I've been reading more dark fantasy, and while I do enjoy it, I struggle with that part of me that wants heroes, dammit! This book is set in the same world as the First Law books, which is bleak and grim. Did I like it? Yep, but it was bordering on the edge for me. I kept hoping someone, anyone, would find some sort of redemption or step outside of their character and do something heroic but then, this is Joe Abercrombie's world and heroes are few and far between.
The story follows Monza Murcatto, a mercenary captain at the top of her game who develops a taste for vengeance. Life is brutal in this world, and Monza is most definitely of this world, so the quest for vengeance is harsh, brutal and bloody. What was interesting is that as the story progresses, the POV seems to shift between what the character is telling us happened and how they feel about it, to brief glimpses of what actually happened and what was behind those events. Throughout the book you start to see more clearly how someone can interpret an event and act on that knowledge when what was actually happening would have provoked a different response. (I'm describing this poorly but I can't figure out a way to explain it without giving away too many spoiler-ish details).
There was a saying used throughout the book - "mercy equals cowardice" - and that pretty much sums up the bleakness of this world. As the book progressed, it did seem as if that thought came true more often than not, simply because the world almost required a certain lack of compassion in anyone with a smidgen of desire to survive. Betrayal seems to be de rigueur. Coin is king. Honor doesn't exist. This is a dark and depressing world. There were glimmerings of hope, though, by the end.
Among other characters brought over from the First Law series, Best Served Cold brought back Nicomo Cosca from First Law in all his sartorial splendor, along with the Northman Shivers, Practical Vitari, and others. While this is classified as a standalone book, I think reading the First Law series would help give background to a lot of what is happening.
The next book I'm going to read is Abercrombie's Heroes. Maybe, just maybe ... :)