Best Served Cold - Joe Abercrombie
If you liked the trilogy, you will most likely love this book. It's much of the same, except amplified. More awesome fight scenes, more gore, a bit darker, still funny, well done characters that drive the story and progress. You won't meet many people from the trilogy in
this book, certainly none of the main characters. There are throw away
mentions of things that are going on elsewhere but that's all. I liked the fact that this book dealt with different people in a different place in the world in a different war with the puppet masters hanging over heads.


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I loved this book. There's a clear direction and it feels more cohesive then the trilogy. It's a great stand alone book, but obviously to understand it well you should read the trilogy
first. The ending isn't conclusive like the ending of the trilogy, it just ties up this one war and leaves everything else hanging. However, the ending did feel more satisfying. What information you get due to the perspective and the switching of perspective is superbly done. This technique works so well for the story. This technique worked so great for the slow reveal of facts which built tension, and the progression. The author really has grown and gotten better since the trilogy, where the switching was a bit choppy and disorienting at first.

It's still character driven and the characters are dynamic. They are fleshed out and very realistic. They have their own style and humor. It's the same grey morality for all characters, different shades for everyone. Some more black, some more white, some flaws, and some
redeeming moments. Some light moments, some funny dialog that just make it easier reading and really enjoyable. It was nice to see more of some people, to bring them out from background shadows to real characters. The character progression is one of, if not the most, favorite thing about Abercrombie's books.



(Thoughts on Some Characters)
I loved the flip flopping between Monza and Shivers. Everything we thought originally was turned on its head. Friendly is a new character that I want to see more of, with his POV passages we understand what he is doing and why he does it (prisoner adaptation) but no one else in the story does. It's an interesting side note to see how that society deals with criminals and how
prisons work there. Coza cracks me up though it was obvious what he was doing (or not doing), it was still enjoyable. We found out a bit more about Vitari but there are lots more questions than answers with the reveal at the end of who her children's father is.




I was concerned about the author and the women characters (or lack of
character) at the end of the trilogy. With Monza, Eider and Vitari in this book I'm not really that concerned anymore. They were very well done and fleshed out characters. There was even a good glimpse from Cotarda, high class lady, (pg. 565) talking to Monza about being a character.

"I've got no character at all, but where does one get character from? Either you have it or you don't. You have. Everyone says you have. Where did you get it? Why don't I have any? Sometimes I think I'm cut out of paper, just acting like a person. They tell me I'm an utter coward. What can I do about that? Being an utter coward?"


So is this how Abercrombie views the upper crust society women, a glimpse of what it's like being stuck in that role or Cortada(or women in general) or just a general statement about being a character. Great quote on several different levels.



The characters for all their low browness that some complain about do have some great quotes. Quite a few need to be read during the book to make sense. There are some deep or meaningful topics coming up in these books and I love how the characters talk about it all. Some quotes I wanted to pull out..




Orso (pg. 14)
"And people without hope are a dangerous crowd, even in a republic. Especially in a republic."


Monza (pg. 102"
"That's optimists. You bastards never learn."



Cosca (pg.302)
"The most heroic deaths of all were the pointless ones, Cosca had always found."


Shenkt (pg. 307)
"It would be a good thing, to spare even one."


Cosca (pg. 328)
" The lowest slug, weed, slime struggle to stay alive. Why should Styria's most infamous mercenary hold himself to another standard?"


Ganmark (pg.330)
"Ah, what had to be done. The favourite excuse of unexamined evil echoes down the ages and slobbers from your twisted mouth."


Cosca (pg. 499)
"Things aren't what they used to be is the rallying cry of small minds."


Monza (pg. 519)
"That was the difference between a hero and a villian, a soldier and a murderer, a victory and a crime. Which side of the river you called home."


Monza (pg. 521)
"Maybe they just liked corpses, so long as they weren't theirs."


Shivers (pg. 525)
"People got no weight to 'em down here. Wind blows 'em whatever way it pleases."


Cosca (pg. 546)
"It's a war. There is no right side."


Cosca (pg. 556)
"The only good way to fight is the one that kills your enemy and leaves you with the breath to laugh. If science can simplify the process, well, so much the better. Everything else is flimflam."


Shivers (pg. 585)
"Shivers didn't reckon he'd last 'til lunch, but he guessed that meant more lunch for everyone else. You have to look at the sunny side, don't you? That's what being an optimist is all about."



Shenkt (pg. 586)
"Still, men always clung to the smallest sliver of hope. It was one of the few things to admire in them."




The Unsettling Scene for Me (pg. 487)
{Could be Trigging}

The only part that unsettled me was the scenes dealing with Monza with Rogont and Shivers with Eider. It went back and forth while at first you thought it was Monza & Shivers having sex. Then the sex is over and you find out that they were having sex with other people. During the scenes with Shivers and Eider, he got rough. Which
is fine, I just had an immediate worry "What if she says stop it? Will he stop? Is this going to become a rape scene? Thankfully that didn't happen. It was fully consensual. That moment of panic before the scene ended was the most unsettled I was the entire book. At the end of the scene when you find out it was Eider and she did this to get Shivers to kill Monza and the look she gets on her face. All while Shivers is
delighted to see and enjoying her pain and fear. It didn't sit well with me. It made sense, it fit with the story and
the characters. It just hit close to home for me. All the gore and violence didn't upset me but this could have turned badly seducing to get something sex scene did.

Well, except for the part where Shenkt started carving up and eating that mercenary. Yet still the sex scene came first to mind and sticks with me more. The Shenkt eating scene was more of an ick moment yet fascinating like Hannibal Lecture (which was totally referenced).

The Chapter was titled "To the Victors...".One of things that I liked about the chapter was the change between Monza and Shivers. He's now willing to kill her but she isn't willing to kill him.


Background Tension and Commentary.

The obvious themes here were vengeance and hope. I found the tension between the people of science and those who have seen magic more interesting. Magic is dying out yet those who've seen it know that it is real for now and that is was real in the past. The people of science thinking people believing in magic are crazy and barbarians. The people who have seen magic know that it's true yet have no way to prove it without the magi there to do something. Magic is dying out though while science is beginning to blossom. We've seen the growth of blasting powder. How long til we have guns in the First Law world? Science is going to rein with gold while magic dies forgotten. The stories of the Old Times will just be stories. It's already that way with God, except in Gurtkish where the prophet and the eaters roam free and everyone there knows about them. I'm wondering how this is going to play out with the going on war between the last apprentices of magi.

The other thing I found really interesting was Friendly and the prison system. Friendly was trying to go back into prison since he adapted and couldn't survive outside of it. With the war going on those still in Saftey broke out. Eventually the adapted ones like Friendly even left because they needed food, even though they stayed inside as long as they could. It's an interesting commentary on prison and what happens to prisoners, especially ones like Friendly who grew up in there. I wonder if they are going to have a justice system up and running again and what will happen.

These background tensions and world building is what draws me in so much. The author has sarcastic commentary and often points out these kinds of things. I really enjoy this aspect of the series, I don't think it gets mentioned enough. Looking at this series as an alternative history to Earth there is clearly more here than just bloody fights and swearing.