Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie
Expected publication – 26th April 2016
ISBN 031639081X (ISBN13: 9780316390811)
*I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review
The book blurb;
A Beautiful Bastard: The Union army may be full of bastards, but there’s only one big enough to think he can save the day single-handed when the Gurkish come calling: the incomparable Colonel Sand dan Glokta.
Made a Monster: 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.
Small Kindnesses: The hopes of Shevedieh, the best thief in Westport, to turn her back on crime, come crashing down when she finds a huge drunkard sleeping in her doorway. Doing the right thing always comes at a price…
The Fool Jobs: Curnden Craw has been sent with his dozen to recover a thing from beyond the Crinna. One small problem. No one seems to know what the thing is.
Skipping Town: Shevedieh and Javre, ill-matched adventurers, find themselves forced to flee yet another self-made disaster.
Hell: ‘I have seen hell, and it is a great city under siege.’ The fall of Dagoska through the eyes of a young acolyte.
Two’s Company: Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp, runs into Cracknut Whirrun on a bridge over a remote canyon. Can Shevedieh persuade either of these proud heroes to step aside?
Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Three not entirely innocent bystanders are sucked into the chaos of Monzcarro Murcatto’s vengeance.
Some Desperado: There is no honour among thieves when the outlaw Smoke finds herself being hunted down by her own comrades.
Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden: Royal Observer Bremer dan Gorst reports to the king on another ugly little skirmish as summer dies in the North.
Three’s a Crowd: It’s a foolish man who steals from the best thief in Styria, and when Horald the Finger steals her lover, it’s time for Shevedieh to stop running and start fighting. For those who work in the shadows, though, few things are ever quite as they seem…
Freedom: Being an absolutely true account of the liberation of the town of Averstock from the grip of the incorrigible rebel menace by the famous Nicomo Cosca.
Tough Times all Over: All Carcolf wants is to take her package from here to there, but in the city of fogs and whispers, there are always a dozen other rogues with their own ideas.
“Balls.I mean, balls. What’s that about? That is one singularly unattractive piece of anatomy. That is just… that is bad design, is what that is.” – Shevedieh the thief in ‘Two’s Company’.
This is probably the hardest review I have written so far because I absolutely love the author and all of his works to date. I have tried my very best to be ultra-objective and give a fair summary of what I like and did not like (if anything) about Sharp Ends.
Throughout Sharp Ends we meet some of our favourite characters from the ‘First Law’ world (I love ‘Cracknut Whirrun’) and learn of their other exploits. I can’t go through every short story and detail the several plot points because I don’t have the space on this page! Suffice it to say however, that each one is brilliantly crafted and detailed.
What Abercrombie does in Sharp Ends is keep each story fresh and readable, there is never a dull moment and the characters are so meticulously crafted that you don’t want their particular story to end. The good thing is, when the next story starts, you feel the exact same way and the pages just keep on turning (I read the second half of this book last night AFTER getting home form work).
My favourite part of the book is when we meet the ‘Bloody Nine’. This is a time before the ‘First Law Trilogy’ and we see a completely different side of him. It had me captivated and he is just so real. Abercrombie makes the feeling surrounding him palpable. Bethod is also fantastic and is a character you can really buy into; he has character features not often seen in the world of the ‘First Law’; honour and a desperate strive for peace.
What I particularly love about this anthology of short stories is the constant shifting of tone, both between stories and within them – there is a particularly hilarious meeting of two ‘mountains’ that is just superb. Some characters are so fearful of death and the tension surrounding them is built up really well; in the next breath we have a character who treats death with pure nonchalance and arrogance, and the juxtaposition of these characters leaves you, as the reader, exhausted (positively so!).
Sharp Ends is just brilliant, the characters are rich, their adventures expertly told and it will leave you wanting more from the world of the ‘First Law’. Dark when it wants to be and humorous where it should be; I could not have enjoyed this any more than I did.
Every reader of Joe Abercrombie’s previous works will love this book and will be adding it to their ‘Top Ten’ lists immediately. There is swordplay aplenty and lots of dirty fighting/cheating, a whole host of survival and killing tactics on display. I also think that any fantasy reader will love Sharp Ends. However, there are one or two of the stories that require a little previous knowledge of the characters involved. It may be beneficial for any readers who are new to Joe Abercrombie, to catch up on some of his earlier works to truly get a picture of the characters.
If ‘blood n guts’ is not your style or if you are offended by foul language then you probably would not enjoy Sharp Ends; there is desperation and realism at every turn and it is detailed down to every severed sinew and every cracked head.
Easy – 5/5