Turn away now if you’re squeamish, read a different article if you have a weak stomach. For this In My Opinion review I’ll be talking about another gruesome, dark creation of Joe Abercrombie, Sharp Ends.
Joe Abercombie sprang onto the dark fantasy scene with his First Law Trilogy, which was so widely received that it turned into the First Law Series. That series, which capped at 6 books, was so voraciously accepted by fans that he’s now extending the series and has written this delightful anthology to accommodate his readers. In the beginning of this book he thanks fellow authors for pushing (and paying) him to create more tales within his universe.
Abercrombie uses these short stories to fill in the gaps his epic novels may have missed. They flesh out some aspects of the world that have not been visited before, and they answer some of the fan’s burning questions. Some stories follow beloved characters that readers have grown to know and love, others introduce new characters who are world-changers in their own respective corners, and still others are one time protagonists, here for one mere story and never spoken of again. A large portion of this book relied on nostalgia factor, so if you’ve not read any other part of this series before, I wouldn’t recommend it to you.
PLOT: For the most part each short story follows a different perspective in a different part of the world. The reader jumps around a lot. But there are a few characters who continually pop up and who actually tell a loose story. I was quite impressed by how Abercrombie was able to tell such pregnant, thoughtful stories in so few pages. In some stories he would stay in one character’s POV the entire time, others he’d be jumping around from solider to soldier to witness to victim. l was more impressed by the diversity than anything else. This anthology takes you to twice as many places as any of Abercrombie’s novels.
SETTING: One thing I noticed in a few of the stories was that Abercrombie relies on his nostalgia factor for setting descriptions more than anything else. Since he’s already taken readers on adventures to these places before, he doesn’t describe them as fully as he would in his novels, and I found myself having to refer back to memory rather than description in some places. Still, the new places that he introduces for the first time in this anthology he does a great job, as always, of summing them up in succinct, all-encompassing and often humorous descriptions for the reader. He shows us lots of new places in the north, the east, and at the edges of the world.
CHARACTERS: Solid. Strong. By that I don’t mean that every character was a strong character, but that Abercrombie’s telling of them was strong and captivating. He brings the reader fully into a new character’s mind in a matter of sentences, not paragraphs, and certainly not pages like many other authors. In a few, quick sentences he can encapsulate all a character is and offer that up to the reader, who is then drawn even deeper into the story. Yes, he did use some characters previously known to the readers like a trump card, showcasing his brand. Nostalgia factor again. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get excited when they showed up on the scene. And besides, after creating such unforgettable character I think he has the right to throw them around exactly as he did.
VERDICT: This is a great read. Joe Abercrombie, as always, delivers fantastic stories with even more fantastic characters and doesn’t lack for much. This is just another example of his already impressive skills. Yes, his writing style took me a bit to get used to in the beginning, but now I accept it and and it’s quick prose and enjoy its uniqueness. However, in my opinion you shouldn’t read this if you’ve not read anything else from the First Law Series. You’ll still enjoy lots of the stories, the majority of them even, but you’ll miss out on so many significant aspects of themes and character inspiration. You like dark fantasy that’s witty, real and leaves you always, always wanting more? Than read the first book of the First Law Trilogy, then come back to this. In my opinion.