Review: Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie

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Author: Joe Abercrombie
Series: First Law World #7

Pages: 369

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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.

Reviewing an anthology is not easy. Maybe I should have taken some notes for every tale, but that would have felt unnatural and uncomfortable for my reading process. You will have to trust on my superb good memory of all the events narrated in the several short stories of this book. Yeah, you guessed right…. This review is doomed!! I’ll do my best to bring to this blog my honest point of view about the anthology, though.

We go back to the Circle of the World to jump through the timeline in order to witness some events and fun facts about the beloved characters of this saga and to meet new ones. Do you want to meet Glokta before becoming the infamous cripple? Or Logen during his most bloodthirsty stage of life? Maybe you prefer something lighter following Craw and his men? Or perhaps you are more interested in reading more about Gorst during the war against the North? And much more stories with old friends that will transport you to that backstabbing world we love so much. But if you consider the old aaquaintances an unoriginal approach, you may enjoy the bunch of stories where we get to meet the dynamic duo formed by Shev and Javre.

The most obvious risk of every anthology is that you can have a massively unbalanced book. Sharp Ends is no stranger to that issue. Some of them are good, even great, stories, with a nice plot and a healthy sense of humor. But other are rather boring or way to convulated for such a short length. I must admit that the story with Shy or the one that narrates the collateral damage from Monza’s quest are pretty unremarkable and I barely could focus on them. On the other hand, there are some really enjoyable ones that have nothing to envy to their previous big brothers. The ones that come to my mind are: Shev and Javre meeting Whirrun, the one with Bethod, the “honest” story about Nicomo Cosca or the one with Bremer dan Gorst. In all of the stories we meet wonderful characters and we also have quick action and the outstanding fluidity that have made Joe Abercrombie’s style so popular.

Now I will try to give some general thoughts about every story:

A Beautiful Bastard: in this story we get to know Glokta as the dashing soldier whose skill with the sword was as big as his ego. It has been rather enjoyable to read about that version of the character. He is very vocal against Jezal in the books, but we get to see he was even worse back then. I would have asked for a longer version, because it ends when it’s about toi get interesting. Yeah, I wanted to see the guy brutally humbled!!

Made a Monster: here we get to follow Bethod a little bit and, at the same time, we are presented with one of the darkest moments in Logen’s life. With this story Joe has dome it again. This author will never let the reader to get comfy in a black and white moral compass. Bethod was bad. Logen was good. That seemed pretty obvious. But everything changes with this short tale. One of the best in the anthology. Very unsettling in a really good way. Now I’m sad that Bethod is gone…

The Fool Jobs: a quick adventure with Curnden Craw and company. Mostly enjoyable if you have read The Heroes, otherwise you will find that lacks of anything noteworthy. There is a good sense of humor and a cute ending that has made me smile broadly.

Hell: this is about Temple during his time as an acolyte in Dagoska in the middle of the invasion. Not a bad story, but not a good one either. Nothing especial to point out. If you didn’t like Temple in Red Country, I don’t think you will enjoy this tale.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: this one actually tells three different stories. Three unexpected casualties during the mad quest for vengeance led by Monzcarro Murcatto in Berst Served Cold. I should have liked this a lot more, but after the first collateral victim the other two lack emotion.

Some Desperado: in my opinion this is the worst one. I can’t even tell clearly what it was about. All I know is that Shy is one of the characters and that the plot is pretty boring. My brain has deleted the rest…

Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden: this little story is a magnificent reminder of why The Heroes was such a great book. A simple skirmish narrated from the point of view of several characters: Northmen, Union soldiers and the poor farmer who had to watch all of it from his home. If you are like me and love Gorst, this story is going to be amongst your favourites.

Freedom: do you guys remember the writer who was hired by Nicomo Cosca in Red Country? This story is the heavily edited version of a portion of the adventure he had to write. I can’t express with enough words how awesome it is. It has made me laughed so hard!!

Small Kindness, Skipping Town, Two’s Company, Three’s a Crowd: I have put all of those together because they tell the story of Shev and Javre. New characters that share a really great dynamic, which is shown in the remarkable banter they exchange. But I do not like the jumpy storytelling that follows them. They hint about a lot of things that happen in the space of time between the stories and that has left me wanting for more. These characters deserves a much more detailed story, but the author has already said he has no intentions of giving them a proper book.

Tough Times all Over: this story tries to cram too much in too little room. It works as kind of ending for Shev’s and Javre’s story (I’m not sure, though…), but it also introduces a mysterious package that both Bayaz and his enemies want desperately. It’s not a bad story, but it’s too crazy. In every couple of paragraphs we had a jump in the point of view. It’s a bit dizzying if I’m honest.

Overall, these are a bunch of nice appetizers to prepare for the arrival of the new trilogy that the author is writing. The first book has already been published and I plan to read it sooner rather than later.

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2019 – Book Gallery

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This time I won’t pick a new word in English. Yes, the book had several new words for me whose meaning I could guess (more or less) from the context; but I have read a paperback copy and taking notes is not as comfortable as with my Kindle. So, in order not to spoil my reading habits, I have decided to skip this part of the reviews when I read a physical copy.

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