Monza is a cut throat heartless commander general of the Thousand Swords; a lethal group of mercenaries. That is until her gainful employer Grand Duke Orso decides to murder she and her brother and throw Monza’s body from his mountain terrace to the forest floor below. Broken to pieces Monzcarro Murcatto surprisingly does not die and is put back together in quite good fashion by a mysterious bone thief. Once she has her wits back about her and body in semi decent working order there is only one thing that burns in Monza’s mind.
Along the way to killing the seven men who were responsible for her brothers murder and her attempted death Monza brings together an unlikely band of bloody villains. An optimistic Northman trying to be a better man, an under appreciated master poisoner, a convict named Friendly though he seems anything but, a former torturer and the man she once betrayed to gain control of the Thousand Swords. Together they set off on an unlikely and blood spattered trail to eliminate those seven men who tried to kill Monza.
In Joe Abercrombie’s latest book Best Served Cold you are thrown smack dab back into the circle of the world he created. Shoulder to shoulder with some of the same characters made me smile as I could see the under currents and references alluded to from The First Law series. Though this is a complete and independent read from The First Law I think that reading both gives the reader a much more comprehensive grasp on what is not said outright.
The fight scenes in this book are worth the read alone. Graceful, intriguing, brutal, like a train wreck that you can’t pull your eyes from Joe Abercrombie has an almost poetic portrayal on all things horrific. I applaud him for going the extra step, to truly bring down hell on his characters is something so rarely seen in fantasy beyond the expected Tolkien style “questing”. His characters are so finely wrought that you expect them to be based off real living and breathing people. His ability to give such different characters different voices puts him head and shoulders above most writers. Even before a name is mentioned the reader knows who is thinking or speaking.
That said and though I enjoyed Best Served Cold I have to admit I had more trouble getting through it than The First Law series. Maybe it’s because the characters were so similar in motivation or because maybe I am not as jaded as I would like to think. Joe Abercrombie’s characters of women start to grate by the last one hundred pages of his book. Just as it grates when you realize that there is not one single redeemable quality in all of the characters he has employed. I am not to naive to think that there is always a happy ending, but maybe one a little less brutal.
As much as I enjoyed Best Served Cold I gave it four out of five stars on my goodreads account because while just as engaging as The First Law it lacked the humor and even good spirited moments that gave the reader some repreave of further depression lying for them just a few pages away.
In all this was an enjoyable and smart read. The dialogue was well written and witty, the scenery and battle scenes gracefully and beautifully executed, and the characters bold, brilliant, and brutal. I would recommend this book tops to anyone looking for something new and different in the fantasy genre.