Red Country

Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, The First Law

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...


Where to begin, where to begin. There are just too many things coming at me at once. Joe Abercrombie has been one of my favorite authors ever since I have read his first book and recently my flame was rekindled again after having read his short story Some Desperados in the Dangerous Women anthology that yes! focused and Shy South, and I was like "Hey that name rings a bell", from that review you could make up that I thoroughly enjoyed his short story, Shy South is the main protagonist of Red Country. All I can say here is that Joe Abercrombie is on a roll, taking over the fantasy world by full storm taking no prisoners and sparing no one. You will probably either hate or love his stories, and if you are one of the former go stand in a corner please, I am not talking to you anymore! 

Red Country opens up directly with the focus on our main protagonist Shy South, Shy together with her stepfather Lamb takes care of her brother and sister Ro and Pit. But times are getting rougher and rougher by the day, added to this is the fact that Shy does have a somewhat less savoury past and that she herself is too young to run and provide for everyone on the farm. Lamb does take a role where he can but he remains pretty much passive all throughout the days ans Shy thinks that Lamb is actually just one big coward afraid of nearly everything... Soon after the introduction to this not so idyllic setting, thing start to take a turn for the worser, as Shy sees her brother and sister being abducted from her farm. Stricken with parts of guilt, hate and anger Shy departs from the farm to in hunt to bring the captors of her siblings to justice, though she isn't on her own as Lamb soon realizes that he probably could have done more... But where do you start to track abducted children? Are they even still alive? Why and where they taken? This search for Ro and Pit covers the larger part of the story in Red Country and is far from straightforward and Shy and Lamb have to travel across country through harsh environments and if the elements weren't enough they finds themselves amongst thugs, outlaws and the infamous Ghosts that roam the desert area's. 

There are a lot of good things, heck great things working to make Red Country an awesome read. First are the well developed and fleshed out characters, a strong storyline and to top it all of a very fine feat of world building, though Red Country takes place in the earlier establishes world of Joe Abercrombie's in his other First Law books books. He still invests a lot of time in setting the mood just straight. 

Lets begin with the characters. Above I already mentioned a few, Shy South and Lamb, like I said I already had a clear image from Shy South but that image only was further strengthened along the way while reading Red Country. I don't have a preference whether my protagonist is male or female but lately I have been reading a lot of stories that center around female protagonists and they all came over as pretty strong and Shy South isn't an exception either. She is determined and once she has set her goal on a certain task does everything to complete it, however added to this there is also a much more "softer" caring and emotional side, and this is what truly made her character so enjoyable to read and follow, it gives her character a lot of depth. Shy has done several bad things and wants nothing more than to let her two siblings grow up without hassles and problems, but with them being abducted Shy gets a guilt feeling that haunts her all throughout the story. Then there is Lamb, the stepfather to Shy, Ro and Pit and in the beginning he comes over as a pushover kind-of-guy and missing a finger. Not really voicing his own thoughts and just doing some things... sporadically. But now with the abduction, it comes to show that Lamb has a much darker past than any heretofore dared to imagine. Here comes into play the legacy of his missing finger... It might be a bit of an often explored trope, a silent guy turning to be a major badass kicking ass, but Lamb doesn't fall for the 100% in this trope to be honest. Joe Abercrombie doesn't reveal ANYTHING about his past yes there are vague references and people relate past events to his current state but it's all done in a dark scene, you never find out exactly what Lamb has done only that he was a major badass, but then it hits like a bomb Lamb is a character from his earlier books... something with Bloody. Creating this scene around his character only further got me interested in Lamb.

Besides Shy and Lamb there is one other major character that you follow. Temple, who currently is employed as an laywer to the infamous Nicomo Cosca. This name might ring a bell to you if you have read Best Served Cold. Temple has hold many other jobs and more or less goes where ever he can make a profit. Nicomo Cosca and his fellow mercernaries are tasked with getting stopping the rebellion no matter the cost. Temple finds him self being fished out of the river by Shy and soon they team up till the end. After being saved from imminent death by Shy, Temple character took a turn for the definite better. He reacted quite different when he was teamed up with Nicomo Cosca, he thawed, he becomes happy, making snide and witty comments all along the way. I was very pleased with Temple's introduction the story of Shy and Lamb, parts tend to get pretty dark in the story but Temple's character nicely balances it out on the whole. Also Temple sometimes doesn't know what he himself actually wants and the internal conflicts are great to read about. These three really make up the biggest part of the story and they are all just spot on, Joe Abercrombie knows how to right characters feel for, to love and hate at the same time and wince when they get beaten. 

As for the world. WOW. I have read only a few western based fantasy books and it is something that I really enjoy. I already had a certain sense of the First Law world but again it was fortified in Red Country. Red Country mostly takes place in the desert and Joe Abercrombie writes up his scenes like you can feel the heat of the scorching sun and feel the hot sand under your feet. Added to this is everything that is included, Fellowships of travelers to traverse the treacherous desert terrain, outlaws that hide in the town and lets not forget the Ghost, his interpretation of the Native American Indians, you have to good and the bad kind but that aside they are dangerous to say the least... Next to the world building and characters, Joe Abercrombie really has a gift with words. His writing style is one that pulls you in doesn't let you go. It's on one hand right to the point in your face, but on the other it shows just so much of everything that goes about in the world, all this combined makes for an outstanding pacing all throughout the book. 

Red Country = winwinwin. I have been a big fan of Joe Abercrombie for a while now and I am happy to be able to add Red Country to my top favorite books. Every time I pick up a story of Joe Abercrombie I am excited, and feel sad when the story is finished having to wait until a new one comes along. Red Country is a great fantasy book inspired by a lot of Western themes, the characterization is just spot on, using some of his earlier characters and new ones to keep the story exciting, new and fresh, the story itself is downright dark a gritty and only lightens up on a few occasions. Joe Abercombrie again shows that he is unbeatable in this game of dark gritty fantasy. Unputdownable!!!

Comments

  1. Great nine finger's action in here. Great to see him come back with full force. For Abercrombie, another great one.

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