Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie is everything I could have asked for and more.
As for a standalone, I certainly think this can be read separately from the main First Law series.
The same is often said for books like The Heroes (which I have read) and Red Country (which I haven’t).
The Heroes, for me, felt like a book that would be enjoyed more having read the First Law first (which I did.) While I agree it can be read by itself, I’d easily recommend Best Served Cold as a great place to start for those looking for a standalone.
This book has everything Joe Abercrombie is known for: Strong character development, great battle scenes, and good pacing (well, for the most part.)
We follow along with the main character, Monza, on her quest for revenge following the death of her brother.
She forms a little band of assassins as they travel about carrying out murders against her enemies.
We do see some characters and character names from the main First Law series. They fit better into this story as names and characters you don’t necessarily “need” to know in order to feel the required attachment.
There are some very gruesome scenes in here, but, for the most part, it was handled very well.
I did, however, feel like it was starting to drag on a bit toward the end-ish.
Not the exact end, per se, but the 4-500 page section of the 530 pages in the book.
And not dragged in the sense that it was bad. Some areas felt either a bit redundant or like they were only included to hit the standard word/page count for books set in this world.
While the battle scenes were pretty good, there were times when the characters went their separate ways to put their skills to their most effective uses. Sometimes it got a little hard to follow what was going on with some of the character POV jumping within the chapters themselves. Overall, however, it wasn’t too difficult or distracting to read.
I still think either The Blade Itself or Before They Are Hanged are my favorite Abercrombie books (for now). Best Served Cold delivered exactly what I wanted, though, so I’m not mad at it. This book made me more excited to go out and read other Abercrombie books.
Overall, I give this book a solid 4.5.
Even though I felt a bit like, “Okay, let’s get on with it,” toward the end, it held me attention throughout. I was invested with the characters and their decisions. What was happening to them. Their relationships. The fight scenes.
The characterization in here was the real winner for me. For those looking to start with an Abercrombie standalone, this one represents what everyone loves so much about the main trilogy as far as character development goes.
Especially Cosca and Shivers. Those two were my favorites, and Cosca is a familiar face, as well. Not one you need to know from other works, and in fact I think he shines brightest in here.