It's springtime in Styria. And that means war. There have been 19 years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll, and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests, and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.
War may be hell, but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular---a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain, and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.
Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass murderer obsessed with numbers, and a barbarian who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started. Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.
©2009 Joe Abercrombie; (P)2009 Tantor
"Abercrombie is both fiendishly inventive and solidly convincing, especially when sprinkling his appallingly vivid combat scenes with humor so dark that it's almost ultraviolet." (Publishers Weekly)
Best Served Cold is a standalone work that takes place after the events of the First Law trilogy. Revenge and betrayal are at the heart of this story and Abercrombie doesn’t sugar coat it. This is basically more of the same dark, gritty writing style contained in the First Law trilogy. Only Nicomo Cosca brings a little humor to the tale and he is just as ruthless in his actions as the rest of the characters are.
If you are new to Abercrombie’s work then you best be prepared for a lot of bad things to happen. You will find it hard to root for anyone because every character he writes is deeply flawed and dark to various degrees. The story is mostly self-contained and you will only miss out on some minor references to a few of the major characters and events from the first 3 books.
The First Law trilogy is a tough act to follow. This is more of the same quality work but just not quite as good. I found the story and characters were slightly less interesting to me. I did like that a few of the characters I was familiar with were given additional depth: Shivers plays a major role here and I found him and Cosca to be the characters I cared about the most. Michael Page does an excellent job on the narration, but again, just not quite as good as Steven Pacey.
Although I rate this book lower than I did the first three, it has kept my appetite wet for more. I am eager to start on The Heroes so I can see how Joe Abercrombie’s merciless writing will pain me next. It hurts so good though.
This book is a turd of diamond. By the end of the first audio segment, I was in a mood to set fire to kittens. by the second, I wanted to massacre every single pro/antagonist myself. Halfway through the third, I swore I'd delete the entire accursed thing from my hard drive. By the end of the last segment, I desperately needed a hug, but feared human contact.
I hated nearly every minute of this book, and yet every time I decided I couldn't bear the spleen-imploding misery of the plot's latest apocalypse, Abercrombie would bash my face in with another epiphany of prosaic genius. This is one of the most gratuitous, disgusting, brilliant, and unique things I've ever read.
If you lack any trace of suicidal tendencies, have friends who will tolerate a massive week-long mood swing, and do not own a particularly flammable kitten, then it may be safe to read this book. I'm pretty sure it's worth it.
Why so hard on the narrator? I was never once confused about which character was speaking. Now, when I first heard the voice he chose for the Poisoner, I snapped off my Sansa, thinking, "Yessh. Another wasted credit. This would be better if I read it." I almost quit listening right then because it revolted me instantly and seemed pompous and stagey. But wait! The character is a slimy, arrogant, self important wretch. I grew to LOVE the NARRATOR and I'm hard on narrators in general. I'm glad I gave the book another chance. Two months after listening, I still think about some of the characters and I can't name another book that has done that to me. It was a harsh story, a pathetic roller coaster of pathos and pointless waste. The two most helpful reviews listed here speak of the varied qualities of the book already. Believe what they say. It's an awful story beautifully told. It's actually painful but still I laughed out loud a lot. I think some of the "monologues" toward the end of the story were a bit redundant, but if I reserved 5 stars for a perfect book, no one would ever get a 5 star from me. So. Yes, it induces cringes, stinging eyes, laughter, disgust, exasperation, trepidation and spoons out tiny doses of hope and redemption. Not one of those characters was all bad or all good, even the vile Poisoner. Kinda like real people, huh? I miss those guys.
Driving over 100,000 mile a year since 1983, I got hooked on audible books on tape 30 years back. I now listen from my bicycle 2 hours a day
A fine companion in theme to the Count of Monte Cristo with a wonderful variety of characters, landscapes, places and scenes of inventive episodes of sweet revenge. Woe be to those who crossed Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins. She is one enemy you don't want on your trail.
I enjoyed this book more than I am willing to admit. Indeed, the author seems to really loathe his protagonists, and subjects them to all manner of horrible situations, but darned if it doesn't just work, somehow.
The sex scenes made me feel slightly ill, the fight scenes also made me slightly ill - they went on forever and were needlessly gory. The motivations of every character were suspect and ridiculous, and the narration was painfully overdone.
That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and really hope that there's more ahead for this group of characters.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
Extreme vigilante justice plus flawed characters plus violence and depravity = this book. This is not a bad thing either... if you've read others in this series, this book has the same 'tone' and the same lack of moralizing, even when you might want some morals to reorient yourself from the depravity. Bravo Mr. Abercrombie for writing such a dark fantasy with flawed characters we can actually care about. That, I think, is the biggest catch here - the characters are horrible people, but we still care what happens to them... odd.
My only complaint would be that it is so long. I prefer to be able to finish a novel in a timely manner, but there is a LOT of story here. The story is pretty straightforward: main character seeking revenge. But there are 7 people with whom she needs to get revenge. And each of the 7 get their own story - complete with setup, conflict and resolution - then the next person is sought out and revenge is obtained. So it flows like 7 novellas, plus an overarching setup and resolution. I might have preferred to have, say, 5 people on which to seek revenge - I am not sure what the additional victims brought to the table (i.e. once you see revenge taken on 5 people, what does adding 2 more give you? Not *more* satisfaction, just... more violence, and perhaps a different way of killing someone - and a super long novel.)
You probably don't have to read the earlier books in this 'series' since this one really does stand alone. And if you have read, and liked, the others, you should like this one about the same amount... other than the fact that it is a bit (100 pages or so) too long for its content, which slows down the pace of the story. The ending is nicely resolved and we find out what happens to all the main characters... there is no cliff hanger.
It is full of foul language, graphic violence and there is even some detailed sex to fill out the gambit. I have bought the next one in the series. The narration is excellent.
Abercrombie is the most vital voice in fantasy fiction today. He writes excellent action, his characters are fresh and he _gets to the point_ of the story without resorting to 1000 page endless epics.
If you're tired of seeing 'Sci-Fi & Fantasy' titles on Audible and other online book stores that are thinly disguised furry romance fiction, do your bit for the genre and pick up 'Best Served Cold'.
The narration isn't the best - hopefully they'll pop for a more enjoyable reader for future Abercrombie titles. The world of 'Best Served Cold' may be a dark, unpleasant place but that doesn't mean the narration needs to be dark and unpleasant.
I'm the managing editor of the Fantasy Literature blog. Life's too short to read bad books!
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 don???t make love, they ... 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.
Much of the book is rivoting. Parts of the book are so horribly descriptive it is impossible to stop listening, or else it's absolutely necessary to stop listening and catch a breath and go back for more. Phew! Got through that part without ripping apart everything in sight.
But then, there are some long, too clever by half, dreary, weakly theatrical monologues where all I wanted to do was run the character through myself - just to have some silence. These do have an unpleasant effect on the overall enjoyment of the story.
I think, too, after hearing Steven Pacey's narration of the First Law trilogy, I was spoiled. It is such an outstanding narration; Michael Page just cannot match it.
This was a terrific book. The reader captured the tone of the story as a whole and did a good job with the characterizations. And what characters! The length may seem daunting to some but the story is nicely paced and doesn't lag. The characters are fabulously flawed and range from sword for hire to poisoner extraordinaire because the heroes of the tale are as bad as the villains. Fun stuff and funny too. Dastardly derring do and quips to boot!
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