Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

Over the past few years, few young new writers have had as much of a groundswell of positive support as Joe Abercrombie. To say the least, his latest fantasy novel, novel Best Served Cold is/was one of the most anticipated 2009 novels in the genre. Mark/Hobbit reviewed the UK edition in June:
In typical Joe fashion, the heroine is not a typical hero-figure. More Ash than Scarlett O‘Hara, at first Monzcarro/Monza Murcatto comes across as an arrogant bitch, someone you wouldn’t trust, nor would you cross. She is, in fact, The Snake of Talins and The Butcher of Caprile, who along with her brother Benna, are the two most successful mercenary generals in Styria. Their actions, admittedly well paid, have established Duke Orzo as a man of influence and power, but also an intensely jealous one. Realising their increasing fame, in a jealous fit and without warning, he kills Benna and critically injures Monza, throwing her body down a mountainside.

For my part, I loved Joe’s First Law trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged , Last Argument of Kings) and I thought the final book concluded extremely well. Although I enjoyed Best Served Cold, I had some minor pacing issues with it. Anyway, here’s the usual preview of my review:
Very early, as in the first chapter, Monza and Benna are ousted from their place in the employ of Duke Orzo in a rather violent fashion, to say the least. Benna is killed and Monza pushed to the edge of death, saved only because she landed on Benna’s body rather than the hard ground. It seems the mighty Duke is a jealous man and fears that Monza will try to usurp his place of power.

The plot is effective in its simple linear thread of revenge, but what Abercrombie does from beginning to end helps to make the novel, characters and story stand out more than just the story of an angry bitch seeking retribution.

Along the way, Monza recruits the typical motley crew of people to assist her – Caul Shivers, the Barbarian from the North looking to change his violent ways; the poisoner Morveer whose outward sense of civility offsets his aims of killing; the somewhat crazed Friendly; and a perhaps familiar swordsman Nicomo Cosca who does more dueling with wine bottles than with swords.

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