It’s easy to get set in your ways and comfortable with the same authors. I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett, Robert Rankin, Stephen Donaldson, J.V. Jones and George RR Martin for years and it’s sometimes hard to give another author a chance. He’s new, how can be be any cop? is a hard mental shackle to break at times.
Fortunately my good chum Harry pointed me at The Blade itself by Joe Abercrombie and I was able to get past that stumbling block and read the first of what turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining modern fantasy trilogy. I’ll do a proper post on that series later but for now I want to talk about Best Served Cold, which is a follow up stand alone novel set in the same world as the First Law trilogy. It follows Monza’s quest for revenge as the mercinary captain is betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead. She is not a happy bunny, and goes about recruiting a bunch of misfits- a “savage”, posioners, ex-convicts, torturers, her old boss who she betrayed herself and so on, to wreak merry havok on those she deemed responsible for her near death. There is no epic questing for magical ornaments involved, which is good. There is a focus on character rather than on high fantasy concept. This is also good.
It’s interesting to see the lack of description doesn’t really get in the way of a cracking good yarn either. It’s really the characters where Abercrombie’s writing shines. He writes a good battle, an engaging posioning but it’s the dialogue between the characters and the underlying dark humour where he really shines.
There’s one stand out line that goes like this: “We talked about many things, fine wine, women, his impending destruction, you know small talk. He told me he’d have my head, I told him I quite understood, I found it enormously useful myself.” Which I think illustrates the genius of Abercrombie nicely.