book reviews by Althea

Best Served Cold – Joe Abercrombie *****

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So far, I’m 5/5 with Joe Abercrombie – and I think I have 3 more yet to-read. This is Good Stuff!

Set in the same world as ‘The Blade Itself,’ ‘Best Served Cold’ introduces us to Monza Murcatto, a mercenary general. It’s unusual for a woman to be a mercenary, let alone a military leader – and she’s achieved her place by being twice as ruthless and tough as the hard-bitten men around her.

However, tough as she may be, she’s not invulnerable. A shattering betrayal has ended with her dearly beloved brother dead, and her own body broken and damaged. Clawing her way back from the brink of death, Monza has only one thing on her mind – as the title of the book hints: Revenge.

There were seven men present in the room where her brother was killed and she was discarded and presumed dead. Now, her driving force is the desire to kill every one of those men. And she’ll stop at nothing to achieve her goal.

A lot has been made of how ‘dark’ and ‘gritty’ Abercrombie’s writing is. In a way, I see where that’s coming from… but I still disagree with it. It’s more like Abercrombie has taken all the tropes of a certain type of fantasy, used the expected stock characters (complete with humorous sidekick) – and written the uncensored kind of story that was always happening in my head whenever I read anything in this genre. Vicious people aren’t secretly lovable and nice; there are no ‘hearts of gold.’ However, the style of the writing is not dark at all, and it’s just about the opposite of depressing. It’s actually pretty funny; full of witty one-liners and irony. Although the book is quite long (nearly 900 pages), it moves along at a quick, compelling pace. Although the plot follows a typical ‘quest’ format, Abercrombie does an excellent job injecting new life into it, gradually revealing new layers and depth to his characters – both regarding their pasts and motivations and letting them grow in response to their experiences.

Highly recommended.


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