Red Country by Joe Abercrombie – Review

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust . . .

Joe Abercrombie’s latest book in the First Law world brings us back in touch with one of the most beloved characters in the series, Logen Ninefingers, or as he’s more colorfully known, The Bloody Nine. Abercrombie has followed his pattern and written another genre mashup. Best Served Cold took us on the revenge filled motives of Murcatto while The Heroes was a wonderfully written military fiction detailing a three day battle during a particular bloody war. Red Country on the other hand brings us Abercrombie’s take on the western, and he doesn’t disappoint on the familiar tropes. Whether it’s the citizens on the move during a gold rush, the Native American analogues found in the Ghosts, high speed wagon chases, or a duel that’s oddly reminiscent of a shootout at high noon, Abercrombie doesn’t disappoint with his latest journey into the world of the First Law.

Red Country is perhaps my new favorite of Joe Abercrombie’s offerings, it finally seems as though he’s found the perfect balance in his writing. With witty dialogue, multiple viewpoints, realistic battles and wounds, and of course memorable characters. Joe Abercrombie is known to many as one of the great fathers of dark(gritty) fantasy. That is realistic writing that doesn’t fluff up the cold harsh reality of men and women fighting, falling in love, and altogether surviving. While some of his earlier books bordered too extreme for me, Red Country had the perfect blend of make me keep turning pages instead of setting it aside to process what happened.

Joe Abercrombie does a fantastic job with his characters, and to this day Glokta remains in my top 3 all-time favorite characters I’ve read, and Red Country is no different. Shy South is the definitive tomboy, not bothering with the typical frills and lace of female P.O.V’s and instead opting to haggle, drive cattle, and fight with the men in the Far Country. Temple is a man who has had more jobs than he can remember, the latest being a lawyer for the infamous soldier of fortune Nicomo Cosca, and is famously known for taking the easy way, regardless if it’s the right way. While Lamb is a cowardly old man with more scars on his body than any one person has a right. It’s Lamb who proves to be one of the most engaging as we never get a viewpoint from this complex character with a deeper past than most realize. Fans of the series will delight to have such a deep character in their midst while newcomers to the series will get a glimpse into one of the most famous men in the North.

We do get a small glimpse into the lives of the mountain-men in the climax of the book, however it raised more questions than answered and I look forward to/hope we will be seeing more of these Dragon-People in further works. I always loved the idea of Euz and his sons Juvens, Kanedias, Bedesh, and Glustrod, and yearn for more information.

That being said, I had one major complaint concerning this book, and it’s more of a personal reason than anything else. I want more information on the plans of the First of the Magi Bayaz and the Prophet Khalul, their ongoing war and machinations behind the scenes, controlling everything. The First Law Trilogy and Best Served Cold both gave us ample screen time of this rivalry but has since waned in The Heroes and Red Country. But I digress, there is always the next one!

If you’re a fan of George R.R. Martin or Steven Erikson, Game of Thrones and Malazan Book of the Fallen respectively, and you haven’t picked up a Joe Abercrombie book yet, do yourself a favor and go out now. You don’t necessarily need to read his books in the order they were published, the original trilogy notwithstanding, but it does add a certain something with small cameos or shoutouts to previous books.

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