After finishing Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy, I couldn't resist immediately plunging into the next book, Best Served Cold. BSC, as the title suggests, is a tale of revenge, that takes place in the Eastern continent, Styria. Duke Orso wants to become the King of Styria, and he has almost achieved his goal with the help of the Thousand Swords, a group of mercenaries led by a extremely capable woman, Monza Murcatto. But the Duke believes that Murcatto (and her brother Benna) are secretly plotting to overthrow him, and so in the opening chapter, he has a group of soldiers attack them. The brother dies and Monza is left for dead on the side of cliff—all of this happens in the opening chapter and I love it when a good plot starts off with intense action. Monza recovers from her injuries and starts enacting her plan of revenge on the seven men who wronged her. The plot bears some similarities to many other tales of revenge, but the one that I compared it to the most was Kill Bill. Unlike Uma Thurman’s character, Monza acquires a team of scoundrels to help her. Shivers, one of the Northmen from the First Law trilogy, has travelled to Styria seeking a new and better life, free from murder and mayhem. That seems to be a hopeless dream after he meets Monza and becomes her right hand in the war against Orso.
There is another cross-genre at work here: the Mission Impossible cons that Monza must pull off in order to assassinate some of the most well guarded men in Styria. One of them is Mauthis, a banker from Valint and Balk, who is extremely well protected. To get him and others, Monza uses a “Master Poisoner” named Morveer, a truly creepy character who is extremely dangerous, even as an ally. Several characters from the First Law trilogy make surprise appearances—I won’t list them all here, except to say that Nimco Cosca, the mercenary who aided Glotka in Before They Are Hanged, plays a major role in this novel. As his past gets revealed, Cosca becomes more of a lovable scallywag than before. Bayaz the Magi never comes directly into any scene, but you see his hand in manipulation of events.
A revenge tale has a pretty set structure: the main characters go about terminating their enemies one by one until the final big bad is confronted. Abercrombie follows that path here, but he doesn’t make it easy for Monza to kill any one of them. The book goes along at a breakneck pace until it hits a dead spot near the end—I won’t spoil it—suffice to say that I almost think there could be a few chapters removed and I wouldn’t have minded. The final 50 pages left me breathless for the final resolution. I still highly recommend Best Served Cold. If you read it after the First Law Trilogy, you will gain an appreciation of the sub plots running throughout the entire series. Nuff Said!