A ruthless and paranoid Grand Duke looking to become a King believes his best general is planning to usurp him and looks to get rid of her, but he did not finish the job. Best Served Cold is the fourth book and first standalone set in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law world as the vengeful path of the betrayed has an impact for the great powers of the world.
Monzcarro "Monza" Murcatto is the notorious leader of The Thousand Swords mercenary company that has brought victory after victory to her employer, Grand Duke Orso of Talins, becoming wealthy and popular as a result. Unfortunately, too popular for Orso’s liking which results in his ordering that Monza and her beloved brother Benna being thrown down a mountain. Unfortunately for Orso, she survives the stabbing, mutilating, garroting and a brutal fall. Now Monza wants vengeance against the seven men responsible: Orso's bodyguard Gobba, his banker Mauthis, the general of his armies Ganmark, her treacherous second-in-command Faithful Carpi, his sons Prince Ario and Count Foscar, and finally Orso himself. However, she cannot do it alone, so she enlists the help of an oddball carnival of psychopaths to aid her in her quest. This includes: Caul Shivers, a Northman looking to make a fresh start; Friendly, a number-obsessed ex-convict; Castor Morveer, a self-congratulatory blowhard of a poisoner, and his constantly eating apprentice Day; Shylo Vitari, a former Practical; and last, but by no means the least, the lovable scoundrel and drunkard has-been Nicomo Cosca who Monza betrayed to become leader of the Thousand Swords. Across Styria, they systematically work their way through Monza’s list. On the way, they not only kill their targets, but poison an entire bank full of people in Westport, burn a bordello to the ground in Sipani, and play no small role in the fate of Styria as a whole. Before Monza finally kills Duke Orso himself, he reveals that his fears were well-founded, and Benna was indeed planning to usurp him without Monza's knowledge. Meanwhile, various subplots interweaver Monza’s bloody-minded violent revenge. Bayaz and Khalul continue their machinations on the grand chessboard in Styria. Caul Shivers’ moral transformation from a likable optimist to a cold-blooded killer. Through Monza’s flashbacks we learn that her reputation as a butcher of the innocent, may not be as simple as all that. And a mysterious assassin called Shenkt who has his own plans for Monza, and his own desire for revenge … against Bayaz. In the end, a pregnant Monza is Grand Duchess of Talins just as Benna had planned, one of the only stable states in Styria and fulfilling Shenkt’s plan of an independent strong leader in Styria.
Like all of Abercrombie’s books of the First Law there are no purely good characters even though there are some awfully bad ones, but Monza might turn out to be one of the more morally positive by the end of the book than any of the other characters of Abercrombie’s work. All the characters followed throughout the book are well-written and intriguing, but the most intriguing is Benna who though killed in the first chapter worked to make Monza the ruler of a city though given what he did to ruin her reputation appeared to be setting her up to be assassinated so he could take over which would be a real Abercrombie thing to do. The long game of Shenkt appears to be something interest to look forward to for the future of the world especially given who the two big supernatural players of this world are.
Best Served Cold is a fantastic return by Joe Abercrombie to his First Law world that any fan of the original trilogy would enjoy.