Sharp Ends, by Joe Abercrombie

sharpAfter nine novels, this is Joe Abercrombie’s first short story collection, all based in his First Law universe. Although the short story is more associated with SF than fantasy fiction, people who have enjoyed the novels will find a lot to enjoy here. There’s plenty of Abercrombie’s trademark violence, none of which he flinches from describing, as well as the humour that relieves the relentless grimness of the setting. A lot of these stories are very funny, in a “throw your hands up and laugh at the unfairness of the world because there’s nothing else you can do” kind of way.
Characters from the other First law books float around the edges of these stories, but they are mostly standalone works where a bit of background knowledge is useful, but not essential. Several of the stories in the book follow the adventures of Shevedieh the thief and the warrior Javre, two women who have been thrown together by circumstance and end up in a series of scrapes across the continent like a latter day Fafhrd and Grey Mouser. These stories are the most enjoyable works here with the two adventurers sparking off each other in a most entertaining way. They could easily have been fixed up into a short novel of their own, and I’d love to see Abercrombie return to this pair, especially as my only grumble about this collection would be that quite a few of the stories are more like vignettes that place you in a scene and then then whip you away with the outcome unresolved. But being left wanting more isn’t exactly a bad problem when it comes to reading, is it? If you’ve never read any Abercrombie then you should probably start with the novels, but once you’ve torn through them and left wanting more this collection will do nicely.