This is the book that pulled me in and made me a fan of Abercrombie! It works as a stand-alone book, but can also serve as an entry points into AbercrThis is the book that pulled me in and made me a fan of Abercrombie! It works as a stand-alone book, but can also serve as an entry points into Abercrombie's others books (though I in hindsight, I recommend reading his books in their intended order).
This book is "low magic". It is basically a revenge story, in the style of military fantasy (i.e. small band of morally ambiguous characters on a mission). There are some supernatural/magical elements centered around some secondary characters. As a stand-alone book, these elements will seem interesting and somewhat mysterious, but not overly distracting. Reading the First Law Trilogy, either before or after, will give them a satisfying context.
Great characters. I really enjoyed the developed and changes to Caul Shivers (a key supporting character) as the story progressed. A northmen with a past as barbarian captain (of sorts) who starts out the story on a journey to be "a better man", only to get caught up in Monza's single-minded quest for revenge. He is turtured for his trouble and left disfigured for life, and his resentment and anger begins to darken his soul turning him more and more like the Black Dow - so much for trying to be the "better man".
MINOR SPOILER: Caul Shivers is a nice thread that ties all of Ambercrombie's work (so far) together. I find his developement interesting across the books, as well as within BSC.