Best Served Cold
Goodreads ratings
4.16 / 5

"Best Served Cold" Characters Analysis

By Joe Abercrombie

fantasy | 534 pages | Published in 2009

Springtime in Styria. And that means war. Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.There have been nineteen years of blood. The ruthless Grand Duke Orso is locked in a vicious struggle with the squabbling League of Eight, and between them they have bled the land white. While armies march, heads roll and cities burn, behind the scenes bankers, priests and older, darker powers play a deadly game to choose who will be king.War may be hell but for Monza Murcatto, the Snake of Talins, the most feared and famous mercenary in Duke Orso's employ, it's a damn good way of making money too. Her victories have made her popular - a shade too popular for her employer's taste. Betrayed, thrown down a mountain and left for dead, Murcatto's reward is a broken body and a burning hunger for vengeance. Whatever the cost, seven men must die.Her allies include Styria's least reliable drunkard, Styria's most treacherous poisoner, a mass-murderer obsessed with numbers and a Northman who just wants to do the right thing. Her enemies number the better half of the nation. And that's all before the most dangerous man in the world is dispatched to hunt her down and finish the job Duke Orso started...Springtime in Styria. And that means revenge.


Estimated read time: 9 min read

List of Characters

Character NameRole
Monza MurcattoProtagonist, Mercenary
Benna MurcattoBrother of Monza
ShiversFormer Northman, Mercenary
MorveerPoisoner, Strategist
Castor MorveerMorveer's brother, Assassin
General GanmarkMercenary General
Caul ShiversShivers' younger brother
CoscaMercenary, Leader of the Company of the Gracious Hand
VitariCosca's Lieutenant
FriendlyInkeeper, Information Broker

Role Identification

In "Best Served Cold," Monza Murcatto is the protagonist and main character. She is a skilled and ruthless mercenary known as "The Snake of Talins," driven by a desire for vengeance. Other key characters include Benna Murcatto, Monza's brother, Shivers, a former Northman turned mercenary, Morveer, a poisoner and strategist, Castor Morveer, Morveer's brother and an assassin, General Ganmark, a mercenary general, Caul Shivers, Shivers' younger brother, Cosca, the leader of the Company of the Gracious Hand, Vitari, Cosca's lieutenant, and Friendly, an innkeeper and information broker.

Character Descriptions

  • Monza Murcatto: Monza is a dark-haired woman in her late twenties, with sharp features and piercing eyes. She is known for her strategic mind, exceptional fighting skills, and unyielding determination. Monza has a scar running down one side of her face, a constant reminder of the betrayal that left her nearly dead.
  • Benna Murcatto: Benna is Monza's younger brother, known for his charm and good looks. He is a skilled swordsman and serves as Monza's right-hand man until his untimely death.
  • Shivers: Shivers is a tall, muscular man with fair hair and a rugged appearance. He is a former Northman warrior who joins Monza's quest for revenge, seeking redemption for his own past actions.
  • Morveer: Morveer is a thin man with a pale complexion and a cunning smile. He is a skilled poisoner and strategist, always plotting and scheming to further his own interests.
  • Castor Morveer: Castor is Morveer's brother, and like him, he is an assassin. He is tall and slender, with dark hair and a sinister demeanor.
  • General Ganmark: General Ganmark is a seasoned mercenary leader. He is a large and imposing man, known for his tactical brilliance and ruthless nature.
  • Caul Shivers: Caul is Shivers' younger brother, a boy of fourteen. He is small and wiry, with a serious expression and a desire to prove himself.
  • Cosca: Cosca is a middle-aged man with a bald head and a potbelly. He is the leader of the Company of the Gracious Hand, a group of mercenaries. Cosca is known for his cunning and ability to manipulate others.
  • Vitari: Vitari is a young woman with short, dark hair and a no-nonsense attitude. She serves as Cosca's lieutenant and is skilled in combat.
  • Friendly: Friendly is an older man with a bald head and a friendly smile. He runs an inn and serves as an information broker, gathering and selling secrets to the highest bidder.

Character Traits

  • Monza Murcatto: Determined, ruthless, strategic, vengeful, skilled fighter
  • Benna Murcatto: Charming, loyal, skilled swordsman
  • Shivers: Haunted, conflicted, strong, skilled warrior
  • Morveer: Cunning, manipulative, intelligent, poisoner
  • Castor Morveer: Sinister, cold-hearted, skilled assassin
  • General Ganmark: Ruthless, strategic, experienced leader
  • Caul Shivers: Determined, eager to prove himself, young
  • Cosca: Manipulative, cunning, opportunistic, charismatic
  • Vitari: Skilled fighter, loyal, no-nonsense
  • Friendly: Informative, friendly, well-connected, resourceful

Character Background

  • Monza Murcatto: Monza was born into a noble family and raised to be a soldier. She became a renowned mercenary leader and was known for her tactical brilliance. However, her rise to power was cut short when she was betrayed by her employer and left for dead. Determined to seek revenge, Monza assembles a team of skilled individuals to help her achieve her goal.
  • Benna Murcatto: Benna is Monza's younger brother and has always been by her side. He was a talented swordsman and a trusted ally. However, his life is tragically cut short, which further fuels Monza's thirst for vengeance.
  • Shivers: Shivers was once a fearsome Northman warrior but has since left his homeland. He joins Monza's quest for revenge, hoping to find redemption for his past actions. Shivers' dark past haunts him throughout the story, and his loyalty to Monza is tested.
  • Morveer: Morveer is a skilled poisoner and strategist who is always looking for opportunities to further his own interests. He becomes a key member of Monza's team, using his cunning and knowledge to aid in their quest for revenge.
  • Castor Morveer: Castor follows in his brother's footsteps as an assassin and is just as cold-hearted and ruthless. He joins forces with Monza's enemies, becoming a formidable adversary.
  • General Ganmark: General Ganmark is a seasoned mercenary leader who is known for his ruthlessness and tactical brilliance. He becomes a key player in the power struggles and conflicts that arise throughout the story.
  • Caul Shivers: Caul is Shivers' younger brother and wants desperately to prove himself. He idolizes his older brother and joins Monza's quest for revenge, hoping to become a skilled warrior like Shivers.
  • Cosca: Cosca is the leader of the Company of the Gracious Hand, a group of mercenaries. He is known for his cunning and ability to manipulate others to further his own interests. Cosca becomes involved in Monza's quest for revenge, seeing it as an opportunity for profit.
  • Vitari: Vitari is a skilled fighter and serves as Cosca's lieutenant. She is loyal to him and becomes an important member of Monza's team, using her combat skills to protect and support the group.
  • Friendly: Friendly is an innkeeper and information broker. He has connections to various individuals and is able to gather and sell secrets to the highest bidder. Friendly becomes a valuable asset to Monza's team, providing them with crucial information.

Character Arcs

  • Monza Murcatto: Monza's character arc revolves around her quest for revenge and her journey towards finding closure. Throughout the story, she experiences moments of doubt, struggles with her own ruthlessness, and is forced to confront the consequences of her actions. Monza's arc ultimately leads her to a place of self-reflection and growth.
  • Shivers: Shivers' character arc explores his search for redemption and his inner turmoil. As he joins Monza's quest for revenge, he must confront his own past actions and the darkness within himself. Shivers' arc is one of self-discovery and the search for personal identity.
  • Morveer: Morveer's character arc centers around his manipulative nature and his desire for power. He uses his skills as a poisoner and strategist to further his own interests throughout the story. However, his arc takes a surprising turn as his plans are challenged, and he must adapt to the changing circumstances.
  • Caul Shivers: Caul's character arc revolves around his desire to prove himself and his journey towards becoming a skilled warrior. As the youngest member of the group, Caul faces numerous challenges and obstacles. His arc explores themes of growth, resilience, and the pursuit of personal excellence.
  • Cosca: Cosca's character arc delves into his opportunistic nature and his willingness to do whatever it takes to further his own interests. As the leader of the Company of the Gracious Hand, Cosca is constantly seeking profit and power. His arc exposes the consequences of his actions and the limitations of his manipulative tactics.
  • Other Characters: While not as prominent, characters like Benna Murcatto, Castor Morveer, General Ganmark, Vitari, and Friendly also experience their own smaller character arcs. These arcs contribute to the overall narrative and provide depth to the story.


  • Monza and Benna Murcatto: Monza and Benna share a close sibling bond. Benna is Monza's trusted confidant and a skilled swordsman who accompanies her on her quest for revenge. Their relationship is tested when Benna is tragically killed, driving Monza further into her quest for vengeance.
  • Monza and Shivers: Monza and Shivers develop a complex relationship throughout the story. They share a mutual desire for revenge and find solace in each other's company. However, their relationship is strained by Shivers' inner turmoil and Monza's ruthless pursuit of her goals.
  • Monza and Morveer: Monza and Morveer have a complicated professional relationship. Morveer's cunning and strategic mind make him a valuable asset to Monza's team, but his manipulative nature and self-interest create tension between them.
  • Shivers and Caul Shivers: Shivers' relationship with his younger brother Caul is one of mentorship and protection. Shivers takes on a paternal role, guiding Caul and teaching him the ways of a skilled warrior. Their relationship is tested as Caul faces the harsh realities of their quest for revenge.
  • Cosca and Vitari: Cosca and Vitari have a professional relationship built on loyalty and trust. Vitari serves as Cosca's lieutenant and is willing to do whatever it takes to protect him. Their relationship becomes strained as the consequences of their actions catch up to them.
  • Monza and Friendly: Monza and Friendly have a transactional relationship. Friendly provides Monza with valuable information, and Monza compensates him for his services. Their relationship is characterized by a mutual understanding of each other's roles.

In conclusion, "Best Served Cold" by Joe Abercrombie features a diverse cast of characters with complex relationships, distinct traits, and compelling arcs. Monza Murcatto's quest for revenge drives the narrative forward, while characters like Shivers, Morveer, and Cosca add depth and complexity to the story. Through their interactions and personal journeys, the characters in "Best Served Cold" navigate themes of vengeance, redemption, and the consequences of one's actions.