The First Law was the thing I’d always wanted to write, and the ideas had been cooking slowly in my mind since childhood, in some cases. In a sense Best Served Cold was my difficult second novel – I had to come up with new ideas, new ways of writing on a schedule and that was pretty testing. There were two things I was particularly concerned about with that book. One was that it was much less self-consciously epic fantasy than the First Law had been, both in its plot and in the amount of fantastic elements. On the whole that didn’t really seem to bother people, though. The other was that I was pushing the “unsympatheticness” (if that’s a word) of the characters and the darkness and brutality of the action further even than I had with the First Law. Certainly I pushed it too far for some, and no doubt some readers found it hard to relate to the characters. Hard to find anyone to root for. And that’s not a good thing in a character-centred book, really, is it?
So yes, there are fine lines between gritty and too gritty, violent and too violent, interestingly dark and utterly repulsive, but those lines are in different places for every reader. There are people who haven’t found the characters appealing in Best Served Cold, but there are also plenty of people for whom it’s their favourite book of mine. That’s one thing I take a kind of pride in, actually - I haven’t really observed a clear consensus on which is my best book or my worst. Hopefully that shows that I’m trying out a slightly different variation on the recipe each time around.