[[quoteright:200:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/best-served-coldcover_2157.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:200:Cover of the UK edition.]]

->''"Mercy and cowardice are the same."''
-->-- '''Monzcarro Murcatto'''

''Best Served Cold'' is a 2009 LowFantasy novel by Joe Abercrombie, part of his ''Literature/TheFirstLaw'' series. It's set a few years after events of the main trilogy, and a fair number of characters in it were supporting characters in the trilogy.

As might be imagined, this is a tale of {{revenge}}.

In Styria, a land of warring city-states based rather obviously on Renaissance Italy, mercenary captain Monzcarro Murcatto ("Monza") has come close to putting her employer, Duke Orso, on the throne, which would realize his lifelong dream of supremacy. He's a suspicious man, though, and Monza's success has brought her renown; fearing that she may try to convert that into political power, he has her and her brother brutally murdered and thrown off the battlements of his fortress.

Unfortunately for him, [[NotQuiteDead he fails to ensure that she's actually dead]].

A mysterious stranger finds her broken body and nurses her back to health; suspicious in turn of his motives, Monza escapes as soon as she's able, and swears revenge on all the men present at her "murder"; seven in all, counting Orzo, his two sons, his general, Monza's treacherous second-in-command, Orzo's bodyguard, and the banker who's Orzo's financial backer.

To do this, she assembles a [[RagtagBunchOfMisfits team of oddballs]]; a warrior Northman [[ReformedButRejected failing at becoming a better man]], a [[PsychopathicManchild numbers-obsessed ex-convict]], a [[LargeHam pompous]] [[ProfessionalKiller poisoner]] and his gluttonous [[DeceptiveDisciple assistant]], an [[TortureTechnician ex-torturer]], and {{the alcoholic}} old [[PrivateMilitaryContractors mercenary captain]] that Monza replaced. The task begins easily enough, but Monza soon discovers that going after the powerful has consequences  to her, to her companions, and to the fate of Styria as a whole.


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!! This work provides examples of :

* AcquiredPoisonImmunity: Morveer frequently doses himself with his own poisons to keep immune to them.
* ActionGirl: Monza. Vitari.
* AddedAlliterativeAppeal: Cosco brings up examples of [[MusicalAssassin performers who also fight]] by alliterating pairs of trades, until he can't think of something to alliterate with "jugglers."
* AlliterativeName: Monzcarro Murcatto
* AnAxeToGrind: Shivers.
* AntiHero: Monza. It's clear that she's not a nice person right from the beginning, but Orza's brutal betrayal of her keeps her sympathetic. However, as the story goes along, it becomes increasingly clear that Monza's revenge isn't exactly justice, and that she and her brother kind of had it coming.
* TheApprentice: Day, who starts of as Morveer's apprentice and then is his assistant.
* ArcWords:
** Monza's "Mercy and cowardice are the same."
** "Monza, Monza, what would I do without you?" Said by both Cosca and Orzo, two people who have been both comrades and enemies to Monza.
* AuthorityEqualsAsskicking: General Ganmark is one of the finest swordsmen in the world.
* BarbarianLonghair: Shivers wears his hair long in imitation of his brother, though not all Northmen have long hair. He gets an ImportantHaircut to better blend in with Styria's Italian Renaissance FantasyCounterpartCulture, but ultimately lets it grow out again.
* BerserkButton: Friendly will put up with a lot but don't accuse him of using loaded dice. [[AxCrazy Ever.]]
* BestServedCold: Revenge is the motivation for quite a few characters. The title is especially appropriate to the book's themes because, in the end, vengeance proves cold comfort.
* BigEater: Day is almost always eating something, though she's never described as overweight. Even after [[spoiler:she dies, Morveer still thinks about how much she'd enjoy whatever food is in front of him]].
* BiggerBad: The Bank of Valint and Balk figure prominently in the story. [[spoiler:Readers of ''The First Law'' will recognize them as the proxy of the Arch Mage Bayaz. Shenkt subtly alludes to it while staring down Yoru Sulfur.]]
* BlackAndGrayMorality: By the end of the book you won't be surprised by who murders, exploits, or betrays who, you'll be surprised that it's taking them so long.
* BookEnds: The book starts and ends with the words "The sunrise was the color of bad blood."
* BreakThemByTalking: Ganmark does this to Murcatto.
* BrotherSisterIncest: [[spoiler:Monza and her brother Benna]].
* BrutalHonesty: Orso notes Shenkt's blunt honesty when they arrange his contract.
* BulletTime: When Shenkt uses his SuperSpeed, time seems to slow down to him, making it seem that he's normally while everything else moves at a snail's pace. Because he's moving so fast, the force of his blows is increased many times over.
* TheButcher: Monza's epithet is "The Butcher of Caprile", because of the bloody sack of that city by her army. [[spoiler: It turns out that she gave explicit orders not to sack the city, which were ignored in her absence while she was reporting to Duke Orzo.]]
* CallBack:
** When Shivers first talks to Morveer about magic, Morveer the FlatEarthAtheist scoffs at him. In a later chapter, Morveer asks how Shivers plans to get inside the banking house, and Shivers replies, "Magic."
** Monza's line, "Irony? In a prison?" is a callback to the line from ''The First Law'', "Rhetoric? In a sewer?"
** Cosca once again misses with his throwing knife, which was a RunningGag in ''The First Law''.
* CarnivalOfKillers:
** For one of her assassinations, Monza and co. hire a bunch of performers/killers, including a juggler/killer and a [[InstrumentOfMurder band of killers]].
** When Duke Orzo finds out that Monza is still alive, he has the best assassins and bounty hunters brought to him and offers them a big reward for killing her.
** Monza and her group would be a CarnivalOfKillers themselves were they not the protagonists: lead by a [[PrivateMilitaryContractors mercenary]] with a [[TheDreaded terrible reputation]] (Monza herself), the group has a BarbarianHero (Shivers), a MasterPoisoner (Morveer) and [[PerkyFemaleMinion apprentice]] (Day), a freelance TortureTechnician and InformationBroker (Vitari), a [[ChronicBackstabbingDisorder backstabbing]] [[PrivateMilitaryContractors mercenary]] (Cosca), and a [[TheRainman number-obsessed]] mob enforcer (Friendly).
* CatchPhrase: Several.
** "Mercy and Cowardice are the same thing." -Monza
** "I'm trying to be a better man." -Shivers
** "Caution first, always." -Morveer
** "Six and one." -Friendly
* CharacterDevelopment: Shivers and Monza both grow as people, for better or worse. In the case of Cosca [[spoiler:he lampshades the fact that he stops being a worthless drunk and chooses to change right back to being a drunk again]].
* ChekhovsGun:
** Double-subverted with the King of Poisons. [[spoiler:Day uses it to poison Morveer, but he reveals that its existence was a ruse to fool her. Later, he unveils his "Preparation 12" poison, which has all the properties he ascribed to the King of Poisons, most notably his lack of resistance to it. He does, in fact, get poisoned by it]].
** Cosca's sudden and repeated conversations about [[spoiler: his goat]].
** A lot of attention is brought on Monza's habit of wearing gloves to hide her maimed hand. [[spoiler:This is how she survives Morveer's mass assassination by contact poison]].
** Ganmark's fighting ability is referenced early on in a couple of throw-away lines, where Benna says he can't be as good as his reputation says, and Monza replies that he is. It's completely forgotten about until Monza faces him in single combat, when she reveals that he's one of the best swordsmen in the ''world''.
* CherryTapping: Ganmark toys with Monza during their duel. He fights her left-handed and, after defeating her, tosses her sword back to her for a second round.
* ChronicBackstabbingDisorder: More or less Hat of the Styrians, but Nicomo Cosca takes it as a point of pride.
* ColdBloodedTorture: Duke Salier's torturers in Visserine, and what they do to [[spoiler:Shivers]].
* CoolSword: Monza bears a Calvez sword, crafted by the greatest swordmaker in living memory.
* ConspicuousGloves: Monza wears a glove at almost all times over one of her hands to hide the fact that it is horribly maimed/disfigured as a result of the attempt to assassinate her during the first chapter. At one point in the novel, she disguises herself as a HighClassCallGirl and is able to benefit from the fact that the "uniform" includes long opera gloves. And Her formal wear including gloves for the same reasons, which is why [[spoiler:she's the only member of the Styrian upper crust to survive Rogont's coronation.]]
* CycleOfRevenge: While the plot follows Monza's RoaringRampageOfRevenge, others have or acquire reasons to take vengeance on ''her'' and her group: [[spoiler:Greylock tries to settle an old score on Shivers, and Carlot dan Eider informs Duke Orso of Monza's plans in vengeance for ruining her life]].
* CynicismCatalyst: Everyone in Styria had one at some point, but Monza and Benna got theirs fairly early. After their father died, Monza worked her hands to the bone to singlehandedly manage their tiny farm and support Benna. She barely got any money for her work, and was setting up for the second harvest when looters from a war across the border pillaged their home. An ex-soldier who lived in the village got a group together to raid the looters in return, which Monza and Benna joined up with. Both killed and stole from three of the looters, and that got the siblings more money than a considerable number of good harvests would. Monza and Benna joined up with the Thousand Swords after this lesson. Monza getting thrown off a cliff after raising Duke Orso to power sent her even farther down into cynicism.
* DeadlyDecadentCourt: Monza's failure to realize that she was part of one is how the whole story got started. The glimpses we see of the courts found in the League of Eight imply that this is the norm in Styria.
* DeathByIrony:
** After spending most of the novel harping on how many men his profession die, [[spoiler: Morveer]] dies in ''exactly'' the manner described.
** [[spoiler: Ganmark]] is killed by one of the works of art he invaded to steal falling on him.
** [[spoiler:Rogont is killed by his own (poisoned) crown]].
* {{Deconstruction}}:
** The plot revolves entirely on the premise that revenge, while a glorified pursuit in stories, is self-destructive and only causes people to come after you in kind. After her surgery, Monza has a clear choice of leaving Styria with her fortune, or pursuing the most powerful man in the land in order to kill him and his associates. She chooses the latter, and her vendetta ends up with a lot more people killed than what she set out for, good men injured, and escalating the war that Monza gets tangled up in.
** Everyone in Styria also has a low opinion of honor, and characters take turns savaging the idea that killing people in an honorable way is any different than stabbing them in the back.
* DepartmentOfRedundancyDepartment: Cosca notes that "indiscriminate slaughter" is a bit redundant.
* DoubleStandard: Cosca openly admits that he's forgiven Monza but not his lieutenants for the same act of a betrayal purely because she's a beautiful woman and they're ugly men.
* TheDreaded: The Cripple is greatly feared, particularly by Carlot dan Eider.
* DualWielding: Friendly uses a cleaver and knife to great effect. General Ganmark is also an expert swordsman in the Union style of long and short steels.
* DuelToTheDeath: Several.
* EarnYourHappyEnding: [[spoiler:Monza ends up as Duchess of Talins, refuses to become beholden to any faction, and looks like she's going to make a strong but fair ruler with a strong practical streak. Certainly, one better than the standard run of city rulers encountered in the rest of the book.]]
* EqualOpportunityEvil: At the start of the novel, Duke Orso's inner circle includes a warrior woman and an openly gay man, both of which many otherwise "nicer" rulers would never even have considered employing. It's explicitly noted that Orso can be [[PragmaticVillainy very open-minded if there's the services of a skilled fighter in it for him.]]
* EstablishingCharacterMoment: Morveer poisons Monza and Shivers during their first meeting to discuss Monza's job offer, establishing him as cunning, ruthless and not to be trusted. His next scene, where he mocks Shivers mercilessly for no reason, establishes him as a {{jerkass}}.
* EvenEvilHasLovedOnes / UnholyMatrimony: Vitari is an ex-TortureTechnician gone freelance and Shenkt is a notorious assassin [[spoiler: with cannibalism-fueled magical powers]]. They love each other dearly and dote on their children.
* EvilGloating: Lampshaded twice.
--> Morveer, liking nothing better than a captive audience, could not resist explaining how it had been managed.

-->"Why is it that men pointing loaded flatbows always feel the need to gloat, rather than [[WhyDontYouJustShootHim simply letting fly]]?"
-->"Gloating's fun."
* ExactWords: First we pretend. Then we fight for real." [[spoiler:"Fighting for real" was supposed to mean against others, but Greylock means him and Shivers stop pretending to fight each other and fight ''each other'' for real]].
* EyeScream: [[spoiler:Shivers has one of his eyes burned out]].
* FaceHeelTurn: [[spoiler:Shivers. Monza notes that he's changed from a likable optimist to a cold-blooded killer under her watch, and never trusts him again.]]
* FakeDefector: [[spoiler: Faithful Carpi]] is tricked into an ambush when Shivers pretends to betray Monza in order to claim the bounty on her head. This being Styria, his treachery is accepted with very little doubt. [[spoiler: This is foreshadowing for when Shivers tries to kill Monza for real a few chapters later.]]
* FantasyCounterpartCulture: Styria is fundamentally Renaissance Italy, made up of warring city-states.
* FantasticDrug: Husk, which Monza starts using to dull the pain of her many injuries. It appears to be a loose expy of opium.
* FauxAffablyEvil: Both Morveer and Day try to have pleasant and professional personalities, with varying degrees of success, but it's just an disarming act. They are treacherous and cruel people.
* FiveManBand: The size and roles of Monza's crew fluctuates over time, but it hits this trope for the chapter in Westport.
** TheHero: Monza
** TheLancer: Shivers
** TheSmartGuy: Morveer
** TheBigGuy: Friendly
** TheChick: Day
* FlatEarthAtheist: Morveer and Day scoff at Shivers' claims to have witnessed magic, proclaiming that science is the only true power in the world.
* {{Foreshadowing}}:
** Monza notices the Bone Thief's hobby of whittling. That same hobby is shared by [[spoiler:Shenkt, who is revealed to be the same person]].
** When an informant lists Monza's collaborators and gets to Vitari, Shenkt frowns. This is played off as Shenkt concentrating on the task at hand, but we later learn that [[spoiler:Vitari is Shenkt's lover, and this is a rather rude discovery for him]].
** [[spoiler:"Be nice to come out of this with both his eyes."]]
** [[spoiler:"How do most of our competitors die?" "Poisoned by their own concoctions."]]
** [[spoiler:"Never had much of a head for treachery."]]
** When Morveer looks like he might tumble from the side of the bank house, Day has a slight smile on her face. [[spoiler:She ultimately betrays him]].
** Greylock repeats, "First we pretend. Then we fight for real." Shivers doesn't realize that [[spoiler:"we fight for real" means Greylock and ''him'']].
* FunctionalAddict:
** Monza becomes addicted to husk, and for part of the novel, is quite functional despite her dependence on it. Later on, she goes cold turkey and stops using the drug, but knows she will have cravings for the rest of her life.
** Cosca is a serious alcoholic and had reached the non-functional stage when introduced, but for the rest of the novel stays sober and functions quite well (despite desperately wanting a drink the whole time). At the end of the novel [[spoiler: in a subversion of CharacterDevelopment, he immediately goes back to drinking the instant that it no longer serves his plans to stay sober]].
* GoodWithNumbers: Friendly, who is obsessed with numbers, numerology, and counting to an OCD level. Cosca states that his talent with accounting makes him invaluable.
* GottaKillEmAll: All seven of the men who betrayed Monza and killed her brother.
* TheGhost: The Cripple (Sand dan Glokta) is mentioned a number of times, but never makes an appearance, being in a different country.
* GreaterScopeVillain: The epic feud between Bayaz and Khalul is occasionally referenced as the engine behind all the war and suffering.
* HeroesPreferSwords:
** Monza has her trusty Calvez rapier, not a showy blade but of the highest quality.
** Used to highlight how morally gray the main cast is. Friendly uses a sword once in the whole novel, and expresses distaste for it before leaving it in his victim and going back to his knife and cleaver. Shivers uses a sword before [[spoiler: his Face Heel Turn]] and switches to an axe after.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: Morveer goes to great lengths to ensure that he won't be poisoned by his own concoctions, drilling Day endlessly about what a common fate this is for poisoners. [[spoiler: This doesn't prevent his death when Cosca forces Morveer's own mounted needle into the poisoner's neck.]]
* HeroicSacrifice: deliciously subverted with [[spoiler:Cosca's apparent death in Visserine]]. He is [[spoiler:found by the invading soldiers, mistaken for a friendly casualty because of the uniform he stole and wore to infiltrate, and nursed back to health.]] He then [[spoiler:proceeds to reclaim leadership of the Thousand Swords, right from under Monza's nose.]]
* HighClassCallGirl:
** Carlot dan Eider has become one as part of her role as a HoneyTrap working for The Union.
** Monza and Vitari disguise themselves as these during their plot to kill Aryo.
* HoistByHisOwnPetard: [[spoiler:Morveer is poisoned by his own poison, something that he notes is very common among poisoners]].
* HourglassPlot: Monza starts out as coldly ruthless and expresses a mocking attitude toward Shivers' optimism and desire to be a better person (and continually encourages him to engage in shady behavior). Eventually, Monza has a FaceRealization and ends up as a better person, whereas Shivers has a FaceHeelTurn, and Monza despairs about how he turned out given how he started.
* HypocriticalHumor: The incredibly egotistical Morveer notes to himself that he cannot abide arrogance, stating that humility costs nothing.
* ImAHumanitarian: [[spoiler: Shenkt and Ishri]], continuing the proud traditions of the Eaters.
* ImprobableWeaponUser: Deconstructed, naturally. Many of the CarnivalOfKillers Cosca hires use improbable weapons, most notably a firebreather (the mundane, circus variant) who likes to weaponize his talents. None of these weapons really work well, from simply being impractical to actively suicidal; the firebreather caught himself on fire and burned to death.
* IronicEcho: At the very start of the novel, Orzo asks Monza, then his prize general, "Monza, Monza. What would I do without you?" At the end of the novel and at the final step of Monza's RoaringRampageOfRevenge, Orzo asks Monza what she'll do with her life once she's no longer consumed with a desire for revenge by asking, "Monza, Monza. What would do you without me?"
* IronicNickname:
** Shivers notes that Friendly is awfully reticent for a man named Friendly. He's told the name was probably meant to be ironic. However, Friendly ''is'' the least actively malicious character in Monza's gang.
** Zigzags with Faithful Carpi. On one hand, he previously betrayed Cosca, but on the other, his betrayal was in staying faithful to Monza when she betrayed their leader. He later proceeds to backstab Monza, but as he points out, doing so stayed faithful ''to her example'', as Carpi's betrays her in the same manner that she betrayed Cosca, and for the same motivation.
** Played straight with Lucky Nim, a minor character who dies quickly due to bad luck.
* {{Irony}}:
** Half the betrayals in the book are by accident.
** Morveer does more to aid Monza after [[spoiler:turning on her than he did when he was working for her]]?
* ItsPersonal: Duke Orzo killed Monza's beloved brother Benna (as well as almost killing and permanently maiming Monza herself).
* JerkWithAHeartOfGold: Monza. [[spoiler:Cosca nails it, near the end, after she repeats that "[[ArcWords Mercy and cowardice are the same]]": "Do you know why I always loved you, Monza? Even after you betrayed me? More, after you betrayed me? Because I know you don't really believe any of that rubbish. Those are the lies you tell yourself so you can live with what you've done. What you've had to do."]]
* KnifeNut: Friendly only uses knives. He even contemplates his distaste for swords and preference for knives.
* LargeHam: Nicomo Cosca. Actually plot relevant, as [[spoiler: Victus]] understands that the praise Cosca heaps upon his fallen comrades is a lie [[spoiler: and Cosca has been executing them]].
* MadDoctor: The Bone Thief [[spoiler: Shenkt]] who [[MeatgrinderSurgery puts Monza back together]].
* MadonnaWhoreComplex: Duke Salier shows off two sculptures intended to be displayed as a pair, one of the artist's mother and the other of his favorite whore. Monza snaps that she has no time for artists' mothers and whores.
* MagicVersusScience: Morveer is a strong advocate of science, and magic is not strongly believed in Styria.
* TheManBehindTheMan: The prophet Kalul for the Gurkish. [[spoiler:Bayaz]] for Sulfur and the Bank of Valint and Balk, as alluded to in this book and previously revealed in ''The First Law''.
* ManipulativeBastard: [[spoiler: Benna Murcatto]] has been manipulating Monza throughout her career as a mercenary. She reflects in the end that his method was always to work behind her back until she had no choice but to follow through with his ruthless but highly profitable plan.
* MasterPoisoner: Morveer's profession. He even has apprentices.
* MasterSwordsman: Ganmark is one of the best swordsmen in the world. He completely outclasses Monza and Cosca.
* MeaningfulName:
** Castor Morveer: the castor bean is the source of ricin, a lethal and hard-to-trace poison.
** Day, Morveer's apprentice, is blonde and appears sunnily innocent.
** Caul Shivers, like all Northern Named Men, bears a meaningful nickname. He's named 'Caul' for being born with a caul (part of the amniotic sac) on his head, but 'Shivers' is thanks to falling in a freezing cold river on his first raid and climbing out shivering with cold. He tells people sometimes that it's because his enemies shiver with terror, but this is a lie.
* MeatgrinderSurgery: The way the Bone Thief puts Monza back together in this manner after her grisly attempted murder and near-fatal fall. It borders on a non-cyborg version of WeCanRebuildHim, as it seems pretty clear that there is no way normal medical techniques could have healed someone who had suffered such extensive injuries.
* MoralDissonance: Monza stops just short of calling "WhatTheHellHero" on [[spoiler: Shivers]] when he murders [[spoiler: Prince Foscar]] with his bare hands after the man has begged for mercy. This trope is invoked deliberately to illustrate without a doubt that [[spoiler: Shivers]] ''isn't'' a heroic character anymore.
* MundaneUtility: Shenkt uses his BulletTime perceptions that come with his SuperSpeed to elongate and savor his quality time with [[spoiler:Vitari]].
* MusicalAssassin: The fighters Monza brings in to Carlotti's House of Leisure have to pass as performers until they strike, so Monza recruits thugs with skills in performance. There's a surprisingly large supply.
* TheNapoleon: Shivers chews out Morveer in the Northern tongue for giving him grief, saying that short men like him try to show off how clever they are to make them feel big.
* NonActionGuy: The poisoners, Morveer and Day, are not fighters. Day does prove a decent shot with a flatbow, however.
* TheNondescript: Morveer chose Day as his apprentice largely because of her blandly pleasant and forgettable looks.
* NotGoodWithRejection: The final piece of [[spoiler: Shivers']] FaceHeelTurn is when his feelings of rejection make him decide to betray [[spoiler: Monza]], though it takes him some time to commit to the idea.
* NoOneShouldSurviveThat: The first chapter of the book ends with Monza being nearly garroted by a wire that digs into her hand, stabbed by a sword, throat cut, and then thrown off of a steep cliff. The only reason she survives the landing is that she landed on her brother's corpse on the way down, and that there was a reclusive surgeon nearby. This was solely due to the fact that he's occasionally found dead bodies where she landed, showing that Duke Orso used this method in the past quite well.
* TheNondescript: A large reason for Morveer choosing Day as his assistance was because she has a pleasant and forgettable appearance.
* NostalgiaFilter: Discussed. Cosca doesn't believe that things used to be better, and thinks that it's only natural for people to get less idealistic and more aware of the darkness in the world as they age.
* NotQuiteDead: Monza, who Duke Orzo is convinced that he killed. [[spoiler: Later, Nicomo Cosca.]]
* OnlyKnownByTheirNickname: Friendly's real name is never revealed, nor do any characters seem to take interest in it, to the point that his official title in the Thousand Swords is "First Sergeant Friendly."
* PerfectPoison:
** The opening scene for master poisoner Castor Morveer shows him showing his apprentice, Day, the most potent poison he knows, "The King of Poisons", a toxin that is both completely undetectable and impossible to build up an immunity against, and should only be used against someone who is protected against all else to keep the secret. However [[spoiler: much to Day's later dismay, the "King of Poisons" is merely a sham concocted by Morveer in case the apprentice betrays him, and is in fact harmless]].
** Late in the story, [[spoiler:Morveer reveals his "Preparation 12," which ''is'' a perfect poison. It kills on contact, and is too strong to build a resistance against]].
* PerkyFemaleMinion: Day, to Morveer.
* PoisonAndCureGambit: Used several times by Morveer and Day, sometimes played straight, but other times there was in fact no poison at all; in one of those cases, the "antidote" was actually the real poison, tricking the victim into consuming it themselves.
* PoisonedWeapon: Morveer and Day use poisoned needles as weapons.
* ProfessionalKiller: Many. Everyone in Monza's gang is being hired to kill people, and the group hires temporary mercenaries as well. Orso recruits killers to go after Monza's gang, including Shenkt.
* PsychoForHire:
** An argument could be made for any of Monza's recruits but it comes across most consistently with Morveer. He initially appears to be a sophisticated, if slightly eccentric gentleman assassin but his egomania and disdain for human life quickly become apparent. As more and more of his back story opens up it only gets worse. Subverted in how he frets about his own lack of people skills and how at times he genuinely wants people to relate to and understand him.
** Subverted with [[spoiler:Shenkt, who was working to help Monza against his supposed employer the whole time]].
* QuirkyMinibossSquad:
** Orzo's inner circle who participated in the attack on Monza and Benna.
** Andiche, Sessaria, and Victus: the commanders reporting directly to the captain general of the Thousand Swords.
* RagtagBunchOfMisfits: Monza's revenge crew.
* TheRainman: Friendly, with his obsessive-compulsive counting.
* TheReasonYouSuckSpeech:
** Ganmark spends his duel with Monza explaining very clearly how useless, destructive and hypocritical her RoaringRampageOfRevenge is.
** Many of Monza's victims criticize her for being largely responsible for all the bad things that have happened to her and also point out all the misery that her quest for vengeance has caused others.
** Shivers and Monza each these to each other frequently when their relationship is at a low point.
* TheRedBaron: Sand dan Golkta is referred to only as "the Cripple" in this book.
* RequiredSecondaryPowers: [[spoiler: Shenkt]]'s BulletTime power gives him the ability to use his bare hands as cutting and piercing weapons, owing to their supernatural velocity. It ''also'' renders his limbs immune to the inertia of his actions, so he doesn't smash ''himself'' to bits as his hands pierce through muscle and bone at high velocity.
* {{Retirony}}: [[spoiler:Morveer notes how ironic it is for him to die on the eve of his retirement]].
* TheReveal:
** [[spoiler: Shenkt is the bone thief from the start of the story.]]
** [[spoiler: And Orso's fears were well-founded, as Benna was planning to overthrow him without Monza's knowledge.]]
* {{Revenge}}: Monza's motivation.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: Monza systematically works her way through the list of those who participated in her brother's murder and her attempted murder.
* ScarsAreForever: Abercrombie loves his scarred and maimed characters, and this is no exception;
** Monza is stabbed, crushed and broken before being thrown off the battlements of Fontezarmo and down a mountain, and there's a limit to how much you can be repaired after that. Her right hand is ruined, her face and body scarred all over, and she is in almost constant pain.
** [[spoiler:Shivers loses his eye at around the halfway mark, and the scar bothers him for the rest of the book]].
* SdrawkcabAlias: Morveer's GoToAlias is Rotsac Reevrom. He thinks this is the height of comedy, and his internal monologue admits that he can never help but giggle when he trots it out.
* SelfMadeOrphan: [[spoiler:Morveer spends the whole book griping to himself about his time in the orphanage. When he finally questions if he did anything wrong he decides that everything from poisoning his mother on was the right thing to do.]]
* SesquipedalianLoquaciousness: While planning the raid on Cardotti's House of Leisure, Cosca indulges in a bunch of fancy words, forcing Shivers to repeatedly ask what he means, and for Vitari to supply the simple translation. Shivers quickly gets annoyed.
* SexMontage: Used brilliantly in a scene that initially looks like [[spoiler:Monza and Shivers]] patching things up, but slowly reveals that, while both are having sex, it isn't with each other.
* SillyRabbitIdealismIsForKids: Used brutally by Monza. When Caul Shivers arrived in Styria, he was a idealistic man who wanted to stop killing and become a better person. After coming into Monza's employ, she systematically criticizes his hopes and dreams, and does it well enough that he eventually starts coming to her line of thought. Then he gets his eye burned out during a torture session, and Shivers becomes a full-blown killer who doesn't care about much of anything anymore. She actually finds herself sickened by what she's done to the former idealist, but by then it is far too late.
* TheStarscream: Every captain general of the Thousand Swords has been deposed by his or her right-hand man. [[spoiler:Cosca learns from the ordeal. After being reinstated he begins offing the generals who supported his overthrow.]]
* StraightGay:
** Ganmark is an experienced general and one of the finest swordsmen in the world. He was expelled from the Union army for a sexual indiscretion with another officer. He rules out a BiTheWay scenario when he tells Monza that her brother was more his type. He misses out on being a ManlyGay with his "soft" face, watery eyes and general effeteness.
** The Queen of the Union, formerly Princess Terez, was married to King Luthar for political reasons. She and her husband make a show of their matrimony, but as Monza recounts, Queen Terez was far more interested in her than in her brother when they met.
* TalkingIsAFreeAction: Discussed. Ganmark engages in some serious BreakThemByTalking while dueling Monza. Monza tells him to [[ShutUpHannibal just shut up and fight]], but Ganmark counters that he can easily cut pieces from her and talk at the same time.
* ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill: To make sure [[spoiler:Mauthis]] is good and dead, Morveer goes ahead and poisons [[spoiler:every single ledger in the bank, killing an extra forty or so people in the process]].
* TokenGoodTeammate: Shivers, in the first half of the book, is the one who always questions the ruthlessness of Monza's schemes. [[spoiler:After his face heel turn, he's more brutal and nihilistic than she is]].
* TwistedEchoCut: There's a scene at the party the protagonists crash where Monza/Vitari and Shivers/Cosca engage in the same conversation, but in different contexts.
* UnreliableNarrator: Monza's injuries are described as being far more disfiguring when she is the viewpoint character. She expresses disgust at the state of her body after the raid on Cardotti's House of Leisure; this is after she's been called "quite fine" by Shivers and hand-picked by the King of the Union while wearing an outfit that the narration makes clear leaves "very little to the imagination."
* UnspokenPlanGuarantee: Played straight and subverted. Duke Rogont's plan has already failed by the time Monza tells it back to him, then it suddenly works exactly as planned due to an unspoken factor. Benna was fond of unspoken plans that he could reveal to Monza as fait accompli; {{The Reveal}}s of when they worked foreshadow the real Reveal.
* UnwittingPawn: Monza has been manipulated into most of the infamous actions that form her backstory by [[spoiler: her brother Benna]]. At the beginning of the book [[spoiler: Shenkt]] plans to use her as a pawn against Duke Orzo and the Bank of Valint and Balk but she gets away. Ironically [[spoiler: she fulfills Shenkt's plan all on her own]].
* VillainHasAPoint:
** Simultaneously played straight and inverted when [[spoiler: Shivers]] turns on Monza. They both throw a [[TheReasonYouSuckSpeech flurry of accusations]] at the other, and both acknowledge (quietly, to themselves) that here is a lot of truth to what the other says. It doesn't stop them from going through with trying to kill each other, though.
** Ganmark delivers a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech to Monza on how useless, destructive and hypocritical her revenge is.
* WeaponOfChoice: Monza favors a fencing sword and uses a [[CoolSword Calvez rapier]] throughout the story. Friendly is a self-admitted and ardent KnifeNut, using a cleaver and knife to fight. Vitari still has her chain with the cruciform spike on the end, from ''The First Law''. Morveer and Day use poisoned needles and blowguns. Played with in Shivers' use of a sword [[spoiler: before losing his eye]] and an axe later, used to signify his [[spoiler: Face Heel Turn]].
* WhamEpisode: [[spoiler: Visserine. This marks Shiver's Face Heel Turn, the dissolution of trust between him and Monza, the end of Cosca's service, and the time at which the League of Eight's fall is seen as inevitable.]]
* WhatMeasureIsAMook: Various characters, even Cosca, contemplate how the random people who get killed along the way were probably decent people with families who loved them.
* WhereItAllBegan: [[spoiler:Monza confronts Orzo in his fortress of Fontezarmo, where he had her "killed" in the beginning.]]
* WhyDontYouJustShootHim: Lampshaded twice.
--> The Bloody-Nine had told him once - if you mean to kill, you kill, you don't talk about it - and it was advice he'd always tried to stick to. ... He wasn't sure if he was talking to stretch the moment out or talking to put the moment off. But he was talking, still.

-->"Why is it that men pointing loaded flatbows always feel the need to gloat, rather than simply letting fly?"
* WickedCultured: The magnificent statue of Stolicus is explicitly stated to have been the object of at least two wars, as various Styrian generals (and later, Ganmark) have sought to add the master sculptor's greatest work to their personal collections.
* YourApprovalFillsMeWithShame: Monza is not pleased when the female soldier who tortured Shivers and herself (not knowing who they were), later tells Monza (once she knows who her prisoner was) how she considers Monza to be her hero and an inspiration.
* YouAreBetterThanYouThinkYouAre: At the end of the novel, Cosca gives Monza a touching speech about how despite her pretentions to ruthlessness, she is actually a good person (see JerkWithAHeartOfGold). He gives this as a reason why he loved her and still loves her despite her betraying him [[spoiler: in addition to the fact that Cosca knows Benna was the one who betrayed him and basically roped Monza into going along with it]].
* YouCantGoHomeAgain: [[spoiler: Friendly]] feels this way after discovering that [[spoiler: Safety]] has been abandoned.