4 stars out of 5.
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.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Before I review the actual book I’m going to take the time to review the UK cover as there are booklovers out there who buy books based purely on the cover without knowing anything about the content and hey, it’s a Joe Abercrombie book so the cover is awesome and deserves a mention anyway!
For most of Abercrombie’s books, especially those based in the world of The First Law the cover art all follows a similar theme and on a whole is stunning looking and this one is no exception-for UK readers anyway, sorry US readers as while the black and white looks good it’s rather generic and just doesn’t standout, for me there’s no comparison as to who got the better deal on this cover.
A lot of the covers use a similar colour scheme with a weapon as the prominent feature, for example an Axe on The Heroes and Knives on Red Country while Sharp End’s has changes things up slightly opting instead for blue and gold as the main colour scheme and removing the weaponry and it is a stunning result. The blue background with the golden map work detailing looks amazing along with the various items on the cover (tattered playing cards, coins and a single die).
When you open the book both the front and back are in the same colour scheme, it’s a small touch but adds so much to the aesthetics, likewise both the title page and the page opposite the title of each short story have a background of greyed mapping along with the story’s title on the one page instead of just opting for a blank page with the title written in the middle and it shows a lot of thought for presentation and looks really smart. With a lot of hardback books the actual dust jacket is made from rather flimsy paper, not with Sharp End’s, the paper used for the jacket is high quality, thick and embossed, again, yes it’s only another small touch but when you hold the book it feels high quality.
This is the type of cover that really stands out in shop displays or on the bookshelf and screams look at me!
Anyway, I’ve digressed and gone on about the cover enough and your all probably thinking damn it! Get to reviewing the book, we don’t care about the cover but I felt it deserved a mention of it’s own as for me it really is exquisite looking.
Joe Abercrombie is one of my favourite authors, I absolutely loved The First Law trilogy and the three individual books set in the same world after but I’ve never read his The Shattered Sea trilogy as the YA tag put me off as the things I really like about his books aren’t YA, the dry wit, the dark flawed characters, bloody and brutal violence and his vivid descriptions of it all have a grimdark feel to them and are what lured me to reading his books in the first place and I’m not sure I’d enjoy the Shattered Sea trilogy. With that being said, it’s been a long time since I read a Joe Abercrombie book, Red County wouldbe the last a few years ago now so it was with eager anticipation that I awaited this release.
Some people will have read some of the stories included in Sharp Ends from previous collections that they were part of, I hadn’t as I’m normally not keen on short story collections and stay away from them, however…….after thoroughly enjoying Sharp Ends I may well have to rethink my view and read some more in the future as this book has gone along way to changing my opinion on anthologies and while there’ll never be my first choice to read as I much prefer to lose myself in a hefty tome I won’t completely disregard them anymore.
Throughout the short stories there are characters we’ve come to love from the First Law world who it’s been a while since we’ve been acquainted with and minor cameo appearances/mentions from other characters to. As a long time fan it’s great to revisit the likes of Logen Ninefingers, Nicomo Cosca, Sand dan Glokta, Shy South and Monzcarro Murcatto.
Abercrombie’s writing is as crisp, detailed and vivid as ever, the characters and world building are all top class and each individual story is of the highest quality including action, adventure and intrigue.
One thing that has always stood out for me in Abercrombie’s book is his dry wit and sense of humour, being sarcastic myself I always find myself smirking at his characters often times droll and wry comments opinions and musings, an example being:
‘You can never have too many knives, someone once told him, and it was solid advice, provided you were careful how you stowed ’em and didn’t fall over and get your own blade in your fruits’.
For Abercrombie fans this is a welcome return to the characters and addition to the world of The First Law, a quality collection of short stories that are overall well worth your time, all the stories included are unique and of a high standard but whilst most are outstanding a couple of the stories were slightly disappointing and left me wanting more.
Fantasy fans who have never read a Joe Abercrombie book will also find a lot to like here but I’d definitely suggest starting at the beginning with book one in The First Law trilogy (The Blade Itself) as you will get so much more out of this collection and instead of reading about new characters who you don’t know, like older fans you’ll get to revisit old characters you really care about and all Abercrombie’s works in the First Law world are great reads anyway that are well worth your time.
There’s a few stories that both involve and revolve around the same characters, namely the thief and warrior duo of Shevedieh and Javre ‘Lioness of Hoskopp’ and they run through the book acting as the core of the collection alongside the individual stories of other characters. They are a great double act and you will love reading about them and their misadventures.
Overall the book is well paced and the stories (apart from the last) are placed in chronological order. Opening with a story revolving around Sand dan Glokta and closing with a tale involving Logen Ninefingers, two of the most beloved and iconic characters from the First Law world is a terrific idea, these two epitomise the word antihero and in my opinion are two of the best characters ever created.
To end my review, I’ll borrow from and paraphrase one of my favourite Abercrombie characters in Logen Ninefingers and write:
‘Say one thing for Joe Abercrombie, say he writes a darn good book!’