Best Served Cold
by Joe Abercrombie
Review by Steve Sawicki
Orbit Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316044967
Date: 29 July 2009 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Monza Murcatto has spent nineteen years becoming the most feared famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ. So famous that the Duke is growing concerned about her popularity so that one day he has her, and her brother, thrown out a window, down a mountain. The fall should have killed her but it did not.
Found by a man who is intent on learning how the body works she is slowly put together, becoming a physical representation of her former beauty and function. With a claw for a hand and coins holding her skill together, Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talin, burns with revenge and retribution and survives.
Slowly she begins plotting and putting together a group that will assist her in taking down the eight individuals who killed her brother and nearly killed her. One by one she goes after them, taking them out, and often any number of innocent bystanders in the process, until she begins to believe that her mad plan might actually work.
Abercrombie writes with that odd combination of wit, humor and horror, all set in a world with fantasy trappings. His characters have an almost uncaring attitude that allows them to see the wry side of death. Perhaps because they are so close to it and perpetuate such horrors both on an individual and group level that it allows them to be free of concern for their own thoughts of safety.
Abercrombie also seems to enjoy placing his characters in situations where the exact opposite will happen from what they hope will happen. So, the warrior from the north looking to establish new, more moral ways, finds himself killing in more imaginative ways. The general, deposed, discarded and then made whole again through treachery finds loyalty a final path. And on and on it goes in this massive volume of well written, intricately plotted story.
This is the first book I have read by Abercrombie and it is incredible on a number of levels. First, itís a big, complete book. While there is some foreshadowing of a possible sequel this book is complete all by itself. Second, the story is complex, weaving, turning, twisting, from chapter to chapter. It's a finely intertwined tale of deception, revenge, and discovery. Third is simply the level of sustained humor. Itís an unusual find. For style, consider a cross between the intricacy of Steve Erikson and the characterization and wry wit of Dave Duncan.
This is, quite simply, a must read. And Iím going to start looking for Abercrombieís previous work while keeping an eye out for his next ones.