A series of short stories that are set in Abercombie's universe and fill in the back story to his main characters or add a bit of detail and color to some of his tangential characters. I've always had trouble enjoying Abercombie, but I haven't been exactly sure why. It *seems* like I should enjoy his writing, but something has always been a bit off. After reading and thinking about these stories I believe the problem is that his characters are always so unhappy with their world. Generally speaking, people come to a an equilibrium with their circumstances (or flame out horribly). E.g. living in medieval times was in many ways worse than our present day circumstances, but I don't think that they were generally more unhappy than we are. Like us they would have good days and bad days, victories and defeats, and their happiness would fluctuate around a rough human or cultural average.
In Abercombie's world, everyone is just unhappy. The mercenaries are unhappy, the thieves are unhappy, the farmers are unhappy, the barbarians are unhappy. And I don't think it is justified! Like, if you've spent the majority of your life camping out and hiking through mud and wilderness, I don't think those things would (generally) make you upset. But his characters always are, as if they were modern day coddled Americans forced to do those things. And I think that this continual and unjustified level of complaining is one of the reasons I don't really connect with his stories.
These stories are some of his better ones though, and they have sort of an action-movie/Tarantino vibe to them. These aren't trying to be "real" or organic; they all have a slickness or artistry to them. Some of the better ones are a knock-down drag out fight in an abandoned old west town, the earlier Shev/Javre stories about a slight thief and a Zarya like bruiser, the hagiography/propaganda written about a mercenary commander by his aide-de-camp, and the story of rescuing an artifact from a barbarian tribe. I think all of these would have been better if I had read their parent stories more recently, but even as stand-alones they were acceptable-to-fine. Anyway, Abercombie, would it kill you to smile occasionally?