Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
released OUT NOW! 290 pages | Hardback/ ebook Author Joe Abercrombie Publisher Gollancz This is not the best place to
begin if you’re a newcomer to Joe Abercrombie. Sure, each of the 13 action- packed shorts in this collection can be enjoyed individually. But you’ll get the most out of them if you recognise the characters from his six First Law books. That’s not to say Sharp Ends is necessarily terrific value if you’re an Abercrombie aficionado either. Over half these tales have been published before.
For those, however, who’ve taken a good sniff of Cosca, Monza and Ninefingers – perhaps read the bestsellers but not the special editions – it’s a perfect bloodstained buffet. It adds detail and depth to many of the novels’ supporting cast, and serves up vignettes spiced with Abercrombie’s trademark humour. There’s a Pratchett- like parody of epic fantasy throughout… if Pratchett dropped the C- bomb and relished disembowelment. This world is dark, but rich with bathos and farce, giving us battles that end suddenly with a protagonist, “struggling to mop the gore from between her tits with a rag torn from a dead man’s shirt”.
You’ll witness a lot of fighting. Expect bar brawls, ambushes, stand- offs and skirmishes. The opening and closing tales are energetic fan- pleasers about the
First Law’s most famous characters: the former shows us Glokta before he became a twisted torturer; the latter concerns Bethod and Logen. At the heart of the collection are five stories featuring mismatched reprobates Shev and Javre, beginning with “Small Kindnesses”, the 2013 story where they meet, and concluding with 2014’ s “Tough Times All Over”. But the best story here is “Yesterday, Near A Village Called Barden”, which appeared in the exclusive Waterstone’s version of
The Heroes. That’s Abercrombie’s best novel, and this short shares its wry view of “heroism”, delighting in the banality and randomness of warfare.
Not the best place to begin
Joe Abercrombie is currently composing a brand new trilogy in the First Law universe, set 30 years after the original books.