There is a new hardback collection of stories by Joe Abercrombie entitled Sharp Ends. The stories all set in the world of The First Law Trilogy, Red Country, The Heroes, and Best Served Cold. The publisher is Orbit Books, $25.00, 287 pages, hardback. Publishing date is listed as April 26, 2016 though I just found out about the book in July.
There had been some stories by Abercrombie in anthologies including:
The Fool Jobs Swords & Dark Magic (2010)
Some Desperado Dangerous Women (2013)
Tough Times All Over Rogues (2014)
Small Kindnesses Unbound (2015)
Two’s Company Tor.com January 12, 2016
Sharp Ends includes 13 stories including the five listed above.
Map of The First Law Universe
A Beautiful Bastard
The Fool Jobs
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden
Three’s A Crowd
Tough Times All Over
Made a Monster
Two of the “stories” are excerpts from novels: “Yesterday, Near a Village Called Barden” is from The Heroes. “Freedom!” is from Red Country.
Most of the stories written specifically for this book strike me as slight. Many can be characterized as vignettes featuring a character from on of his books. An incident described in 15-20 pages.
The first piece, “A Beautiful Bastard” is an origin piece of Sand dan Glokta, the inquisitor from The First Law Trilogy. Glokta might be my favorite character from the trilogy for his constant stream of sarcastic, snarky comments and thoughts. I could go for a book of the Wisdom of Sand dan Glokta. This vignette is the set up for the battle where he is captured by the Gurkish who tortured and deformed him.
Various characters from Abercrombie’s novels do show up. The thief Shev has the most appearances. I also liked those stories the least. They are very noir with plenty of body fluids present.
The stories are set in chronological order. The last story features Logen Nine-Fingers who says that you can never have enough knives (I agree). Logen is a downright bastard in this vignette. He had mellowed out somewhat by the time of his introduction in The Blade Itself. The final scene is memorable.
I give Sharp Ends about a 3.5 out of 5 harmonic chromosome rating. I was expecting more to be truthful. I don’t know if Abercrombie is finished with the First Law Universe and moving on or if the publisher wanted a collection. He has been producing novelettes infrequently for anthologies. The end result has a sort of lop-sided feel to it. I would have preferred fewer stories that were long and more meaty.
Who knows? Maybe we will see more stories in the future set in the First Law Universe.