Review – Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Posted: August 17, 2014 in Fantasy
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Like a child who hides his sweets so that he doesn’t scoff them all in one go, I’m the same with certain authors. Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country has been sitting on my shelf giving me the come on for quite some time but I’m glad I waited. You always know you’re going to get a great read with Mr Abercrombie, I just didn’t expect it to be so effortlessly brilliant. Check out the blurb below though, as it was published in 2012, I’m sure you’ve seen it already..

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…

The past never stays buried…

Set in the same world as his First Law trilogy and other excellent stand-alone novels, Red Country takes place 10 years after Best Served Cold. However, Abercrombie has imbued this last book with a remarkably unique atmosphere. Part fantasy and part Western, Red Country is testament to the immense talent of the author as he weaves a tale of epic proportions in a ridiculously readable style that leaves you wanting for more. The characters are brilliantly crafted and, as ever, suitably jaded and rough at the edges. The world building is awe inspiring whilst the story is gripping.

Like many of Abercrombie’s novels, there is a theme to discern and here it is the notion of broken promises and lost dreams. Revenge, redemption and reality feature heavily as well as Shy and Lamb undertake their journey, meeting many a character on the long, dusty way. It’s a journey that takes them into the far reaches of Abercrombie’s world, one where we get introduced to new elements and some old ones too.

The idea of a fantasy Western is probably not new but Joe Abercrombie has nailed it with a precision that is close to perfect. The long trail and it’s trials, the frontier spirit and the lawless pioneers, the savage country and weather, and the broken ideals and dreams of those brave, or stupid, enough to undertake the task of taming the wild. But it’s the characters that make these books so enthralling – those who are breaking promises to keep another oath, those who find tenderness where they thought there was none, the ones who scrabble and scheme for a better tomorrow whilst damning the losses of yesterday, and then the odd one who finds hidden depths.

I thought Heroes was Abercrombie’s best but now I see I was wrong. Red Country is a towering inferno of awesomeness. I just wish I could read it for the first time again..

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