by Joe Abercrombie
Fantasy | 287 Pages | Published by Gollancz in 2016
| TL;DR |
Sharp Ends is an anthology of thirteen stories set in the world of The First Law. With brilliantly dark humour, action packed battles, and frequent blood-lettings throughout, this is a collection which delights in introducing new faces amongst familiar friends and enemies, and is nothing short of a thrill ride from beginning to end.
| Synopsis |
The Union army may be full of bastards, but there’s only one who thinks he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta.
Curnden Craw and his dozen are out to recover a mysterious item from beyond the Crinna. Only one small problem: no one seems to know what the item is.
Shevedieh, the self-styled best thief in Styria, lurches from disaster to catastrophe alongside her best friend and greatest enemy, Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp.
And after years of bloodshed, the idealistic chieftain Bethod is desperate to bring peace to the North. There’s only one obstacle left – his own lunatic champion, the most feared man in the North: the Bloody-Nine…
Sharp Ends combines previously published, award-winning tales with exclusive new short stories. Violence explodes, treachery abounds, and the words are as deadly as the weapons in this rogue’s gallery of side-shows, back-stories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.
| Review |
Introducing characters old and new, Sharp Ends is a chronological set of short stories that mark events both significant and insignificant, told and untold, from the world of The First Law.
Exciting and darkly humorous throughout, this collection displays Abercrombie’s wit, clever writing style and skilful characterisation as he forges links throughout the Circle of the World. And whilst knowledge of the other novels is not essential, overall enjoyment is likely to be increased by an understanding of the overarching events, backstories and familiar names and faces that comprise much of this anthology.
With a theme of two new central characters running throughout this collection, in Small Kindnesses, Skipping Town, Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd and Tough Times All Over, Shev and Javre prove a brilliant and engaging comedic duo who are thoroughly deserved of a series of their own. And with other favourites including A Beautiful Bastard and Made a Monster, which bring us face to face with familiar and long loved characters, this is an anthology which truly does have a story for all fans.
A Beautiful Bastard
[ Kadir, Spring 566 ]
A Beautiful Bastard takes us to a time before The First Law, when Sand dan Glokta was a swaggering cavalier whose skill was only outweighed by his ego. Told from the perspective of a blubbering and gushing Salem Rews, or Superior Pike as we now know him, this is a brilliant tale of Glokta’s magnificence before his destruction at the hands of the Gurkish. A thoroughly enjoyable and amusing tale, this short story is made all the more brilliant by the knowledge of Glokta’s and Rews’ futures and also features a cameo by Corporal Tunny.
Made a Monster
[ Carleon, Summer 570 ]
Logen Ninefingers returns to Sharp Ends in Made a Monster; a wonderfully brutal tale which showcases his bloody, brutal violence and features almost none of his redeeming qualities. Told from the perspective of Bethod, with more than a few glimpses of Scale, Calder, The Dogman and Curnden Craw, we see the Bloody Nine in all his fearsome glory from the side of those who dread the edge of his sword. A brilliantly bloody tale, Made a Monster provides a glimpse of Bethod’s determination to right his terrible wrong in creating the Bloody Nine.
[ Westport, Autumn 573 ]
Small Kindnesses introduces us to Shevedieh, the best thief in Westport, as her life on the straight and narrow is brought to an abrupt end when a large, red-headed woman washes up on her doorstep. Accompanied by Severard – yes, that’s Practical Severard of Inquisition fame – her life is turned upside down by a job gone wrong, with her small act of kindness ending up her saving grace. This introduction to our recurring characters, Shev and Javre the Lioness of Hoskopp, is a funny, bloody and somewhat grim beginning that paves the way for a strange and wonderful relationship.
The Fool Jobs
[ East of the Crinna, Autumn 574 ]
The Fool Jobs tells the tale of Curden Craw and his dozen as they accept a contract to retrieve a mysterious item of value – a thing, let’s say – from the village of Fox Clan prior to the events of The Heroes. With nostalgic cameos from Wonderful, Whirrun of Bligh, Jolly Yon Cumber, Brack-i-Dayn and Scorry Tiptoe, The Fool Jobs is a funny snatch and grab tale that’s equal parts messy, bloody and hilarious.
[ The Near Country, Summer 575 ]
In Skipping Town we return to Shev and Javre as they complete a job for Tumnor at The Weeping Slaver. Only there’s something not quite right, the job is more than likely a double cross and it’s high time they skip town. This action-packed and blood thirsty addition is brilliantly brutal and develops the powerful. warrior-like character of Javre as she is pursued by a mysterious and dangerous order from which she has fled.
[ Dagoska, Spring 576 ]
Hell tells the tale of the Siege of Dagoska from the perspective of Temple, who later features in Red Country alongside Shy South. A brutal, fiery and chaotic tale, Hell captures the dangerous atmosphere of a city under siege and the terrifying arrival of the Eaters.
[ Somewhere in the North, Summer 576 ]
Two’s Company rejoins Shev and Javre as they meet Whirrun of Bligh on a flimsy bridge over a remote canyon. In a humorous and brutal bout between warriors, the Lioness of Hoskopp and Cracknut Whirrun find themselves treading over familiar, sword swinging ground as they are pursued by both Bethod and the Fifteen. Two’s Company is a funny, engaging and brilliantly bloody tale that could easily hold its own outside of this anthology.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
[ Styria, 580 ]
Wrong Place, Wrong Time tells the tale of three somewhat innocent bystanders who find themselves swept up in the wholesale destruction wrought by Monzcarro Murcatto as she enacts her revenge in Best Served Cold. From the Banking House of Valint and Balk, to Cardotti’s House of Leisure and the battlefields of Ospria, no one walks away untouched by The Snake of Talins’ vengeance. Wrong Place, Wrong Time is an exciting and bloodthirsty tale that showcases three brilliant alternative perspectives in the ensuing torrent of chaos, flames and blood.
[ The Near Country, Summer 584 ]
Some Desperado tells the tale of Shy South before the events of Red Country. As she flees from three bounty hunters armed with nothing but a bag of gold and the clothes on her back, she must use all her cunning to fight, trick and escape her pursuers before she ends up hanging from the gallows. Some Desperado is an action packed, gritty tale which is a wonderful return to a familiar favourite.
Yesterday Near a Village Called Barden
[ Near Barden, Autumn 584 ]
In Yesterday Near a Village Called Barden, Pale-as-Snow is preparing an ambush against a troop of Union soldiers accompanied by Bremer dan Gorst in his position as Royal Observer – a position he’s been forced into after the disaster at Cardotti’s House of Leisure (which appears in Wrong Place, Wrong Time). Written during the events of The Heroes, this story is an action-packed and bloody skirmish told from numerous perspectives and proves that there’s nowhere safe when the swords start swinging.
Three’s a Crowd
[ Talins, Autumn 587 ]
Shev and Javre return in Three’s a Crowd after Shev’s lover, Carcolf, is abducted by Horald the Finger as a consequence of the events in Small Kindnesses. In a story laden with familiar faces – Vitari, Lieutenant Forest, Corporal Tunny and Lance Corporal Yolk to name but a few – Shev and Javre must embark on a rescue mission which unveils some uncomfortable truths for the Lioness of Hoskopp.
[ Averstock, Summer 590 ]
Freedom is an extract from Nicomo Cosca’s biography written by Spillion Sworbreck as he accompanies the Company of the Gracious Hand during the events of Red Country. A exaggerated, farcical and glorified narrative ensues which paints Cosca in hilariously flowery and heroic language as his company sack (nay, save!) the hillside town of Averstock. Freedom is a ridiculously funny tale which reads as though Cosca had written it himself.
Tough Times All Over
[ Sipani, Sping 592 ]
Tough Times All Over tells the tale of a mysterious package, which could well be the thing from The Fool Jobs, as it changes hands across the city of Sipani. The narrative is exciting and well written with the POV changing character each time the package is picked up, handed over or pilfered in its journey across the city. Joined by faces both old and new, Tough Times All Over is a fitting end to a brilliant anthology.
Darkly humorous with brilliant characterisation throughout, Sharp Ends is a wonderfully witty, nostalgic and exciting look at the stories between stories, alternative perspectives and unrecorded events that make up the Circle of the World.
I highly recommend reading this collection whilst already immersed in the universe of The First Law as each story weaves subtle links and ties through almost every other Abercrombie novel and discovering new connections heightened my enjoyment throughout. Consequently, this literary device may be lost on new readers or those who haven’t returned to Abercrombie’s writing in some time.