Springtime in Styria. And that means war. Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.
There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.
War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso’s employ, it’s a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular – a shade too popular for her employer’s taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto’s reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.
Her allies include Styria’s least reliable drunkard, Styria’s most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that’s all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started…
Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.
“One cannot grow without pain. One cannot improve without it. Suffering drives us to achieve great things.”
Thank you to Hachette Audio for the Listening copy of this book. Receiving this listening copy did not affect my review in any way.
I want to start by just giving a huge shoutout to the narrator Steven Pacey. The dude is just a fantastic narrator. He gives each character a unique voice and brings this gritty, dark world to life in a perfect way. I don’t know that I’ve heard a better suited narrator for a book/series than this narrator for Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series.
Having read the First Law trilogy, we have some old faces popping up here. Nicolo Cosca and Caul Shivers were great call backs to the original trilogy. Cosca in particular was a character I was deeply intrigued by in the original trilogy so I was instantly happy when I learned that he was gonna be a part of this story. I really loved getting to know Cosca more. Also, I was surprised by how much I ended up caring about Shivers. I think this was because he was easy to root for. Shivers is trying to change his ways to become a good man and that is something that is very relatable and I had high hopes for him.
“I have seen hell, it is a great city under siege.”
There were a few other new characters that I found unique enough to mention. Morveer the poisoner reminded me somewhat of Glokta. A man who people tend to shun, but has gotten to the top of his profession by using his cunning and intellect to overcome all the obstacles thrown his way. A nice comedic relief character was Morveer’s apprentice Day. Day is obsessed with food, a brilliant poisoner in her own right, and always said the most funny and out of place things. I loved it whenever she was a part of the story. Monza Murcatto is the main focus of this story. She is out for revenge against the employer that betrayed her and left her for dead. The thing with Monza is that she mostly was a one sided character. She was so focused on revenge that there wasn’t really room for much character development or depth. Thankfully, all of the other character had sufficient depth and interesting personalities that this didn’t bother me very much. The last character I want to mention is Friendly, a homicidal murderer obsessed with counting. I was surprised at how much I liked Friendly. I think in part that is the genius of Joe Abercrombie. You find yourself rooting for these characters that are despicable. This is due in part to everyone in this world being despicable so you try to root for “the best of them”, but also because Abercrombie is able to make the worst of characters feel relatable and compelling. Ultimately, the closest to good that anyone gets in this world is having good intentions.
“The dead can forgive. The dead can be forgiven. The rest of us have better things to do.“
I liked the plot in this one more than I did in the First Law trilogy. In the First Law trilogy there was little plot progression throughout the series and it was much more focused on the amazing characters and their development. Best Served Cold combined excellent characters with a plot that was intriguing and compelling throughout the story. It was also cool as the plot progressed to explore more of the First Law world as Monza’s team trekked all over Styria in search of revenge.
The action, as always with Joe Abercrombie novels, was excellent. The stakes were high for each battle and the exchanges between individuals in combat was really well written. There was a particular scene where the perspective jumps from one person to the next very quickly during the fighting. I really loved the format of this particular fight because it served to emphasize the chaos of everything happening, making the stakes feel high for each character involved and creating uncertainty as to the outcome.
Overall, this ended up being my favorite First Law book yet. The balance between character development, plot progression, action, and world building was done almost to perfection. This book reminded me why I really love this world and has me excited to read the rest of the standalones and the new trilogy!