Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

7/10 The majority is as amusing, bloody and fast-paced as Abercrombie's other works

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 the rogue’s gallery of side-shows, back-stories, and sharp endings from the world of the First Law.

From the world of the First Law comes an anthology of short stories following various characters, some of whom are old friends and others who are completely new.

This is definitely a different approach to Abercrombie’s usual multi-book stories for sure, most of the stories run between 20 and 30 pages, and take place over a period of many years. There are references to the First Law books in there (and some of the characters you’ll hopefully recognise), but there’s plenty new to explore and enjoy.

There are 13 stories in total – generally entertaining though, it pains me to say, some did fall a little flat. Abercrombie excels when he has hundreds of pages, many characters and interweaving storylines to play with, and unfortunately the short story format doesn’t allow him to flex his storyteller muscles as much as I’m used to.

My favourite stories by far were those feature Shevedieh and Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp – of which there are 5. However, I do not understand the character of Carcolf; I got why she had to be there for plot reasons, but it is the laziest character use/development I have seen at Abercrombie’s hands.

Hell was a particular favourite of mine – you’re thrown straight in, not told what is going on, and you feel the character’s confusion and panic build to a fantastic crescendo. The others were at best interesting snippets (such as A Beautiful Bastard starring the ever loveable Glokta) and only served to make me want to reread Abercrombie’s original First Law trilogy. One or two stories did fall flat, and I’m not entirely sure of the reason. Getting a reader invested enough in a character to care within the confines of 30 pages is a tough job for any writer, and occasionally the author does fail. Unfortunately these stories come across as filler, and I did wonder at points if this was still Abercrombie or instead a joint effort with another author.

Essentially it comes down to this - as a massive Abercrombie and First Law fan, I generally enjoyed the book. If you are neither of these, Sharp Ends may put you off reading more Abercrombie altogether.

That isn’t to say that this is a bad anthology – on the contrary, the majority of it is as amusing, bloody and fast-paced as Abercrombie’s other works. You may just need to forgive him on a couple of the stories. I would recommend reading his First Law trilogy first however.

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Our interview with Joe Abercrombie

In 2002 Joe Abercrombie began the writing of a fantasy trilogy based around the adventures of Logan Ninefingers. The First Law trilogy (The Blade Itself, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings) has since been publi [...]

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