Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

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This will be a shorter review since this is a stand-alone set in the First Law trilogy world. If you haven’t read First Law, I would start there with The Blade Itself.

I audiobooked this, like all of Abercrombie’s stuff so far – so the spelling of the names may not be accurate.


Monza starts off her storyline with getting herself thrown down a cliff, after her brother’s throat was slit and also tossed off the side of a cliff.

She breaks every bone in her body and lands as a pile of broken meat at the base of the cliff. She’s not dead though, she hit a few things on the way down that slowed her fall and kept her from dying (her brother’s body for one). She’s discovered by a person who loves human anatomy and has already performed a bunch of experiments attaching and detaching body parts from corpses. He Frankenstiened her and kept her alive for 13.2months as she recovered, most of that time she spent unconscious.

Recovering was difficult, she can’t close her hands all the way, she’s got scars all over from the stitching and other things that happened during her fall. But, she’s determined, absolutely hell-bent on recovering enough to kill everyone who was responsible for her brother’s death, and for her being thrown over a cliff.

She does recover enough to start her journey of revenge, and she’s picking off people from her list one by one with the help of a motley crew. A poisoner and his apprentice, Costa (recurring character) who’s a mercenary, Shivers (recurring character), and an OCD bodyguard.

And, oh yes, there’s war brewing too – there’s almost always a war in these books 🙂

Final Score: 13.25/15


Monza’s character is consumed by grief and revenge, she and her brother were extremely close and had worked together for years being mercenaries. She and Costa have an interesting backstory where they used to work together with the same crew. Costa ran the crew, but as Costa began to drink more and more, Monza took over the and it’s a source of bad blood between them.

Costa is a drunk, and he’s trying to stop drinking through most of the book. He’s a fairly flamboyant and carefree fellow who can make you drop your guard if you’re not careful. He’s a dangerous man but that can be easily forgotten by some who know him as a drunk and a fool.

Friendly is OCD and he has an obsession with numbers, he loves to count EVERYTHING, and it can be useful when trying to assess a situation. It can also be really unnecessary and annoying. He has almost no affectation and rarely shows emotion, he doesn’t smile much, doesn’t talk all that much, and his inner dialogue has a lot to do with counting.

Shivers is a completely different Shivers you meet in later books, and his character development starts in this book. He wants to do well, he wants to be a good person and do the right thing – it drives Monza crazy at first. She constantly tells him there’s no point in doing the right thing, because right or wrong, you’ll end up dead anyway. I like Shivers character the most, and IMHO he also had the most development and the most interesting arc of everybody. There’s a running theme in Abercrombie’s book where there are certain characters struggling to be a good person, but the world keeps beating them down.

Final Score: 13.5/15

World Building: See First Law Review

Final Score: 14/15


Abercrombie’s stand alones have a much quicker pace than his original trilogy – and it sort of has to be since there’s not enough time to write a slow build up for things to come. It starts off interesting and gets faster and faster paced as more things go wrong for the crew and more people die at Monza’s hands.

Final Score: 13/15


The writing continues to be very good, there’s bits of humor sprinkled in with the violence as is typical of Abercrombie. I didn’t find anyone who scratched my Glokta itch though, so I would say there’s less in this one than the original series.

Repetitive phrases are also used, but in a way that’s endearing and not annoying. Sometimes when authors throw in a repetitive phrase that’s meant to emphasize something it comes across as unnecessary and bogs down the writing, but the way Abercrombie does it, it just works.

Abercrombie also has a way of throwing in some simile and metaphor that doesn’t slow the pace at all. It creates interesting imagery without bogging down the writing and forcing me to read slower.

Final Score: 13.5/15

Originality: See First Law Review

Final Score: 11/15

Personal Enjoyment:

My favorite books of Abercrombies (now that I’ve read them all) are Before They Are Hanged and Red Country. I liked this one a lot, it’s a very very solid book – but there are certain recurring characters that strike at my heart more than others. A few of these side characters spent a bit too much time on one character trait, and they came off as flatter when compared to the original trilogies characters. I still really enjoyed the book, and Shivers, in particular, was anything but flat.

Final Score: 9/10


  • For people who have read First Law
  • For people who like multi pov
  • For people who like stand alone stories
  • For people who like stories of revenge
  • For people who like reading about strained and complicated relationships within a group of protags

Final score: 87.25/100


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