Monday, 19 November 2012

Review: Best Served Cold

Best Served Cold
Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

They paid her to kill.

They paid her to win.

But they did not pay her to die.

Styria is a country on a knife-edge. Grand Duke Orso stands to one side of the blade, on the other, the League of Eight. One little slip…and there’ll be blood.

Monza Murcatto has walked her fair share of knife-edge moments. The Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ. She climbed her way to the top of the popularity mountain, and in doing so has become a popular enemy for the League of Eight…and too popular for the Duke’s liking.

Sometimes it’s not enough to slip on a knife’s edge…it’s about being thrown off of a mountain. Literally.

Left for dead after being pushed from a cliff, Monza sets out on a mission to take what is owed to her. Joined by a man infamous for his death-defying drunken debacles, a poisoner looking out for number one, a prisoner looking out for whatever number he rolls next, and a Northman who’s number is up and is just out to do the right thing, Monza is about to discover that she’s playing the minor part in a greater game.

There’s a lot of parts in the great game of life, but…

The best part of betrayal?


Joe Abercrombie’s ‘Best Served Cold’ is a standalone novel set after his debut trilogy ‘The First Law’. ‘Best Served Cold’ is a story of redemption, revelry, and red-handed revenge.

In ‘Best Served Cold’, Monza Murcatto is a woman in demand. But not just any old demand, she’s at popular demand for her victories as Grand Duke Orso’s mercenary. But popularity isn’t all its cut out to be, and after Grand Duke Orso demands her death, Monza is betrayed. Clinging to life by her fingernails, Monza sets out with her own demand. A demand for revenge.

Though Monza is the key character of ‘Best Served Cold’, her companions proved to be just as pivotal to the plot. Friendly the ex-prisoner, the two poisoners (Master & Apprentice), Shivers the Northman, the mysterious Vitari, and the infamous Nicomo Cosca. Each plays such a part that the entire story could be about them, if not for the whole ‘Monza DEMANDS revenge’ piece. Cosca, Shivers and Vitari are familiar faces for those of you who have read ‘The First Law’, but each is fresh-faced (well…maybe not Shivers by the end of the book *wink*wink*) and ready to go in ‘Best Served Cold’, making for some interesting character developments.

Abercrombie, as ever, has a mastery of cinematic writing. The fight scenes are epic, bordering obscene, but you could easily imagine them on the ‘big screen’. Sex, violence, murder – and that’s just in the first few chapters. The ‘Revenge’ plot has been done time and time again in fantasy books, but ‘Best Served Cold’ drags the reader kicking and screaming down familiar corridors to an unexpected end. Though the pace of the plot slips at points, I found that the characters carried the story of their own accord.

I came away from ‘Best Served Cold’ with two black eyes. At first because the book beat the living day lights out of me with its relentless bloody-mindedness, and two because I spent both daylight and night reading it I was that hooked. It’s not for the fainthearted that’s for sure!

Best Served…? Cold blooded killers don’t come colder than this.

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Monday, 12 November 2012

Review: Last Argument of Kings

Last Argument of Kings
Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the end everyone gets what they deserve.

A shift of power has come to the Union. The King lies on his deathbed. The nobility scramble for their claim to the throne, as the peasants revolt to snatch their freedoms.

Good men are needed to set right the balance of power. If only Inquisitor Glokta could balance long enough on his crippled legs and stick to relieve himself, let alone tilt the scales in the favour of the many.

Jezal Dan Luthar understands the needs of the many – but he rathers the needs of the few. A few being namely one. Himself. Abandoning his quests for glory and betterment, he turns to love and its pursuit. Though, the pursuit of glory might have been an easier chase after all…

Logen Ninefingers is tired or running, chasing, hiding. As his father said, ‘Once you've got a task to do, it's better to do it than live with the fear of it’. So it’s time to go back to the North, to do one last battle, to face his friends and enemies – and he goes with the greatest of both at his side, for the Bloody Nine goes with him.

In the end a man finds his measure. He set his own rules, and breaks them. But there is no rule more terrible to break than ‘The First Law’ itself…

Joe Abercrombie’s ‘The Last Argument of Kings’ is the finale for his ‘The First Law’ series. ‘The Last Argument of Kings’ is an ending fit for a king.

In ‘The Last Argument of Kings’, everyone gets what they deserve. Our favourite cast of miscreants is thrown to the dogs one last time, fighting for all their worth. In true Abercrombie fashion, the characters kick-bite-gnaw-and-scratch their way through the novel. As a reader, I urged them on, glorying with them in their victories (no matter how slight), and mourning in their losses. It’s an ode to a great storyteller that you want a character to win, and Abercrombie certainly knows how to keep that last triumph just out of reach.

The fight scenes up until this point have been fantastic. Now, they’re epic. Abercrombie zooms in and out of his POV characters, providing a bird’s-eye view of the battles, whilst maintaining empathy for individuals caught in the middle of it all. The line between good and evil is blurred in the mud and the blood of the battle, and we’re reminded that the battles are fought between men, each with their own decisions be they good or bad.

With so many ties strewn about the plot, Abercrombie masterfully weaves them into a masterpiece. Drawing on threads two-books old, the final twists and turns will leave the reader wanting more, even after the satisfactory close.

True to his ‘realistic’ approach, Abercrombie closes the book on several characters’ stories, whilst leaving room for further exploits with others. Though some fans and readers may find this bittersweet, I like it. I mean, just because the words stop doesn’t mean that these characters stop living, does it?

‘The Last Argument of Kings’ is one of the books where you curse yourself because you should’ve seen it coming – but you didn’t. But make sure you don’t miss out by not chancing it a read!

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Friday, 9 November 2012

Review: The Rescue

The Rescue
The Rescue by Diane Strong

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Before I begin, let me say that I received a free copy of 'The Rescue' in return for a review.

'The Rescue'...well, it's different. Very different. Not my usual sort of thing, but I did indeed finish it in a single sitting, easily devoured during my lunch break. It's 'out there'. It's straight up, to the point. No wasted time with over descriptions.

Character wise...well, it can be difficult to fully realise your characters in a short story, but I think Diane Strong did well with her constricts.

The plot was, again, different. Certainly thriller-esque. Reads like the victim-POV from an episode of 'Bones' almost.

I think everyone will come away with their own opinions of 'The Rescue', so I recommend that you read it before you judge the book by its cover. Fans of Diane Strong will enjoy.

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Monday, 5 November 2012

Review: Before They Are Hanged

Before They Are Hanged
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ferro’s hatred drives her.

Jezal’s ego lures him.

Logen’s fear stills him.

…but the fear of the Bloody-Nine will see them through. Angland is overrun by the Northmen, Dagoska is surrounded by Gurkish, and Adua is about to be brought down from within. Pulled in three separate directions, the fate of the Union lies in the hands of a divided few. Whilst Crown Prince Ladisla straightens his best uniform for a dinner date on the battlefield, Inquisitor Glokta works his crippled legs to ‘march’ to war.

And all this hangs in the balance of a rabble’s quest…

A quest for heroes, men of courage, valour and conscience. Funnily enough, neither Ferro, Jezal nor Logen boast the desired qualities. Even if they can overcome their desires to kill each other, uncover the secrets of the past, and locate the key to their survival, they still have to make it back in one piece.

…better to hang a hope on a rabble, than to hang from the noose...

Joe Abercrombie’s ‘Before They Are Hanged’ is the sequel to his debut novel ‘The Blade Itself’, and the second book ‘The First Law’ series. ‘Before They Are Hanged’ is a hard-fought hard-earned story of ancient secrets, old foes, and fresh blood.

In ‘Before They Are Hanged’, the reader is plunged straight into the deep-end. Embattled on both north and south fronts, the Union struggles to keep its head out of the water. The plot is wide and wonderful, encompassing a journey to new-ends, a bitter fight to the end, and a charge to glory on the battlefield.

Old characters are unmistakeable in their weathered and worn guises, pumped up with the blood of a good scrap. Add to the already colourful cast an artist’s palette of pompous Princes, traitorous Underlings, and a helping of sell-out Merchants, and you’re sure to be in for a rip-roaring performance.

Abercrombie set the standard with his quirky prose in ‘The Blade Itself’ and continues it into ‘Before They Are Hanged’. However, I did find parts of ‘Before They Are Hanged’ a little slower than its predecessor, something of a slog at times. I’ll give it its due though, the promise of things yet to come is more than enough to keep any reader on board for the finale.

To win or to lose, it hangs in the balance…only blood can tip the favour.

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