Michael's Reviews > Best Served Cold

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
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's review
Aug 26, 10

bookshelves: 2000s, fiction-that-speculates
Read from July 25 to August 19, 2010

Filter the retro feel and the Tarantino dialogue from "Kill Bill Volume 1." Take what's left and mix in one random barbarian from Abercrombie's earlier trilogy, then pour into a pan with a good dollop of the late Middle Ages. Fry for 880 pages, dropping in one new badguy every 110. By the end of the process, it should look something like "The Unforgiven". . . It won't taste nearly as good, though.

I'm surprised about all the glowing reviews this book has gotten considering how little new ground this one breaks. Abercrombie, as always, goes against some of our genre stereotypes, but. . . well, so what?

Here's the plot: Monza Murcatto is a heartless badass who leads a group of mercenaries called the Thousand Swords, and her brother is her advisor and right hand man. She's recently worked for a man who wants to conquer a bunch of countries, and when she meets him in his castle, he has both of them stabbed and thrown over the balcony, where they fall far, far down, and land in a forest.

Monza survives, and begins her quest to kill all seven of the guys who were in the room when she was betrayed and her brother killed. Think "The Crow." Think "Payback." Think "The Machine Girl" and ninety-seven-thousand other movies.

So, Abercrombie's first mistake was making it seven badguys. Four, or maybe five, were necessary to make his story work, because character and plot development happens during that many episodes. Did I mention they feel like episodes? They do.

Throughout the book, we increasingly learn that this apparently straight-up revenge story has some darker, murkier undertones, and even what we thought we knew about the larger conflict is vastly skewed because of whose vantage point we're seeing these events from. I like this approach to fantasy, but unless you're new to Abercrombie, it's not much of a surprise.

Why three stars? Well, I enjoyed this book, despite its flaws. This is probably one of those I-love-you-so-I'm-hard-on-you kinda things, because I couldn't believe Abercrombie had the balls to end his First Law Trilogy the way he did. It was fucking awesome. But Abercrombie pulls most of the same tricks here, and we end up with no greater understanding of the genre, or of Abercrombie's take on heroes, than we had at the end of the First Law Trilogy. For many fantasy readers, this is exactly what they're looking for; but the sameness of most fantasy bores the shit out of me.

Abercrombie has a new and unusual take on the fantasy genre, and turns the common tropes of fantasy on their head in certain ways. Unless he finds new ways to do this, though, he's going to create his own standard fantasy formula that can be repeated by nine thousand hack authors who will make it just another kind of stereotypical fantasy: 'Medieval Noir."

I'm in a grumpy mood and can apparently not focus on the positive, so let me try again: this book is funny, action packed, full of amusing stereotypes that are sometimes almost real characters. Shit, there I go again. . . I give up. I'm going to write an Ann Coulter review.
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Reading Progress

07/25/2010 page 40
7.0% "Today is a day of starting books. Not continuing them, not finishing them. Just starting them."
07/30/2010 page 160
29.0% "See, you KNOW when you're reading a book by Abercrombie and a character shows up named Faithful, some backstabbin' is going to happen."
07/31/2010 page 220
39.0% "(Kill Bill + The Lies of Locke Lamora - 1/2 Robert Louis Stevenson) X 1.32 = Best Served Cold"
08/06/2010 page 350
63.0% "They're totally wrong about the number of pages. This sucker is 880 pages, so I still have a lot to go."
08/12/2010 page 550
98.0% "Strangely enough, I'm on page 550 and I still have 330 pages to go. They were totally wrong about the page numbers on this puppy."
08/15/2010 page 550
98.0% "Real page number: 740. Total number of betrayals: at this point, I've lost count, although I can guarantee it's over 30."

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Hahaha! As I was reading, I was thinking "he's all mad from Coulter."

Oooooh, Coulter review!

Michael Grumble grumble grumble. .. It's going to be all peaches and cream, of course. I've been supplementing my reading with watching bits of her talking on various shows. She's a very special kind of crazy. I was pretty sure Glenn Beck was weirder before reading this, but now I'm not so sure.

message 3: by David (new)

David This is roughly the conclusion I came to at the end of The first book of the series, and while I'm sorry that the end was somewhat disappointing, I'm glad that I didn't make a mistake in not going further in the series.

J.M. Wow, just two stars? That's mean.

Michael Well, two stars means "it was ok." That was definitely my reaction. I like Abercrombie, but this one felt cumbersome and like it wasn't saying anything he hadn't said better with the First Law trilogy.

Minglis Seven bad guys and seven episodes just sounds like seven loads of awesome to me. Not sure what the big problem is. Fuck 3 acts. 7 is better.

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