BOOK REVIEW: Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

Sharp EndsSHARP ENDS (First Law Word #7)
By Joe Abercrombie
Publisher: Gollancz
Publication Date: 26th April 2016
Format: Hardback (287 pages)
Source: Review Copy

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.. (Goodreads)

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When I was asked if I would like to read and review this book by the publisher, I was a bit apprehensive about it because I have never read any of the First Law World books. Having been reassured that this could be read as stand-alone and I have to say for the majority of these stories, it holds true. However, there were a few of them that really needed some sort of background to their motivations, actions and characteristics. So, below are some breif thoughts and feelings I had about each of the short stories.

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A Beautiful Bastard [Kadir, Spring 566]: 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.

This story, for me was one which prior knowledge of the characters would be more beneficial. It came across as either a deleted scene or a bit of back story to the main characters. However it was so well written that when I finished it, I found myself looking up to see where these characters appear. – 3 Stars

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Small Kindnesses [Westport, Autumn 573]: 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..

This story was the start of the journey of my two favourite characters out of all the stories. It was a great introduction to the best thief of Westport and her friend Jarve. The plot is simple but the execution is excellent. It quickly redeemed the worries I had over this anthology. – 4 Stars

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The Fool Jobs [East of the Crinna, Autumn 574]: 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.

When I first started this short story, I was a bit apprehensive, especially as once again, it seemed as though these were well established characters, but this quickly turned into a really fun heist story. This is another one where after I finished the story, I looked up the back catalog to see where they appeared and needless to say, I have added them to my wish list. – 3 Stars

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Skipping Town [The Near Country, Summer 575]: Shevedieh and Javre, ill-matched adventurers, find themselves forced to flee yet another self-made disaster.

The second story with my favourite characters, Shev and Javre and you quickly see that trouble quickly finds them. While Shev uses her head to try and solve their issues, Jarve is quickly established as a the brawn behind their partnership. – 4 Stars

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Hell [Dagoska, Spring 576]: ‘I have seen hell, and it is a great city under siege.’ The fall of Dagoska through the eyes of a young acolyte.

This was one of the more hard hitting stories in the book and even now it still lingers in my mind. Abercrombie really takes the theme of sacrificing one for the sake of the many. This really did feel like an origin tale for Temple and it was confirmed when I looked up the other books. – 4 Stars

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Two’s Company [Somewhere in the North, Summer 576]: 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?

Another story with Javre and Shev, which was really light hearted. I loved reading the interactions between Javre and Cracknut. They were clearly well matched and reading the two of them fighting each other was funny. – 4 Stars

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Wrong Place, Wrong Time [Styria, 580]: Three not entirely innocent bystanders are sucked into the chaos of Monzcarro Murcatto’s vengeance.

This was a real departure from the rest of the books as it is three mini stories within this short story, each linked by this mysterious dark haired woman. Each showcased how some people were in, as the title suggested, the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time. It shouldn’t work but it really does and was one of the highlights of the book. – 4 Stars

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Some Desperado [The Near Country, Summer 584]: There is no honour among thieves when the outlaw Smoke finds herself being hunted down by her own comrades.

In a book with stories set in forests and lands with lots of vegetation, this story really feels a homage to a Western. Reading Smoke out fox her comrades is entertaining to read – 4 Stars

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Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden… [Near Barden, Autumn 584]: Royal Observer Bremer dan Gorst reports to the king on another ugly little skirmish as summer dies in the North.

For a short story, this one really does demonstrate the ugly side of war, not just from the soldiers point of view, but also from that of the civilians. Grost was a really interesting character and was a complete paradox. He was a strong soldier with a really sensitive side. This is clearly demonstrated with what he does for the farmer whose land the troops are occupying. – 4 Stars

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Three’s A Crowd [Talins, Autumn 587]: 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…

This was a darker tale and takes place a few years after the previous short story with Shev Javre. It is clear that they are no longer as friendly as they once were. Abercrombie again has structured a great little short that takes a sharp turn. I think this has to be one of my favourites in the book – 5 Stars.

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Freedom! [Averstock, Summer 590]: 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.

This was my least favourite of the stories. I’m not sure if it is because I am unfamiliar with the world or the way in which it was written, but there was something off about this book. At the end there is a note from the “publisher” and it summed up my feelings for this. – 2 Stars

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Tough Times All Over [Sipani, Spring 592]: 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.

I recognised this character from Shev and Javre’s stories, but was unsure how it all fit together. This was a real cat and mouse tale with the package moving between different pairs of hands. It was an interesting story and I was unsure where it was going. A nice conclusion to Javre and Shev’s story. – 4 Stars

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Made A Monster [Carleon, Summer 570]: 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.

Sharp Ends concludes on a really dark note and once again I was unsure if these were major characters from the series or if they were only supporting characters. Regardless, this was a strong story to end in and I sat shocked at how the events panned out. – 4 Stars

VERDICT:
Sharp Ends is a real mixed bag of stories, with some stronger than others. I do think many of the stand alone books may have meant more to those that are familiar with the series and although I did enjoy most of them, my favourites were those that had Shev and Javre in them because they felt like a full character arc.

Sharp Ends is my first Abercrombie book, but it won’t be my last because he really does have a great gift in creating really interesting and diverse characters, along with some brilliant story lines.
4 star

 

BUY LINKS
AMAZON UK | WATERSTONES | BOOK DEPOSITORY | WORDERY

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JOE ABERCROMBIE ONLINE
WEBSITE | GOODREADS | FACEBOOK | TWITTER

FIRST LAW WORLD SERIES IN ORDER
1 The Blade Itself
2 Before They Are Hanged
3 Last Argument of Kings
4 Best Served Cold
5 The Heroes
6 Red Country

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