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Best Served Cold
Joe Abercrombie
Gollancz, 534 pages

Best Served Cold
Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie was born in Lancaster, UK in 1974. He went to Manchester University to study Psychology, then moved to London. He found work at a TV Post-Production company, leaving two years later to become a freelance film editor. In 2002, he sat down and began to write, completing The Blade Itself, was completed in 2004 and bought by Gollancz in 2005. Joe now lives in North London with his family.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Last Argument of Kings
SF Site Review: Before They are Hanged
SF Site Review: The Blade Itself

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

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Joe Abercrombie is certainly one of the most promising young authors in Fantasy literature. He burst on the scene in 2005 with his first novel, The Blade Itself, and hasn't looked back since. His last two novels, Before They are Hanged and The Last Argument of Kings, were both well received by fantasy enthusiasts and both found a richly deserved place among our readers choice awards in 2007 and 2008.

Abercrombie's fantasy is very much "blood and guts" fantasy, some may call it dark fantasy or Noir fantasy, but one thing is for sure, it's certainly not for the squeamish. If you're looking for the tale of a knight in shining armor who saves a princess, I don't think you're going to like Abercrombie's writing. If you like tales of betrayal and vengeance, laced with violence, sex and dastardly deeds, you're going to love Best Served Cold.

Abercrombie's fourth novel, Best Served Cold, is a tale of revenge, plain and simple. The story begins when Monza and Benna Murcatto, brother and sister and head of the most powerful band of mercenaries on Styria, the Thousand Swords. They are betrayed by their employer Duke Orsa. Benna is murdered and Monza is presumed dead. A healer discovers Monza, half dead and badly broken up and using experimental techniques, manages to save her life. Monza's survival is not without its price, she is disfigured and lives in constant pain, both mental and physical. And so the tale begins, with Monza recruiting a team to exact her revenge on Duke Orso and all those she holds responsible for her brother's death and her own disfigurement.

Joe Abercrombie, throughout the First Law Trilogy wrote great characters and Best Served Cold continues in that tradition. Monza's first recruit is a Northman named Shivers (who had a brief part in the First Law Trilogy as the vengeance-seeking brother of one of Logen Ninefingers many victims). Shivers migrates into Styria because he is trying to escape the violence of the North and to be a better man. However, as his luck turns and disillusionment sets in, Shiver's plans quickly change and he becomes Monza's right-hand in her personal battle with Orso. Shivers is one in a long list of memorable characters. There is the master poisoner, Morveer and his assistant the constantly-eating Day. There is also the ex-con Friendly who is obsessed with dice and numbers, and Nimco Cosca the drunken, ex-leader of the Thousand Swords from whom Monza wrested power. The list goes on and on with Abercrombie creating one memorable supporting character after another. His characters are largely unsympathetic and you won't really fall in love with any of them, but they are always interesting and will keep you reading until the end.

Readers who are familiar with Abercrombie's work will certainly enjoy Best Served Cold and for people who are not familiar with his work, this is good place to start. It is a stand-alone tale and does not require that you have read his previous works, although the tale will be enhanced if you have. I wouldn't be surprised to see this novel make the reader's choice list once again this year. It is loads of fun, at times hilarious, and it's just a good read for fans of dark fantasy.

Copyright © 2009 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best.


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