Revenge stories appeal to me. I guess they appeal to everyone, but it also doesn’t bother me that they appeal to me. It has to do with believing that Justice is something more than Law. That it lives in all of us, and is not something we can delegate entirely to legitimate authorities.
Revenge stories also frighten me, because they appeal to raw, destructive anger. And it frightens me a bit that one of the easiest way to make a popular story is to base it on violent revenge.
A contradiction? Perhaps.
And it’s a contradiction Joe Abercrombie captures in Best Served Cold. Just as he in the First Law trilogy served up an epic fantasy premise, in order to undermine it, here he does the same with the vengeance trope. It starts out, as these stories must, with a Great Crime, and a victim, Monza, the crippled sister of a murdered brother. And then we follow her as she methodically eliminates every person she blames.
We start out sympathizing. But as the story progresses, we learn that Monza and her brother, and the people she gathers to avenge him, are themselves among the most evil characters in the story. And we watch how her ferocity causes ripples of suffering throughout a world already overflowing with causes for revenge.
Abercrombie force-feeds you vengeance until you’re sick of it. And while he was fumbling about a bit in The First Law, now he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s brilliant. And disturbing. And just a bit funny.