Best Served Cold

Joe Abercrombie
Best Served Cold Cover

Best Served Cold


Funny, brutal and breakneck fantasy revenge tale, in which mercenary Monza Murcatto assembles a team of rogues to take down the man who killed her brother and left her for dead.

I absolutely love Joe Abercrombie's novels and this is, I think, his best work yet. Set in the same world as his First Law trilogy, it retains his signature cynical humour and propensity for abandoning the traditional cliches of fantasy characters.

Murcatto and her merry band are flawed and often downright unpleasant, but Abercrombie's gift for world-building and naturalistic, often suprisingly funny dialogue keeps us invested in their struggles. Like George R.R Martin, Abercrombie refuses to judge his character's actions and create easy distinctions between good and evil, which makes for a refreshingly murky story filled with plenty of moments in which characters face difficult situations and pick the worst choice possible. Which is always more fun to read.

It's pretty dark at times too, certainly the author's most downbeat and violent work in tone and theme if not body count. The action scenes are skilfully written but remain defiantly unshowy, reinforcing one of the author's favourite concepts; that heroes tend to not really exist, and that combat is rarely a glorious display of skill, but more often a bloody, confusing and terrifying mess.

There's plenty of great characters, too. Murcatto is a solid lead, and her enforcer Shivers gets a great arc, but it's really the supporting cast that steal the show. My favourite is the gloriously slimy poisoner Morveer, but Nicomo Cosca, the world's least reliable mercenary, gives him a run for his money. The way the characters bounce off of each other is a joy, and there's plenty of snappy dialogue and some genuinely funny, blackly comic moments.

The fact that this is a stand-alone novel (albeit with some delicious world-building for fans of the First Law series) allows Abercrombie to pace his tale a lot more confidently. There were moments in the previous trilogy when, unsuprisingly for a muti-volume work, the plot meandered or lost its flow. Not so here. It rattles along wonderfully, with plenty of imaginative and well-designed set pieces building toward an appropriately climactic conclusion with some pretty big repercussions for the First Law universe.

Those looking for a smart, funny, inventive and gripping fantasy thriller with a heist movie feel should look no further than 'Best Served Cold'. For fans of Joe Abercrombie and other modern fantasy it's an absolute must.