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Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Best Served Cold

by Joe Abercrombie

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I read Abercrombie's standalone novels in reverse order somewhat by accident, and I wish I hadn't. I knew from The Heroes that Caul Shivers was a tough, cold bastard, so from the start of this book, when he steps off a boat dewey-eyed and determined to be a good man at last, I knew it couldn't last. I did know to look out for Gorst's cameo.

Abercrombie likes to take established genres, toss in a helping of fantasy, and go with it. This time, the setup is the classic revenge story, a la Kill Bill. A woman has been terribly wronged, and she has a list of names to cross off. She crosses them off.

But ohh, it's so much fun along the way. Abercrombie is full of surprises, upsets, and twists. It's heartening to watch the group come together, then slowly fall apart. And unlike the Heroes or the First Law trilogy, this book has plenty of marvelously awesome female characters: Monza, our leading lady; Day, a poisoner's assistant with a prodigious appetite; Vitari, a woman who simply gets things done, whether it's planning an attack or murdering someone in their bed; and Carlot dan Eider, a woman who has fallen from grace and must use every shred of her wits to get by.

Things get perhaps a bit too bleak, in classic Abercrombie fashion, and the characters become increasingly unlikable as the story continues. But the writing is always fun, and the pages turn quickly. ( )
  miri12 | May 31, 2019 |
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie is yet another extremely dark and extremely brutal installation in the First Law world. The primary rule of this world seems to be eat or be eaten. There is always someone to seek revenge on and always someone that deserves to be killed or tortured. This world exists exclusively on principle of hatred and revenge with little to concern for anything or anyone else. Characters that do try to show a care or love for someone else usually end up dead or with any sort of love eradicated rom them. Shivers is an example of this. He strives to become a better man, but any attempt to be better only leads him to deeper darkness and blacker pain. All attempts to be a better person quickly turn sour and he left much worse than he began, all joy and light sucked out of him, an empty carcass of a man, a pure killer. But one almost thinks that he is better of that way because the world of Abercrombie doesn’t really leave much space for there to be anyone who isn’t pure killer. If you are a “good” person then you will be killed. In order to survive you have to be cold and bitter. Throughout the book there are multiple references to how farmers suffer the most in war, how the innocent and the civilians are the ones who pay the highest price for the fleeting glory of the nobility and their petty wars.
This book is about nothing, but in the absolute best possible way. When I say this book is about nothing, I don’t mean that there is nothing happening in this book or there is no theme or no point, but that this book is, literally, about nothing. This is the most detailed and believable exploration of nihilism I have ever encountered and shows the utter tragedy of what happens when humanity is left entirely unfettered with nothing greater to think of than the self. Every character in this book thinks first of themselves and then everyone else. And look where that gets everyone.
The only true critique I would have of this novel is that Monza has to be yet another hard-bitten, angry woman. I am so tired of the mad woman trope. If you are going to be a woman who fights, you have to be extremely angry, extremely hard, and extremely dedicated. You have to be entirely consumed with thoughts of revenge. Women, after all, can only fight if they want revenge. This emotion-fueled image of the woman warrior is so narrow and incomplete. A woman can go to war for reasons besides revenge, but it doesn’t seem like literature (or any other art form) really gives a woman any other option. And her only way to fit is to become the most bitter, hardcore, ruthless, merciless fighter available because otherwise she won’t be “accepted.” If this is truly a fantasy world, just make gander equality a thing and move on with it. Give the reading public a more interesting female character because we are sick of this kind of woman.
While I appreciate the empty brutality of Abercrombie’s works, I could definitely do without the gender stereotyping and closed-minded roles for women. The men in his books are allowed to have a much greater range of emotions and reasons for doing things, but the women seem to only ever be fueled by one thing. Toward the end of the story, there is much more revealed about Monza and what she is capable of, but I think that took too long to reveal.
My only other real compliant is that the ending was a bit deus ex machine. Shenkt just sort of appeared from no where and was behind the whole thing the whole time. His master is all shadowy and confused (although one assumes it is Bayaz) and he is probably an Eater but he has obviously way too much ability to just resolve everything. It gave the ending a very unsatisfying feel and not in the good way one wants from something as broken and dark as this story is. ( )
  never_sam | May 16, 2018 |
THis was a dark book but I loved it none the less. I know Martin is the standard bearer for the new epic fantasy boom but Abercrombie is a magician. I will read everything he writes. ( )
  CSDaley | Mar 28, 2018 |
I don't think this was as good as The First Law series. I didn't particularly care for any of the lead characters. It was almost like Joe Abercrombie desperately needed to make this book as long as possible for no other reason than to put the reader off trying to finish it. The comical antics of Morveer just got a bit boring towards the end. Same with Friendly and Shivers longest epic pointless fight. I liked how he tied the book up though and the ending was a new beginning. I felt Orso who had so much fight in him gave up a bit too easily. My opinions of course but it was so hard to get to him that you wonder why it fell so flat at the end. Overall, a good read but just pointlessly drawn out :) ( )
  Yogiboo | Apr 4, 2017 |
3.5/5 ( )
  Amanda105 | Sep 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
This inevitably makes Best Served Cold something of a novel of parts—some very good, exhilarating or terrifying or amusing, but no more a coherent whole for that. The frenetic plot does, however, feed into a broader aesthetic of denial, even if it could have been more elegantly done
Joe Abercrombie takes the grand tradition of high fantasy literature and drags it down into the gutter, in the best possible way.
added by Shortride | editTime (Aug 7, 2009)
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To have a good enemy, choose a friend: he knows where to strike. - Diane de Poitiers
Men become accustomed to poison by degrees. - Victor Hugo
The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. - Joseph Conrad
War without fire is as worthless as sausages without mustard - Henry V.
For mercenaries are disunited, thirsty for power, undisciplined, and disloyal; they are brave among their friends and cowards before the enemy; they have no fear of God, they do not keep faith with their fellow men; they avoid defeat just as long as they avoid battle; in peacetime you are despoiled by them and in wartime by the enemy. - Niccoló Machiavelli
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The sunrise was the colour of bad blood.
"Veränderungen, Freundlich ... es ist so eine Sache damit. Manchmal ändert sich ein Mensch zum Besseren. Manchmal ändert sich ein Mensch zum Schlechteren. Und oft, sehr oft, sobald er die Zeit und die Möglichkeit bekommt ..." Er wedelte kurz mit seinem Flachmann, dann zuckte er die Achseln. "Dann macht er alle Änderungen wieder rückgängig."
Aber er war ein besserer Mensch, da war er sich sich sicher. Weiser. Früher war er sich selbst sein größter Feind gewesen. Jetzt war er der größte Feind aller anderen.
Je mehr man einem Mann gibt, desto mehr verlangt er und desto weniger glücklich ist er auch. Niemand weiß je etwas zu schätzen, das er umsonst bekommen hat. Die Pest über die verdammte Mildtätigkeit.
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Monza wants revenge, and she's going to do everything she can to get it. Her brother is dead and now she plans to kill each of the seven men who murdered him. But she needs some help - Shivers, the Northman, Cosca, the mercenary, Friendly, the former inmate of a vicious prison - all hard men to do hard, bloody deeds.--Publisher.… (more)

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Orbit Books

3 editions of this book were published by Orbit Books.

Editions: 0316044962, 0316044954, 0316198358

Tantor Media

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