I would recommend this book to anyone but especially anyone looking for a strong female protagonist, who is an antihero. If you think Brienne of Tarth, Arya Stark and Daenerys are badass, you haven’t seen anything yet.
The main character, Monza Murcatto, is a flawed, ruthless and vicious mercenary with a talent for manipulation. And she isn’t the only well-rounded female character. There’s a mother-of-3 torturer, a voraciously hungry poisoner, an almost-magical ninja, a lesbian queen and a spy hiding in the guise of a mistress.
The main plot revolves around revenge (as might be guessed from the title) but a lot of time is also dedicated to what makes a good leader, how to be a good person in a violent world and the politics of warring city-states (it’s very reminiscent of Renaissance Italy and Germany).
Although homosexuality of both kinds and incest are referred to, the main sexual deviation that Abercrombie explores is a woman as the dominant partner in romantic or sexual relationship. Monza is a very beautiful woman with men falling over themselves to get into bed with her. However, she is always in control and only maintains the relationships as long as they are useful, regardless of how she might feel about them.
In summary, this book is a wonderful portrayal of one woman’s quest and the impact it has on the wider world. For a fantasy novel, it’s very realistic, down to the drug-addiction and swearing.