Sharp Ends (Joe Abercrombie)

Sharp Ends is a short story collection by Joe Abercrombie, all set in the World of the First Law Trilogy.
[Here are my reviews of the other books set in that world.]
Finished on: 4.7.2018

It’s been a while that I read the First Law Trilogy or any of the novels set in that world, and Sharp Ends made it clear to me how much I have forgotten. Damn. You’d think that books I liked would stay in my brain better than this. In any case, the stories in Sharp Ends did make me want to re-visit the novels to sharpen the connections between them. And maybe draw up my own timeline of events, since the book unfortunately, doesn’t provide one that includes the other books. It is a very nice collection for fans of the world, though I probably wouldn’t recommend it for newcomers.

The book cover showing a map of the First Law world, playing cards, dice and coins strewn across it.

[Read more about each of the stories after the jump.]

A Beautiful Bastard

Salem Rews is only a lowly quartermaster, nothing like Colonel Glokta who is awesome and an asshole. But they are both in the same war with the Gurkish, a war that affects them all.

A Beautiful Bastard is a prime example of why I wouldn’t recommend this collection to people who are unfamiliar with the novels – because the look at Glokta becomes particularly interesting when you know where he’s at later in life. Fortunately, I remembered enough about him – and I loved the juxtaposition.

Small Kindnesses

Shev finds a basically unconscious woman on the doorstep of her inn and takes her in. The inn is supposed to be her honest retirement from being a thief, no the best thief, but her past catches up with her.

Small Kindnesses is the first of a few stories in the collection about Shev and Javre – new characters and my favorites of the collection. Shev is great (and a lesbian, woot woot) and Javre is a really cool addition to her story.

The Fool Jobs

Curnden Craw has been tasked with retrieving a very important item in a raid. If only he or anybody else of his team knew what that item was.

The final twist of The Fool Jobs was a bit too obvious and the story was weaker for it, but for some reason I can’t explain, Jolly Yon hit me right in the ovaries and kept me interested throughout the story.

Skipping Town

Shev and Javre have teamed up and gone in search of adventures, but more often than not, they find catastrophe – as they do here.

I was very pleasantly surprised that Shev and Javre weren’t limited to one story but that they came back. The story itself was okay, but it worked mostly because of the two of them and their dynamic.

Hell

Temple is an acolyte in Dagoska and the city has been under siege for weeks. Now things start to really fall apart though.

I liked Temple and I wouldn’t have minded to spend more time with him. The story was very atmospheric and managed to capture the cloying oppressiveness of the siege, but it didn’t feel very memorable to me regardless.

Two’s Company

Javre and Shev are looking to cross a bridge. Cracknut Whirrun wants to cross from the other direction. He and Javre find that the only way to decide who gets to cross first, is to fight it out.

Two’s Company was unusually light-hearted and fun. It’s the third time we meet Shev and Javre and I am still excited about the two of them, although I hope that their relationship will get more of a different dynamic and won’t stay one-not (fortunately it actually does later-on).

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Monzcarro Murcatto is out for revenge – and three different people get sucked into her plans.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time is basically a short story collection within the short story collection. The three stories have similar themes and are connected through Monza. I liked the last one best with the young soldier Predo. But I was taken aback a little by the sheer hopelessness of all three stories.

Some Desperado

Shy has had different plans for her life, but she finds herself being hunted down by her own comrades.

Embarassingly, since Shy wasn’t just a sidecharacter somwhere but the protagonist of Red Country, I had completely forgotten her. Nevertheless, this story was among the best of the entire collection and had me at the edge of my seat. Plus, it has an absolutely heartbreaking death scene.

Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden

Colonel Gorst is the royal observer, reporting on another little piece of the big war. Tinder is one of the people on whose back the war is carried out.

This story has an interesting structure, almost like Schnitzler’s La Ronde that I enjoyed a lot. Gorst and Tinder were very engaging characters (Gorst is already known to us) and I liked their perspectives. I suffered with those poor horses, though. Still, the story even manages to end on a positive note.

Three’s a Crowd

Shev got everything she hoped for: a pardon for her thieving and Carcolf, the woman of her dreams. But things are never as easy as they appear.

After a longer break, Shev (and Javre) are back in a story where I barely cared about the plot because I was so busy with the characters. Shev and Carcolf were heartbreaking – dammit, people can change if they let each other, but neither of them does. But at least the Shev-and-Javre dynamic was fully satisfying.

Freedom!

Nicomo Cosca really, really freed the town of Averstock. Really. He’ll tell you the story himself.

Freedom! was a bit exhausting to read. I realize that it’s supposed to be a parody of the flowery historian-slash-propagandist style, but it didn’t work for me. At least it was short.

Tough Times All Over

Carcolf has to make a delivery. Clandestine, of course. And naturally harder than it is supposed to be.

This time, we really get a La Ronde-structure and I enjoyed the clean version of it as much as the not so pure version in Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden… I still would like to read more about Javre and Shev to fill in the gaps in their development; and Shev and Carcolf are still heart-breaking. I hope Abercrombie writes entire novels about them.

Made a Monster

Bethod just wants to make peace. It’s time. If only he can convince his best fighter, the blood-thirsty Logen of its necessity.

Logen is basically the first protagonist of the First Law world, so seeing him again was absolutely great – even if it was an early version of himself that is barely recognizable anymore. That things can’t end well here is clear, but the story still has a surprisingly airy or breezy quality.

Summarizing: For fans of the First Law world a definite must.

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