This is the last Joe Abercrombie book on my list and it’s an incredible triumph in storytelling. At its most basic it is a tale of revenge in the spirit of The Count of Monte Cristo and Kill Bill, but there is so much going on and so many layers to the tale that I never expected when I began reading. After the horrible incident early in the novel, we want to see Monza get her revenge, and yet, throughout it is gradually revealed that much may have been brought on by herself and her brother.
Monza was a hero to those whose side she fought on, but there was a reason she was known as The Snake of Talins and The Butcher of Caprile. Her confrontations with those she seeks revenge against are often memorable and not just in the sense that she is trying to get her vengeance. Were this novel written from some of their perspectives, you may have seen what was happening in a completely different light.
Best Served Cold particularly takes off when Nicomo Cosca comes onto the scene. Cosca was the leader of a group of mercenaries until he was betrayed by Monza, but he still comes to fight with her as she seeks her revenge. Cosca is hilarious and unpredictable throughout. His interactions with pretty much every character in the book are excellent though I enjoyed his interactions with Friendly the most. Cosca quickly has become one of the great characters in fantasy.
Best Served Cold is a stand-alone novel but is set in the same universe and shortly after the events of the First Law Trilogy. Because it is in the same universe there are some crossover characters, and plot points that people who have not read First Law will miss. I do not think this will lessen the enjoyment of the novel, but I am glad I read First Law first. That said, I think this is a better novel than any of the three in the First Law trilogy. For me, it is Abercrombie’s best work, amongst so much incredibly stellar work. He’s my favorite fantasy author for a reason.