Peace time means innovation is taking hold in the Union and a brighter future lies just around the corner for all the main characters. Lol, not exactly, afterall this is a Joe Abercrombie book. The trouble with peace is that it is provides a fertile ground for unrest to take hold in and after the events of the first book all of the main characters are quite dissatisfied with the status quo. King Orso is new to his role as head of the Union, which means the members of his open council are actively jockeying for personal power instead of supporting him, and he is still brooding over his unexpected break-up with Savine, who is struggling with her investments. To nobody's surprise Savine's one night stand with the Union's newest hero, Leo dan Brock, doesn't make her any happier. In fact it sets in motion unintended consequences that make the political situation within the Union a powder keg ready to explode. Things aren't much better up north where Stour Nightfall has new ambitions for revenge after losing his duel to Leo, and the Dogman's daughter, Rikke, is barely staying sane as her ability to see the future has taken over her life and is preventing her from dealing with the present. This means that all of these main characters have political and personal motivations to see the others come to misery, so come along for the ride and find out how it all happens.
Innovation is all the rage in the Union as the next generation picks up the reins from their parents. Although some characters from the first two First Law series return, they are much older now since it is 28 years after the end of the first trilogy and the focus is squarely on their children. The Dogman's daughter, Rikke, is not a fighter like her father, but she is gifted with "the Long Eye" and can see the future. Jezal's son Orso has certainly inherited his father's penchant for women and wine and just like his father he is ill prepared to be the next ruler. And finally, Glokta's daughter Savine is making a name for herself as an investor with the cunning she has learned from her father. All three are PoV characters eager to take on the world, unfortunately for them they are unlucky enough to inhabit a Joe Abercrombie world so things aren't likely to turn out too well for them.
Yarvi was born the son of a king, but unfortunately for him, the gods also saw fit to give him a crippled hand. In his father's eyes this means that he will never be more than half a son with a future no better than half a man, so Yarvi finds himself destined for women's work as a minister. This is actually a good fit for Yarvi because he has a sharp mind and he finds that his apprenticeship to Mother Gundring, the Minister of Gettland, goes quite well. Yarvi is eagerly awaiting the upcoming test that will promote him out of apprenticeship when both his father and his brother are unexpectedly killed on a diplomatic mission. Now Yarvi's life course is forever altered and he finds that he must take the throne instead. Upon doing so he is counseled to swear a blood oath to avenge his father and brother and kill the person responsible for their deaths. Now Gettland has half a king and Yarvi must figure out how a cripple who can't even hold a shield is supposed to carry out an oath of vengeance...
Having enjoyed all 6 existing books in Joe Abercrombie's First Law series I find myself always craving for more. That is why I picked up Sharp Ends despite the fact that I tend to not like collections of short stories. Add on that Steven Pacey narrated the audiobook and there was no way I could resist this one. The Abercrombie/Pacey audiobook combo is one of the best that I have ever listened to and the two of them just bring out the best in each other. Pacey's narration of these characters is just superb and I highly recommend that you give the entire series a listen even if you have already read it. To my delight many of my favorite characters from the prior books do make an appearance in these short stories including, but not limited to, Glokta, Logen, Dogman, Bethod, Whirrun, and Nicomo Cosca. However, in the end, the short story format left me wanting more and feeling unsatisfied as favorite characters appeared and were gone before I knew it.
If you like happy endings where the hero gets the girl or the hobbit returns home to sit by the fire then you need to look elsewhere. Joe Abercrombie is ruthless in the way he resolves his story arc and no character gets through this series unscathed no matter how important. Things go from bad to worse for most of the characters and even those who win big in the end are actually losers. This is a 3 book series that wraps itself up nicely despite the fact that Abercrombie has written additional books in this world with some of the same characters.