Sharp Ends is an anthology of thirteen stories set in the First Law world, first introduced in the book The Blade Itself. The stories definitely had that First Law feel to them, and I enjoyed reading them. If you’ve already tried other First Law books and didn’t like them, trust me, this anthology is not going to change your mind. :)
The first and last stories are particularly memorable because they give us a glimpse into the histories of two different main characters from the original trilogy. They both take place before the trilogy, and neither character serves as a point-of-view character in their short story. The first story is told from the perspective of Salem Rews, and gives us a glimpse of Glokta just before the defining events that shaped his life as we saw it in the trilogy. The last story was told from the perspective of Bethod, before he and the Bloody Nine parted ways. I particularly enjoyed this story because it expanded on the insights into both characters that we finally started to gain toward the end of the original trilogy. This story fleshed out things I had wanted more detail on at the time I was reading the trilogy. I still want more, much more, but I enjoyed what was there.
Another story was told from the perspective of Craw, who was one of the main characters in The Heroes. This story was definitely one of my favorites because it was chock full of that special First Law humor, and I loved the ending. Five of the other stories featured two new characters, Shev and Javre. A few other familiar characters also showed up in their stories, but Shev and Javre were interesting characters on their own and fun to read about.
Most of the other stories featured more minor characters. It had been six months since I read the other books, so I couldn’t remember the details about all of those minor characters. I took advantage of my Kindle and searched for any unfamiliar names to see if they’d been mentioned before and, if so, how they had fit into the previous books. I think I appreciated the stories a lot more this way. In at least one case, a character found in one of the short stories had only been mentioned once in all of the previous six books, and it was fun to see the connection between that reference and the story.
I probably wouldn’t recommend this anthology to anybody who hadn’t read the other First Law books yet. Even though it could serve as a way to try out the author’s writing style, I think it would be difficult to appreciate the stories without understanding their place in the larger world. For example, there’s one story which consists of several mini-stories about a series of random characters, showing how they were affected by events in Best Served Cold. I enjoyed that story, but it would have seemed odd to somebody who hadn’t read that book. There’s also a hilarious article written about Cosca by that writer guy who was following Cosca around in Red Country. It would completely go over the head of anybody who isn’t familiar with Cosca. I think that’s part of what I enjoyed so much about this anthology; many of the stories were written for those of us who already know what’s what.