|Two things are best served cold: gazpacho soup, and revenge.
Joe Abercrombie's latest is all about the latter, and vengeance isn't pretty. This is no
stereotypical fantasy quest to save the world; the characters and their motivations are
all genuinely grey, and tending towards the darker shades at that. Though they're not nice
people, they are believable and compelling, and I cared what happens to them despite not
being able to condone their actions.
The novel is really more of a "secondary world
historical" than a fantasy. The place names may be unfamiliar, but if you're after
dragons, elves, and sorcery, look elsewhere. The few supernatural elements feel somewhat
out of place, playing only a minor role in the story and I suspect serving primarily to
link the book to the preceding The First Law trilogy. But for
the most part, Best Served Cold does live up to its billing as a
standalone novel, and my lack of familiarity with the trilogy seldom got in the way of
appreciating the story.
It does suffer a bit from travelogue-itis, with the plot reason for visiting various
cities in turn coming off as an excuse for the author to show off his world. But that's a
minor niggle, and doesn't harm the story which moves along at a good pace. The prose is
vividly descriptive, and laced with black humour that prevents the book from getting too
I wasn't entirely satisfied with the conclusion; one major plot twist deserved a bit
more of a reaction, and elements come in to play that do seem to rely on knowledge of the
previous trilogy to fully appreciate. But it's by no means a bad ending, and does
effectively resolve this book's story. If you're not willing to commit to a trilogy, then Best
Served Cold is a good introduction to Abercrombie, but otherwise starting
with The Blade Itself probably makes more sense.