombie is also a very good prose smith. He has a particular style, full of stylistic word repeats, witty turns, and a sort of darkly comic tone. Don’t get me wrong, these are pretty serious books, but the tone is a bit ironic. His characters are extremely interesting, highly flawed, sometimes self aware, and often quite amusing. Best Served Cold‘s prose is just ever so less slick than the First Law, and somehow its tone just a tiny bit less sarcastic. Then again, maybe it’s just the absence of Glokta, a character from the longer books who really is exquisitely crafted (and darkly funny).

Like the bigger work, there are multiple POV characters. The story is told in rapidly shifting tight first person. Some of the characters are more likeable than others, but all are pretty fun to read. The opening chapters are very effective in particular with Monza, a female mercenary captain, who in the first few pages is betrayed and horribly maimed. Abercrombie loves a good crippling and swiftly builds sympathy for her this way — but then he throws it mostly to the side by avoiding her POV for quite some time. The story still focuses on her, but its told by others. This felt like a significant lost opportunity.

There are also a lot of reoccurring themes and even “types” of characters. Shivers, along with Monza the most important character, shares a great deal in common with Logen Ninefingers. Say one thing of Joe Abercrombie, say he’s consistent.

Overall, a fabulous fantasy action book with very human characters, but just a hair less great than the First Law trilogy. Also, while the novel is quite stand alone, it does explain/reveal elements of the world already explained/revealed in the earlier books, and certain major plot motivations could seem extremely mysterious to those reading it first.

Andy Gavin, author of Untimed and The Darkening Dream
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
karima
I don't usually read books like this, fantasy that isn't so much the fantastic as it is alternate medieval world. For some reason (Fate? Really meant to grab the book next to it?) I picked it up in a bookstore and started reading. And kept reading. And then as soon as I realized I wasn't going to stop reading I decided to give the store my money, which they gladly took.

There are two things I love about this book. The first is that the characters are so unusual, morally. Most books, especially fantasy, love the contrast of the altruistic hero pitted against the cackling evil-for-evil's-sake villain. Neither of those exist in this book. Our heroes here aren't recognizable as heroes and our villains aren't much different. Our heroes slog through a morally grey middle ground, with one foot planted in good and the other in evil. One second someone may be stricken at the thought of killing an innocent person and the next they're gleefully stabbing some rando in the face. I'm describing both the heroes and the villains.

Actually, let's stop thinking of them as heroes and villains. Neither really exist in this story.
The second thing I love about this story is the pace. It just doesn't let you stop and catch your breath, which is quite an accomplishment considering it's roughly a million pages long. No, it's huge. Really.

Another thing I loved, which feels kind of weird to mention, is that people stink. Literally. That's rarely mentioned in books like these, except when the author mentions a general Human stink to a place. Not here. People are going to acknowledge how bad other people smell and then they're going to have sex with them anyway without so much as a shrug of their shoulders. I don't know why I appreciated this odd detail, but there it is. People wearing leather and not bathing for weeks are going to smell awful.

This is the first I've read of Joe Abercrombie and it won't be the last. As I understand it this was written as a standalone novel but is part of a bigger ongoing world. I will definitely read more.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
beth kondonijakos
It's dark and cynical. Unlike Abercrombie's other books in First Law Series, Best Served Cold offers no light, no point in "trying to be a better man". The writing (listening for me as I heard the book via Audible), story, characters, the art of it -- all up to Abercrombie's excellent standards. (One notable difference is the lack of any first-person deep POV, which is a fun and quirky aspect of the other First Law books.) But, while the plot is gripping and the characters compelling, the unremitting focus on revenge, greed, insensitivity, and negative existential view that there is no higher purpose than to fulfill one's own selfish and sociopathic desires, and then it's "back to the mud"; well, it would be damn depressing if it wasn't for the levity provided by the Falstaff-like Nicomo Cosca. But even Cosca, amusing as he is, is a narcissistic killer, as are the other main characters, Monza, Shivers, Friendly, either from the start or by the end of the book.

I've given the 6 other Abercrombie books I've read 5-stars, but I deducted one on "Cold" not because of a deficit in the art, but because, while revenge may be best served cold, if that's all there is, it leaves this reader too cold.

On the other hand, if you read Red Country and The Heroes after "Cold", you'd have their warmth to look forward to. Too bad, I read them in reverse order.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
cheng xu
I loved Abercrombie's trilogy but found this disappointing. It chronicles Murzcatto's search for revenge but it drags along, with some blood and thunder every few pages and then some attempts at humor. However, it never really gets moving and the fantasy element is restricted to two characters who first appear halfway through this overlong book and then sporadically reappear. If Abercrombie wants to write quasi historical fiction he should publish it as such, and use a better editor.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jess griffis
Complex tale of revenge, revenge and revenge. I have not read the World of the First Law series,The First Law Trilogy: The Blade Itself, Before They are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings so cannot tell you how it fits in, although this story is chronologically before the trilogy. If you like you fantasy to have a good guy, do not pick this up. Is a very interesting twist on the Renaissance Italian wars, with mercenaries changing sides at the drop of a hat - or coin, more likely. The characters were interesting, but I don't know how many of them carry over into the main trilogy, so I didn't know if I could be invested in them. And there was always the risk they would die.

If you are looking for something with at least one or two characters with at least some redeeming qualities, but still with an ongoing risk of betrayal, I recommend the retro-cyberpunk novel, Trickster's Thunder.Trickster's Thunder (Trickster Chronicles Book 1) Enjoy!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
hyunah christina
Was it as good as the 'first law' trilogy? No not quite, but there's something to be said for a one book self contained story. I might've liked to see a bit more of the familiar characters we've come to love, but it was nice that they made cameos just the same. Jezel, now the king, makes an appearance but only has two or three lines for example.

All in all, it was a good story with interesting characters. A simple tale of one woman's revenge after a failed attempt on her life. (Not at all unlike Kill Bill in this sense.) There are enough twists and character development to make for an interesting read. Buy it for like 3 bucks here on the store, I promise you won't be disappointed. Monza Murcarrao will live on in my memories.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
matthew armistead
Beautiful, ruthless and successful - Monza Murcatto is one of Duke Orso's greatest and most favoured generals. At least until he has her beaten savagely, run through, and disposed of by throwing her off his highest balcony. By a great miracle she survives her terrible injuries and sets off on a mission to kill the Duke and all those who participated in her "murder".

In "Best Served Cold" Abercrombie takes a "sword and sandal", feudal setting and uses it to present a very straightforward revenge thriller with very strong overtones of that classic Hollywood (et al) genre the "gang heist caper", typified by... Ocean's Eleven, The Dirty Dozen, Kelly's Heroes, The Italian Job, etc etc etc.

The writing is clean and competent, with a witty, relaxed style and occasionally lapsing into a mild vernacular "for effect". The plot is linear and simple, presenting no real twists and turns... well, there are a few twists, but no big surprises, making this a relatively enjoyable and undemanding read. The story is an "exciting" one, in as much as it trips along at a fair pace, throwing plenty of action, gore (torture and sundry sword-play) and a few fairly racy sex scenes.

On the other hand, that simplicity, the lack of complexity and surprise do render the plot a fairly bland. That would be more than acceptable were the characters to take up the slack. A good "gang" adventure is in large part defined by the leading characters and their interactions. Unfortunately Abercrombie's protagonists are a bit of a letdown. The mixed bag of criminals, murderers, torturers and barbarians in Murcatto's gang are oozing potential and, for sure, Abercrombie makes an effort to build some interesting and quirky characters (almost succeeding in a couple of case) out of this wholecloth. Unfortunately they still come across as a little flat, unfinished... almost two-dimensional*. Even Murcatto herself is disappointing. One could almost replace every reference to "her" with "him" and the story would barely suffer...

Again, all of this could be overcome if any of the characters were actually likeable but they're not. They all (including the leading lady) start the journey as a bunch of violent, cynical, greedy, self-serving thugs, unlikeable** and untouched by conscience and, as it turns out, irredeemable to a man/woman. Nevertheless, the story is big on the central moral; i.e. that revenge brings no rewards. And that moral bangs leadenly throughout this rather long novel like a loose door in the wind. Yeah yeah, I got the message in the first couple of chapters - no one wins! After that point, "Best Served Cold" is little more than revenge porn and, towards the final quarter, I was flagging, wishing that they'd all just kill each other and let me get on to a better book.

In the end, the story is perfectly readable, indeed is enjoyable and witty (if you have the persistence and stomach for it). It makes a fine enough holiday read next to the missus' Jackie Collins, but it lacks the vim needed to lift it above the common herd and earn it a fourth star.

* Contrast this with Dahlquists' Glass Books trilogy. Despite its many shortcomings, it presents three of the most vibrant, interesting and sympathetic protagonists I have encountered.

** For some reason Abercrombie has a small obsession with his characters' propensity to snort and spit rather more frequently than is quite reasonable.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
marcello
I've read all of the books in the First Law world numerous times. And I'll be upfront, Abercrombie is my favorite author of all time. I've recommended all of his books countless times. So, I should probably click on five stars and just walk away, right? Maybe, but I'd like to defend my fandom a bit here. Often, I have wondered, why in the world do I love these books so much? To be completely honest, these book never have matched up with my typical favorite fictions. As far as fantasy goes, when Mr. Abercrombie is not involved, I am usually more of a Scott Lynch/Sanderson/Daniel Abraham sort of fellow rather than a George R. R. Martin sort of fellow. That's not to say I don't enjoy dark fantasy, I do, but typically I am more excited for the lighter side of fantasy. In my opinion, since "A Song of Ice and Fire" and "The First Law" trilogy the "lighter side of fantasy" means a lot less. Dark fiction seems to be everywhere. I recall when I first read Daniel Abraham's critique of dark fantasy. To the best of my knowledge he labelled Mr. Ambercrombie's brand of dark fantasy "grim dark." At the time, I sort of understood where Abraham was coming from. I'm to lazy to go find it, but I believe the view was something like "grim dark" is a reaction to standard fantasy, in which the reader realizes that the actors can only escape the violence and dark realities of the world through death. In short, there is never a moment where the hero vanquishes darkness that has fallen over the world. I say that the "light side" of fantasy is less meaningful these days because even people like Abraham with his criticism of "grim dark" has seemingly changed his style, as best I can tell, and his latest works are a little more "grim dark" than he'd probably like to admit. I bring this all up because I believe that Abraham's view is naive and misses the mark. Despite the fact that Mr. Abercrombie seems to take pride in the whole "grim dark" thing (his twitter handle is @LordGrimdark), I don't believe that any of the works in the "First Law Work" are "grim dark." In fact, I'd say they are for the most part, layered uplifting stories. Can I actually be serious? Yes, I am.

The Uplifting Works of Joe Abercrombie

That's right, I said it..these books are uplifting. Now, sure the world is dark. In some instances, the worlds are very dark. However, when I sit back and think about it, the world isn't that much different than reality. After all, a famous philosopher in describing the state of nature said, "the life of man, [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." The "First Law" world is dark )there are powerful forces at work, including demons, very old mages secretly controlling all sorts of aspects of human life, magic, economic inequality, constant wars, human eating religions with a hunger that requires them to enslave the entire world, there are sinister plots, etc.). In a great deal of ways, it really does suck to be a regular person. But, as it turns out, it sucks to be a "hero" in Abercrombie's world too (possibly even more than it does to be a regular person). Typically, the actors who would typically be seen as heroes in other fantasies typically find themselves tangled up in the plots of even more powerful actors, or they find themselves victims of circumstances. Often, some romantic idea causes them to put themselves in an all together bad spot. When you read Abercrombie, you get to see what happens when a person attempts to define themselves by their vanities, virtues, or vices. Often the characters' idealistic views of themselves have already be broken by the time we meet them (Logen, Glockta, even Bayaz to some degree). But there is always someone new who is just beginning the journey to go from a naive character toward a deeper more layered character. Now, if you focus on this part of the story, it is easy to see nothing but darkness. These once idealistic and naive characters are often forced by circumstances to be more practical, and as a result more ruthless. However, on closer inspection you can see the uplifting part of each of the characters.

The Shawshank Redemption of Fantasy

My view is that for the most part these characters are like the characters in Shawshank Redemption. If you remember the novel or movie, you will recall how terrible the day to day life of those characters were. I mean there are beatings, sexual abuse, torture, etc. It sucks. But the big idea, seems to be about taking the "long view of life." The protagonist in Shawshank seem to be saying by their actions, "no matter how bad it gets, if I can just make it today and the next, then there is hope for a better future" (a beach in their case). Similarly, in the "First Law," men and women who one would imagine have very little to live for, continue to live, they continue to survive despite their current conditions. Despite their bad acts, they continually attempt to start over and do better. I don't want to spoil the story, but there is one character who is in excruciating pain, his every movement, we learn, is an exercise in pushing through extreme pain. And yet, this character continues to push forward. Another character, has committed some of the most horrible atrocities possible and has earned a most horrible reputation. And yet, he spends a great deal of time trying to be a better person. Even the characters one would typical consider bad guys, like the first King of the North, when looked at closely, seems to be at least aiming for a utilitarian good. If you read these books, all of them, and you really try to get to take a look at the world through the eyes of the characters, I believe you will be surprised to find that most of the characters have a redeeming quality (from that scoundrel Nicomo Cosca to the self centered Jezal dan Luthar). Thus, this book can be helpful to normal people, I think. There are so few fictions that ask us to take the long view. Many people go through bad stretches in their marriage, for instance, and they just take the easy way out and get a divorce. Never giving thought to possibly getting to a better place by grinding out the tough patches. The same goes for bad jobs, bad bosses, bad health, and all sort of other circumstances. Now, I should qualify my view. In Shawshank, the protagonist do find that beach at the end. However, even when a character finds a beach in Abercrombie, the beach tends to be a little more complex (see Glockta and Monza Murcatto). Maybe my theory is way off the mark. After all, it's possible Mr. Abercrombie is just out to show how grim dark he really is. Pick up the books and tell me what you think of my theory. If you've already read the books, I'd love to hear your view.

Tips

If you are planning on reading Abercrombie, I want to warn you of a few things. The first trilogy needs to be read as though it were one book. I've heard people complain about how little action takes place in the first book. It seems at this point, many have an expectation to see a great deal of action from Abercombie. While there is action in the first book, great action scenes actually, the first book is truly an introduction. I find it amazing how much of the book takes place in the mind of his characters. There are very few writers who can get me to care about multiple characters, but Abercrombie does this very well. Trust me, keep reading, and let yourself really get to know the characters and their motivations. The action will come. Another piece of advice, I truly believe you need to read all the books from The Blade Itself to Red Country in order. I've always thought that Abraham's talk of grim dark only makes since if you just randomly pick up The Heroes and read it out of context. After all, I really think of all the books that one has a good ending (because the North at least looks like its headed for some peace), but that would be evident if you fail to read the previous books.

Finally, there are a lot of elements that I haven't touched. There is a lot more going on in these books that what I've described here. But do yourself a favor and pick up all of these books and read them one after another. You will fill in the blanks.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tami sutcliffe
Excellent book. Every bit as excellent as Abercrombie's First Law series and more. It's set in the same world, except it's one book, the fighting/murder/horrors are constant instead of frequent and everyone is, inexplicably, less good. The violence is disquieting and inglorious. The characters lurch from outright nihilism to furtive hope and ideals and back again. Magic is much rarer than in the main series, and the book is the better for it. It's not a revenge tragedy in the classic sense but comes very close to it. Perhaps it could be called a revenge near-tragedy.

It's arguable that there is some character recycling from the main series: the protagonist has similar-ish physical circumstances to Glokta. But I found the similarities conceptual and no more. Monza is both more and less poignant/tragic/disgusting than the torturer, and unlike Glokta her complications unfold in real time instead of through brief flashbacks.

Reading the First Law series prior to this is helpful but not strictly necessary. If you liked the series you'll adore the book. If Song of Ice and Fire is too meandering or just too plain George R. R. Martin for you then you will also love the book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sithen sum
I can't seem to get enough of Joe Abercrombie, and after reading the 1st Law Trilogy he has quickly become one of my favorite authors. So, I was eager to give Best Served Cold a try. Let me tell you, if you enjoy gritty, bloody action, coupled with witty humor and morally ambiguous characters, then this is the book for you. The main character assembles a team then systematically exacts revenge on those who did her wrong. It's an excellent read. I found myself laughing out loud at times and there was a part during a torture scene that was really tough to read, and I don't have a weak stomach. It is very helpful to have read the 1st Law Trilogy as you will recognize some recurring characters, but not totally necessary. Don't hesitate in picking up this book.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
ranee
I loved the First Law Trilogy, even though I am not a fan of "gritty" anything. The characters, the story, and the writing grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. Therein lay the problem, for the bar was set very high for Best Served Cold. The characters didn't disappoint, from the flamboyant Cosca to the pompous Morveer, from Day's continual eating to Friendly's obsession with numbers, Shivers' striving to be a better man to Monza's driving determination. Abercrombie has a way of making despicable people likeable. The story, however, failed to be much more than a 600 page account of Monza's quest for revenge, one man at a time. It got old. There didn't seem to be any broader theme or deeper issue that the story addressed. An important thread about Monza's brother that had been building up went nowhere, had no effect. And while we do expect our protagonist to make it through the book, there were a few too many instances of "saved in the nick of time" to be believable. The novel ends without any sense of closure and comes across rather as a preparatory novel that will serve as the background for future books. As for the writing, it dwelled too much on descriptions of violence and brutality. The language was pervasively vulgar and the sex raunchy. True, Abercrombie is not out to write a bouncy tale of rainbows and butterflies, where nothing bad ever happens, everything smells sweet, and everyone ends up happy, but his over-emphasis on all that is coarse and bloody turns off readers who might otherwise enjoy his talent as an author. But I guess it's a matter of taste.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ben chapman
I loved the First Law trilogy and I'd have to say this book might be even better. It follows Monza, the main character, on her quest for vegence against 7 different people. Along the way she hires some rough and shady characters to get the job done. Some are characters that were introduced before but get fleshed out more like Cosca and Shivers.

Abercrombie is easily one of my favorite fantasy authors. All his books are page turners and have very gritty and realistic fights/violence. I love that most if not all his characters fall into the grey area. If you are looking for a clear hero's tale this is not your book. But the way he creates his characters is great in my opinion. Very real to life and even more so given the world he has created. I could go on more and more but overall this book is awesome and you will not put it down.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
erin yuffe
Best Served Cold is the first "spin-off" or stand-alone novel written in the setting of Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, but it reads well for someone who has had no exposure to the previous novels. Though there are frequent allusions to previous characters of the trilogy such as Logen Ninefingers and "The Cripple," they are not so frequent as to confuse a reader who chooses to read this book prior to the trilogy (though having read the First Law books certainly gives some insight to the characters of this book).

The basic premise of the book is that of the hero that was wronged and now seeks revenge. Of course, in the hands of Joe Abercrombie, this revenge promises to be quite bloody and to end in utter gloom. The main character, Monza Mercatto, is the stunningly beautiful and stunningly ruthless general of the Thousand Swords, a mercenary army in the employ of the Grand Duke Orso of Talins, who is well on his way to becoming the first king of a united Styria. However, power breeds jealousy and he finds Monza growing too popular for his tastes and has her and her brother, Benna killed; or so he had hoped. Monza survived the gruesome attempt on her life thanks to a shadowy benefactor who stitches her back together with the help of several gold coins and the drug husk, to which Monza becomes addicted. She soon recovers, and thus our revenge story begins.

Along the way, we are introduced to several intriguing characters as Monza amasses a small cadre of assassins to help in her plot. Some we know as not-so-peripheral characters of the previous First Law books (Caul Shivers, Nicomo Cosca, and Vitari), and some we meet for the first time (Friendly, Morveer, and Day). As in his previous books, Abercrombie shows some great skill with creating memorable characters. Abercrombie does well to produce memorable and multi-faceted characters, especially in Monza, Caul, and Cosca through the course of the book. We are led to believe through the meat of the book, that these characters are growing and changing, and he does a good job at showing the changes in these characters with actions, conversations, and interactions with others. However, at times, he does make the unnecessary mistake of having several of the characters describe their growth and change in inner dialogue, which breaks the "show, don't tell" rule of writing. For example, Caul Shivers, fresh from his adventures in the North described in the First Law series, comes to Styria to "become a better man." He, like Monza, had spent much of his life obsessed with gaining revenge on Logen Ninefingers for the murder of his brother. However, he found himself fighting on the side of the Bloody Nine and decided to forego his opportunity for revenge and venture out into the world and become something other than a killer. However, as the book progresses, we see in his actions that he is sliding back into that man that we met in the North. His personality changes, his conversations become more gloomy, and his interactions with Monza especially begin to degrade. We can easily see this change from the details Abercrombie offers in his writing. Nevertheless, he uses inner dialogue and multiple conversations to go on and on about Shivers' changing (or rather inability to change). A single conversation, some climactic argument with Monza, may have been forgiven, but all of the telling was just a little too much.

Abercrombie also continues to show us he is the master of the fight scene. This skill is invaluable to a writer of fantasy fiction, especially in his sub-niche of fantasy noir. In the First Law, we were treated to multiple stellar fight scenes which are some of my favorite fight scenes from all of the books I have read. Abercrombie shows off his skill further in Best Served Cold. Though we are not afforded the massive build ups in the fights of the First Law series, the fight scenes in this book are well written and keep you on the seat of your pants. Some people complain that the gruesome and gory nature of these scenes are "too much," but Abercrombie has never been one to pull punches in this department, and I love him for it.

Overall this book is very well written and is a fun romp through the slightly familiar world of Styria. Somehow Abercrombie takes the fantasy noir genre and makes it more fun than I would think possible. It's hard to take themes such as "the world is full of awful people and no matter how hard they want to be better, the world will smash them in the face and ruin their lives until they decide to accept that the world sucks" and make it fun and sometimes even funny. His character writing skills are very good, and he capitalizes on this ability to make very memorable stories with very memorable personalities. I mean, how can you not love Nicomo Cosca and his constant blathering and finger-in-the-eye treatment of authority. I gave this book 3.75 stars, and thus, a round up to 4.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
may chan
I enjoyed this book thoroughly from cover to cover. The characters are fascinating, flawed and make you groan out loud with the many stupid decisions they make. The dialogue is absolutely brilliant and is what really makes Abercrombie's books hard to put down (even at 2 a.m., when I should be sleeping and getting ready for work....)

I wish I could write like Abercrombie. I think he is as talented as Martin, but with an even darker vision. After reading "Best Served Cold," I had to re-read the trilogy. There are so many cross over characters, but I couldn't remember what part they played in the First Law trilogy. I was very glad that Nicomo Cosca was back in this volume. In my opinion he is one of the most entertaining fantasy characters of the last 30 years. In BSC you get to learn a bit more about him and what makes him tick (that said he still remains largely a mystery at the end of the book).

I was glad to reacquaint myself with Vitari and Shivers, who were only small characters in the trilogy.

POSSIBLE SPOILER************* I still can't figure out where the hell Shenkt came from and what the deal is between him and Vitari?? I kept thinking he would be explained by a re-reading of the First Law trilogy (maybe an Eater? or magi who made it through Bayaz's final battle?) But no such answers were found with a second reading.

Anyhow, I think Abercrombie is phenomenal and unique in the fantasy genre. However, I think his penchant for gritty finales may not be everyone's cup of tea. If you are looking for a cute little package with dragons, honorable knights, bad bad villains, et cetera, this isn't the guy to read. Characters like Logan (from the First Law Trilogy) and Shivers are both good guys and guys who do the unspeakable. They are not Aragorn or Frodo, they will not always do the right thing. That said, they are a lot more interesting than Aragorn or Frodo ever were.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kein
...but it is not quite so brilliant as Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy that it acts as a loose sequel to. If you have not read the First Law trilogy, stop reading this review immediately, order them, read all three and then come back when you're done. Good. Now carrying on: Best Served Cold picks up the story a few years down the road and starts with Duke Orso (last seen turning up with his army in relief of the Gurkish assault on the Union capital) and his mercenary general, Monza Murcatto. Various characters from First Law pick up new roles in this trilogy (but none of the main five characters make any kind of extended appearance), but for the most part it is fresh faces in fresh places. The pace and skill of the storytelling is similar, and as with First Law trilogy Abercrombie finishes by brilliantly tying all the plots lines together at the conclusion. Abercrombie's brilliant style style is as engaging as ever. It is a very good book, and a welcome chance to walk with Abercrombie again within the brilliantly colourful fantasy world that he has created.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ashley hilgeford
Joe Abercrombie's deft characterization drives this violent story, keeping me guessing at every turn.

Best Served Cold is, as the title suggests, a novel about revenge. We follow Monza Murcatto as she attempts to kill seven men who betrayed her, killed her brother, and left her for dead. We also tag along with the more relatable optimist Caul Shivers whom Monza hires to help her do her dirty work along with an assorted band of people with lethal trades.

The plot is pretty simple, but that's not what makes Best Served Cold so exciting and entertaining. The characters are brilliant. We can easily relate to Shivers, out of his comfort zone, in a word where he doesn't belong. He's trying to do good, but he just can't seem to stay that way. His dramatic change from optimist to a hardened, cold pessimist is completely believable.

And while we're definitely rooting for Monza, as the book progresses, Abercrombie does a great job of showing her descent into hell. She can only wash so much blood off her hands. Eventually it builds up and she must be forced come to the full realization of her actions. And her relationship with her brother adds an odd element into the mix.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the characters is how they interact with each other. I almost forgot I was reading a book. The way they talk and interface is extremely fun to read. There are no black and white characters here, which is true to life. Every character is very flawed, and some of the "good guys" are straight up evil. But you find yourself rooting for many of them nonetheless.

Abercrombie's writing style is simple and clear but not dumbed down. There are moments of striking descriptions, but he never lingers on what's unnecessary. He really knows what elements to bring out a scene to make in impact on your mind.

Best Served Cold is actually paced rather slowly even though there is quite a bit of action. Dialogue fills many of the pages, and there's a good balance between exposition and the dialogue. The battle scenes and fight scenes are a blast to read, one in particular comes to mind that involves Monza and one of her enemies conversing as they try to hack each other to pieces.

One of my favorite features of Abercrombie's writing is the humor and irony he injects into it. Every page is pungent with sarcasm and there is a ton of humor so dark it's difficult to see. The dialogue is dripping with realism and is completely shameless and unabashed.

Abercrombie builds a realistic, dark, gritty world for these characters to live in, and he doesn't go to great lengths to describe. Every culture, city, and town isn't described in blocks of explanation. They're revealed as the characters see them. We know what we need to know, when we need to know it, and that works just fine for me.

My very few problems with this book lie with its length. Don't get me wrong, I like long books, but I feel as if it could have been tightened up a bit. I can't point to a specific instance, but I definitely think that a couple character viewpoints could have been cut, perhaps a scene or two. But other than that, Best Served Cold is nearly flawless.

To sum it all up, the characters are realistic and dynamic, the pacing is consistent, the dialogue is authentic, the story is simple and effective, the writing is solid and readable, the tone is dark and pessimistic, and it's humorous beside, making for a highly entertaining read.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sepky
Abercrombie is a master wordsmith. He effortlessly draws you into a richly detailed world with robust characters and a tired and true plot structure. Once you (quickly) realize that each of the seven revenge murders will involve an elaborate setup and then explore how it goes wrong you fear that this will get tired and repetitive fast. It never does. The book keeps you hooked.

The two main characters start with very different moralities, and as the book unfolds their views slowly switch in magnificent parallel character arcs. The supporting characters are just as strong, one pragmatically accepting the world and riding the waves of chaos, one fighting against it and trying to impose order. All of them are fascinating to read.

A word of caution – the violence is relentless. This isn’t a horror or torture-porn (which I will not watch or read), but it is bloody and doesn’t pull any punches. I reached my annual limit of unrelenting death about 2/3rds of the way through, and still had hundreds of bodies to go through before the end. However that only contributes to the story and its exploration of the senseless nature of violence.

This book is fantastic.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
truc khuyen
"You were a hero round these parts. That's what they call you when you kill so many people the word murderer falls short."

Considering the title of the book, it is not surprising that Abercrombie's first stand-alone is a story about revenge. Monzcarro Murcatto, along with her brother Benna, is the notorious leader of the mercenary band, The Thousand Swords (whose actual numbers long ago surpassed a thousand). She has brought victory after victory to Orso, Grand Duke of Talins, and become fairly wealthy and popular as a result. Perhaps too popular. At least that is what Orso fears. Unfortunately for Monza, he has her thrown down a mountain. Unfortunately for Orso, she survives. And now the Snake of Talins wants vengeance.

But she can't do it alone, so she enlists the help of some morally ambiguous characters to aid her in her quest. This includes a self-important blowhard of a poisoner and his apprentice, a number-obsessed (and, I suspect, autistic) convict, a Northman looking to make a fresh start, a former torturer's assistant, and last, but by no stretch the least, an infamous soldier of fortune.

Best Served Cold is, technically, a stand-alone that is set in the same world as The First Law Trilogy Boxed Set: The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, Last Argument of Kings. But I would definitely say that having read the trilogy, while not a prerequisite, certainly brings increased enjoyment to the proceedings. There are some characters that play a major role in the book who readers of The First Law will recognize, and others from the trilogy who appear only briefly, but will have fans smiling at the cameos and mentions. The book is not as easily accessible as the trilogy, but represents a more mature take on the world from Abercrombie. His characters seem a bit more fleshed out, and the writing is superb.

The book is even more violent than the trilogy, but Abercrombie has a knack for writing fight scenes and it never seems out of character for the tone of the series. The action always feels fluid, fast, logical and sensible. You practically see the fights, rather than read them.

There are some flaws, of course. Caul Shivers -- one of our primary protagonists, and the man who spent his time in the trilogy contemplating killing our favorite nine-fingered barbarian -- seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Logen. A tested warrior who leaves his home looking to make a better (and hopefully less violent) life. As he soon founds out, Styria is not nearly the land of opportunity that he was told. Or rather, it's home to a wholly different sort of opportunity.

Another flaw -- if it is one -- is that I never quite felt connected to Monza. Her quest for vengeance seems to consume her entirely, and we rarely get to see anything more than glimpses of he personality. Maybe it was deliberate; maybe Abercrombie wrote a character that is so deeply flawed that she is meant to be unlikable. But of all the Abercrombie novels I've read (and I've read all of them) Monza is the one protagonist who I felt the least empathy for. I can't really say I ever found myself caring whether she succeeded or not.

On the plus side, the other protagonists are excellent. Morveer, the egotistical poisoner; Cosca, the definition of a lovable scoundrel; and Friendly, the strong and silent (and psychopathic) type. All make for very interesting POVs, and do a great deal to give the book an overall feel very different from the trilogy.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the book. It's really quite good. Not Abercrombie's best, perhaps, but I'm in the camp that believes that Abercrombie at less than his best is still better than almost anyone. And, as usual with Abercrombie books, the cover (at least the British cover pictured here) is awesome, specially in person. All in all, a solid 4/5.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amber garza
CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHY THEY'RE NOT ALL STRAIGHT FIVES??? What's NOT to like?

Who are the naysayers? What did they think they were buying? I read the first three books (great) and wanted more of the same - Torture, Sex, Murder and Betrayal. You will not be disappointed, can't wait for this talented author to write some End Of The World/Zombie books!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tisha
The war is almost over. Grand Duke Orso has smashed the League of Eight, and now it comes down to picking up the pieces. Mercenary Captain Monza Murcatto looks forward to picking up those pieces...both the pieces of plunder she'll collect as she rolls to victory and ultimately peace, something her land has not known for a generation. Suspecting her of plotting to overthrow him, though, Duke Orso, along with his bodyguard, son, and several others including one of Murcatto's lieutenants, murder her brother and stab her repeatedly.

Murcatto is near death but rescued by a mysterious doctor who nurses her to a semblance of health. She vows revenge on the seven men who killed her brother and nearly killed her.

Murcatto gathers a small group of killers, a northman berserker, a poisoner, a torturer, and an obsessive-compulsive ex-con and murderer and sets about getting her revenge. Revenge, though, has its own rules and demands its own price. As Friendly, the ex-con counts off the murders, each member of Murcatto's party changes, questions themselves, and probes the darkness of their own soul and, in the case of Murcatto, the soul of her murdered brother.

Author Joe Abercrombie creates a fascinating world with a strong resemblance to renaissance Italy. The story's strength, though, comes from his creating a set of characters who all see themselves as justified in their actions. This is no battle of good against evil, it is far truer than that. Instead, characters battle themselves, seek what they think they need to survive, and allow misunderstandings to blow up into outright war.

At times, it's hard to find characters to sympathize with. Northman Shivers begins as sympathetic but is transformed by Murcatto's revenge into something dark and damaged. Murcatto herself should have recognized that her brother's plotting would lead to the kind of problems it did but blinded herself to him. Perhaps poisoner Morveer, with his strange inability to make himself understood and the number-obsessed Friendly are the most sympathetic characters in the story.

I found BEST SERVED COLD to be compelling and strong, but very dark. This is not feel-good fiction, but it's make-you-think fiction. Although I thought the faceoff between Murcatto and Orso to be a bit deus ex machina, I'll definitely be looking for more by Joe Abercrombie.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
trish chiles
Let me preface by saying I'm not even really going to touch on the content or plot as that information is available elsewhere, above. What you really want to know when you read a review is: did the book entertain? Is it worth the money? To what kind of reader will it appeal. Hopefully I can share my answers to those questions...

This is my first book by Abercrombie and, assuming the rest of his work is this good, he has already earned a place among my favorite authors. Best Served Cold is a fantastic example of all the things I love most in a novel: Great characters, a little grit (or a lot, in this case), some sardonic humor, and a great, fast-paced plot. No black and white here, everything is in varying shades of gray. The author's attempts at humor are actually funny (which is pretty rare outside of those books for which humor is the stated aim) and despite all the darkness, the characters are easy to identify with.

This is one of those books that has a cast, rather than a main character or two and a bunch of supporting props with names. For someone like me, who really leans towards those stories that are driven by their characters, this was a real treat. I honestly don't know what else to say about this book that hasn't already been said, but I will say that it lived up to all the expectations I had for it, having read reviews before buying, and then went one further. If you are a fan of George R. R. Martin, Steven Erickson, Greg Keyes, Scott Bakker, and even Pat Rothfuss, do yourself a favor and pick this one up. You'll be very happy you did.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
adel maher
Mr. Abercrombie delivers another fantastic read with Best Served Cold. This stand alone novel is back in the world he created in the First Law Triology. Like his other works, this book is stuffed with action, violence, and vivid characterization.

The main enjoyment I received from this book was the painting and development of the characters. In that, Mr. Abercrombie writes a character driven novel rather than the more typical plot driven fantasy novel. Despite the fast pace of narrative, he takes plenty of time to explain and develop even minor characters. Some of the characters I loved and some I detested, but I understood all of them and therefore understood their actions. Too often, fantasy authors envision a great story arc and then create puppet characters to allow them to tell that story. In this book we have complex characters who make decisions that lead to a great story... kind of the way real life seems to work.

In line with his vivid characterization we also see characters develop and change, in some cases for the worse. There is a drunken general past his prime and penniless struggling to return to what he once was. There is a character who struggled in the First Law Trilogy with the desire for revenge. He offers initial hope that there can be redemption in this story of revenge only to find himself jarred away from the man he desires to be. The players in this story are not only vivid but are allowed to change as events sweep along.
While classified as a fantasy novel for the world its set in, this could just as easily be a work of fiction or historical fiction. There is essentially no magic (but for a brief minor character). It's refreshing to see a good fantasy read without the use of magic, dragons, elves, or orcs.

The violence in this book is initially jarring and very instep with the characters and the world. However, by the books end I found myself becoming numb. There were so many fights, so many deaths, and so many gruesome slaughters that by the end I was a little stunned. A story of revenge shouldn't be a pretty thing, but I felt as if I myself had been bludgeoned over the head. The turning point for me came when a character hacks off a leg of a dead body and ponders whether to eat it as a roast or in a stew. I'm no shrinking violet and enjoy other harsh novels such as Martin's and Cook's works, but this one definitely was pushing the edge of my enjoyment. Imagine if Quentin Tarantino decided to redo The Count of Monte Cristo and you might end up with Best Served Cold.

My other complaint was the depiction of the sex scenes. I imagine them to be realistic and consistent with the mercenary characters. However, the scenes were to the point of being gratuitous. For example, at one criticial juncture in the story, two different couples were having sex. The acts themselves were important and represented a further breaking apart of two of the characters. That being said, the detail was overboard for my taste. This one scene took place over 4 pages of indulgent and explicit detail. I could have gotten the point with a single paragraph.

So my two minor complaints were the unending violence and the gratuitous sex. I felt a little more subtlety would have worked better for me. That being said, I think this was a conscious choice by the author and his attempt at achieving a certain effect.

In the end, I greatly enjoyed this read. The characters were vivid and believable. Through the first two-thirds of the novel, I felt it was in line with a 5 star review. As I grew numbed to the violence, the book slipped slightly to a 4 star read for me. Perhaps given more time and reflection I will feel differently. Fans of Abercrombie should love this novel.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
bulu iraddim
The title of this book, "Best Served Cold," does an excellent job of telling you what to expect in it: revenge. Just about everything in the book circles around that (literally -- and not just the main story-line). Never having read anything by Joe Abercrombie before and seeing the subject matter, I really didn't expect good writing. I was pleasantly surprised. Abercrombie's technical writing ability is very good. I did have a couple of instances where I had to puzzle out what was happening because he was using parallel plot/dialog techniques. But, those were small occurrences and the writing technique, itself, was enough to allow forgiveness. Unlike a few others here, I found the character development to be very good (though the development is not in a pleasant direction). You should be aware that the violence is quite prevalent and graphic. But, what can you expect in a book with this subject material (it's also necessary to what Abercrombie is trying to get across)? Similarly, the "interpersonal relations" are very graphic (unfortunately, that level of detail seems to be gratuitous). Interestingly, Abercrombie seems to be hiding an enjoyable psychological and sociological treatment of revenge under all the gore. Outside of the gratuitous "interpersonal relations" details, I enjoyed the book and am rating it a Very Good 4 stars out of 5.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
laura anderson
This is a stand alone novel of revenge and murder, set in the world of his previous trilogy and does feature some characters from there, but you do not need to have read the trilogy to enjoy this.

Anway, successful mercenary Monza gets too popular for employer Duke Orso so he traps and murders her brother and thinks he has killed her too. But Monza and her now broken body has survived and now plots her revenge.....gathering together a small group of misfits (all with their own problems) she starts to work through her list of those involved in the murder of her brother...I'm not going to spoil the plot for you, suffice to say I have lost two days of my life ploughing through this and enjoyed every page.

Abercrombie's writing is full of rich and dark characters with more then a touch of black humour and this is a simply superb novel which I think pushes him further to the forefront of British fantasy.

When David Gemmell tragically died a couple of years ago, it was a massive blow to British fantasy, but authors like Joe Abercrombie and James Barclay are producing some real quality to fill that gap. Add to that the likes of Scott Lynch and Patrick Rothfuss from the US, these are good days indeed.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kris borowsky
So far this is my favorite book from the entire First Law world! Absolutely stunning and gruesomely descriptive narration lends to a visualization in the minds eye like I have never received before from any reading. The constant internal struggle between good and bad that is tearing at Shivers throughout the entire book is sometimes heart-wrenching while at other times morally traumatic and it all leads to telling not only his story post original trilogy but also explains his existence in the next novel The Heroes as well. This has been one of the best thought out and prepared series of books I have ever read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
meagan
I'm a big fan of Joe Abercrombie's first series of books, the outstanding sword-n-sorcery saga "The First Law" trilogy. So when I heard about 'Best Served Cold,' I was of two minds: 1) I'd like to read this as soon as possible, assuming 2) that is isn't the start of another series of books which I would then have to wait for the conclusion to.

Happily, the book is wholly standalone - parts will make significantly more sense if one has first read "The First Law," but there isn't anything presented in the book that REQUIRES one to have read the series.

Much like his original series, 'Best Served Cold' focuses on a collection of core characters and their respective motivations, and he manages to create a cast that's believable, engaging and entertaining.

The story largely is about the price of vengeance on those who seek it, and it's interesting to see the characters' various responses to the toll of the task they have undertaken takes upon them.

The story does take some surprising twists and turns, and with the exception of one of these twists (somewhat spoiler - the presumed death of one character) they are all quite well handled - unexpected in the extreme at points, but with that one exception very well in keeping to the verisimilitude of the story as a whole.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tyler menz
This is an incredible follow-up to "The First Law" trilogy. A very realistic story of one man's decline and one woman's redemption(sort of). Joe once again developes characters you can get to know and care for no matter how nasty they become. Gives you a very stark view of the human nature and motives behind some actions that seem inhuman. A great study of how people with certian intentions(maybe not the best intentions) can be propelled into something much larger than intended. Also shows how someone with the best intentions can be diverted by circumstance to do things unthinkable. Great story of the decline of Shivers and how someone could become the "Bloody Nine". Not nearly as deadly yet but becoming as uncaring and losing his humanity. He started out with the best intentions and has turned into what he hated most. Definately an not an upbeat novel with a happy ending. No one seems to win. However it is an outstanding study of human nature and how the best intentions can go haywire. Very disappointed to have a caring person like Shivers end-up the way he did but more realistic than the "everyones happpy" ending. You can still feel for Shivers at the end and hope he can try to fight off becoming the new "Bloody Nine" when he returns to the North. Hopefully he can still become "a better man". Doesn't look good at this point though. I just hope Joe doesn't leave us hanging with Shivers future. Have not read it yet but there is no mention of Shivers in anything I've seen about Joe's newest book "Heroes". I would really like to see if Shivers can overcome his inner demons or if he becomes another "Bloody Nine". If he does will the original Logan "Bloody Nine" have to come back to stop him after becoming a "better man"? At this point Shivers would not stand a chance but what will he become?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
katie wickliff
The premise of "Best Served Cold" is simple enough to be spelled out on the back cover. It's about a woman scorned who decides that much like Quentin Tarantino's Bride, she will make the men who wronged her pay in the most violent way possible. Joe Abercrombie wastes no time getting the ball rolling, and before long the reader is swept up in the tales of Monzcarro Murcatto and those she touches on her quest for bloody vengeance. His descriptions are visceral and concise, his action scenes intense and cinematic in their vivid detail. The dialogue is full of sharp one-liners and always moves the story forward, never content to rest, not even for a few pages. Even in a book as long as this, there is no filler, each page proving necessary to the churning plot as it moves toward the inevitable conclusion. He could have taken some easy outs, but Abercrombie instead chooses to walk a fine tightrope in terms of plot and resolution, and in the end he succeeds at crafting a satisfying tale of death, destruction, and meditation on our world and the choices we make in it, with an emphasis on how our actions shape the world we live in. For fans of the dark wave of fantasy that has grown over the last 10-15 years, this is a no-brainer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
margie kuzminski
I have to say I did not like this book as much as the first law trilogy in terms of story. But this book is a very fine addition into the world the author is writing, I still believe he has some of the best pros in the business. I was glad to see some different characters in a different part of the world, do some crazy scheming trying to kill each other. Once again all around solid story telling, characters, and fight scenes.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
nykkya
Best Served Cold is Joe Abercrombie's first stand alone novel after his highly successful First Law trilogy. It's smash full of the Abercrombie style we loved so much in the first three books; blood, guts, backstabbing, and those nasty, non-heroic characters. Then add in all that good ole experience gained from completing a trilogy and you get a novel that has solid characterization from Chapter One and a plot that keeps building and building. This, ladies and gentlemen, is called entertainment.

The best thing about BSC is the main character, Monza Murcatto. Because Fantasy has a dearth of well written female mains. And because, (forgive me if this sounds sexist) male authors don't often get it right. Either the female is a helpless twit, running into toothy situations which backlogs the plot and requires some sort of heroic rescuing. Or it's the opposite spectrum where sexy sirens armed to the teeth bull their way around, slaughtering enemies with giant weapons and steel toed shoes, bosoms spilling out of their teeny leather corsets.

Ok, I admit, I wax extreme.

But with Murcatto, What's there not to like? She's a unique combination of vain, grotesque, villainous, compassionate, evil, female badassery. Take an evil king doing bad things, add some revenge, and mix in a proper horde of turn-cloak characters like a mercenary in AA, two crazy poisoners, and a barbarian-gone-good, now you have solid, dark fantasy.

I shouldn't say more, since I didn't warn about spoilers. Suffice to say, this is probably my favorite Abercrombie jaunt thus far. Yea, of course there are things I could pick at. But in the end, what really matters to a reader is entertainment value. Did this entertain? Check. Did I laugh? Check. Inspiring? Check.

Voilà. Five stars.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
ahadiyat
The author's "First Law" trilogy crashed onto the noir fantasy scene like a mercenary's battle ax and if you enjoyed that -- and I did, very much -- you'll be right at home with this one. We all know what's "best served cold" and vengeance in all its forms is very much the theme. The setting is the same world we learned about in such detail in the trilogy, too, though the story takes place in a new section of it. In other words, this is technically a standalone novel and you can read it just fine as your introduction to Abercrombie, but you'll enjoy it more if you've read the trilogy first.

Grand Duke Orso of Talins (whose daughter married the High King of the Union in the earlier trilogy) wants to be the first King of Styria and for a number of years his greatest help in reducing the competition has been Monzcarro Murcatto, Captain-General of the Thousand Swords, and her brother, Benna. Monza keeps defeating armies and capturing towns for him, but Orso is becoming suspicious that she has designs on his crown herself. And so he decides to play it cautious and rid himself of the pair of them. So Benna is dead, but Monza is still alive when her body is thrown down the mountain, and that's a very bad error on the Duke's part. The seven men who were present, including Orso and both his sons, are going to have to die. But she knows she's going to need help.

Shivers is another supporting character from the trilogy, a Northman whose older brother was killed by Ninefingers but who passed up his own chance at revenge. He's come to Styria in an attempt to make a new for himself and to become a better man. In the meantime, fighting is what he knows and he hires on with Murcatto. He's going to wish he hadn't. Vitari of the spiky red hair used to be one of Inquisitor Glotka's most formidable assistants, but she eventually went back to Styria to look after her family. Now she's been recruited, too. And so has Friendly, an ex-convict obsessed with numbers and counting who is also a stone killer. Even Nicomo Cosca, a most engaging mercenary and the very image of disloyalty, who was also Murcatto's mentor and predecessor in the Thousand Swords (and who has every reason to hate her but doesn't, really), has a role to play. Finally, there's the sneeringly arrogant Morveer, master poisoner, who can eliminate the enemy in places where a sword could never penetrate.

The story builds in complexity and intensity as the still somewhat crippled Monza, assisted by her crew of killers, seeks out her would-be murderers one by one and removes them from the world. Nobody escapes unscathed, however, especially Shivers, who learns some hard truths about himself. And the pursuit of revenge proves to be as damaging to those behind the sword as those in front of it.

There are no heroes here, really. Abercrombie doesn't do heroes. It's an every-man-for-himself kind of world (and I suspect the author would argue that's true of *any* world). He has also developed a talent for grim humor and his descriptions both of large battles and of one-on-one close-up struggles are masterful. In fact, there's probably more death and bloody violence in these 600 pages than in any other six novels I can think of. (This isn't a book for fifteen-year-old fans of Tarzan and Indiana Jones. Wait a few years, kids.) Abercrombie is now firmly established on my short list of "automatic" authors, those whose new works I buy without even reading the reviews. That's how good he is.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
hemeldav
It seems like I started reading Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold eons ago, but truthfully it's only been a month or so. The US version comes in at around 630 pages, making it a hefty tome to get through. In addition to this, I've just not had as much reading time as I'd like lately, and something had to give. Finally, and with relief, I finished the novel.

Best Served Cold is a ruthless tale, filled with cutthroat, unlikeable characters, including mercenaries, poisoners, killers, politicians, and a whole slew of others. From the start we know the book is going to be a bloody ride, and Abercrombie lays the violence and deceit on thick.

Monza Murcatto, the Serpent of Talins, the Butcher of Caprile, should have died when she was thrown from the tower. Instead she was broken, scarred, and maimed. When she finally regains some of her health, she sets out on a quest of revenge. Simply, she wants to kill the seven men responsible for her brother's death and the attempt on her life. She recruits a band of employees to help her with her many tasks. Shivers, a Northman from the Union, has arrived in Styria optimistic and ready to be a better man. Castor Morveer, the self-proclaimed greatest poisoner in the Circle of the World, and his assistant, Day. Ex-prisoner Friendly, an autistic man with a thing for numbers. Vitari, a former Practical for the Inquisition. And the former head of the Thousand Swords, the famed mercenary Nicoma Cosca. Together, the motley crew travels throughout Styria seeking Monza's vengeance.

I knew this book would be bloody. I knew it would be filled with gritty words and unpleasant scenes. But I knew it would be good, too, or so I thought. I suppose my anticipation was too high. Joe Abercrombie's The First Law trilogy was some of the finest SFF I've read in a while, excellent in blending an intriguing story with a masterful mixture of words. Best Served Cold, sadly, lacked the fascinating tale.

Perhaps one of the big problems was that the characters were all unrelatable to me. Some may possess mercy and compassion, but none really show it. The cast is full of murderers, thieves, and liars, and there's not a heroic trait among the group of them. All are either driven by their greed/need for money or their quest for vengeance. And it's hard to root for someone for 630 pages when you don't really like or care much about any of them.

Furthermore, I feel that the story dried up. The book is divided into subsections, each one in a different city of Styria, each one with a different person to be killed. So while the book has plenty of surprising moments, it's also quite repetitive and predictable, too. Plot the kill and execute the plan. Check. Wash off the blood and repeat.

The book was not unenjoyable, but it was a completely different kind of read. Abercrombie is still a master wordsmith and an excellent developer of character. His choice of wording can evoke laughter ("...surprised like she'd found a turd in bed") or introspection. Each POV character thinks differently, and Abercrombie portrays all quite well.

Another thing I enjoyed from this book was the sense of realism in the tale. Styria is dark and dangerous. The Years of Blood have been long and taxing and the reader can feel this. This realistic story still manages to maintain elements of fantasy and not seem trite.

Overall, the book had enough going in it for me to finish, but I think it definitely could have been shorter and things left out. I enjoyed many parts and there were some characters that I did like on occasion, but no one was really a hero, either. Another reason to read the book is that it relates to The First Law series, and some things happen here that will definitely affect the future of the Circle of the World. Be warned, the book has some explicit sex scenes that easily could've been cut, some pretty brutal violence, and some heavy cussing from time to time. If you can look past these faults and you care about what's coming next from Abercrombie's world, I can easily recommend that you read Best Served Cold. If you've not read The First Law, I would skip this one for now.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
tim p
OMG never have I read a book with a character that had me laughing while reading the entire book. Cosca was a hoot and a close second was Morveer. I loved this book with its many complex characters. The action was fast paced and bloody, just the way I like a fantasy/adventure book to be. The dark humor was spot on; although the plot was not perfect it was still one of the best fantasy/adventure books I have read in a long time. By the conclusion of the book I was wishing Shivers would kill Monza. He saved her ass too many times to be treated in the end like day old trash. If there are other books I hope she gets taken down worse than Prince Orso. At the end of Monza's story I was reminded of the quote from Shakespeare's Henry the IV "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown".

IMO I don't think you have to read the other 3 books before this one unless you want to get more of a background for the time and place.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
horrible
Best Served Cold has to be the most anticipated Fantasy read this year. As soon as I got my greedy hands on it I just had to start. All the fervor over the cover design doesn't matter in the end. It is the pages between the cover that counts and that is truly entertaining. Abercrombie is building on the world he started with The First Law Trilogy although centering it on parts not visited prior, namely Styria and it related nations. Yet it differs from First Law in that it is a much more personal story. He does include a couple minor characters from First Law although they grow much from what they start as. As the title suggests revenge is the driving force. Monza Murcatto is Grand Duke Orso's most trusted general who has won him many battles, but now he feels she has become to popular and will try to usurp him. Orso has Monza's brother Benna killed and nearly her as well in an incredibly detailed account of her literal fall from his graces.

After Monza heals (partially) she begins gathering a group to help get revenge upon those who killed her brother. Abercrombie has done a superb job creating another stellar cast of characters you just love to hate and hate to love along with the most gritty action that could be wanted. Surprisingly, I found the most redeemable character in Friendly, who is a cold blooded killer with an utter fascination for numbers. Although unlike most of the other characters he is very straight forward with his dealings and is perhaps left the most untwisted in the end. Abercrombie still manages a fine balance of well realized characters, believable dialogue with a detailed world while also masterly offering twists and turns to the plot and characters.

Abercrombie has been known to do some vile things to and with his characters and he certainly rides the edge just enough not to turn most readers off with some of his characters predilections most notably involving Monza and her brother's past as well as a certain Duke's sexual interests. Having said that this is definitely not a book for the prudish or squeamish. Overall, I found the style and format very similar to Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora. It is very much a series of capers; however the goals don't involve money, but rather killing. Only the characters aren't lovable rogues (except Cosca) like in TLoLL, but rather some of the most notorious murderers and back-stabbers in the world. Have no doubts that Abercrombie is still cruel to his characters. If anything he does worse to them here than in First Law. There are no happy endings in an Abercrombie book and there never should be.

Best Served Cold is meant as a standalone and newcomers will definitely find it open enough without having read prior volumes yet fans of First Law will be reward for their knowledge of the world and appreciate the little things and some surprise appearances from other characters. I give Best Served Cold 9 out of 10 Hats. Abercrombie has left a few holes open and secrets unrevealed that are sure to pop up in his next novel of the First Law world and I'll be there for it. Abercrombie has once again proven why he is an award-winning author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mischelle
Joe Abercombie's First Law Trilogy introduced readers to the Circle of the World, where magic is fading and what magic is left derives from horrific practices. A fantasy world that is dark, sardonic, bitter and enthralling. He returns to that world in "Best Served Cold," a few years after the events of "First Law."

Monza Murcatto and her brother, Benna, are very successful mercenaries. They have brought their employer, Duke Orso, near to the kingship of fractured Styria by conquering many of the city-states that comprise the League of 8. And Monza, in particular, has become wildly popular with the Duke Orso's citizenry. So much so that he thinks they threaten him and his rule. So he has them assassinated. Benna is killed, but Monza survives - barely - through the ministrations of a ghoulish bone collector. Maimed, drug-addicted and obsessively bitter, she sets out to revenge herself on Duke Orso and the other six men who killed her brother.

She assembles a group - it would be inaccurate to call them a team - that is as ugly and unprincipled as any in fantasy literature. A despicable Master Poisoner and his assistant; a psychopathic murderer who is obsessed with numbers; Nicomo Cozca, the utterly opportunistic mercenary and lush from "First Law;" and Shivers, met briefly in the earlier books, who has come to Styria to try and make himself a better man. And together they create utter chaos throughout Styria as they betray each other, themselves and everyone around them in Monza's quest for revenge. Each revenge murder creates larger complications, not just for Monza, but for the world in which they live. And Monza's obsessive quest subtly infects the members of her group, obsessing them as well.

While other reviewers have disagreed, I think that as a novel of character development this book is brilliant. Abercrombie's plotting is better than "First Law," but still not his strength. I do think that his decision to kill Benna and maim Monza in the opening scenes serves him well: it lets him tease out critical facts about both of them through the course of the story. The plot itself may be older than "The Count of Monte Cristo," but the character development is superb. In all seriousness, among current fantasy writers, Abercrombie's character development skills are unsurpassed.
While the ending is slightly brighter than "First Law," this is still an Abercrombie novel. That means barrels of blood, mountains of corpses and general carnage and mayhem. And some gratuitous, graphic sex, as well. Because Abercrombie makes all the characters, including the targets of the revenge, very real, the impact of the violence on the reader is much stronger. And unlike "First Law," Abercrobie has some important lessons to offer as we watch Monza carry out her gruesome quest.

A compelling, enthralling read, but a dark, violent one. There are lovely flashes of dark humor - Cozca's strategy as one battle, for example - but the humor only serves to illuminate the darkness. Highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
eduardo rodr guez
The book is written quite similarly in style to The First Law series, but the characters and plot are far less likeable. Unlike the First Law, which presented many flawed characters, but ones you could at least root for, I found it difficult to root for anyone in this book. I found it difficult to get behind a plot of a woman mindlessly seeking revenge, especially given her history as a general who sacked city after city. The book simply needed either better characters, a more engrossing story, or better yet, both.

You follow a band of characters around as they chase down a woman's hit list in a sequence of somewhat disjointed mini-stories. I found myself not really rooting for anything in particular except for the book to end. It's not terrible by any stretch, but it's not a page turner and is harsh and depressing. I think Abercrombie's a good writer, and he doesn't lay down cookie cutter fantasy which is nice, but it was simply too much work to make it to the end of this one and gave up on it about 60% of the way through.

I may come back to it and finish it off when I get through the list of other books I want to read, but his earlier works are better, and you can probably find something else you'd like more pretty easily.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
rina nijenbanning
Abercrombie's First Law is justly renowned. Anyone who enjoyed this series will enjoy Best Served Cold. And yet the book highlights Abercrombie's few defects as a storyteller as well as his many strengths.

He still creates a fascinating, multi-dimensional world in which his characters may play. This is no surprise, as the world is the same world of the First Law series, about 9 years later, and many of the characters appeared in that series as well. He also does a great job showing characters develop over time - even if most of them just turn into bigger jerks than they were before. As before, he has a good way with words, in description, in narrative, and in dialogue, as well as a sharp wit at morbidly inappropriate times. And his plotting remains excellent. In the First Law series there were three or four major plot points where I was amazed, thinking I never would have expected the book to veer off in this direction. In Best Served Cold, Abercrombie continues his ability to include unexpected turns of events in genuinely startling ways. Those who enjoy books most when they feel most uncertain about what will happen next will enjoy this book quite a lot.

Abercrombie's major defect seems to be that he can't draw an interesting character who isn't a professional jerk. Other writers share this defect, and many of them are very good. Yet it is a defect, make no mistake. No one who has read Apt Pupil can possibly deny Stephen King's ability to depict an absolutely repulsive person, as well as to show that person steadily marching off the cliff and into madness. Yet in the very same story the honest government agents who intervene come as an almost physically palpable breath of fresh air. To say nothing of King's marvelously gentle treatment of childhood and of married people. By contrast, Abercrombie comes across as a sort of Depeche-Mode writer: unable to produce good work except when writing in minor keys.

The other issue, of course, is that his fiction is entirely too focused on scenes of battle and carnage. This worked in the First Law, perhaps because that series was a QUEST; at least the motivations were noble, though the characters were base and the action bloody. In this novel, the motivation is simple revenge (hence the title), and revenge as a motivation may not be enough to maintain a reader's interest through multiple scenes of gruesome havoc. Although I enjoyed about 400 pages or so -- I really did -- I abashedly admit that I fanned through most of the last 50 or 60 pages. I did want to know how the story turned out for the main characters, but didn't care enough to expose myself to another bloodbath or two. I also recall wishing, in the third or fourth scene of vengeance, that the lead character might get hit with a stray arrow through the neck or something. Get her out of the way and the other characters would make a more interesting novel, I thought.

Upshot: As Julia Child said, good, very very good...but not great.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kate croegaert
"Best Served Cold" arguably epitomizes what you could call the "Joe Abercrombie" style of fantasy writing: highly character-driven plots, unpredictable conclusions, violence, highly tainted and corrupted characters (although that doesn't stop them from being interesting and often funny), and a lack of what you could call "just desserts". Abercrombie is not at all afraid of having his characters being injured (or killed), or of getting screwed over. All of this, written in a novel that draws parallels from the mercenary companies of Italy in the Renaissance period and earlier, makes for a fascinating fantasy novel that draws the reader in, and then either repulses them utterly or drives them to finish the book at all costs.

The book centers around Monza, a famous female mercenary captain in the Styrian Islands (the novel is set in the same world as the "First Law Trilogy") who suffers a massive betrayal early in the book that leaves her maimed and thirsting for revenge. She teams up with several unusual-but-useful companions in her search for revenge, which leads her on a convoluted and twisting path to a fascinating conclusion.

Like all Abercrombie's books, the characters themselves sometimes seem to resemble archetypes on the surface, but are much more complex below. Their attempts at redemption (usually failing) are a major part of their character developments, with one particular male character experiencing a regression over the story that saddened this reader. He takes them on an unpredictable path through the Styrian Islands, resulting in a conclusion that, like Abercrombie's First Law series, is both unpredictable, understandable, and morally gray and complex.

In some ways, this is Abercrombie's darkest book yet. While all the characters in the novel are morally gray (much like the characters in the First Law Trilogy), they are "blacker" in some ways than the First Law Characters. The travails of the characters are unpleasant and difficult, and they are frequently faced with betrayal after betrayal.

I highly recommend this novel. I won't give it five stars, because truth be told the book drags on a little too long, but it was definitely one of the better fantasy reads of 2009.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
donald
Anyone who uses a quote from Wrath of Khan as a book title must be really cool, and it appears that Joe Abercrombie in fact is - and he even gives us the real author of the quote, proving he knows stuff, too!

This is a sequel, of sorts, to the First Law trilogy, which was one of the best pieces of low fantasy of the last decade. David Eddings, of all people, came up with a line in his story - although I cant remember which version of the story - to the effect that "rather than good and evil, I prefer us and them. It clears away distractions and lets you focus on whats important". Joe Abercrombie finally delivered on that sentiment with First Law, and proves it all over again with Best Served Cold.

The book opens with Monza Murcatto, mercenary captain, stabbed, strangled, and thrown off a mountain by her employer. She survives only because she lands on the corpse of her beloved younger brother, who met with the same fate and died before her eyes. She swears vengeance on the 7 men who tried to kill her, and puts in motion plans to kill them all, one by one.

Despite this, to an extent to book starts traditionally, with Murcatto gathering a "magnificent seven" of offsiders to help her in her quest: Caul Shivers, a northman looking for redemption in all the wrong places; Friendly, a psychopath just looking for order; Nicomo Cosca, a drunken husk of the man he used to be; and others, including a Castor Morveer, venomous poisoner and his ambitious assistant Day; and Vitari, who remains mysterious if you have not read the First Law.

The first few murders go to plan...and then it all goes downhill fast.

There is plenty of violence, cruelty, swearing, and sex, but I think it all has a purpose. There is a superbly written sex scene - you cant in good conscience call it a "love scene", because it isn't - which contains a great, if perfectly logical, twist.

Nobody is quite who they seem, nobody trusts anyone else, and certainly there are no knights in shining armour here.

Having read the book, I decided that the book was not really about Monza's revenge, or even Caul Shivers' attempt to be a better man, but about Nicomo Cosca's redemption. Perhaps that's my sunny personality, but in the end I think he is real protangonist of the book, and Monza's machinations are just the background to it all.

Of course, if you have read the First Law, you see how Monza's actions will affect the world as a whole, which is really the last thing on anyone's mind at the time.

Abercrombie has done a superb job of writing here, with a dirty gritty tale that is great fun to read, providing you can handle violence, gore and sex. But here's the thing - none of it is gratutious. It all has a point and advances the story. Maybe its not a nice, clean story - and probably Abercrombie would protest that of course the sex and violence is gratutious, course that's how he rolls - but if you only like neat nice bloodless fairy tales, then this book is not, perhaps, for you.

If you like a full-throated adventure that grabs you by the throat and never lets up, and don't mind getting dirty, then this is just the book you have been looking for.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
anissa joiner
I listened to Tantor Media's audio version which was read by the excellent Michael Page. This was a great format except for one chapter ("To the Victors...") in which Mr. Abercrombie meant for us to be surprised by who the principal actors were. In the text, section breaks indicate scene (and therefore character) changes. The audiobook reader, however, used the voices for the characters that Mr. Abercrombie meant for us to think were involved. When the trick was revealed, Mr. Page switched voices. This was confusing, especially since a listener can't see the section breaks and realize that the scene kept changing. I had to go back and listen to it again. This wasn't Mr. Page's fault, though -- just a limitation of the audio format. Other than this scene, the reading was terrific. I was impressed with the way that Mr. Page portrayed Shivers' character development by subtly altering his voice as the story went on.

Speaking of characters, Shivers and Monza, the main characters (I don't think we can call them "heroes"), evolve so gradually and realistically throughout the story that they are both quite changed at the end, but in a completely believable way. Looking back at their journeys is an interesting (and somewhat disturbing) thought exercise. It was fun to meet several familiar faces from The First Law trilogy. Greg was right -- I just loved Nicomo Cosca. He's complex, witty, and unpredictable. Nice piece of work, Mr. Abercrombie! Several of the characters are so keenly characterized that they become over-the-top (e.g., Morveer the poisoner keeps asking the same annoying questions of his assistant who is constantly eating) but at least they're vivid. Friendly, the sociopathic savant, is so creepy that I actually got nervous every time he appeared.

Best Served Cold has an exciting plot and it's clever and funny -- mostly in the droll, ironic, black humor sort of way. For example, Monza pulls Cosca out of alcoholism... so he can murder people. Some of the scenes in which Morveer was trying to poison somebody bordered on slapstick and provided some hilarity to balance the story's grimness.

I enjoyed the plot, characters, and humor in Best Served Cold, and I recognize and admire Joe Abercrombie's talent, creativity, and passion. But the truth is that his stories stress me out. It's sort of like watching Schindler's List. Brilliant movie, important message, but not something I want to watch before bedtime. There's a lot of ugliness and vulgarity -- much of which seems to be done for shock value (e.g., cannibalism and incest) -- and there are more characters who are sociopaths than who are normal. If there's a crude word for something, Abercrombie uses it. Characters are constantly pissing, spitting, growling, bleeding, feeling sticky, and sucking on their sour teeth. They --- (due to some bad language, I edited this out. Please see my review at <[...]> if you want to read this part)--- (as far as I can tell, Mr. Abercrombie doesn't know the polite terms). Battle and torture scenes are the worst -- they literally give me headaches.

All of this makes for interesting, original, dramatic fantasy, and I completely understand why it's so appealing. After all, Joe Abercrombie at least makes me FEEL something. But what he makes me feel is rather depressed, hopeless, and just plain icky, and I can't say that I really LIKE feeling that way.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
krystal vanduysen
Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold is his take on the classic revenge tale, set in the world he had created for his First Law trilogy. Though sexually and violently graphic, sometimes unrealistically so, the book is entertaining because of excellent characterization and the author's gift for using words well.

The setting for most of the book is Abercrombie's analogue of the collection of city-states and principalities which comprised the Italy of the early Renaissance and late Middle Ages. And a Machiavellian sensibility pervades the book and its extremely ruthless characters. Mercenary leader Monza is out for revenge against the seven men who conspired to kill her brother and leave her for dead. As we would expect to see from Abercrombie, she collects a motley crew of cutthroats and ne'er-do-wells to help her accomplish her mission. The verbal (and physical) interplay among Monza and her supporting cast shows Abercrombie at his witty best.

This is an entertaining stand-alone novel which fans of the revenge story will enjoy. It's not really a retelling of Dumas though of course it does distantly follow in his footsteps. You don't have to have read the First Law trilogy books in order to follow this one, and in fact since this book is a solo novel it may be almost as good a place to start with Abercrombie as that series is. I would recommend this to any fan of action or fantasy who's not too squeamish about explicit violence and sex.

However, having read some of the negative reviews, I admit to being in partial sympathy with most of the complaints that some readers have about this book. I think Abercrombie is an excellent writer, but not necessarily a great fantasist. He's the best writer of the contemporary gritty, non-magical fantasy movement - but that is a stupid school of SF which I hope and believe won't be a long-lived one. I have not yet hit the fatigue mark with Abercrombie's setting - but other readers have, and I can't see myself reading him in 20, 10, or probably even five years if he's still just churning out various cheerfully violent stories set in this particular universe. For now, I still find him entertaining and the pluses outweigh the minuses.

But in the long run, rather than writing fiction which is nominally fantasy but which contains almost no important unearthly elements and where even the setting isn't truly original but is just the author's slightly changed Italy or Denmark of the past, writers such as Abercrombie will, I hope, eventually realize that what they should really write is historical fiction - or even contemporary fiction. That's a book I could look forward to reading: a 21st century heist caper by Abercrombie. Or even his take on the Napoleonic War story as popularized by Forester, O'Brian, Cornwell, etc.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
molly ferguson
This is a revenge tale with 7 +- 2 lead characters each quirky and strong. This is an adventure tale with a band of constantly-at-each-others'-throats members.

This is a treachery tale - at no point in the narrative could I predict how exactly it was going to turn out. This is a violent tale full of death, maiming, and gore.

This is a philosophical tale questioning at the deepest level what matters in life vs. what doesn't. This is a coming of age tale clearing the murk getting clear to the way you always were.

This is a rousing good read with constant action, energetic cuts and connects between scenes, satisfying doing-in of bad guys and fools, and the best steady stream of throw-away punchlines I've ever read in one novel at one time.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
chairmen
Nineteen bloody years of civil war with no end in sight as each side of the armed conflict claims the high road, but those living in Styria know differently as hostilities and atrocities are the norm. Duke Orso thinks he can end the war and be named King of Styria for doing so. He believes assassinating infamous General Monza Murcatto, a bloody mercenary known rightfully as The Snake of Talins, is all he needs to do.

The attempt fails though Monza is severely injured and her brother is dead. As she heals, she vows to cut off the heads of Orso and his collaborators. She brings together a team of killers who have no consciences or care about collateral damage. They kill Orso and his six co-conspirators, but now Orso's family and that of his dead partners vow vengeance.

Returning to the world of the First Law saga, Joe Abercrombie provides his fans with a great sword and sorcery fantasy that contains his trademark dark humor and gender bending cast. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Orso sets up the failed assassination and never slows down as vengeance fuels each side to raise the ante. BEST SERVED COLD is simply a super thriller in which a head count has literal connotations.

Harriet Klausner
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
william marquardt
Well I came back to the world create by Abercrombie ever hopeful. In fact, I pretty much enjoyed the first half of the book. However, by the time I got to the ending, I was just disappointed. The ending leaves you wondering why you just read 900+ pages.

I like the concept, revenge. It is such a simple one for everyone to understand. We've all wanted it at some point in our lives. Monza Murcatto has it in droves - and for good reason. After watching her brother be executed and her own life nearly taken, she seeks revenge on everyone in the room at the time. The problem here is that there are seven people in the room; probably at least 3 too many for the plot to be successful.

So the author has now put himself in a corner with this objective. He has to find 7 new and interesting ways to kill seven characters, each one more bloody and outrageous than the previous. This is what loses me in this book. I don't mind the graphic violence, sex, and language. What gets me is this book just drags on and on. You don't really like any of the characters, they are all very dark and sinister and probably all deserve to die in some gruesome manner. But is this really what I want to be reading?

I suppose I still prefer the typical good vs evil setup and am struggling to understand the enjoyment of reading hundreds of pages telling a story about people I have no interest in. There are no characters to cheer for here. The only thing I cheered at the end was that it was over.

Pros:
o realistic fight scenes
o action, action, action
o devious twists and turns

Cons:
o way too long
o no redeeming characters
o boring and repetitive by the end

Overall - if you love Abercrombie's other books, you might like this one too. As for me, I think I will pass him for a while.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
justin chines
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 at FantasyLiterature
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kelly dasta
I, like many others i'm sure, picked up this book because i enjoyed the First Law trilogy. While this book isn't bad, it is disappointing compared to the trilogy.

First, the good:
1) Several characters, mostly secondary or tertiary, from the trilogy show up in this book, playing roles of various importance. I'd bet that someone picking up this book with no other experience with Mr. Abercrombie's work could follow along just fine, but for those of us who read the trilogy, there's some joy at recognizing the old faces (and probably a few jokes that only make sense if you know the backstory).
2) There is plenty of crossing, double-crossing, and backstabbing, with a few outright surprises.
3) Mr. Abercrombie is almost as willing as George R R Martin to kill anyone at all, as the story demands.

Then, the less-good:
1) George R R Martin's blurb on the front calls the book 'bloody and relentless', and it is. Every section of the book has at least one bloody fight, though often it's an all-out battle between opposing armies. There's death, carnage, and mayhem all described in loving detail. Unfortunately, by page 600 or so, you get a little tired of reading about soldiers' helmets getting stoved in, and limbs being severed, and whatnot. Abercrombie's good at describing the bloody work of combat, but even good descriptions start to feel overused when they crop up every 50 pages.
2) Total lack of subtlety. I lost count of the times that some of the same political machinery was laid bare, over and over. In case you missed it the first half-dozen times, Mr. Abercrombie repeats it another dozen. By the denouement, when it's laid out once again in utter detail, the only people who could possibly still be struggling to grasp the nuances are ones who started reading at the last chapter. (Yes, i do understand that a single volume, even one clocking in at 880 pages, does not have the room for complexity and subtlety as a three-volume trilogy. But telling us the same 'twist' repeatedly is still just bad storytelling.) Likewise, the character development, such as it is, is lots of declarations of how people changed with little evidence offered.
3) It's actually mostly predictable. If you've read the back cover, you know that this is a book about the mercenary Monza Murcatto seeking vengeance on seven men. It's also 880 pages, so you know she doesn't fail and die too quickly. How she goes about her vengeance is the only thing left to reveal, until the endgame when you're close enough to the end of the book that anything could happen. And after 600 pages of reading about black blood and shattered bones, it starts to feel more like a chore than a joy to plod through the next stage of her revenge.

All in all, it's a decent read, though i think trimming it down a few hundred pages (maybe seeking vengeance on five men instead of seven) would have made it leaner, meaner, harsher, and vastly more satisfying. Instead, it starts out lean and mean, but then gets tedious instead.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
rachel crabtree
I always pay close attention to the first sentence in any book. A tone is being set, if nothing else, but often, the focus of what follows is revealed in just a few words. So when I began "Best Served Cold" (Orbit, $24.99, 512 pages), and read "The sunrise was the colour of bad blood," I figured Joe Abercrombie was going to be taking me on a bloody, dark ride.

Sadly, I was correct, and "Best Served Cold" is 500 pages of blood, betrayal, bones, agony, betrayal, blood, bones and more agony. And really, this isn't even fantasy, as it's basically a historical pastiche of the 15th and 16th centuries with made-up countries. But, for example, the heroine is named Monza Murcatto, and the man who sets her on a trail of revenge is Duke Orso. There's no magic (though one character is basically superhuman), no dragons (for which small mercy many thanks) and nothing but swords, knives and poison.

Abercrombie is a good writer (he does a wonderful job getting inside the head of a mentally unbalanced character obsessed with numbers) and he has things to say about vengeance and life, but after about 300 pages of swords slipping through bodies, and red froth bubbling from characters' mouths, I confess I began to tire. There's some explicit sex (in a ratio of about one to five hundred in terms of explicit violence) and plenty of words the FCC would ban, but in general, this is a book about violence and the costs of revenge, both physical and spiritual. For what it is, it's pretty good, but, as some may have noticed, I'm not that excited about reading a long book that focuses on the color of bad blood.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
maryhope
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amanda stone
Best Served Cold is a revenge story told in the world of the "First Law" series. Dark, gritty, raw, and sometimes ugly is this story about vengeance, a tale of relentless pursuit of murder. Many secondary characters from the first law series have roles in this novel. Joe Abercrombie holds no punches back in his descriptive prose, and he paces his stories that you often find yourself needing to catch your breath. I find myself more enamored with his writing style, his uniqueness, and his visual style that I can easily over look any shortcomings that the novel may possess. The characters in this series are not your cardboard cutout fantasy characters. There is no wise old wizard, nor a coming of age naïve protagonist, heck these are not people that you would want to invite over for a barbeque. They are however, fresh, bold, and believable and that is something very unique to this genre. If you are a fantasy fan, or a fan of good fiction I urge you to read his "First Law" series first, and then pick up "Best Served Cold". Abercrombie's books are just so much damn fun to read. I cannot wait for more and will have to pacify myself by rereading them again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
madeleine dodge
This is not a Tolkein, Brooks, Donaldson type of fantasy. Some readers may find it similar to George R.R. Martin. I would describe it as The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Wild Bunch, combined with Serie Noire fiction, and set in a world reminiscient of renaissance Italy. The author describes it as "unheroic fantasy". A dark, grim, bloody thriller, this is a most violent yet supremely entertaining novel. One could read many novels, across all genres, and never find another female character as strong as Monza Murcatto. The book is remarkably well written. Betrayals upon betrayals, shifting loyalties, and reversals of fortune abound. The action scenes are phenomenal. Sword, knife, and mace combat is described with realism and gusto. The reader will encounter several helpings of sex, and the characters speak with creative profanity. There are flashes of humor, but also some melodrama. My one complaint is this: about 670 pages into the 880 page novel (US Orbit pb ed. not counting the extras) it began to seem as if Abercrombie was intentionally dragging the story out with excessive description and scenes told from multiple points of view. It was almost as if he had a specific page count he was trying to reach. This became tiresome. However, once the novel moves through these slow passages, it charges ahead to a sensational climax. Here's to more stand alone fantasy novels.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lissie bates haus
Best Served Cold, as suggested by its title, is a story of revenge. Although a standalone novel, it's set in the same world as The First Law trilogy and some of the characters (Shivers, Cosca and Vitari) make a welcome return.

Now let's get one thing straight. High fantasy this aint. If you like your books full of elves, dwarves and magic swords, this isn't for you. If, however, you like your fantasy full of fighting, blood, sex and great characters you might want to take a peek. It tells the story of the main character, Monza's, quest for revenge against seven men who betrayed her and murdered her brother.

This is a fast paced, action-packed story full of battles, murderous plots and laugh-out-loud humour but it's the characters that make it such a success. Abercrombie has a knack of creating interesting, eccentric characters that you can't help but like. No mean feat, considering that most of the characters would stab you through the eye as soon as look at you. In fact, all the way through Abercrombie walks a tightrope, in danger of taking it too far and turning readers against his creations. On the whole he's successful although it's sometimes a close thing. The plot could have become a little tiresome as Monza moves from one bloody murder to the next, but is kept fresh by the development of Shiver's character and the introduction of overarching ideas present in the first trilogy which add another dimension.

On a negative note though, I didn't enjoy this as much as the first three books and thinking about it, I think it's the characters. This books biggest success is also it's Achilles heel. The first three books had characters that were very different to each other: a sorcerer, a philosophical barbarian, a feral part-demon woman, a self-absorbed fop. In Best Served Cold, the characters are too similar. They are ALL bloodthirsty killers. I racked my brains trying to think of one who wasn't and couldn't come up with any.

Overall though, this is a great book and as long as you're not shy about gratuitous violence, you'll enjoy it.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
shawn stapleton
The book is ok. I was not that impressed with this coming from Joe Abercrombie.
Coming from another author maybe this gets 4 stars, but it feels like he ramped up the action and ramped down the plot, and threw an over obvious twist in the end.

Pros
Engaging, a quick read.
The main character is very entertaining.

Cons
The main character is totally plot driven. There is nothing under the surface to this character other than her actions.
The plot is very straight forward, with a lot of coincidence thrown in.
The Tongue in Cheek writing style of Abercrombie gets a little grating in this book. The character of Monza is not suited to being subtle, but Abercrombie makes her sarcastic just because that is how he writes, it works from some characters but not for others. He kills off the only true sarcastic character early on and then makes everyone else pick it up.
Barbarian 2.0 is so much worse of a character than Barbarian 1.0 (Logan Ninefingers).
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
liz bishop
I had some issues with the two main characters, Monza and Shivers. First of all, for a mercenary general, Monza didn't strike me as particularly bright. Granted, the book is all about her revenge, but come on. Hunting down the bastards who threw you down a mountain to kill them one by one a la Beatrix Kiddo can't be nearly as satisfying as revenge a la Count of Monte Cristo. If you've sworn revenge, you may as well go the whole hog and utterly destroy them rather than merely kill them messily. Also, you were the general of a mercenary army! You were getting paid to fight someone, right? "Hello, my employer, my subordinate and a few of their goons tried to have me killed and think me dead. I believe I may have some information regarding their tactics and defenses, you might be interested in."

The last line doesn't happen until two thirds of the way through the book. Also, There are few more revelations regarding Monza's brother (he gets killed in the beginning) where my credulity just up and said, "You didn't know this how?" There is almost no introduction to Monza before the "tossed off mountain" incident and as a result a lot of the background on her seems flung in there to try to deliberately explain loopholes and motives within the plot. This writing strategy had limited success with me.

Shivers initially says that he came to the area to "become a better man" (although how one does this while aiding a revenge scheme, I don't know) and gets hired by post mountain Monza to help her kill the people who tossed her over. He initially seems to act as an external moral compass, but ends up falling into the whole revenge thing as well. Mostly through bad luck and lust. Where there could have been some good character conflict, I ended up with yawn worthy sex scenes, lots of battles and endless drilling of "mercy is a weakness" and "they killed my brother and they deserve it" instead.

Now you may be thinking, "Isn't there anything you liked about this book if the main characters were as awful as you seem to be ranting about?" YES!!! The supporting cast were so awesomely interesting that I wanted them to be the main characters. Cosca seems like an older, well pickled and much less bitter version of Monza. There's a philanthropist who's also a cannibal and an assassin. Friendly the sociopath with a thing for counting and a cleaver and is refreshingly unbothered by anything happening to anyone else... There were a few more, but these were the ones I liked the most.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lana manes
Not your typical Fantasy fare here... though who's to say what's typical anymore? No dragons, or traditional quest parties, or damsels in distress locked away in a far-off tower here. What you have here is a bloody tale of bloody revenge by a bloody woman... did I mention it's bloody?

Monza Murcatto and her brother Benna are the heads of a mercenary army called the Thousand Blades, the strongest pawn that Duke Orso has on the board in his quest to become King of a united Styria. Though mercenaries are disloyal by nature, willing to switch sides whenever a better payday presents itself, Monza has stayed true to her service to Orso, and has won many great victories on his behalf. Her stature has increased with "the people" with each victory, and the Duke's mounting paranoia leads him to cut off a potential problem before it surfaces. Monza is rewarded for her service with a betrayal that was to be fatal to both her and her brother. Against impossible odds, she survives and begins a quest of vengeance unlike any you've likely read before, on the seven people responsible for her betrayal.

That sets up the tale nicely, I think. At this point, I could rattle off the standard review cliches for such non-stop, action-filled, tense and rewarding thrill-rides, but your eyes would likely glaze over, in spite of the fact that these cliches (and more) would honestly apply here. Been there, done that, eh? There are solid, memorable characters in this story. The pace is relentless. The blood runs to the depth of a horse's bridle for a distance of 300 miles. If you've read and enjoyed Abercrombie's First Law series, you'll be right at home with this book. It is easy to read, with sharp dialog, and plenty of humor.

But it wasn't all sunshine and roses on my end. The over-arching message that "vengeance always costs more than you think it will, and the returns are far less than you hope they will be" is really drummed into the reader, from the get-go. Abercrombie isn't very subtle about it; over and over, that sentiment is stated plainly, and while it is a strong theme, I question using it like a mace to beat the reader over the head so frequently throughout the story, up to and including the final page. I'd like to think it does not reflect Abercrombie's opinion of the Fantasy Reader in general, and his/her ability to "get it" without having to have it spelled out, repeatedly.

The author is certainly not shy with sex and profanity throughout the book as well, which always has me scratching my head a bit. Yes, that touches a personal issue of mine, so I won't elaborate upon it here. I bring it up just to let you know what to expect, should you decide to give the book a reading. It does little for the story, in my opinion.

There are certain interactions between a few of the characters that struck me as illogical and/or out of character. And some of the action-adventure tropes are liberally used here as well, which sort of cheapened the experience for me. But the battles are well-written and effective, and there are enough surprises (albeit mild) to keep you guessing and reading through to the end.

So to what type of person would I recommend this book? Definitely not the squeamish or the easily offended. It's a gritty, bloody, darkly humorous, and occasionally disappointing, but well-written. If you are a fan of the genre, and have a thick skin, and the ability to let the language and the puzzling adult content roll off your back, then by all means, give it a go.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
mike lemire
I really enjoyed this book. Joe Abercrombie does a great job depicting a gritty and grim world. A mercenary named Monza Murcatto, who is too successful for her own good, is betrayed and left for dead. She's brought back from the brink of death by a mysterious man, and sets off on a course for vengeance, using the wealth she had acquired to hire a band of killers, each with their own skills.

The protagonists-- and there are a lot of them-- are all very flawed. Their flaws are explored throughout the path of death and carnage that they carve. And every now and then, goodness comes through as well. This makes all the characters very real, and for me, sympathetic. Some try to do good, despite the world being against them. Others maybe have given up trying to change.

The title refers to the saying, "Revenge is a dish best served cold". I didn't realize until the very end that perhaps it wasn't referring to the mercenary Murcatto.

A final note: I read this before reading the First Law Trilogy. I agree with other reviewers that reading the trilogy provides some insight into some of the history and magic found in this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
prasad
This was the third Joe Ambercrombie book I read, and it is gripping. Take The Count of Monte Cristo and add a few more bucketloads of blood, violence, and hate and you get this story.
It's almost too brutal; every man is for himself, loyalty is sold to the highest bidder, and the outcome is bleak. There are many places in the story where you just wince and say "They didn't deserve THAT." The main character has her story line spun out slowly over the course of the book; as you learn more about her and she escalates her violence, you may start to wonder if you're on the wrong side.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
alison longworth
'Best Served Cold' is the latest book from Joe Abercrombie, author of one of my favorite trilogies, 'The First Law' series. Rather than the first book in another trilogy, this is a stand alone fantasy/adventure.

***Spoiler***

'Best Served Cold' is not a book about summer beer or potato salad; its a book about... revenge. Monza Murcatto, the books female protagonist has been sorely wronged by Grand Duke Orso, and thus the tale (and the premise for its title) begins.

***End Spoiler***

Having just finished this book,I did not get the same sense of satisfaction as I did with 'First Law' trilogy (especially the first two books of that work).

Why? ...let me explain

1.)The book was written in the same style as the previous work, but yet the story lacked a certain quality; I couldn't develop a caring commitment to its main characters that I felt early on with Logen and Sand dan Glokta from 'The First Law' series. Yes, the main side-characters (those being Shivers, Morveer and Cosca) had some great traits and interesting personalities, but when you get lots of action, without substantial character development to the main heroine, the story tends to fall a little flat after a while. Monza's character just needed a little more likability and maybe a little less of the hardness and brittleness that she seemed to portray.

2.)The story is rather predictable in its outcome...from early on you can fairly well guess as to the ultimate outcome will be, however, the road to the ending did provided several delightful and intriguing twist and turns.

3.)This book seemed to dwell on some prolonged descriptions of scenes with gratuitous violence and others of intimate sex.

Conclusion:

Another solid fantasy/adventure effort by Joe Abercrombie. If I hadn't been 'spoiled' by 'The First Law' trilogy, I'm sure I'd have loved this work, rather than just liked it. 3 Stars

Ray Nicholson
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
mallory
I should probably preface this by stating that while I did enjoy the First Law Series, I wasn't thrilled with it either. It was a good read, and I read through it easily, but Abercrombie never had me interested enough that I couldn't easily stop reading at any given time and go do something else.

Best Served Cold was much the same. I picked it up, thinking that maybe I'd like it better. It sounded interesting, and it was definitely possible that Abercrombie had gotten better since The First Law. Having read BSC, I have to say, I'm not particularly impressed.

Looking at it, for a long while I really didn't understand why I didn't like Best Served Cold. I felt like the characters were relatively realistic, the world was, as always, interesting, the prose was excellent, and the plot, while predictable, wasn't bad. Eventually, however, I came to the conclusion that there were several things that were keeping me from really enjoying BSC.

First and foremost, I really didn't care what happened to the characters. At all. This was, I think, my biggest problem with the First Law, where there were only a few characters who I actually cared about. In BSC, I might have kind of come to care about what happened to Monza. Possibly. I started out enjoying reading Shivers as well, but by the time I got to the end, he just pissed me off. Cosca is the same old Cosca, and while he's entertaining, I never cared about him at all. None of the other characters are much better, in my opinion.

This obviously makes it difficult to enjoy reading by itself, but it's made worse by the fact that the plot is extraordinarily predictable. Sure, there's some variation in how Monza accomplishes her kills, but you know she'll get them in the long run. I can recall at several points, sitting down and thinking, "I'll read until they kill the next guy of the seven." There wasn't anything in the plot that truly surprised me.

Which brings me to my next point. I probably wouldn't have finished this book, except that I tend to be something of a completist. Once I start something, I feel the need to finish it. With BSC, I'm glad I did. I was relatively satisfied with the ending. In the end, however, the only reason I read this through to the end was because I had other books I wanted to read, and couldn't do it in good conscious until finishing this one. The book was always mildly interesting to me. I never felt like it was a bad book. It just didn't really pull me in, and I never really felt a particularly strong desire to keep reading.

Would I recommend it to others? Probably, but only if they'd enjoyed First Law, and likely only if they'd enjoyed it more than I did.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
leslie brownlee nelson
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tracy hall ingram
Abercrombie is one of the best of the current crop of fantasy writers, and this was a great standalone novel. I read it a week after finishing the First Law trilogy, and I was a trifle concerned that I'd hit some "Abercrombie fatigue" after having blazed through the trilogy, but no worries there. Though the main character (Monza) is new on the scene, a whole host of characters from the trilogy have parts to play in the book, from walk-ons to more substantive roles. Monza herself is a fantastically rendered character, one of the best female heroines (or anti-heroines, if you prefer) of our times.

Abercrombie's writing, as in the trilogy, is excellent, and the dialogue is spot on.

And if that wasn't enough to recommend it, the great one himself ---- George R.R.R.R.R.R.R.R. Martin ---- gave it two thumbs up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
katie bliss
X rated talk, R rated gore, racetrack action, "everybody" selling out "everybody", all the ingredients for a page turning tale you will find hard to put down.
The characters all show their warts, making them real, if a bit frustrating at times.
Our heroine is stabbed, clubbed, kicked, and broken, if that was not enough, thrown out the castle window, down the mountain.
Now begins her slow battle to first heal, then begin the job of retribution
She collects the most disreputable band of miscreants you could find to assist her in bringing the 7 who were responsible for her misery to justice. Their interaction adds meat to the storyline and is great fun.
So gird on your armor, saddle your horse and ride with us.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
parminder
First, I appreciate that the characters are less than virtuous. I'm tired of novels with characters who are all loveable and cuddly. But, I never grew to appreciate Monza, Shivers, or Friendly. Monza had no redeeming qualities. Shivers started with some, but ended with none. The evolution of Shivers was predictable, solely because of his portrayal at the beginning. But the interaction between Monza and Shivers was too full of characters acting in ways contrary to their natures. Friendly was interesting and had grand possibilities, but he was too charismatic for someone who is obviously written to be an autistic savant. I liked Day better than Morveer, but I hated Morveer. I liked Cosca, a lot. And the secondary characters (Orso, Rogont, et al) were pretty much stage props doing exactly as expected.

In the end though this novel left me wondering "why?" What was the purpose? What is the message? It was filled with blood, sex, and profanity. All useful to drive forward a story. But a story should have a message. and this one's only message seems to be, "it's okay to behave badly if it gets you what you want". I wonder if it was really just an excuse for Abercrombie to write about blood, sex, and profanity.

And for what it's worth, for the hype this book received . . . the paperback cover is absolutely disappointing.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
chris lange
My biggest complaint is that none of the characters were likable (and also the book was ridiculously long). Regardless, I enjoyed the book, Abercrombie is one of my favorites. I wish I had reread the First Law books before I started this one. Although it's a stand alone book, I didn't remember much about the First Law characters that appeared in this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
janice lewis
Abercromrbie does it again. Its a fast read with plenty of action and interesting plot. As per his usual all the characters are deeply flawed persons and he does a great job helping you understand the motivations of each character. Great read!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
malin
Best Served Cold refers to the Dish that is Revenge.

This is a stand alone novel that takes place after the First Law Trilogy.
I strongly recommend reading the First Law Trilogy before reading this book because a few of the main characters in this book are some of the survivors from the series.

Story:
A mercenary general is betrayed and left for dead, but rises again to assemble a motley crew of sociopaths to help her with her plans of vengeance. Even surrounded by would be allies, revenge is always a lonely business. There's treachery everywhere and nobody can be trusted. The events that occur are very exciting and clever, but there may be a few too many 'lucky breaks' in the story for some of you.

World:
This is the grittiest fantasy world out there and there's just a bit of magic. There are no fantasy races or creatures, just sociopaths with weapons. I enjoyed the First Law Trilogy, but I had problems with the environmental descriptions of this book. Everything was covered in urine, vomit, sweat, crusted blood, or poo. If something managed to be somewhat clean, it was 'annoyingly shiny.' The filth in the book almost becomes laughable and at one point; you even get vomit and a dead body in a latrine ditch... Pee, poo, bloody corpse, vomit, all in one spot. We get it... it's dirty.

Characters:
Abercrombie's homicidal misfits are back! These characters are entertaining in the same way that Frank Miller's Sin City was entertaining. If a character happens to have a moral compass, it's without a needle. If the most practical solution to a problem is to bury a meat cleaver into a guy's face, then three cheers for bloody logic! All of the characters have their own personalities and motivations. But there really aren't any good characters in the story to offset the bad. There are just different kinds of bad.

Writing Style:
Needless to say, this is a dark book. There's some grim humor, memorable characters, and good dialogue. However, the physical descriptions of characters are severely lacking, so it's almost impossible to visualize the scenes. You may think you know what a character looks like, and 100 pages later, you learn that they have a beard, or they're fat, or bald. If you're the kind of reader that likes to play out the scenes in your head, you might find this frustrating.

Action:
There's plenty of descriptive gory action. Characters die in just about every way possible. Unless you've served hard time in prison, you'll probably find most of the violence disturbing.

Maturity: Adults Only... I shudder to think what would happen to a kid who read this book.

Overall:
I gave The Books of the First Law Trilogy 4 Stars, 5 Stars, 4 Stars, respectively. This book was 3+ Stars. I enjoyed the major points of the story and most of the action, but every character, object, and scene in the book was covered in puke, blood, feces, etc... That got annoying. Also, some parts of the book were not up to Abercrombie's standards set by his trilogy. Overall, this is a good tale of revenge and if you loved the First Law Trilogy and you want more, then you should read this book!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
paul kooistra
This book was just okay for me. I did not find it as gritty as some others have declared, and kind of thought it predictable as I read along. The ending was your classic Hollywood action movie conclusion. There is little world building here, and most of the book is pure dialog/action sequences. I did not care for the characters in this book, and I agree with what others have said in them all being too much alike. There is crude humor in the book, but it gets old as you get near the last third of the novel. The death scenes also become boring, and as I came to the end I had become quite numb to who died and who lived. There should be more character development in a novel such as this. Especially if one is supposed to root for them, and lament with them when things do not go right. I never felt joy or sadness for any of the characters in this book. The reader needs to feel for the character, or otherwise they are left, as I was, already forgetting who they are a week when finishing their tale.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
epstuk
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.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
cylia
I loved this book every bit as much as The First Law Trilogy. Abercrombie creates some of the most interesting and unforgettable characters I've ever had the pleasure to read about, and in "Best Served Cold", we get to meet some new characters as well as hang out with some familiar favorites from the first three books.

Abercrombie is a master at character-driven, adult fantasy. Very highly entertaining and a great read!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
maria casella
I got the book after seeing the dust cover and reading the jacket.

Not having read a fantasy novel in sometime I really enjoyed this one. The characters were believable, the action was pretty much non-stop and while the outcome never seemed in doubt, there were a enough twists and background suggestions to keep things interesting.

My biggest hang up with the book, no map(s). The "Wikipedia" entry for "The First Law Trilogy" stated that the author prefers not to use them but this drives me nuts, especially when the world seems as alive as this one. Some of the other comments concerning the first hand collateral damage and the raunchiness of the book are valid, but I think its left to the individual reader to decide if it detracts from the story. myself I said its about even. Its not a book I would give anyone under high school age but I have read more graphic stuff in my life and at a younger age then I am now. Finally I will agree that there is a touch of Deus ex machina at the end of the book but I believe the author is setting some things up in background for the next or future novels.

If you are looking for a book to wet your fantasy whistle I do not think you could go wrong by stopping here for a drink. Now I just need to find time to read "The First law" trilogy.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
yaser
Having religiously read all of Joe Abercrombie's books and sundry writings (even down to his blog) I cannot recommend him highly enough! I used to read a lot of Fantasy years ago, but gave it up when David Eddings was on his second (r third, fourth?) series, due to a lack of quality over quantity. Then, standing in an airport of all places, I picked it up....(His First Law series, not this) and....I was impressed. I was so impressed, I have started rereading fantasy. Both Joe A and Richard Morgan's "The Steel Remains" (which I read after this) are excellent.... Very tight prose, mature concepts, belivable characters....

now, I will review this one....

A powerful female character who is both ruthless and amoral (But a powerful, believable woman, a rarity in fantasy really) Is betrayed, and sets out for revenge. She recruits people to assist her and they (and her) are changed by the experience.

If you are a reader of fantasy, or if you are thinking about it, Prepare to have your hair blown back. Joe Abercrombie could well be the best thing since Gary Gygax sat down in his basement with pen and paper.....
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michael cordell
The story of Monza and Shivers was awesome. The character development and the change in characters was gradual yet satisfying.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
rhiannon
"Best Served Cold" is a revenge story that becomes overly long and astoundingly cynical. The plot centers around Monza Murcatto, famed mercenary-general of the Thousand Swords, serving Grand Duke Orso of Talins in Styria. Orso attempts to kill her within the first few pages and very nearly succeeds, shattering her body. She survives, swears revenge on the seven men involved in betraying her, and sets about her grim task.

The book is structured around her going after the seven targets, one after another. As I was reading it, I got bored. There's not much suspense or twist in this, one I thought. Monza has a target, goes there, and kills the person in inventive ways. Granted, its more complicated in terms of details than that, but that essentially is the plot and it grows dull after a bit.

One part of the book that I think hurt the story rather than helped it was the unrelenting cynicism that the characters employed. I've read Abercrombie's other books, all of GRRM's aSoIaF, Erikson's Malazan series, most of Bakker's Second Apocalypse, Cormac McCarthy, and other works that are rather bleak, so it's not an issue of my not being used to it. I think it was just overdone in "Best Served Cold." In Abercrombie's other books, he tends to balance the cynicism of certain characters with slight optimism of others--think Rudd Threetrees or Curnden Craw. Caul Shivers attempts to fulfill that role in this book, but his character is slowly corrupted from the optimistic and likeable character in the First Law Trilogy to the downright cruel man that appears in "The Heroes." Murcatto spouts cynicism at every point, trying to get Shivers away from his optimistic idealism. She succeeds and Shivers eventually embodies the cynical viewpoint far more successfully than Murcatto ever did. The reader eventually learns that Murcatto only played the cynic to cope with her life, but this revelation and the few bright spots come rather late to alter the overall impression of the book. The cynicism of Abercrombie's book here is trite and cliche at this point, almost as much as singing elves and dwarves with beards is in high fantasy.

I did wonder how much Abercrombie wanted to ruminate on the nature of vengeance, meaning, and morality throughout this. I don't get the sense that he uses his stories as a vehicle for his worldviews, like Bakker or Goodkind, but there's no doubt he wants to air such questions. Abercrombie's characters in this book struggle to find any reason to do what they deem "right" or "good"--this is seen through the eyes of Shivers, who eventually concludes that it makes no difference if you're good or bad, as everyone ends up dead in the end anyways. I wonder what Abercrombie's answer to such a quandary would be. Maybe he'll explore it later.

Overall, a good book, but it is of lesser quality when compared alongside Abercrombie's other works.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
olivia petra coman
I am totally hooked on Joe Abercrombie's books. I almost wish they would make a movie but that would be a disappointment after having read this book. Details details it's all in the details. Excellent read looking forward to reading anything he has written.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
sheri becker
As the author of The Spiritual Warriors (The Warriors of the Way) I have always been a fan of fantastic fight scenes. I literally purchased this book on a Monday and finished on Thursday of the same week. Its that good! You follow Monza through a tale of the relentless pursuit of revenge(Hence the title). By far my favorite character is Shenkt, all I can say is WOW! Write him his own book, he deserves it !
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
catherine george
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.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
ct turner
As someone who approached this book from the perspective of having enjoyed Abercrombie's "First Law" series, I found it to be a mixed bag of sorts.

First, the good. I've heard many books be described as pretentious. I can't imagine that label being applied here. Abercrombie once again applies his talents to create a set of flawed individuals on a collision course with death. Is there a lesson here? Sure, but the characters ignore it, if they even know what it is. If the author is trying to get across some grand philosophy of life, then it's cleverly hidden. Characters are both good and bad in their actions, lack the convictions of any cause, and both serve as protagonists and antagonists, simultaneously (or, at least, in separate chapters).

Now the not so good. I just didn't buy some of it. Without giving away crucial plot details, the eventual choices of Caul Shivers (with regard to Monza) seemed to lack the crucial development to make them real. I'm not saying these choices couldn't have been made, but the reasons seemed underdeveloped and out of character. In contrast, I felt that the story's best character was, in many ways, the MASTER poisoner Morveer. He was delightful to read and each choice he made seemed perfectly in line with his character. In addition, the story itself is fairly formulaic. While the idea is great (woman gets betrayed, tossed from mountain, miraculously saved, and goes on quest of vengeance), the execution was far too predictable. The only real change throughout is the level of difficulty in pulling off each assassination after that prior to it. As such, the book didn't hold my attention the way "First Law" did, because I knew what was coming next.

That said, if you want a read that puts forth flawed individuals (and perhaps a flawed world) this is worthwhile. At times it had me chuckling darkly at these twisted individuals and howling with laughter at their actions. While not up to my expectations after "First Law", it's a worthwhile read and I'll continue to look for future efforts from Abercrombie.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
lexie97sb
The stand-alone novel "Best Served Cold" ties into "The First Law" trilogy by following select individuals while introducing new characters. Northman Caul Shivers along with newcomer Monzcarro "Monza" Murcatto and their supporting cast seek revenge for a heinous crime. Each section details the mission against a different target, where the beginning page has a vague map for the region around the location.

The gruesome incidents increase as the story progresses. The author's style has changed from the initial novel, I found it to have more sexual exploits and graphic violence. In itself is fine but I prefer some things to be left to the imagination. Of the primary characters, Monza would be the only one I found worthwhile otherwise the others annoyed me especially Shivers, who I didn't care for in the trilogy. Shenkt is the most compelling background character, may encounter him in future installments. Better editing is required, considering one character is stabbed through the hand and into the shoulder, then twisting the blade for added damage, has the individual a short time later (couple weeks maybe) using the hand and shoulder with minimal hindrance.

A better detailed map and a comprehensive appendix would have been useful.

Thank you.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
genanne walsh
joe abercrombie is such a talented writer whose books stand out with well conceived and developed characters that show more human strengths and weaknesses than almost any other offerings out there. the story flows and is so engaging in every way. highly recommended.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
leah culver
Typical Joe Abercrombie. He is neat in that his "heroes" are despicable characters. If you met any one of them on the street you would walk to the other side immediately. Kind of fun to root for a thug. He could write the same story, but from a different angle, and make the villains the heroes. Be fun to see him do that. The man is a genius.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
julie souza
I like to read so when I find an author that I can easily follow their descriptions of events then I tend to enjoy their work. This is the first book I've read from this author. I found the action readable and flows with the plot. I also liked the characters and places he created. I will be reading more books from this author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
amanda north
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this although not as much as the trilogy. Maybe it's me but I thought at times many of the action scenes were hard to follow and I found myself rereading parts over and over again compared to his other books but other than that It was a great read. Abercrombie is an amazing author.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
kathleen schedler
Outstanding book, with excellent voice acting. I had already listened to the First Law series and was really surprised to find this a different but relevant story which was completely fresh but familiar.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
stuart taylor
I gather this is a stand-alone book set in the same world as the well received First Law trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged, The Last Argument Of Kings), but I hadn't read any of those, or anything else by Abercrombie, prior to picking this up. I was drawn to the book by a review that emphasized how it was a dark and gritty alternative to standard fantasy epics. My taste in fantasy always ran toward the darkly humorous stuff like Fritz Leiber's Newhon stories, rather than the epic Game of Thrones-type sagas, so this sounded like it might appeal. I didn't realize that although the story starts down in the gutters (almost literally), the plot is heavily geared toward the stuff of nations and regime change.

It revolves around the notoriously bloodthirsty mercenary Captian Murcatto, who is lured into a trap by her employer and tossed off a cliff. She miraculously survives, and spends the next 600 pages exacting her revenge on those who conspired to kill her and her beloved (in ways that are rumored to be incestuous) brother. The initial part of this is kind of fun, as she must escape the person who nurses her to health, and assemble a band of hirelings to join her quest. It's the usual odd mix of types one might find in any quest-based adventure game or book: a fearsome Northern warrior down on his luck, an OCD-type ex-con who's handier with a blade than he appears, a master poisoner and apprentice, and one or two other former associates and allies. I gather from reviews that at least some of these appear in the First Law trilogy, which might explain why they sometimes feel a little thinly drawn here.

After about two-hundred pages of slogging toward revenge, the book starts to feel a bit tedious. Yes, the setup to each assassination is fairly different and fairly interesting, but like far too much fantasy and sci-fi, it just takes too long. Yes, the action scenes are quite vivid and well-described (and graphic!), but there are just too many of them. As the names start to get crossed off the list, both Murcatto and others start to wonder what the point of all the bloodshed is, and it's hard for the reader not to agree. It seems like the book is intended as a kind of meditation on the inefficiency and uselessness of revenge (one might even read it as a kind of commentary on the "War on Terror"), but that never really goes anywhere truly interesting.

Meanwhile, the story also pushes deep into the politics of the setting (Styria), and the jockeying for power by various grandees and pretenders. I suspect readers of the First Law trilogy would have gotten a whole lot more of this than me, since the book is said to be set about 4-5 years after the trilogy, and they would already be heavily invested in the setting. I found it very difficult to care about any of it after a while.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kooiman2
I didn't finish the book. Admittedly, this review is one that doesn't tell the whole story. However, I stopped reading at a scene where the main character, very cold and calculated, tortured a man. I felt the character was someone I didn't want to root for anymore.

The book is decent--characters are somewhat flat but the pace is excellent.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
kate sadkowski
If you liked the First Law trilogy you enjoy this continuation of the world Joe has created. Many old characters return and some new information is divulged. However the story mainly revolves around a newcomer and her single minded quest for revenge. Combat, politics, and intrigue make it an enjoyable experience, the one thing holding it back being an almost complete lack of magic, even more so than the first three. For those who like their fantasy with lots of sorcery, keep they in mind.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
tetetetigi
This book is based after the First Law trilogy ends, and it follows a character Monzcarro Murcatto a strong female mercenary out for vengeance against the people responsible for killing her brother and permanently disfiguring her. She joins up with a few different people to form a crew of sorts, each with their own talents and scores to settle. No one can be trusted, loyalties change like the wind, and the battle/fight scenes are very detailed, dark and some downright gory. Will be moving on to The Heroes next which I believe is also part of the same "world". On to the next!!
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
liz pratt
I was browsing at Barnes and Noble looking for nothing in particular when I saw this fat paperback with a black cover and stark white letters that said simply, " Best Served Cold". I took it to the cafe area and sat down and thought I would read a few pages, two hours later and a a hundred pages down the road I came out of my Joe Abercrombie induced trance and bought the book.

The book is dark and violent and bloody and grimly hilarious. The main character, Monza Murcatto ,is one of the more compelling creations you will find in a work of fiction, monstrous and empathetic at the same time. You want her to succeed but you would understand if she doesn't, the body count of her quest is astronomical and it seem's she has her pound of flesh many times over.

The characters that aide her on her quest and those she pursues are all part of a brilliant cast that flesh out this amazingly fast paced novel. If I had one complaint to air it would be that at almost 900 pages the book is far to short. I would love to read more about the viciously brutal and sublimely sensuous Monza Murcatto.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
liza hartman
When I first read the First Law trilogy, I was euphoric. My review of The Blade Itself was one of relieved joy, that finally there was a fantasy worthy of being termed "reality". Each successive novel got better, in my estimation.

So when I saw BSC, I nearly salivated with anticipation and purchased it without a thought; I began to devour it greedily, and at first I wasn't disappointed:

The characters are real: they are flawed and are molded by circumstance. The wit and mordant dialogue are ever present: the master poisoner's sermons and the accompanying grunts of his pretty young apprentice as she invariably replies while chewing on a sweet cake or something or other, are a treat! The action is gripping; the plot, nail biting.

But...as others have mentioned before, it seems that Abercrombie took a good thing and ran too far with it. First Law was violent. BSC is gruesome. First Law had a few racy scenes: BSC takes the descriptions beyond what might be considered necessary.

And what disappointed me personally I guess was the growing loss of sympathy with the characters. At first one recognizes the desire for vengeance on the part of the protagonist, Monza....but her pursuit of it slowly converts her into a monstrosity, and twists those around her into warped beings, beyond merely "flawed."

This hurt because I liked the First Law characters from start to finish: Logen, Tul Duru, Rud Three Trees and Dogman, and even Black Dow with his amoral, sociopathic self...but towards the end of this particular story, I lost sympathy with most of the characters...in the end, I didn't even finish the book. I felt like I had been enjoying my favorite dish and then, to my mild disgust, found a bug in right in center of it.

I will always be ready to read any Abercrombie novel, but i was disillusioned by this one...
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
amy louise
If you like your battles down and dirty and your romance romance fierce, you'll love the top themes. If you enjoy the quotes that were never said but should have been, you'll wish you'd read those generals memoirs. But if your heart belongs to twisty character development and labyrinthine deceits then click now and buy this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
machelle
Quick pace despite all the details. Believable characters and plot. I could do without the sexual play-by-play, but I appreciate the battle immersion.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
dean marham
After reading both the good and bad reviews of this book I felt obligated to write my own (my first). Please forgive my arrogance when I state that if you are considering this book, this is the review you need to read.

If you want a cookie cutter fantasy novel where good is aligned, and eventually triumphs, against evil then grab any of the thousands of well written books by other authors and not this one. In Abercombie's world Prince Valiant resuces the damsel in distress, and then proceeds to rape her and eventually ransom her back to her parents. Best Served Cold is a brutal hard hitting piece of writing that we have never seen before.

In The First Law trilogy (TFL) the author tested the waters and gave us a taste of what was to come. That beautiful series, which I highly recommend reading prior to this in order to get the full picture), introduced us to a style of fantasy with an edge some of us have always been looking for. Best Served Cold is done on a smaller scale and is even grittier while still giving us new unique characters and situations. As an aside, I strongly disagree with those who think this is a stand alone book...while perhaps not named as part of a series I firmly believe it is a piece of a larger picture (who do you think the cripple is :P ).

I have seen a lot of discussion regarding how evil all of the characters are, and how we are made to believe that no matter what, none of them can change. The characters are despicable. They do horrible things and often without regret and sometimes with great enjoyment. When they save the day it is generally because they were forced into a situation and are acting out of personal necessity and/or have deeper and more ulterior motives. Yet they all have their own codes or system of beliefs, and what we are shown is that the greatest transgression one can commit is to break your own rules. They are all...us...and sickly beautiful. The fact is, we all identify with one of them to some degree and we all know or have known people like them. David Gemmell writes in similar fashion but nowhere near to this degree. Many times bad things happen to good people...the bad guys often win...sometimes there aren't any good guys...our fantasy hero exists, but he/she's a much darker beast than we ever thought. These are some of the themes you will find.

This is the kind of book where you know what *should* happen next but simply cannot believe that someone else knew as well and was willing and able to put it in writing until you turn the page and see it with your own eyes. And the writing is good. We certainly will not be studying these works in literary courses (outside of those dedicated to this genre), but Abercombie has a solid command of the language and writes in a very fluid manner.

To steal the best line from Unforgiven, "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it." This is an original fantasy novel fully embedded in realism, and it will keep you fully entranced from beginning to end. You won't get your happy ending, but you will get satisfaction, and along the way you will come to know a strange and violent world with a great background and a lot of unique badasses that would give the standard fantasy heroes nightmares.

And if you don't like it, back to the mud with you!
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
abrar raza
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie is a story about revenge and boy does the author reiterate that point every chapter so best get use to that word. The author is well known for his First Law trilogy but I personally didn't read it. I did however read The Heroes and came out disappointed. In that book, the main focus or theme was on highlighting how "war" is ugly rather than what we have here on "revenge". After stopping halfway through in Best Served Cold, I think I'm going to stay away from this author. It's just that the book has absolutely nothing that grips me as a reader. It seems as if there is no point in reading the book, especially one this size, when things are predictable and the characters do the same things over and over again. Sure, authors all over do exactly that in their books and can still be a joy to read but sadly, this author does not belong in that category. I'm wondering if the book couldn't have been edited to be half as long just to spare some readers the agony.

WARNING: I've only managed to complete around 50% of the book before giving up. Continuing on would have been a hazard to my own health and sanity.

First of all, the story. You want something simple? Try this out. A brother and sister couple were betrayed by their lord and were killed in cold blood. However, the sister somehow survives and she's out to get revenge on the 6-7 people who were in on it. Heard of all this before from somewhere? Well of course you have. At best what this story includes of is Monza and her crew going from location to location plotting out how to best murder certain individuals on her hit list. Once that succeeds, they immediately flee the area and travel to a new location. Rinse and repeat, or least up to the point I stopped caring.

The characters in this story is one of the book's biggest downfall in my eyes. You hardly can care about any one of them. That's right. Not one. Not even Monza, the female protagonist. It's really hard for readers to cheer for her in her adventure for revenge when she's hardly considered the girl scout prior to all of this happening. Her crew consists of killers and criminals alike who are only in it for the money. All of this doesn't really matter because again, I hardly cared for any of them. That doesn't making reading very much fun. Character growth seems lackluster and I'm not even sure if you can call it that. The relationship between Shivers and Monza is just devoid of any feeling. The author just had to put it in there or how else will he expand on the meek story line as it already stands? There's just no connection between the two.

Another major reason why I disliked this book so much is how the author focuses too much on just one side of the coin. Up till the point I stopped reading, the entire book focused on Monza and her ragtag band. Right in the beginning, you find out that Monza is out for revenge yet throughout this monstrous tome of a book, the author fails to make the reader care. Why not focus a bit on the actual "bad guys" like Orso or his sons and switch to their point of view? As it stands, all you know is that Monza is out for revenge and the other guys are the bad guys because the author tells you so. You don't get to make that decision yourself. If you're not going to focus on both sides of the coin, then shorten the book! There is no point in me reading pages after pages in the book on why it is the bad guys need to be killed and the justification for it when I don't get to hear both sides of the story. In other books, authors no doubt try to get readers emotionally attached to the bad guys so that when they are finally killed, you either whoop for joy or think things through and realized that the author shouldn't have done that. Whatever the case, it gets you the reader to be emotionally involved. Not so here. Killed a bad guy? Cool. Now let's have a big intermission with pointless gibberish talking between the characters before moving on to the next target.

If there is one redeeming quality to the book, I can say that the author does a pretty good job at building the surroundings for his characters. There's a very grimy and drab atmosphere that suits the story very well. But that's about it as far as compliments go.

I know that this was a very negative review from start to end but that's how I exactly felt throughout my entire time reading this book. In the beginning, things started out decent. I was just waiting for the author to expand on things but when I realized that that wasn't going to happen and reading page after page after page of pointless conversations just to see the slider mark go up by one percent, I knew it was going to be a rough ride. At about 50%, I just couldn't bring myself to continue on. This author will most likely not make it to my "to-read" list again.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
steve ring
Best Served Cold is yet another showcase of Joe Abercrombie's wonderful writing ability. The characters are hardly cardboard cutouts - Abercrombie does a fantastic job of making them all come alive, and each individual feels quite human. In The First Law trilogy, the reader felt as though they were right there with Logen, Jezal, and Ferro on their halfway-epic journey. Best Served Cold offers the same feeling, but delves even deeper into the psyche of the main characters, the events they experience, and the changes they undergo as a result of those experiences. Abercrombie's strength is in his ability to create believable characters, and have them develop and change (and not always for the better!). He's said himself that he's not a worldbuilder, but instead attempts to create stories that focus on people. The Circle of the World is built through their eyes, instead of from the perspective of an omnipotent narrator.

Best Served Cold is bloody. Even bloodier than any of The First Law books, especially on a personal level. Abercrombie does an amazing job of reinforcing the notion that Styria is a land of chaos, where backstabbing is commonplace and the idea of "every man for himself" is the norm. These themes were present in The First Law books, but they are only exponentially multiplied in this new setting.

However, Best Served Cold is not without its flaws. In furthering the idea that violence is a part of everyday life, Abercrombie sometimes goes too far. A LOT of tertiary and unnamed "extras" are killed. Sure, in the Trilogy, hundreds die, but those deaths are implied as an inevitable result of war. Many of BSC's deaths are firsthand and personal, but they become too numerous, and the reader eventually becomes numb to them. Yes, that's Abercrombie's world, but I found myself tempted to skip over many of the fight scenes in the latter third of the novel.

Additionally, many of the events in the novel feel forced, or borderline Deus Ex Machina. I won't say any more to avoid spoiling anything, but after a while these occurrences detracted from the novel. The Trilogy used such events sparingly, enough so that they were acceptable, but BSC's use of forced events eventually removes the power of surprise twists. I only found myself becoming giddy over such twists once or twice during the last half.

To put things simply: what the Trilogy does well, BSC attempts to push further. Sometimes it works, but sometimes things go too far (i.e. too much mindless violence, too many twists, etc.)

Again, Abercrombie's strength is in his amazing characters and their development, combined with the dark, unforgiving world that he places them in. These elements are fresh and welcome in a genre that, I feel, needs some fixing. In fact, many speculative fiction stories nowadays should follow Joe's example.

As a final note: this IS a standalone novel, but I recommend that anyone who hasn't read Joe Abercrombie's works should start with The First Law trilogy, beginning with The Blade Itself. In my opinion, they're a bit better, and many of the references in BSC will make more sense if you read the Trilogy first. Otherwise you'll be scratching your head over who Juvens and Euz are, or what an Eater is. Knowing these tidbits is certainly not required to enjoy Best Served Cold, but they make things much clearer.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
michelle cable
I love his books they are full of great characters, plots and it draws you into the story where y ou dont want to stop reading
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lindsey stinson
Nancy in Seattle, WA : Thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, characters and skullduggery. This is a great book. What an introduction to J. Abercrombie's work! Looking forward to further reading.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
anna hartman
I really enjoyed this book. It was a total change of pace from the usual read. You know, where the main character is always struggling to do the right thing, and is being challenged by the "bad" guy? Well, here the lines aren't so clearly drawn. Life isn't black and white, and this relects that perfectly. I completely enjoyed it and can't wait for the next book from Ambercrombie. His gritty style of writing grabs me in a way that few authors can.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
st le nordlie
The First Law trilogy was incredible. Absolutely blew me away. I was so excited when Abercrombie wrote another book set in the same world. However, in my opinion, it wound up being a dud. Most of the characters are just duller versions of his previous ones. And the only likeable one was the drunk. Also the whole thing reads like a parable on how revenge never solves anything.

I'll still keep an eye out for Abercrombie's future works, but ultimately this book is worth passing up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
lanette rodgers
A tangent to his original trilogy, but still an excellent read. Monza Mercatto, Nicomo Costa, and Caul Shivers are flawed but great noir fantasy characters.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
dennis brock
Brutal tale that is full of real emotion. Very bloody and raw.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
david barnett
This book was a phenomenal read from cover to cover. The intricacy of the plot and character progression alone enough to capture interest. Yet he still includes amazing battle sequences and fantasy elements into an almost logical progression of events. Back stabbing, intrigue, romance, friendship, all resounding through the throws of an even larger beast that is the whole of this amazing world. If you enjoy an amazing cornucopia of events leaving you wondering what will happen next or who will die next this is a must read.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
brad kuhn
If you are a romantic at heart, do not read this book, you will not escape undamaged. Abercrombie masterfully crafted characters where pity & revulsion, love & hate, loyalty & betrayal dwell on the edge of a knife. This is beautifully done ugliness that left me shuddering but unable to look away.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
lanie
Loved, LOVED this book!!! However, this book is soo not for the faint of heart. There was a lot of bloody gore, 2 explicit sex scenes, and a fair bit of the 'f' word. I wouldn't say any of it was gratuitous. It was just a violent setting. You have been warned. :D
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
gamble
Rich characters in a complex, believable world just trying to survive, like anyone anywhere, all spun into an amazingly compelling story. Great read.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
marshall cox
I suppose my review won't be that popular, I believe Ambercrombie can do no wrong for some.

First off, this was the audiobook. Not my favorite reader (he mimics Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow and for other voices sounds like he's doing terrible Elizabethan Shakespeare characters), but he did well enough. Lots of rolled "R"s and he says ass like "Awwws."

In a nutshell, a formidable mercenary woman goes on an "adventure" to avenge her brother's death, her attempted murder, with a ragged band of ruffians, a group barely held together against urges to all kill each other.

I really struggle with spoilers when I just don't really like a book or a character. I didn't *hate* this book... I just... I can't deny it's gigantic failings and clumsy character development. And by "struggle with" i mean I don't care that I'm spoiling the book. I'm angry I finished it.

Our heroin is damaged - her near death left her body broken and scarred. Her fighting hand in ruin, her spirit broken and driven by anger. We are informed her beloved brother was stabbed in the neck, and both of them thrown off a parapet...but it takes the length of the book for us to slowly learn more about her brother, her quest to avenge him, and her true character. We have to hear about her broken body a whole lot, don't worry if you miss it the first few times. We see her seeking vengeance and acting tough, but mostly we have to hear her pout about... well, everything. Oh, and vomit. Pouting and vomit, pretty sure those are her go to moves, next to shouting "PISS!" and "COCK!" a lot.

PROBABLY SOME SPOILERS IN THIS PARAGRAPH: The odd band of hired murderers she employs to help her, poisoners, torturers, sell-swords, reveal through dialogue her many nicknames and credits; she is ruthless, leaving rivers of blood and bodies behind her. She's called a butcher. Her reputation for being an incredible captain general are renown. You are bludgeoned, over and over, about her military prowess. However...the person described is most often limp, shiftless, or becoming a victim of circumstance, standing paralyzed as things she doesn't want happen right in front of her. Unable to speak or stop it, because WOE IS ME I'M SO BROKEN!!! For funsies, do a word search (if reading ebook) on the word "spit" or "sick" so you can see how many times poor Mansa pukes and wallows in futility. She goes through all the trouble to pay these brigands to kill those who killed her brother... and she drags her feet like a petulant teenager through every death. NO ONE IS FORCING YOU TO DO THIS YOU IDIOT. Her moods shift from pages upon pages of lamenting about what a sad sack she is, to bursts of embarrassing anger where she uses as many bad words as she can to be "one of the guys," punctuated by spitting again. She'll tell people to lick their own asses and piss on themselves with venom in what seems like an otherwise decently respectful conversation between swarthy cutthroats. She just comes off as a giant douche. Why does anyone help her. Angry but she can't even wrap her head around why, ineffective and whiny about doing what she came to do, but ineffably portrayed as the MOST EFFECTIVE LEADER and most fair and admirable in her King Solomon-esque judiciousness in all matters of politics and military strategy. Seriously, she pukes through every encounter but snaps-to in the most inconsistent manner to fight... though she's usually rescued by random chance... a statue falling on someone, or my favorite, a supernatural being known as "Plot Saver" taking out her enemies.

omg, the puking. the foot dragging. the whining about 'oh, boo hoo, my body is so broken... so broken...' And if your whole mission is revenge, why do you have such a toddler meltdown each time you kill one of these supposedly awful people?

I'm sorry, this isn't focused, I'm trying to listen to the end of the book, but it's so ridiculously "wow, she's so skilled!" that it's making ME want to puke.

MORE SPOILER: We slowly learn her vicious, bloody reputation is simply her inability to open her mouth to protest when given credit for her brother's treachery. She's basically avenging a worthless piece of s***, a greedy, back stabbing, power hungry weakling that she's always defended and... ahem... bedded. She's this clueless... masterful strategist. Driven blindly by anger...yet dragging her feet the whole time. She's apparently the best fighter and military mind who ever lived, but never noticed her brother was stabbing all her colleagues and bosses in the back right in front of her. Wait, you're saying... maybe I missed the point, right? Maybe we're to see how inherently flawed she is, right? Ah, but no... Abercrombie is just lazy. He wants to create a complex character but all he can master is telling, not showing you. I hate it when authors do that. So... we realize her killing spree is a dumb idea, but she's described as such a great leader, despite leading this group on the stupidest revenge quest ever. She's made a slew of the dumbest decisions killing people left and right, yet she's then raised up as a glorified great leader, and pays zero debt (okay, okay, other than her poor broken body and Flowers in the Attic lover) for being all the things she hates enough in others to justify having them killed. And then, for all her failings, she gets a hand from a supernatural being who just makes everything okay.

Actually, i take some of that back - she DOES actually see her brother's treachery, but... that just makes her revenge kick that much dumber. She's well aware that her brother was a sucktastic, ruthless backstabbing piece of poop, but... still feels compelled to avenge him. Only you as the reader find these things out. The whole time she's known and we're supposed to gasp with surprise when we finally see the underbelly of this adventure.

The story is dumb. The main character is stupid. She's whiny, she's the woman who tries to hard to be "one of the guys," she's got the curse of being "the best at everything" in way to much of a convenience to be natural, yet in most stressful situations inable to act, speak, fix, or get her s***
together. It starts to be explained by seeing her brother's misdeeds were credited to her, so maybe she really is just hapless and in the right place at the right time to be perceived as brutal? But we're still forced to believe she's this great military/mercenary mind, and she's just a hot-headed dumb dumb that spends all her time sounding like Scarlet O'Hara and never noticed her brother was a backstabbing harpy. She gets to complain about everyone's failings, the exact type that she exhibits through the whole book, and pays zero price for, having people either be loyal to her or give her power, that by her own definition she hardly deserves.

Don't mistake me for a misogynist, quite the opposite. You want a fantastically written female character, William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Moon, Robert Crais... Hell, even the Sookie Stackhouse books (True Blood) have better written female characters, and those books I admit are just brain candy! Romance novels do what Ambercrombie does - they describe their female characters as beautiful and capable and independent, but every choice and action they take is the exact opposite... they want you to believe their characters have substance without actually writing that part.

I know, where did I like the story? I don't know, honestly. It was a "story," it went somewhere. I feel like the author tried to mimic good writing by giving us interesting details about his secondary characters. He spent pages and pages filling in the poisoner's back story in a very unnecessary, awkward manner that didn't fit in and instead of filling out his character just seemed like he had a page number requirement. It can be summed up as "This is why he still wets the bed." It was just clunky. His back story on Friendly was vaguely interesting - touching on his madness, and letting you see glimpses of what made him what he is... but he gets the least back story. It's basically "prison was hard." Shivers story is just repeated over and over in the same "looking for a new life" way. But then he becomes a 2D punchline, all he does is inappropriately laugh through battle and be bitter. Kosta is... ugh, I feel like the author put in so much effort to make him the ridiculous, lucky, entertaining, unexpected, charming, sneaky, engaging character... but he starts to become so comically clownish... I still really like him, but even the character admits he'll do whatever Mansa asks because she's a chick. So conveniently, her failings yet again don't interrupt whatever quest she's on because it's filled in by the only, actually effective character who pretends to be this babbling idiot but is really the actual ruthless, cunning, effective and devious mercenary we're simply told that she is, despite her acting in every way contrary. Oh, yes, and for all the other plot points where Mansa would have been wrecked...a supernatural being fills in the rest of the gaps, gets rid of inconvenient obstacles, and otherwise paves the way for her to pout her way through the story without the forces out to stop her getting in the way of her soliloquy of blubbering. No one had a character arc worth mentioning. For every single one of them it was just finally revealing the one "oh!" detail about them. Kosta only pretending to be incompetent, Mansa knowing the whole time she was avenging a piece of garbage... she didn't learn from it, mind you, she just finally whined through until the supernatural being could clean up the last few loose ends. I'm not even kidding. The only reason the "story" happens is a secret, mostly unmentioned undefined character just waltzes through and fixes everything. I suppose as a book 1, that's going to matter later, but the over all book was such a steaming pile of poo I can't be bothered with book 2.

The end of the book, she's super merciful to a ton of people, (you know, because she's an effective, judicious ruler that wouldn't just randomly kill people for no reason) and one of them says "so that's it, is it? that's the end we get?" and she says "you think you deserve better?" and walks away. I think she was talking to the book's readers.
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
kristina avagyan
After reading his First Circle series, I was pretty stoked to get to Best Served Cold. I enjoy the dark atmosphere, the world, and the gritty violence. The writing is also top-notch, of course.
What holds this book back is the characters. Absolutely none of the characters have any "arc" at all to their stories. Everyone is precisely the same on page 1 as they end up on page 900. While that may be true of most people in real life... most people in real life aren't heroes in fantasy novels.
Other than that, tho, it's a good read, particularly the battle scenes.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
sam grover
Abercrombie is the master of dark fantasy. Unique (and flawed) characters, excellent story and a good pace. A few characters appear from the First Law trilogy, but you can read this book standalone as well. Excellent!
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
starlight
Best Served Cold is definately worth picking up. A solid read, but perhaps less than what we've expected. I'll make this concise.

The characters lack depth. They might seem interesting at the first glance, but all of them, in the end, fell short. They were either likeable, or simply despicable. Sure, there were character developments. The intially optimistic Northman, Silver, reverted to his former, savage self, but worse. Monza, supposingly ruthless and realistic, was later depicted as a victim of circumstances. Cosca, very embodiment of disloyalty and unpredictability, ended up being... well, predictable.

Sure, there are more characters of interest beyond what I've listed, but I found them lackluster.
Unlike Joe Abercrombie's previous work, Best Served Cold presents an array of characters that fell into the stereotypical archetype.

If you've never read the First Law trilogy, you'll most likely be left puzzling at many not-so-subtle, and often unnecessary references made to the predecessor.

Yet, if you've already read the First Law trilogy, you might end up picking up an all-too-obvious pattern in Joe Abercrombie's new work. Needless to say, it spoils your enjoyment considerably. Being able to foresee developments beyond the next chapter make reading through them a terrible bore.

Such... dillema. Is the book worth getting? Yes.
Does it match up to the splendor of its predecessor?

Unfortunately, no.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
jennifer beyers
This is my first attempt at Abercrombie. Great action, really good characters and some unexpected twists. Joe's writing puts him in the forefront of my future reading. Buy it already.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
julia ramadhanti
Abercrombie knows what he's about. His characters are real and their motivations are fascinating. I'm now a huge fan. Don't pass this up.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
v ronique b
Another excellent entry by Joe Abercrombie. If you enjoyed The First Law Trilogy, you will enjoy this stand alone novel from the same fantasy setting.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
steve kahn
Fun read. Takes revenge to another level.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
arun sharma
I think this book is not quite as good as the books in Abercrombies First Law Trilogy, but it is definately more accessible and reader friendly. The plot line is simple, the writing is very good, and the characters are not really that deep. That said, this is still the best fantasy release of 2009. Cant wait to see what this genius does next!
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
danny
This a terrific book,lot's of nefarious plotting, bloodshed and a very belieable female heroine/
ASSASIN.Have read many books in my liftime and this one hit all the high-notes.loveddddddddd ittttttttttt!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
zannt
Just couldn't get through this book. Premise was interesting, but it dragged on, at least through the 150 pages I read. Couldn't take it anymore.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
beth zacchini
This is easily his best book so far. Action, plot twists, and GREAT GREAT GREAT characters. I loved this book.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
yol nda
Dark, gritty and real with liberal doses of both levity and solemnity. Well played sir. Well played indeed.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
abisea
I'm sorry, but why hasn't anyone else mentioned the premise is exactly like that of Tarantino's Kill Bill. The girl even has her custom made Hatori Hanzo sword.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kira von
When I heard that there was a new book in the same world as the First Law Trilogy I was excited. Then, I heard it was grittier and more violent than the trilogy and I was overjoyed. Unfortunately, this book didn't work for me. The characters didn't have the depth of the characters from the first law, and they just didn't interest me. The plot of the novel is very simple and obvious: revenge. The group of misfits go from one town to another, plotting for two pages, then executing their plan, which usually works out well for them. Then they move on to a new town with a new man to kill. It's extremely simple, and I found it boring and predictable. There was a plot twist here or there, but nothing special. There was even a happy ending! Also, it wasn't as gritty as the First Law Trilogy. How can you get more gritty then northmen duels and ton of torture? Killing a few men in a detached way here or there isn't that impressive. I need more depth to the characters, and more depth to the plot to enjoy a story.
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
rachael worthington
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.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
melissa
the store really needs to give reviewers a 'no star' option. The author is a good writer, but seems to have gotten caught in an endless mental loop. After the initial setup, the story became an endless repeat of graphic killing, betrayal and lengthy repetitious speeches on why they were such lowlifes. Over and over and over... There wasn't one character in the story I could even sympathize with because they would do absolutely anything for money, power or to further thir endless, over the top revenges (which were far worse than the original acts that prompted them). Perhaps the endless descriptions of the gory ways you can kill someone is okay if you've got a deep thirst for that, but for me there's got to be more. I started skimming the book a third of the way through and didn't miss a thing. If the editor had been as ruthless as the book's characters, it might have made a dark short story on the futility of revenge and how base humans can be... Unfortunately, that didn't happen. What a bloated waste of time!
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
olivia
This book was awful. I liked the First Law Trilogy so much that when I hadn't even finished the trilogy I went out and bought the whole trilogy plus the other 3 stand alone books. I deeply regret it. FIrst of all the trilogy doesn't have closure or a decent ending and that spoiled it for me. I thought maybe in the stand alone novels we would find some of the characters from the trilogy but no. It has taken me ages to finish Best Served Cold. I just wanted it to end and I forced my way throuhj it without any enjoyment. You don't get to care for the characters. It is awful. And I can't make myself read the other 2 books in case they are equally bad. I suppose I will give them a chance after I manage to forget hoy awfull Best Served Cold is.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
john magee
WOW. This was a bad book. Profanity and what not bother me about a much as words like "Thanks for shopping" That being said I have never read banter so contrived and forced with no real feeling of connection with the character. I read "Best serve cold" which was pretty good till I lost interest... But in this book I had no chance to loose interest with words just written till fill pages...
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kaitlyn cozza
During a long drought of anything from my favorite authors, I picked this book up, looked at the first chapter, and took a chance that it would capture my imagination. It did not. The characters were predictable and two dimensional, the scenes abrubtly changed with no resolution or continuation, and quite frankly it was boring. I never finished, because quite frankly, it reminded me of something written by a computer. I was rather appalled to see the other reveiws with four and five stars. Anyone accustomed to reading a well written book would soon toss this one in the trash.
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
kevin dawe
Sorry Mr Abercrombie, but realized at p 126 I was totally bored. Slogged through the rest of the book, but the ending was totally predictable. The humor was fun at first, but quickly became tiresome. I kept thinking, what's the point of all this (not that there needs to be a point, it's just entertainment, but I like a point to be made in the end). Also, if you would take away all the torture, violence, fighting, smashing brains, elbows, fingers, toes, knees, etc, there would be about 6 pages to read.
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