Review – Final shorts from Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

Posted: May 16, 2016 in Fantasy
Tags: , , , , , ,

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Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden details a bloody skirmish between the Union and a group of Northmen in the run up to the greater conflict at the heart of the novel The Heroes. Told from multiple perspectives on each side, as well as that of the farmer on whose land the fight takes place, Abercrombie once again captures all the tension, fear, expectations and, ultimately, the pointlessness of warfare brilliantly.

Though most of the bloodshed is caused by Bremer dan Gorst, that squeaky voiced Titan of violence, the other characters and their different points of view add a lot to this story. Cowardice, naive bravery and jaded acceptance all feature heavily as the chaos of combat sweeps up both sides. But, it’s Gorst’s interaction with the farmer that’s gives the real edge to this excellent snap shot.

Longer than most of the stories collected here, Three’s a Crowd features another of Shevediah and Javre’s escapades. Set after the events of Best Served Cold and fourteen years after the two friends first met, this is more than just an account of Shev setting out to rescue her lover from Horald the Finger. There’s plenty of banter between the two companions, a nice cameo amongst some drunken antics, and a plot full of treachery and intrigue. However, it’s the details of Shev and Javre’s friendship, their collective past, that make this one of the best of their tales yet. I don’t want to spoil anything but there is also a fairly large reveal in this story and an ending that begs to be turned into a book.

Created as a vanity piece for the rapacious Nicomo Cosca, Freedom is written with tongue firmly wedged in cheek. It’s superbly achieved as it manages to retain a straight face whilst staying in the style of the fictional author, Spillion Sworbeck. Displaying a great sense of fun whilst simultaneously illuminating more about Cosca, Freedom is about as true as every other claim by that notorious sell-sword.

Throughout this anthology, the spectre of many of the ‘First Law’ characters have loomed large as shadows or, occasionally, as extras in these superb short stories. Each tale adds to the larger canon and some, especially the ones involving Shevediah and Javre, offer a whole new perspective. Yet, like the opening account of Sand dan Glokta in A Beautiful Bastard, the final bookend is an exceptional insight into the enigmatic Logen Ninefingers.

Made a Monster is a kind of origin story for the Bloody Nine as told from Bethod’s standpoint. But, it is also a kind of confession from Bethod as well. Whilst the self-proclaimed Chief has used Logen to achieve much, he now realises that perhaps he can’t control that which he has unleashed. Made a Monster reveals a lot about the relationship between Bethod and his champion, showing completely different aspects to each man. Bethod merely wants peace and thinks he has found a way to achieve it; Logen (or, more accurately, the Bloody Nine) wants war and little else. In the end, this story shines a bright and unforgiving light on the monster that lives within Logen Ninefingers and makes him such a great character.

Sharp Ends is a truly fantastic companion piece to the larger novels of the First Law. From the insights into Glokta and Logen to the adrenaline fuelled action pieces, this is a must if you’re an Abercrombie fan.

Review copy
Published by Gollancz

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