Review – Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

Posted: April 6, 2016 in Fantasy
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There’s nothing as nice as reading more stories by one of your favourite authors; that familiar voice transporting you back to a world you enjoyed hearing about so much. Joe Abercrombie’s collection of short stories is exactly that – perfect little slices of life from his First Law series.

The collection starts with the fantastic A Beautiful Bastard, featuring the inimical Sand dan Glokta as a young, fit Colonel in the Union’s army. It’s a wonderful set piece that captures the man before we (as readers) meet him in The Blade Itself and goes some way to explaining why he is such a twisted piece of work. Boastful, arrogant and handsome, Glokta is portrayed as a complete bastard with no regard for anyone else. His act of heroism against the Gurkish – the battle at the bridge that resulted in his capture and torture – was in truth the act of a man so enamoured with his own self that he understood little of the consequences.

Watching him peacock and posture through the eyes of Salem Rews, we are shown so much with such deft little narrative moments. From his bullying and egotistical nature to his relationship with West – one both respectful yet competitive. It’s a masterful piece of writing that lands the reader right into the heart of Glokta and shows it for all it’s truths.

Next up in the collection is Small Kindnesses. Abercrombie is brilliant at crafting complex and full characters and in this episode we are introduced to Shev, the best thief in Westport, and Javre, Lioness of Hoskopp. Though trying to retire from crime, Shev is caught between her desire for a beautiful woman looking to use her skills and a horrible gangster looking to abuse those same skills. Set up by the former and threatened by the later, it’s through a small act of kindness that she manages to scrape out of trouble.

After taking in a battered and beaten stranger, Javre, and musing on how her generosity always lands her in danger, a grim little tale unfolds. Shev, it seems, has few choices and is soon forced into stealing an unknown object. However, the gangsters aren’t best pleased and it’s Javre who saves her skin, though it’s Shev who puts the finer point on things in the end. It’s another fantastic example of Ambercrombie’s skills and another brilliant look into the lives populating his world (there’s even an interesting introduction to a certain Severard and other hints.)

Truth be told, Sharp Ends has jumped the reading pile. I fully expect all the stories to be as excellent as the two I’ve read so I’ll be dipping in and out as often as I can. This collection is awesome, not just for the die-hard fans of Abercrombie but also as great examples of top notch fantasy fiction.

Review copy
Published by Gollancz

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