Best Served Cold is a stand-alone novel in the world of The First Law. You could call it a revenge-tale illustrating why revenge is a bad idea, but it's sort of like calling a horror movie with a lot of nudity a morality-play illustrating why fornication is a bad idea: it enjoys the process a little too much.
The summary, in brief, is that the mercenary Monza Murcatto and her brother Benna are betrayed by their employer, Duke Urso, who thinks they are becoming too popular. She survives, her brother dies. And so she embarks on a journey of revenge to kill all seven people involved in her death.
She quickly enlists Shivers, a character from The First Law, as a companion in this journey. And (one) of the basic moral themes of the book is how two kinda-bad people drag each other down, in this. Shivers is very reluctant to take revenge, at first, particularly as the first deaths involve a little collateral damage. But as time grows on, and Monza grows more and more sated and sick of revenge, Shivers grows harder and colder and prevents Monza from stopping. They fuck each other, and then fuck other people, and Shivers -- who has lost an eye, over the course of Monza's revenge -- decides he hates her and wants to kill her.
The final twist, of course (spoiler) is that Benne was in fact planning to usurp Duke Urso, and Urso was wrong simply in assuming that Monza knew what her brother planned. It's well foreshadowed, as in flashbacks we see what a little shit Benna is.
Overall, if you like the pulpy pace of The First Law, you'll like this, although this is even more grueling than The First Law in the sense of not having any good people in it.
Insult: I’d be surprised if he could read to the end of a signpost in one sitting.
Prices of various meats: “This is good,” gurgled Day, around a mouthful. “This is excellent. Is there more?” “Where did you learn to cook, my friend?” Cosca asked. “I spent three years in the kitchens in Safety. The man who taught me used to be head cook to the Duke of Borletta.” “What was he doing in prison?” “He killed his wife, and chopped her up, and cooked her in a stew, and ate it.” There was quiet around the table. Cosca noisily cleared his throat. “No one’s wife in this stew, I trust?” “The butcher said it was lamb, and I’ve no reason to doubt him.” Friendly picked up his fork. “No one sells human meat that cheap.”
Positive versus negative memories: “The memories of our glories fade,” he whispered, “and rot away into half-arsed anecdotes, thin and unconvincing as some other bastard’s lies. The failures, the disappointments, the regrets, they stay raw as the moments they happened. A pretty girl’s smile, never acted on. A petty wrong we let another take the blame for. A nameless shoulder that knocked us in a crowd and left us stewing for days, for months. Forever.” He curled his lip. “This is the stuff the past is made of. The wretched moments that make us what we are.”
Things not being what they used to be: "‘Things aren’t what they used to be’ is the rallying cry of small minds. When men say things used to be better, they invariably mean they were better for them, because they were young, and had all their hopes intact. The world is bound to look a darker place as you slide into the grave.”
On death: “And when you have killed me, what will you live for then?” His eyes moved from the sword to hers. “Monza, Monza… what will you do without me?” “I’ll think of something.” The point punctured his jacket with a faint pop, slid effortlessly through his chest and out of his back. He gave a gentle grunt, eyes widening, and she slid the blade free. They stood there, opposite each other, for a moment. “Oh.” He touched one finger to dark cloth and it came away red. “Is that all?” He looked up at her, puzzled. “I was expecting… more.”