Best Served Cold is a stand-alone novel set in the world of the First Law trilogy – a series that I have previously reviewed and praised as one of the most intriguing works in modern fantasy.
Best Served Cold
by Joe Abercrombie
Published by Gollancz
Hardcover, 544 pages
The World Goes On
One thing I noted in my review of The First Law was the ending having a “sour taste of unfinished business about it.” I really like this quality of Abercrombie’s; the world he portrays does not begin and end with the story or the characters in question.
Best Served Cold takes over a few years after the end of The First Law and is set in another part of the world, with a new set of characters mixed with a couple of old timers from the series. Here, the world is no better or worse off for the events that went down in the previous books.
What Went Wrong?
The thing is; I am actually quite disappointed and I find it hard to point out the why of it. Best Served Cold is a very well written book (more so, in fact, than The First Law.) It is full of life-like characters, the plot is solid and the action is strong. It is every bit as gritty as the First Law trilogy - and still it did not catch me.
I the problem is that Best Served Cold lacks much of the suspense and unpredictability that made The First Law such a page-turningly awesome read.
In addition, I think the plot was probably too one-sided for me, with no room for detours or interesting little quirks in the corners.
Vengeance with a Will
As the title suggests this book is all about vengeance. It is a breakneck tale of a woman who has only one goal in mind, who will not stop to breathe before she has achieved that end, and the company that follow her.
This really was a predictable read for me. There were only two things during the course of the story I did not predict – one of which I probably should have seen coming, though. I feel like these twists took a bit too long in coming – just when the story is over and there is no more pages left to marvel at the ingenuity of them.
As to the Characters
I read another review pointing out that the characters are all too similar, and I will have to concur. We have a group of people who are all experienced killers, albeit in each their way, and despite whatever moral qualms some of them may have in the beginning, they all seem equally cold-blooded, going about murdering like everyday business.
Somehow, they seem a little too good at what they are doing. There was never much doubt in my mind that they would succeed with their quest.
They are all horribly flawed, of course, as is Abercrombie’s style, but those flaws seem to limit them only a fraction of what one might have expected. Even though the main character’s main hand is crippled, she rarely seem to struggle with the fighting – the focus is more on the cosmetic problems with it.
One thing I must applaud Abercrombie for, though, is his point of view changes. I absolute love how he manages to give each character a distinctive voice, and how he manages to develop the characters while staying true to their style.
If you are new to Joe Abercrombie, you should certainly start your acquaintance by reading the First Law trilogy.
If you liked that series and are not sure whether to read this one, I say go for it. It is a good read. Just don’t pick it up with the expectation of getting The First Law all over again.
This review has also been published on the Internet Book Review