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.]

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Red Country (Joe Abercrombie)

Red Country is the newest novel by Joe Abercrombie, set in the same world as The First Law Trilogy, Best Served Cold and The Heroes. As Best Served Cold and The Heroes, it shares characters and they are in chronological order, but it’s a standalone novel.

Shy South and her stepfather Lamb left Shy’s little siblings at home to sell their harvest. But when they get home, their farm is burned down, their farmhand dead and the children stolen. So both Shy and Lamb prepare to go after them into the wildest part of the Far Country and get them back. Even if that means that both of them have to unearth pasts that they had rather seen forgotten.
At the same time, Temple, famed soldier of fortune Nicomo Cosca’s lawyer, is a person who has always chosen the easiest path available – which is the reason he is still with Cosca in the first place. And Cosca has just accepted a new mission – rooting out rebels in the Far Country.

Abercrombie has managed yet again to write a completely satisfying novel. With him you always know what you get and he always delivers.

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The Heroes (Joe Abercrombie)

The Heroes is the newest novel by Joe Abercrombie, set in the same world as The First Law Trilogy and Best Served Cold.

The North and the Union are at war. They’ve been at it for quite a while but now the time for the decisive battle has come. On the Union’s side, there’s Bremer dan Gorst, former bodyguard of the King who has since been dismissed after an attack on the King’s life was made. And there’s the Dogman, northman and former companion of the Bloody Nine who now fights for the South.
On the side of the North (headed by Black Dow), there’s Craw, a “straight edge” doing it the old way, and his dozen: a very tight group of Named Men (and a Woman). And there’s Caul Shivers, Black Dow’s dog, bodyguard and henchman.
For the North, yet not really one of Black Dow’s people is Calder, son of the former King of the North, who has a knack for scheming and fucking, but not for fighting.
Now, three days of battle are coming up and they will decide the fates of these people.

I enjoyed The Heroes again a whole lot. I like Abercrombie’s sense of humor and writing style, his characters are engaging and the pacing’s very good. The Heroes seemed a bit repetitive though, both in theme and characterisation. But so long as Abercrombie repeats the good stuff, who cares?

[Another welcome repetition: The great cover.]

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Best Served Cold (Joe Abercrombie)

Best Served Cold is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as (and after the events of) The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. [Reviews of the trilogy here.]

Grand Duke Orso has been waging a war against the League of Eight in Styria for years. His biggest asset in this war is Monza Murcatto who might well be the best strategist and warrior around. But Monza is getting to popular for his taste so he decides to kill her and her brother. Unfortunately for him, Monza survives – and wants nothing but revenge. So, she gathers a group of followers (some of which we know from the previous books) and she goes after the people who betrayed her.

Best Served Cold is another excellent addition to this universe (and oh my goodness, I have to wait until summer next year until something else by Abercrombie hits the shelves? *sobsduringpreorder*). The characters feel very real, the prose is good and the story exciting. If only all books could be like that!

Still beautiful. Much more beautiful than the US version.


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Last Argument of Kings (Joe Abercrombie)

Last Argument of Kings is the last book in The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie (my reviews of the other books here).

This review contains SPOILERS for all books involved, but before the break only for the previous books.

So, things are going downhill. That’s pretty much the overarching plot of this book.
Bayaz and his travellers have returned from their journey to the edge of the world, only to split up again. Logen goes North to fight against Bethod, together with the Union soldiers and Colonel West. Ferro is stuck in Adua, still thinking about revenge on the Gurkish. Jezal has to decide whether the trip actually changed him, or only gave him a scar.
Glokta has also returned from Dagoska and is now left with a mysterious hint that the Gurkish plan to attack Adua. But that is not his biggest problem, since both his masters – the Archlector and the Bank – want opposite things from him.

Last Argument of Kings does not disappoint. After the excellent first two books, this is a glorious finish for the series. Though I was surprised by the bitterness of the ending.

lastargumentofkings2Do you see how the paper is burning? Seriously, the person, whoever it is, I couldn’t find out, who designed these covers should get a prize. Or five.

[Now the SPOILER-business really starts.]

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Before They Are Hanged (Joe Abercrombie)

Befor The Are Hanged is the second book in Joe Abercrombie‘s The First Law Trilogy. [Here’s my review of the first Book in the series: The Blade Itself.]

I’ll try to keep this post spoilerfree for The Blade Itself, but I can’t really guarantee it. So, if you don’t want to know anything at all about TBI, please don’t read on.

Bayaz has collected his group of travellers – Logen, Jezal, Ferro, Malacus and the navigator Brother Longfoot. Together they depart for the Edge of the World, but what they want to find there, only Bayaz knows.
Inquisitor Glokta is sent to the South, to Dagoska, to defend the city of the Gurkish and uncover what happened to his predecessor, who disappeared from his room without a clue. 
Colonel West in the meantime is sent to the North with the army, to fight against Bethod, who threatens to invade Angland.

Again, Abercrombie manages to keep away from the path of stereotypes that seem so close to the short description of his books. He continues to engage the reader, with both an exciting story and a sly sense of humour. Oh, and of course his great characters.

before_they_are_hangedAnd another gorgeous cover. Maybe even more gorgeous than that of The Blade Itself.

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The Blade Itself (Joe Abercrombie)

The Blade Itself is the first book in The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. It’s a fantasy novel, set in a kind-of-medieval-world. No elves or trolls till now, but magi and stuff. So far, so old.  

Explaining the plot will leave you with the impression that nothing new is in that book, but I’ll try anyway.
Overarching plot: The self-proclaimed King of the North threatens the Union of the South with war. And some more or less unsuspecting people get tangled up. [God, I’m bad at summarising this.]
The story focusses on three characters:
Logen Ninefingers is a tested warrior, a barbarian with a past. After his whole existence is destroyed, he joins ranks with Bayaz, the first of the Magi, even though he doesn’t really know what Bayaz is planning.
Jezal dan Luthar is an asshole. Nobleman, officer, good-looking. He’s rich and spends it all on booze, gambling and women. He has serious daddy-issues which make him train for a fencing tournament even though he doesn’t really want to do all this hard work.
Inquisitor Glokta once was like Jezal — until he was tortured and left crippled. Now he’s a torturer himself, hating the world and everyone in it.

Later, other important characters join these cheerful three.

See, I know it sounds like something we’ve heard a million times already. But surprisingly, it isn’t.

1_bladeitselffinalwfoil-736071Isn’t this edition absolutely gorgeous?

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