Sharp Ends is a collection of short stories and is my introduction to Joe Abercrombie’s World of the First Law.
I’m not sure how to tackle Sharp Ends. Let’s begin with the important stuff; I really enjoyed it.
In Sharp Ends the characters feel real and are interesting. Bad things happen to good people. I’m not sure who I should be supporting. In the opening story I meet a bastard of a military office called Glokta. He’s a real twat. However, he kinda steals the scene and I’m left to wonder whether there’s more of him in the World of the First Law or whether he’s an example of the characters Joe Abercrombie creates.
Of course, this may be exactly the point of the collection. Takes from the World of First Law might as well be about fishing for new recruits as it is giving fan service to loyal readers. I’m in the first category and it worked on me.
What Abercrombie seems expert at is taking a fantasy setting and making it feel relatable to you. He does this through exploring the human condition with his characters in ways that make sense and, yes, perhaps also relatable to you. Are you a forward planner? Do you prefer just to charge in? Do you work with people who moan a lot? Are you just the type of woman who suffers lots of misfortune for no reason at all?
The beauty of this all is that Sharp Ends, as a collection of short stories, let’s you put your toe in the water. You get to experience the sometimes funny, sometimes dark World of the First Law in palatable chunks. You get to read about a carefully planned raid on a village, taste the kicker as it all goes wrong and then escape into a whole new story.
Characters like Shevedieh, a good but unlucky thief, and her trouble-prone companion Javre the Lioness of Hoskopp appear in more than one of these stories so you have the benefit of continuity and progress. Stories overlap. It’s cleverly told.
The weird thing is that despite the grim-dark and the carefully crafted characters is Abercrombie’s ability to make you relate to them. I know I’ve mentioned that earlier but it’s such a twist, an overlay on engrossing stories, it needs to be called out as clear signal. Sharp Ends may be one of those books you need to read before you fully understand it.
Suffice to say that Sharp Ends is an intriguing entry point into the World of the First Order. I’m equal parts hooked and scared. Is it all like this? Can anyone survive?
My copy was provided for review. Published by Gollancz; Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of The First Law is due out April 26th in the UK