Title: Best Served Cold
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Date: July 9, 2009
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Cover Artist: Photography by Michael Frost; Photo Illustration by Gene Mollica
Synopsis: Springtime in Styria. And that means war.
There have been nineteen 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, and 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 Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started…
Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.
Joe Abercrombie’s name happened to come up while I was corresponding with an author. For some reason that name pricked at me and I couldn’t figure out where I heard it. Then I looked at my book shelf, and there he was, still waiting to be read. Perhaps he was mixed in the shuffle and I forgot he was there, likely, the inch and half binder was intimidating and I merely chose to ignore him. If I remember correctly, my husband and I were at a Barnes & Noble in Columbus where we purchased several books. Not familiar with his works, I picked this one up based on the above synopsis. To others new to his work The First Laws Trilogy was written before Best Served Cold. I did not read the First Laws Trilogy and this book does read well as a standalone. So I am very excited to go backwards.
First off, this book is heavy, as in weight.
It goes without saying that I have been, like so many of us avid readers, spoiled by technology. Where’s my highlighter? I can’t make notes. Is that a real word? What does that word mean? I was seriously getting irritated at page 100 and I had 640 more to go.
So, much to my regret, I bought the ebook; traitor that I am.
First off, this cover is very impressive and the artist did a beautiful job.
The woman in the front is our protagonist Monza Murcatto a female mercenary bent on revenge against the seven who betrayed her. After a torturous recovery from her overwhelming injuries, she assembles her own group of men and women to help her with the task of exacting vengeance.
“He remembered the moment he first laid eyes on her: a wild-haired girl of nineteen with a sword at her hip and a bright stare rich with anger, defiance and the slightest fascinating hint of contempt.” ~Nicomo Cosca
Having read Martin’s books, and having a fondness for fantasy/action/adventure, I knew this would be sure to tingle the literary senses. I just wish I discovered Joe Abercrombie sooner.
It’s brutal. The scenes are not written for the squeamish, and this author will have many surprises as you make the journey with Monza. With so many characters in this book, it is a wonder that the author does not lose the reader’s interest. But there I remained, captivated with each one. Each voice, singular, their individuality distinct. But not so rigid that they are not able to transition and develop. I may offend some readers when I say I prefer his writing style to Martin’s, although, I’m not sure why. I stopped reading Game of Thrones after A Song of Ice and Fire.
I suppose it could be the fact that Martin had children in his books and Abercrombie did not. Flashbacks of Monza’s life as a child is provided in Best Served Cold and as a reader, I can easily disassociate myself from her earlier struggles in life. In Games of Thrones, you can’t. I also found Abercrombie writes good comic relief, a wonderful ingredient when reading twisted caliginous books.
The fight scenes are detailed. Muscles shredded, organs speared, this book has no shortage of mutilations, and the battles are specific and intelligently written. Lies, deceit, and treachery are ever present, the heroes are loathsome and flawed. As much as I liked the book, I found the end a bit lacking. The surprises were nice, but the ending was just not enough for me. I do hope he expands more on her Monza’s life in his future works.
In hindsight, I would have bought the book anyways, in hopes of one day getting it signed. Wishful thinking on my part as he lives across the pond and signs only at prestigious events ie, Comi Con in San Diego this summer. Unattainable for this reader on a budget.
For those in love with Dark Fantasy/Scoundrel Lit, this book, and the author will not disappoint.
If I had to choose a favorite character, it would be Nicomo Cosca. The man is full of surprises.