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Red Country

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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 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 an alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust . . . RED COUNTRY takes place in the same world as the First Law trilogy, Best Served Cold, and The Heroes. This novel also represents the return of Logen Ninefingers, one of Abercrombie's most beloved characters.


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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 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 an alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust . . . RED COUNTRY takes place in the same world as the First Law trilogy, Best Served Cold, and The Heroes. This novel also represents the return of Logen Ninefingers, one of Abercrombie's most beloved characters.

30 review for Red Country

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petrik

    Say one thing for Abercrombie, say he knows how to make me love his book even when the setting of the book is Western. I have to mention one thing about the setting of this book before I start my review, I truly despise Western stories. Doesn’t matter if it’s done in video games, movies, or TV series I just can’t stand them. Here's a few example for famous movies, 3:10 to Yuma? Sucks, Assassination of Jesse James? I got a fever because of how bad it was, Hateful Eight? Fell asleep, and much more Say one thing for Abercrombie, say he knows how to make me love his book even when the setting of the book is Western. I have to mention one thing about the setting of this book before I start my review, I truly despise Western stories. Doesn’t matter if it’s done in video games, movies, or TV series I just can’t stand them. Here's a few example for famous movies, 3:10 to Yuma? Sucks, Assassination of Jesse James? I got a fever because of how bad it was, Hateful Eight? Fell asleep, and much more (why did I even continue watching them I have no idea, sometimes I feel like I don’t appreciate myself) with the exception of Django Unchained, I hate all Western stories. This is why I’m surprised that I still ended up loving this book despite some problems I had with it. Red Country is the third and final book in the First Law stand-alone trilogy (or in other words The Great Leveller collection), the year is now 590 AU, six years after the previous book, 'The Heroes' and thirteen years after the end of the main trilogy, and now the setting of the book is located on the Western continent of the World, Far Country. All the books in the standalone trilogy followed a simple premise as the main plot and there's no exception for this book as well. Shy South and Lamb (her adoptive father) came home to find their places burned and Shy’s brother and sister kidnapped thus began their journey in traveling across the frontier to get them back. I’ll admit the plot and the setting is not the greatest part of this book, it’s also why this book is not five stars read for me. There are no surprises in the plot, the book is divided into five parts; the second part, however, is insanely boring and tedious to read. It’s just traveling with oxen and their wagons (again, I hate Western stories and settings) for more or less 100 pages. The reason why it felt so boring, I think it's due to the reason that Abercrombie himself stated this was his hardest book to write and he felt burned out during the time of writing this and imo, it can be felt in some parts of the book here and there. “Though I’m very happy with and proud of the result, Red Country was a difficult book to write. I felt at times somewhat uninspired. Somewhat burned out.” –Joe Abercrombie What truly redeemed this book for me come down to two points, characters and actions sequences, both are Abercrombie’s greatest strength as I always mentioned in all my reviews. Don’t get me wrong, in terms of NEW characters, this is hands down Abercrombie’s weakest book, other than Temple, I seriously don’t care about everyone else, not even the main character Shy South. However, the returning characters… oh man… I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally see one of my favorite characters of all time making a comeback here, yes I’m talking about Lamb and I think by now most of you probably already know who he is. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you who Lamb is, even the covers of the book show who he is already and if you’ve read all the books in the series up until now, you’ll know who Lamb is by page 8 of the book. For the sake of my trademark spoiler-free reviews, I won’t tell you who he is, I won’t even post any pictures here despite how much I wanted to, but do know that Lamb is one of the biggest reasons why this book worked for me so well despite the problems I had with the pacing, story and some characters. “That's what courage is. Taking your disappointments and your failures, your guilt, and your shame, all the wounds received and inflicted, and sinking them in the past. Starting again. Damning yesterday and facing tomorrow with your head held high. Times change. It's those that see it coming, and plan for it, and change themselves to suit that prosper.” Finally, action scenes, I don’t know how many times I can praise Abercrombie’s action sequences but I must praise him on this aspect over and over again cause he totally deserved it. Every action in this book is very dynamic and intense, it’s amazing how the tension towards the battle scenes builds up and explode satisfyingly. One duel scene in particular between Lamb and Golden is bloody amazing. Although the duel scene in this book doesn’t come close to that (let’s be honest here, if you’ve read Last Argument of Kings, you’ll know nothing can top that duel scene), there’s no denying that it’s my favorite part of this book and it was written magnificently. Plus, the great climax and ending of this book sealed the deal to make me overlook the problems I had with the book. I’ve mentioned this in my Best Served Cold and The Heroes review but I’ll repeat it once again because I saw some readers who actually started Abercrombie’s work from the standalone, DO NOT do that. Most of the time authors say it’s okay for you to read their books because it’s a ‘standalone’ but seriously, trust me that your experience would be so much better if you’ve read the all the previous books accordingly first to know what’s happening behind all the returning character's past. Red Country is a great conclusion to the standalone trilogy and I must say, it was bittersweet and satisfying for me. I can’t say anything else in this review without spoiling anything, if you love Abercrombie's work, please do continue with the standalone trilogy as well. Also, if you’re a lover of Western stories, this is something you don’t want to miss, the fact I still gave this book a four star despite how much I despise the setting goes to show just how great this book is. I'm concluding this review with another mandatory beautiful quote post: “Strange, how the best moments of our lives we scarcely notice except in looking back.” Series review: Best Served Cold: 4.5/5 Stars The Heroes: 4.5/5 Stars Red Country: 4/5 Stars The Great Leveller Collection: 13/15 Stars Bonus Picture: My gorgeous UK paperback edition of Red Country You can find this and the rest of my Adult Epic/High Fantasy & Sci-Fi reviews at BookNest

  2. 5 out of 5

    Robin Hobb

    A somewhat Westernized setting for this fantasy set in Abercrombie's world. Very enjoyable to catch up with some character friends as well. And of whom or what they did, I shall say nothing! Read for yourself. One of the many things that Joe Abercrombie excels at is the character cameo. A turn of the page and the reader enters the point of view of what might seem a minor character. But in a space of the few paragraphs, the character takes on dimension, flesh, ambitions, a past, and a life. One ca A somewhat Westernized setting for this fantasy set in Abercrombie's world. Very enjoyable to catch up with some character friends as well. And of whom or what they did, I shall say nothing! Read for yourself. One of the many things that Joe Abercrombie excels at is the character cameo. A turn of the page and the reader enters the point of view of what might seem a minor character. But in a space of the few paragraphs, the character takes on dimension, flesh, ambitions, a past, and a life. One can perceive that while we are eager to follow the tale of Lamb and Pit and Ro, this intersection shows us that every character inhabits a thread of story that is equally complex and possibly as compelling. An excellent read, even if it did intrude into my sleep time as a nightmare. The best stories are the ones that don't let go of your mind.

  3. 5 out of 5

    seak

    Westerns. You couldn't pay me enough money to read one... ...and yet mix it with fantasy and I couldn't be more enthralled. Take King's The Dark Tower series and recently this one, Red Country, and obviously I'm a fan of westerns. I even try to deny it with my movie choices, but again, some of my all-time favorites are westerns (Tombstone and 310 to Yuma). Why is that? Why do I think I hate them and secretly love them? I even lived in Wyoming for a time. I'm seriously asking this! I must be crazy Westerns. You couldn't pay me enough money to read one... ...and yet mix it with fantasy and I couldn't be more enthralled. Take King's The Dark Tower series and recently this one, Red Country, and obviously I'm a fan of westerns. I even try to deny it with my movie choices, but again, some of my all-time favorites are westerns (Tombstone and 310 to Yuma). Why is that? Why do I think I hate them and secretly love them? I even lived in Wyoming for a time. I'm seriously asking this! I must be crazy. Red Country, as I mentioned, is a western and a darn good one at that. It's not a shoot 'em up western, because they have no guns, it's more of a pioneer trek across uncharted lands and their inherent difficulties and dangers... and dust, lots of dust. It, very simply, follows the trek of Shy South and her pseudo-father, Lamb, after they return home to find their friend hanged and Shy's much younger brother and sister taken. The only option, then, is to follow. It quickly becomes apparent that Lamb is much more than "[s]ome kind of coward" and readers of Abercrombie's earlier works will almost immediately recognize who he is (the cover doesn't hide much from the discerning eye either for that matter). (view spoiler)[ Although his name is never actually given throughout the entire book! (hide spoiler)] We also follow a despicable character, as low as low can be, a lawyer named Temple. Okay, he's not that lowly, he just thinks that about himself and having recently finished law school it's nice to have a lawyer who isn't terribly unlikeable! Usually, we get this treatment. Temple is far too easy for my liking to relate to. He's the type of guy who always goes for the easy way, even taking the easy way when he knows it will only become the hard way. I'm sure there are a few others who may be able to relate as well. It's just too easy to take the easy way isn't it? "And Temple always took the easy way. Even when he knew it was the wrong way. Especially then, in fact, since easy and wrong make such good company. Even when he had a damn good notion it would end up being the hard way, even then. Why think about tomorrow when today is such a thorny business." Temple has had many professions in his life, but his current one as lawyer for the infamous Nicola Cosca (another recognizable face), mercenary captain extraordinaire, making his lawyering the least of what makes him so contemptible at the moment, it's more the company he keeps. Cosca's band of mercenaries is charged with rooting out rebellion, but what they do is anything but. They pray upon destitute towns, killing with abandon. One of the things that makes Red Country great is that Abercrombie gives us the very interesting interaction between Temple and Shy, one who takes the easy way out with another who does her best, usually meaning hard work, no matter the situation. For me, this was the interaction of what I am compared to what I wish to be. It really got me thinking about looking for excuses and just getting things done. I'm in a position where I can easily blame all my problems on the fact that I don't get much sleep...or I can go out and do something good, make the world better in even the smallest way. The easy way tends only to help yourself. Before I get any further in this review, I must admit that the only other Abercrombie I've read is his The First Law trilogy, but this book made it quite easy to jump back to old times. Having studied as a lawyer, I've learned that you can argue anything you want, so while I can't compare Abercrombie's newest to his last two offerings, I can find a place for myself. For those who have only read The First Law, you're in for another treat. Obviously, I need to get back in the saddle, so to speak, and one of the things I've really missed is how quotable Abercrombie is. These lines just jump off the page and make you think about them long afterward. As Oscar Wilde has said, "Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit." Here are a couple gems along with that quoted above: "To be brave among friends was nothing. To have the world against you and pick your path regardless - there is courage." From Cosca - "My old commander Sazine once told me you should laugh every moment you live, for you'll find it decidedly difficult afterward." ...and of course my favorite appears again: "Once you've got a task to do, it's better to do it than live with the fear of it." Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but Red Country didn't feel as dark and cynical as I was expecting and it may be because of Shy's character. While as blunt and ill-tempered as any of the best of Abercrombie's characters, she is so great because she does what it takes no matter what those around her think. Even someone as behind in his Abercrombie reading as me knows there are a few things you can expect in any Abercrombie novel. Is there lots of action? Yes, although it has a bit of a slow start, but I remember The Blade Itself being similarly slow and similarly excellent. Blood, guts? Definitely, mainly encompassed by one word, "Lamb." Deep thoughts and great lines? Yes, as mentioned above. Low magic? Yup, you could argue none in fact. Great characters? Abso-freaking-lutely. Abercrombie doesn't focus on the world building, although that gets accomplished well enough along the way, he's more about the characters and their relationships. This isn't really a world you want to live in anyway, although if you look around yourself you might just find out you're not far away. Detailed world-building, however, does not belong on the list of "Abercrombie-isms." Some people may be put off by a bit of a slow start, but once you reach the halfway point you will have a decidedly difficult time putting the book down. This was a great reminder that I need to read more Abercrombie and soon. Red Country manages not only to be a stellar fantasy, but ranks with the best of the western genre as well. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid eat your heart out. (view spoiler)[ Lamb just might make you... (hide spoiler)] 4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Evgeny

    Shy South a former highway robber with a golden heart gave up on her violent ways and took up farming. When she came back from a marketplace one of the days, she found her hired hand is killed and her young brother and sister is kidnapped. She went off hoping to catch the raiders, accompanied by her timid stepfather. The joined a band of mostly old geezers called Fellowship and the geezers did what geezers are best at: they babbled. Oops, I accidentally gave away around 75% of the book. Sorry. T Shy South a former highway robber with a golden heart gave up on her violent ways and took up farming. When she came back from a marketplace one of the days, she found her hired hand is killed and her young brother and sister is kidnapped. She went off hoping to catch the raiders, accompanied by her timid stepfather. The joined a band of mostly old geezers called Fellowship and the geezers did what geezers are best at: they babbled. Oops, I accidentally gave away around 75% of the book. Sorry. The problem I mentioned is the biggest one: nothing at all happens during first three fourths of the book. There was exactly one event which could be called exciting (and this would be really stretching it) for each hundred of pages. Do not believe me? Let me count (spoilers, obviously): page 100 - (view spoiler)[Shy and Lamb caught up with three raiders who split from the main group (hide spoiler)] , page 200 - (view spoiler)[Ghosts' attack on Fellowship (hide spoiler)] , page 300 - (view spoiler)[Lamb's fistfight with Golden (hide spoiler)] . One of my friends mentioned in his review you could easy skip tenths of pages and resume reading without getting lost. I wholeheartedly agree. To add insult to the injury, Shy as the main character is the most 2-dimensional one ever to grace any Abercrombie's novels. This is from a guy whose main strength is great fleshed out characters. There is one probably the most awesome character from the original trilogy present. How do you make this person boring? Easy, you make this person old, do not give him/her POV, and do not make him/her use the copyrighted one-liners. Voila, another boring character. This one does not even feel like himself/herself in the first trilogy. The person in question feels right at home in geriatric hospital - I mean Fellowship. I never thought I will say this about any Joe Abercrombie's book, but this one is unbelievably boring. The author himself mentioned he had troubles writing it, and it clearly shows. I am really surprised at high rating the novel has and had to check several times whether I read the same one as the people who gave it 4 or 5 stars. Sorry.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    When Shy South and her cowardly stepfather Lamb return home to find their farmhand dead and Shy's two siblings missing, they venture into the Far Country to find them. They join a fellowship and head to the mining town of Crease. During their travels, Shy is forced to confront her own checkered past and finds that her stepfather has a past of his own... On the heels of finishing A Dance with Dragons, my jones for dark fantasy with morally ambiguous characters was not sated so I turned to Red Coun When Shy South and her cowardly stepfather Lamb return home to find their farmhand dead and Shy's two siblings missing, they venture into the Far Country to find them. They join a fellowship and head to the mining town of Crease. During their travels, Shy is forced to confront her own checkered past and finds that her stepfather has a past of his own... On the heels of finishing A Dance with Dragons, my jones for dark fantasy with morally ambiguous characters was not sated so I turned to Red Country. Red Country is my first Joe Abercrombie book and won't be the last. Red Country promoted as being a fantasy western and I'd say that's fairly accurate. It's a story of revenge and redemption, two staples of the Western genre, and the trip across the Far Country to Crease has a very western feel to it. Crease has a setup not unlike the town from Fistful of Dollars (or Yojimbo, if you prefer). Lamb and Shy riding out into the unmapped country to find their missing loved ones is straight out of a lot of westerns. Without giving too much away, it also reminds me of Unforgiven quite a bit once Lamb mans up and shows his true colors. It's nice to see fantasy that strays from the rut of medieval pseudo-European quest stories. The characters are an interesting bunch. Shy is a woman wondering why she managed to escape justice for her dark past. Lamb is a Northern barbarian trying to keep a promise he made to a dead woman. Temple is a lifelong screw up trying to turn things around. Cosca, one of the antagonists, is pretty lovable for a villain. They are far from the average fantasy cast and this is far from an average fantasy tale. Joe Abercrombie's books are known for being dark and gritty. What people rarely mention is that they have a fair amount of dry humor and clever imagery in them as well. The quotable lines are surprisingly frequent. What I'm trying to say is that Abercrombie's writing was a lot more enjoyable to me than that of a lot of fantasy writers. Also posted at Shelf Inflicted

  6. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    I love me some Abercrombie, his style is so snarky and detailed and dirty. I love how with a few sentences he can fill out a minor character so well that you actually feel sorry when they're killed in passing. This is NOT really a fantasy book though guys, it's 100% Western. If you've read his other books you'll recognize several characters, but you don't REALLY need to read the others to get into this. If you don't like Westerns move along doggy, but this is worth reading for sure.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    Red Country is a spin-off from the fantastic First Law Trilogy, no doubt an intended bridge towards Abercrombie’s eventual reprisal of his best characters. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t quite come together as it should. The setting is a little odd and out of place with what we have seen before. This series always felt somewhat Norse-like to me with a warrior culture under threat from a more technologically advanced Southern state with some dark fantasy elements and wizards thrown in. And now we Red Country is a spin-off from the fantastic First Law Trilogy, no doubt an intended bridge towards Abercrombie’s eventual reprisal of his best characters. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t quite come together as it should. The setting is a little odd and out of place with what we have seen before. This series always felt somewhat Norse-like to me with a warrior culture under threat from a more technologically advanced Southern state with some dark fantasy elements and wizards thrown in. And now we had a western setting? This is one big mash up ideas, too many, which make the entire situation difficult to conceptualise: it felt forced. Although the world building is off centre, the characters are on point as always. Shy South is an extremely hard woman both in body and temperament. She does not take crap form anyone and has her own skewed sense of justice. Her family have been stolen by slavers, so she hunts them down herself: she waits for no man. She is so well written; she is angry, tough and has a plot deserving of her. She’s the sort of woman you want on your side and never to face off against, ever. However, he’s not by herself. She has the unassuming Lamb by her side. I won’t mention any spoilers, though I think it will be very, very, obvious to most readers who this mysterious character is. Shy doesn’t know, but you will. He is even tougher than Shy and can take one hell of a beating. Most men would be dead by now; it’s a miracle he’s still walking. The key feature that makes me love Abercrombie’s style is the multifaceted nature of his characters; they are realistic and flawed: they are human. There is no evil side per say, everyone exists in a self-serving neutral state and this is a theme he replicates here, though they never seemed to belong together in this story or this setting. It is entertaining read, it just didn’t have the usual flow of Abercrombie novels. I found it hard to get into because of the lack of suspense that is apparent in his previous books. I remember reading an article (or a blog post) online a while ago that stated how much the author struggled to write this book. It shows. It’s weird and it’s a bit of a mess. The characters redeemed it somewhat, though I think he should have concluded the story of his main character then gone back and wrote this. I honestly think it would have been a better book for it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    The best of the First Law Singles. Cosca stole the show and his hysterical swashbuckling humor had me cracking up time and again. The presence of "lamb" also helped a lot. I didn't mind that we knew who he was almost immediately. It was when others realized who he was that made it fun. This was also the most consistent story of the three singles. Best Served Cold had a great first half and awful second while Heroes was the opposite. I liked this from start to finish.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ivan

    4.5 stars. Not as good as Heroes or original trilogy but still one hell of a read. The trouble with running is wherever you run to, there you are. Wisely said by the man who tends to be realistic about those things and indeed it's one of the main sentiments of both this book and original trilogy. No matter how far we run in the end we are what we are and history will repeat itself more often than not. “Conscience and the cock-rot are hardly equivalent,’ snapped Lorsen. ‘Indeed,’ said Cosca, signific 4.5 stars. Not as good as Heroes or original trilogy but still one hell of a read. The trouble with running is wherever you run to, there you are. Wisely said by the man who tends to be realistic about those things and indeed it's one of the main sentiments of both this book and original trilogy. No matter how far we run in the end we are what we are and history will repeat itself more often than not. “Conscience and the cock-rot are hardly equivalent,’ snapped Lorsen. ‘Indeed,’ said Cosca, significantly. ‘The cock-rot is rarely fatal. If you are familiar with the series you know what to expect, gritty setting where no good deed goes unpunished spiced up with good dose of dark humor and large amount of badassery additionally inspired by 19th century American gold rush. As with all First law standalones we have new set of PoVs with some old faces like Nicomo Cosca and Bloody nine himself getting decent amount of screen time.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is my first foray into the world of Joe Abercrombie and for those of you who are about to make the mistake of starting with Red Country like I did, my advice would be to go back and start with the First Law books. Red Country is marketed as a standalone novel and one can certainly enjoy it without having read Abercrombie’s other work, but the reason I’m giving it only 4 stars is because I always felt like I was missing out on something--that there was critical, need-to-know information from This is my first foray into the world of Joe Abercrombie and for those of you who are about to make the mistake of starting with Red Country like I did, my advice would be to go back and start with the First Law books. Red Country is marketed as a standalone novel and one can certainly enjoy it without having read Abercrombie’s other work, but the reason I’m giving it only 4 stars is because I always felt like I was missing out on something--that there was critical, need-to-know information from previous books that would have elevated this one to giddy kick ass heights. Reading the reviews and comments of other diehard Abercrombie fans, my suspicions have been proven correct. Without reading the previous books, I was doomed to live in the dark as references and revelations that should have held a “holy-shit-you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” relevance whizzed right on by. Despite feeling like the kid who decided to start wearing stonewashed denim the day after stonewashed denim became decidedly uncool (as it should forever remain), I still really enjoyed the novel. Red Country is a western/fantasy, a combination that never fails to hook me. However, this is fantasy in the sense that Game of Thrones is a fantasy: there’s little/no magic (although it hints that it may exist, but in a darker, more sinister form than in lighter fantasies), nary a fantastical creature in sight, and no prophecies or fates to fulfill. This is fantasy in that the world in which the novel is set doesn’t exist; however, it’s written so realistically that it seems like the history of ordinary pioneers whose stories were simply swallowed by time. In fact, it’s possible to go entire chapters while forgetting that it is a fantasy, which at first bothered me. It’s so true to the western genre that I thought, “Why not just write a straight western?” The answer, of course, is that the novel fits into the context of a larger world created by Abercrombie and, if I had been exposed to that world by reading the previous books, such a trivial concern wouldn’t have bothered me. As it stands, Abercrombie’s tale of the main characters’ journey to the Far Country (the equivalent of the The Wild West) is gritty, blood-drenched, and populated by people who see violence as a tool to be wielded by those strong enough to use it when necessary. It’s a world where there aren’t anti-heroes so much as anti-villains—all of the characters have dark pasts shaped by need and want and necessity, carrying the guilt of doing what had to be done while possessing a moral code that leaves them painfully aware of why it shouldn’t have been done. All live with the ghost of regret and hope they have left their more violent selves behind. Such is the case with Shy South, a young woman trying to raise her younger brother and sister while managing the family farm. Shy is a hard-worker and a ruthless negotiator, much too young to bear the burden of providing for so many and much too young to have to outrun a past that includes murder and theft. Shy’s hell-bent on seeing to it that her siblings don’t have to make such dark choices. However, when Shy returns from town to find her farm in smoldering ruins and her brother and sister kidnapped, her past serves her well in her quest for revenge. With only her passive and cowardly step-father, Lamb (whose past, much to Shy’s surprise, makes him far more equipped for the ensuing violence than she is), to help, Shy goes on a journey that brings her into contact with outlaws, pioneers, savages, mercenaries, and a soggy, hilariously droll lawyer named Temple while attempting to find her siblings and bring them home. Shy’s tale is the axis around which Red Country revolves, but it’s not her tale alone. The novel follows a large cast of characters; it’s like True Grit meets Lonesome Dove. What makes the novel stand above typical fantasy fare is Abercrombie’s talent as a writer. There are no info dumps, and he’s happy to skip ahead to move the action along (for example, when Temple begins building a store for another character, there are plenty of writers who would have drug us through every damn day, describing every nail and every board). He also writes with humor and wit, refusing to imbue his characters with idealized perfection. They wake up with morning breath, they reek after months on the trail, their lovemaking does not read like sexy-time-porn, and they have physical as well as character flaws. What impressed me the most is how he takes characters that from the outside seem like stone-cold bad asses unfazed by anything and explores their internalized fears, regrets, and worries. Their actions may seem heartless, but his revelation of their motivations often makes them anything but. Theirs is a brutal, hardscrabble life where easy choices are hard to come by and an aversion to violence can place serious limitations on one’s shelf life. As one character is told, "The world out there is a red country, without justice, without meaning" (298). That these characters still go on without the guarantee of justice and meaning gives them a heroic bravery despite some often unheroic choices. And, if you ask me, that's the stuff of life, not fantasy. Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder

  11. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    This book was good. In fact it was very,very good. I loved Abercrombie's The First Law Trilogy so much and it was a delight to see the return of a few of his strongest characters from those books. Plus there were a few new characters who managed to steal the show. Joe Abercrombie is without doubt a very talented author. His characters are always so flawed and yet still so appealing, his stories are full of grossness and violence yet are still so very readable and his handling of the English lang This book was good. In fact it was very,very good. I loved Abercrombie's The First Law Trilogy so much and it was a delight to see the return of a few of his strongest characters from those books. Plus there were a few new characters who managed to steal the show. Joe Abercrombie is without doubt a very talented author. His characters are always so flawed and yet still so appealing, his stories are full of grossness and violence yet are still so very readable and his handling of the English language is impeccable. Perfect. More please Mr Abercrombie. I need to know what happens to all these wonderful people. Especially Lamb.....and Temple.....and Shy......and everyone!

  12. 5 out of 5

    David Sven

    Ok, I’m going to get this out of the way right at the beginning. YES!!! The Bloody Nine is Back! Nuf said. But you have to realistic about these things so for the sake of those who have no clue who The Bloody Nine is, I’ll continue. As many a reviewer has pointed out before, including Abercrombie himself, this is a fantasy version of a Western. Red Country returns us to the First Law Universe – or at least to the Far Wild West of it and treats us to a smorgasbord of Western genre tropes and clich Ok, I’m going to get this out of the way right at the beginning. YES!!! The Bloody Nine is Back! Nuf said. But you have to realistic about these things so for the sake of those who have no clue who The Bloody Nine is, I’ll continue. As many a reviewer has pointed out before, including Abercrombie himself, this is a fantasy version of a Western. Red Country returns us to the First Law Universe – or at least to the Far Wild West of it and treats us to a smorgasbord of Western genre tropes and clichés that will have you boot skootin’ just to keep up. Does it have cowboys – check. – And everyone wears hats too. Injuns? Check. But we call them “Ghosts” and they take ears instead of scalps – owww! Ranch burnt down by bad guys and children kidnapped, by Injuns or whoever...check. And the older sister takes a mean bastard with her to hunt em down? Check. Pilgrims heading west in covered wagons? Check. Mining town den of iniquity Deadwood style? Check. Cavalry massacring the natives...and whoever else? Check. Hot pursuit involving a stagecoach complete with horsemen boarding at full gallop? Check. What about gunfight at high noon? Check – but swords, or fists. No guns. But they do have cannons. And what about the hero heading of into the sunset? Why not – minus the hero of course – this is Abercrombie after all. And I could go on but really, you need to check it out for yourself. The story starts in the town of Square Deal, where Shy South – a woman with a shady past, is taking care of her two younger siblings on her farm with the help of her defacto step father, Lamb – a nine fingered northman with a bloody past that Abercrombie veterans will be all too familiar with. Lamb has been trying his hand at being a better man – or rather a dead man – and avoiding like the plague any sort of confrontation that might release the devil within. But the dead know, you can’t run from who you are – and when bad men burn down the farm and steal the children, well, we know it’s all going to end in blood and tears. Unlike the previous books, Red Country starts off slow, as we mosy on down the road to hell in hot but slow pursuit. We get to meet some old friends from the previous books as well as some new ones. The standout POV character here has to be Temple, – a lawyer for the infamous mercenary Nicomo Cosca, who finds himself with a conscience he doesn’t have the courage to follow – at least not all the way through – but shouldn't he get some consideration for a half arsed effort, surely? How about his whole arse? You'll have to read it to figure that one out. Crease, a mining town we spend a bit of time in, has got to be a salute to Deadwood. The mud gives it away, and it owes its’ existence to a gold rush that has every man and his dog and the fleas on his dog greedily trying to claw a fortune out of the ground. Throw in a couple corrupt, self serving, self appointed leaders who have split the town in half and we have all the ingredients of a brew that’s on the verge of bubbling over with blood and violence on top of the whores and drunks and mud and shite pretending at humanity. Again, this is a solid entry in the First Law Universe and Steven Pacey’s audio narration was top notch as usual and is in my opinion the best way to experience the Abercrombie books. So far he has tackled a few genre’s all in the same Universe. We had the thriller/Oceans Eleven style in Best Served Cold. Then we had the war genre in The Heroes. And now we have the Western in this book – what next? Maybe Abercrombie will try his hand at fantasy again. Or maybe horror? Wait...there’s a little bit of that in every book. How about Sci fi? The Bloody Nine gets abducted by Aliens and shows the little green men what a probe is really for? Anyway, I have to say this isn’t my favourite entry in the First Law Universe – but with top notch characterisation and story telling you can’t just expect to get better and better each book. Lets be realistic. But it’s dark, gritty, cynical, and its Abercrombie. And more than making up for the slower pace, it has The Bloody Nine. They say he’s unkillable. They say Death is his friend because of the sheer quantity of souls he’s sent into its hungry maw. Don’t let the name fool you. He’s no Lamb. He has a devil in him that likes killing, and when the blood letting starts, he doesn’t like to stop, and nobody is safe. Not even his friends. Maybe especially not them. 5 stars – and I wept, as well indeed I might, because there were no more Abercrombie worlds to conquer.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Paul E. Morph

    If I'd known what the concept for this book was going in; a kind of genre mash-up of JRR Tolkien and Sergio Leone; I'd've been more than a little dubious. As it turns out, however, Abercrombie pulls off this odd little tale with panache. Having now loved every minute of this book, I actually find myself wanting him to write a whole series of Fantasy/Westerns because one book just wasn't enough! Encore, please, Mr. Author! Encore!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    How could I not read the return of Logen "The Bloody Nine" Ninefingers, my favorite character from The First Law trilogy? I wrote that last April when details from Red Country first started appearing on the Internet, and then it was released in the States last November, so why I am just getting around to writing this review now, eight months later? Because I had a tough time getting into this book, and an even tougher time finishing it, for a few reasons: - The book kept alternating between the ch How could I not read the return of Logen "The Bloody Nine" Ninefingers, my favorite character from The First Law trilogy? I wrote that last April when details from Red Country first started appearing on the Internet, and then it was released in the States last November, so why I am just getting around to writing this review now, eight months later? Because I had a tough time getting into this book, and an even tougher time finishing it, for a few reasons: - The book kept alternating between the chase/revenge plot-line of Shy and Lamb, and the secondary plot-line of Temple escaping The Company of the Gracious Hand. This secondary plot-line could have been mostly eliminated, or at least greatly trimmed, to aid the pacing of this overlong adventure. - Beyond that, there were tertiary plot-lines that also didn't add much to the narrative, such as the awkward appearances of Shivers interspersed throughout the book. (view spoiler)[Yes, I am aware that Shivers appearance at the end of the book is significant, but read my comment on that scene below. (hide spoiler)] - The book, for as slow as the first three-quarters of it was, had too many climaxes at the end. (view spoiler)[The battle with the Dragon People, the battle to rescue Savian, the confrontation in Crease, the confrontation with Cosca at the farm, and finally the confrontation between Shivers and Logen in Squaredeal. (hide spoiler)] It was a bit overwhelming how many plot-threads needed wrapping up. - I didn't like the book's final ending. (view spoiler)[Shivers shows up, yes, but backs down from his fight with Logen, and furthermore, tells Logen he will return to the north and herald his death. So why does this immediately send Logen fleeing? (hide spoiler)] I can only see two reasons to why it ended how it did. First, to set up conflict for a sequel, which could have better been done at the beginning of said sequel, if that is the reason, and second, is the possibility that Joe Abercrombie felt the need to maintain his "gritty" image, despite all logic suggesting a different ending. Overall, the book felt a bit bloated, which is a shame, because there were some great scenes in this book -- like when Temple jumps out of a window naked, or when a mercenary gets unexpectedly pushed off a cliff, etc. They were just a bit too few and too far between. I get the overall impression that Abercrombie had too many masters to try to please writing this book. Both the fantasy and western genres have rich histories, and a mash-up is bound to disappoint from one, or both perspectives. Additionally, this being a stand-alone book, and not part of the First Law trilogy, Abercrombie had to account for new readers as well as readers like myself, who were looking forward to revisiting characters such as Logen and Cosca, among others. That said, I did enjoy every moment I got to spend with Logen/Lamb, which also may explain my bias against the other plot-lines. Maybe I didn't get the fast-paced Logen-goes-beserk-on-a-pseudo-Wild-West book I wanted, but the book still has a lot of redeeming qualities and is impressive solely for its stretching the boundaries of speculative fiction. UPDATE: I read the following on Joe Abercrombie's blog today. Though I’m very happy with and proud of the result, Red Country was a difficult book to write. I felt at times somewhat uninspired. Somewhat burned out. This "burn out" showed, and explains a lot of why I feel how I do about this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    I've been saving up this novel for years, hoping I will find myself back in the mood for what has become the 'grimdark' fantasy subgenre. I thought, if I ever go back to this style of ultra-violent, cynical, depressing fantasy, I might as well go to the best writer out there, even if I was slightly disappointed with "The Heroes" and "Best Served Cold". Whatever misgivings I have about the glorification of violence / killers and about gratuitous swearing ( I think of Mr. Abercrombie as the fantas I've been saving up this novel for years, hoping I will find myself back in the mood for what has become the 'grimdark' fantasy subgenre. I thought, if I ever go back to this style of ultra-violent, cynical, depressing fantasy, I might as well go to the best writer out there, even if I was slightly disappointed with "The Heroes" and "Best Served Cold". Whatever misgivings I have about the glorification of violence / killers and about gratuitous swearing ( I think of Mr. Abercrombie as the fantasy version of Tarantino), I cannot deny he is a hell of a good storyteller and he has a wicked sense of humour, black as tar and sharper than the daggers of his ruthless mercenaries. He's also considerate and friendly online to his fans and good at promoting fantasy in general. "Red Country" is the third of a set of three stand-alone novels set in the same universe as his succesful "First Law" trilogy. The first was a revenge story, inspired by Dumas, the second an account of a major battle up in the frozen North. This one is a western set in what is called The Far Country (The RED in the title comes from a dialogue between characters and it refers to the blood spilled in massive quantities from the first to the last page) I plan an authentic portrait of the taming and settlement of the Far Country. A tale for the ages! [Sworbreck, the chronicler] The good news for the readers is that they will find between the covers five or six western novels blended together for the price of one. There's a relentless pursuit of a band of outlaws who kidnap children from isolated farms then burn and kill everyone else ("Unforgiven"?) ; there's the evocation of the Gold Rush as prospectors, businessmen and women of easy morals head up into the mountains in search of a quick fortune; there is a long section of covered wagons heading out into the endless prairie, including circling the wagons and fighting off the Indians; there's the tragic massacre of the native tribes; there's a search for hidden treasure by a band of mercenaries sponsored by the local Inquisition; there's a wild frontier city controlled by rival kingpins dealing in drink, prostitution and gambling. And, for fans of the original series, there's a gruesome gladiatorial contest between two Northmen and a return of some of the old 'friends' from previous episodes. As with other books in the "First Law" setting there is very little magic to go around, even less than in the original series. There might have been more in the distant past, and there are some characters who are trying to bring it back [Waerthinur], but the Far Country is ruled now by gunslingers, mercenaries and kingpins; by sword and bow and crossbow. Nicomo Cosca is explaining at one point about the new world order: He waved his hat at the dragon : 'Such things as this are worthless as a cow against a swarm of ants. There will be no place in the world to come for the magical, the mysterious, the strange. They will come to your sacred places and build ... tailors' shops. And dry goods emporia. And lawyers' offices. They will make of them bland copies of everywhere else. Speaking for myself, I would rather have tailors and lawyers than the Inquisition and lynching, but I can see the appeal of a romanticized violent past to a generation raised among bland, globalized consummerism. Linking the various storylines together is a core group of characters led by a young but very tough woman named Shy, assisted by an old farm hand called Lamb. Shy and Lamb are chasing the outlaws who burned their farm and kidnapped the woman's sister and brother. The two join a caravan of settlers heading for the rumoured gold in the Far Country. Captain Nicomo Cosca is also leading his mercenary army into the wilderness, allegedly hunting for rebels and burning their cities along the route, secretly hunting for Old Empire treasure. He's got a chronicler with him, Sworbreck, and a lawyer for dealing with contracts and sponsors named Temple. Temple is the link between the two groups, settlers and mercenaries, as he switches alliances several times during the trip. The novel is filled with action, reversals of fortunes, battles and sharp dialogues, most of it of the cynical, bleak variety about the cruel world we live in and about the need to toughen up for survival: 'Why don't you got a man, Shy?' 'Don't like men much, I guess.' 'You don't like anyone much.' 'They started it.' 'All of 'em?' 'Enough of 'em.' There's little hope of redemption for elderly characters like Cosca or Lamb ('Just leaves on the water, eh? Never any choices.'), but I found the younger generation still capable of envisioning an end to war and betrayal (Shy and Temple), an almost unheard of atitude in the First Law universe. (view spoiler)[ there's also a subplot involving Shivers seeking revenge against Logen for many years, yet renouncing the way of the sword in the end, a sign of hope that reconciled me partly with the author's known fetish for violence (hide spoiler)] . It's always dificult for me to find characters to root for in 'grimdark' fantasy. I believe, from previous reviews, that Logen and Cosca are favorties with the fans, and it's easy to notice the two elderly grunts deliver the lion's share of the biting discourses on morality and expediency. I can see their point in the context of the story written here, but I cannot realy subscribe to it: Perhaps when you have faced as many disappointments and suffered as many betrayals as I, you will see it - there is no principle beyond the selfish, Inquisitor, and men 'are' animals. Conscience is a a burden we choose to wear. Morality is the lie we tell ourselves to make its bearing easier. "Red Country" was for me a better book than the previous two because, with Shy and Temple, the author has proven he can be more nuanced, more balanced in his treatment of this thorny issue of bullies and bullied. I'm not sure I'm ready to try the Y.A. series written by Mr. A. yet, but I will also not put him on any black list for future reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liviu

    "Severed heads,’ Cosca was explaining, ‘never go out of fashion. Used sparingly and with artistic sensibility, they can make a point a great deal more eloquently than those still attached. Make a note of that. Why aren’t you writing?" Joe A. at his best so far in Red Country which i have been greatly enjoying; while grim on occasion the book is really darkly funny and better than the limited Heroes in so many ways; still only about 100 pages in but tonight should read more and hopefully finish it "Severed heads,’ Cosca was explaining, ‘never go out of fashion. Used sparingly and with artistic sensibility, they can make a point a great deal more eloquently than those still attached. Make a note of that. Why aren’t you writing?" Joe A. at his best so far in Red Country which i have been greatly enjoying; while grim on occasion the book is really darkly funny and better than the limited Heroes in so many ways; still only about 100 pages in but tonight should read more and hopefully finish it tomorrow with a full review Tuesday Finished Red Country and I found it very good; I still think that Before They Are Hanged and Best Served Cold are Joe A's best but this one is definitely more interesting than the Heroes and it is the most "personal" one, as the stakes are not the world as in the First law, or various counties as in the two standalones, but the fates of various characters in a gold-rush, wild west kind of setting. The book sparkles in the first half, then loses a little momentum for a while but it comes back with a very strong ending. A full review soon, but a must for any Joe Abercrombie fan for sure Here is my part of the FBC rv (Mihir wrote more about the book per se so i just added impressions without going into detail about who's who)- link is http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com... "Severed heads,’ Cosca was explaining, ‘never go out of fashion. Used sparingly and with artistic sensibility, they can make a point a great deal more eloquently than those still attached. Make a note of that. Why aren’t you writing?" The quote above shows Joe Abercrombie at his best and encapsulates why the first half of Red Country was awesome. After that, the insistence of the author to limit himself at least temporarily to the convention of the western leads to a considerable slowing down of the action, as we are treated with cliche after cliche in the frontier town of Crease. Luckily, either that was a feint to prepare for what comes next, or the author realized that mimicking the "new western" is maybe not such a great idea and the book comes back to roaring life with a great last third of all out action, twists, turns, comedy and tragedy. Shy and Temple as main leads and with a great role change from the usual stereotype, so she is the "tough guy" and he is the one to be protected, work very well in a book that is the most "personal" of the author, as the stakes are not the world as in the First Law, or various countries as in the two previous standalones, but the fates of the characters introduced here. However, from the smallest touches - oxen called Scale and Calder (!) - Lamb, the current incarnation of Logen Ninefingers, is the true star of the novel and ultimately the main driver of action too. Yes, we do not get a POV from him and we see his actions at a distance or through the eyes of Shy and the others, but I think the decision was the correct one as it preserved the essential "mystery" at the core of Ninefingers. On the other hand, I was disappointed in Cosca; excellent in the first half but for what it seemed mostly like authorial intent than something deriving from the story, a cartoon villain with no subtlety in the second half. The rest of the large cast worked well overall, both known characters like Pike or Friendly and new like Dab Sweet for example - the whole ensemble mixed well and I thought the author did a very good job in balancing the over-the-top and cynical with the ironic and even the earnest on occasion... I also loved the ending which I found somewhat predictable from a point on, but still very good nonetheless. Overall, Red Country is not quite at the level of the author's signature works to date, Before They Are Hanged and Best Served Cold, but by escaping from the self-imposed shackles of its western sub-genre, it is better than the limited The Heroes and consequently a top 25 of mine for 2012, with its scope almost matching the superb writing and characters that Joe Abercrombie never failed so far to produce.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nils | nilsreviewsit

    “‘I didn’t want no trouble,’ said Lamb. ‘It blew in anyway. Trouble got a habit that way.’ He pushed his wet hair out of his face, and his eyes were wide open and bright, bright, mouth open too, breathing fast... and he was smiling.” What an adventure this book was! Seriously I know I praise Abercrombie with every review I do, but I’m just awed by how much his books draw me in, make me feel ALL the feelings, and most of all entertain me! I have always favoured Abercrombie’s character’s over the pl “‘I didn’t want no trouble,’ said Lamb. ‘It blew in anyway. Trouble got a habit that way.’ He pushed his wet hair out of his face, and his eyes were wide open and bright, bright, mouth open too, breathing fast... and he was smiling.” What an adventure this book was! Seriously I know I praise Abercrombie with every review I do, but I’m just awed by how much his books draw me in, make me feel ALL the feelings, and most of all entertain me! I have always favoured Abercrombie’s character’s over the plot, but this book had a fantastic mix of both. The book certainly had a fantasy Western feel to it, which was refreshing to see from the previous books. The plot focused on a quest to bring back what was stolen, to settle old scores, and to face the past which had been buried. I was immediately hooked by this, especially when a few familiar character’s turned up! Shy South, the main character, in usual Abercrombie style, was a strong, determined female, with a shady past. What I particularly liked about her though was how she also had so much heart. She didn’t like the violent lifestyle she was now leading, she desperately wanted to be a better person, but in the end her will to do what needed doing was stronger. She was definitely a character to admire. Lamb. My favourite character! Step-father to Shy, leading a simple honest farm life, until events cause him to take a more darker path. Finding himself more at home with the darker path, made for some awesome action, but also seeing his more affectionate side was pretty heartwarming. I loved every scene he was in! Temple, oh how I grew to love that slippery bastard! His moral dilemma of wanting to stand up against injustice but also wanting to take the easy route was quite funny to see! I was so pleased to see him grow though, and finally find some courage. I’m sad that this was my last Abercrombie standalone set in the First Law world, but it was a really satisfying one to end on. I can’t wait for more in 2019!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Conor

    4.5 Shy South, a tough frontierswoman is returning from a trip to get supplies with her stepfather Lamb, a battered old Northman whose size and strength bely his gentleness. Their friendly banter is interrupted by the discovery that their home has been burned, a friend murdered and Shy's young brother and sister kidnapped. Amidst this horror 'Lamb' is strangely calm. Looking down at his scarred, battered hands, hands with only 9 fingers, he reflects that sometimes 'you have to be realistic'... TH 4.5 Shy South, a tough frontierswoman is returning from a trip to get supplies with her stepfather Lamb, a battered old Northman whose size and strength bely his gentleness. Their friendly banter is interrupted by the discovery that their home has been burned, a friend murdered and Shy's young brother and sister kidnapped. Amidst this horror 'Lamb' is strangely calm. Looking down at his scarred, battered hands, hands with only 9 fingers, he reflects that sometimes 'you have to be realistic'... THE BLOODY NINE!!! So after blitzing through the first 5 books in this series I had planned to take a break before reading this one. But when I had some time to kill I glanced through this first chapter and... THE BLOODY NINE!!! Logen Nine Fingers has left all he knew behind and started again. He's made himself into the kind of man he always wanted to be, the kind of man he was on the plains, the kind of man his father was. But when you're 'made of death' you don't get to choose what kind of man you are. In the early chapters especially, Logen dominates this book. The struggle between 'Lamb' the good man he wants to be and 'The Bloody Nine' the killer who revels in destruction at the core of his being is gripping. It's weird that in this book that has 2 characters (Temple and Shy) that monopolise POV chapters more than in any other Abercrombie work so far the book is still dominated by a character without a single POV. While some readers have complained about it, I thought that the decision to not give Logen any POV's was a great one. It creates added tension as we never know what he's going to do next. It was also interesting to view Logen's actions through the eyes of other people. It was especially powerful to see Shy's shock at the brutal actions of her kind,gentle stepfather. Logen's arc of redemption and violence was written beautifully. My only complaint was the ending. (view spoiler)[ After reading Logen's arc in both the trilogy and here I felt that Logen's story could only end in his death. After how far he had relapsed into the Blood Nine I didn't see any way he could go back. Especially after his behaviour towards the kids later on in this book it seemed inevitable that he would follow the Western maxim 'Live by the gun, die by the gun'. The fact that he never atoned to the children and ultimately rode off into the sunset seemed at odds with the theme, both in Westerns and Abercrombie's work, of violence repaying violence. (hide spoiler)] So there were other characters in this book as well. I think. I don't really remember because.. THE BLOODY NINE! Shy was a pretty cool protagonist and I loved her interactions with Logen. I didn't like her obligatory bloody past (something Abercrombie seems determined to attach to pretty much all of his main characters) as it didn't really affect the story in any meaningful way and it would have been nice to see a 'tough' Abercrombie character who wasn't also a killer. With the exception of Finree, Shy is now my favourite Abercrombie female POV. While her tough, scarred warrior woman personality was similar to both Monza and Ferro, Shy did a better job of keeping my interest and sympathy throughout the story. Temple was a pretty enjoyable character. He seemed dull and listless initially but as the novel progressed he became more interesting. His relationship with Shy was especially well-written and the contrast between the two characters and how they learn from each other was nicely handled. Cosca returns, albeit in a depressing fashion. He's become a complete monster, burning towns and murdering innocents without remorse. (view spoiler)[ Despite being mostly unsympathetic in this book I was saddened by his death. For the first time in this book he was beginning to show some depth as a character, his abrupt death felt disappointingly anti-climactic and hollow (hide spoiler)] . Friendly also returned but was largely left in the background and we didn't get to see much of his awesome bro-mance with Cosca, which bummed me out. A returning character whose been criminally over-looked is Carlot Dan Eider (ahem* 'The Mayor'). Prior to Finree my favourite Abercrombie female she's still among my favourite secondary characters. Here she's as tough, smart and ruthless as ever. I'm not really a big fan of Westerns and I didn't really enjoy this setting. It was especially strange to see a Western setting without guns. It just felt... wrong. (view spoiler)[ This was especially evident when Logen and that rebel leader were surrounded in a building towards the end, Butch and Sundance style. It was a shootout without guns and it felt weird. Also in that scene Logen's decapitation trick felt like a really cheap gimmick and the reaction to a bunch of severed heads by a hardened soldier/murderous zealot was really overdramatic. (hide spoiler)] However the plot itself made brilliant use of the staple western themes of violence and redemption while Abercrombie's gritty style was reminiscent of the best westerns. This was an engaging read where new characters mixed smoothly with old favourites, the plot was well-written with plenty of twists and turns and the tone and recurring themes were true to both the Western genre and Abercrombie's trademark style. I'm really excited to read Abercrombie's next instalment in the series.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    Well crap. This book should have been an easy 4 and probably a 5. I was REALLY looking forward to this one. I saw the video ad on line thought it sounded great. The plot while obviously not completely original hasn't "really" been done before.. I mean it's a western set in a fantasy world...I mean an overt western. It's got a great lead in, a great set up some great characters and some exceptional scenes, dialogue and story telling. So, why only 3 stars? Oh good grief this thing is slow. I mean al Well crap. This book should have been an easy 4 and probably a 5. I was REALLY looking forward to this one. I saw the video ad on line thought it sounded great. The plot while obviously not completely original hasn't "really" been done before.. I mean it's a western set in a fantasy world...I mean an overt western. It's got a great lead in, a great set up some great characters and some exceptional scenes, dialogue and story telling. So, why only 3 stars? Oh good grief this thing is slow. I mean all that great story telling, wonderful dialogue, amazing action and detailed characterization is spread out between multiple thousands of superfluous words....thousands and thousands it seems. Dialogue that is apparently supposed to give us insight into the characters and be "interesting" is often simply pointless and time consuming. You could/can skip HUGE portions of this book and miss nothing...and even save a few hours of your life for other things. The problem is that without reading through it you can't know where the superfluous parts are! You may have noticed...well some of you may have...that this has been on my "currently reading shelf" for a long time. That's because I kept laying it aside and not coming back to it. Look this book did a great job of what it did but I truly wish Mr. Abercrombie had edited more or possibly turned the book over to a good editor and then listened, taken his/her advice...or something. This book should have exploded out the starting gate at breakneck speed and never slowed down. With plot points from many of the best examples of western books and movies and an ending scene (view spoiler)[ The gunfighter riding off into the sunset. (hide spoiler)] the book should have and could have been a thrill ride. It turned out to be a slow boat with intervals of fast fairly satisfying action. Well, I will live in hope. Joe Abercrombie has written (far) better books. I find it sad that this is such an exceptional possibility that stumbled so badly. Worth reading and parts are exceptional. Try it for yourself. On the whole I think you'll enjoy it. Sadly however it's another "might have been" in a lot of ways.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jokoloyo

    I like western stories, and I like all 5 previous novels of First Law universe series. So it is naturally I read this book for the sake of having fun. This is the first book of First Law that I gave 4 star (other books I gave 5 star). I like First Law books mainly because the protagonists in First Law are stereotypes that usually taking antagonist role in fiction stories (e.g.: Calden is a coward prince in The Heroes), but then the author can make them into sympathetic characters. In Red Country I like western stories, and I like all 5 previous novels of First Law universe series. So it is naturally I read this book for the sake of having fun. This is the first book of First Law that I gave 4 star (other books I gave 5 star). I like First Law books mainly because the protagonists in First Law are stereotypes that usually taking antagonist role in fiction stories (e.g.: Calden is a coward prince in The Heroes), but then the author can make them into sympathetic characters. In Red Country, there is no such protagonist. (view spoiler)[Well, maybe some can argue about Caul Shivers, but he is hardly a main character in Red Country. (hide spoiler)] . But it is not a complete loss, this book is still fun. I just don't perceive this book not as gripping as previous ones with more predictable characters compared to other First Law Novels. But it is a First Law book, even at its worst. I like the characterizations, sometimes wondering the usual things: "did Mr. Abercrombie prepare all the scenes just for this one surprise? Great!"(view spoiler)[. Again, Caul Shivers. His revenge sub-plot since Book 2 has a good conclusion at the end of Red Country (hide spoiler)] . Without spoiling too much, in my opinion, the last surprise of the book was the good payment from a long investment of readers who have read previous books.

  21. 4 out of 5

    J.J.

    I gotta say, Joe Abercrombie is one of my new favorite authors. I love his world building but his strengths are his characters and dialogue/storytelling. I can't get enough of Joe Abercrombie world. Keep them novels coming, Joe!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    The best of the First Law World singles so far! And that's mainly because of Lamb! :D Now isn't that an appropriate name for our MC?! :) I admit I was a little dissapointed to not have Lamb's POV but in the end it turned out better this way. Because of the reaction at the time of the big reveal, a different POV was absolutely worth it!! The only reason I'm cutting off one star is due to some characters who were brilliant in the first half of the story but developed a sort of clownish attitude towar The best of the First Law World singles so far! And that's mainly because of Lamb! :D Now isn't that an appropriate name for our MC?! :) I admit I was a little dissapointed to not have Lamb's POV but in the end it turned out better this way. Because of the reaction at the time of the big reveal, a different POV was absolutely worth it!! The only reason I'm cutting off one star is due to some characters who were brilliant in the first half of the story but developed a sort of clownish attitude toward the end. The witty and funny part seemed to head a bit towards ridiculous there. Still a great bloody read!! And I highly recommend it to all those of you who loved the First Law Trilogy.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mogsy (MMOGC)

    Brilliant. To me this is probably the best book Joe Abercrombie's written so far, and I'm talking like I love it even more than the First Law trilogy, which is saying a lot. Until this book came along, I didn't think anything else he wrote would come close; after all, I thought Best Served Cold and The Heroes were meh and even more meh, respectively. But Red Country simply just blew me away. Okay, so maybe it's because I have a thing for westerns. Though granted this isn't your traditional kind o Brilliant. To me this is probably the best book Joe Abercrombie's written so far, and I'm talking like I love it even more than the First Law trilogy, which is saying a lot. Until this book came along, I didn't think anything else he wrote would come close; after all, I thought Best Served Cold and The Heroes were meh and even more meh, respectively. But Red Country simply just blew me away. Okay, so maybe it's because I have a thing for westerns. Though granted this isn't your traditional kind of western -- there are no guns or cowboys or anything -- but once you start reading, the author's intentions are unmistakeable. Joe A is totally going for his own version of the wild west, set in his First Law world, and seamlessly couples that with his "gritty, dark fantasy" approach that I've come to love. Those familiar with the John Wayne Western film "The Searchers" will recognize the story immediately -- our main character Shy South sets off on a journey with her adoptive father to find her little brother and sister who have been abducted by bandits. But Joe A adds his own brand of style to the main conflict. Anyway, as soon as the characters join up with a wagon train and cattle drive with a Fellowship to the "far country", I just knew I was going to love this book. Two things stood out for me that I enjoyed immensely about Red Country. Firstly, the characters. Before I go on, I'd like to say if you're a fan of Joe Abercrombie's other books, especially the First Law trilogy, you'll be delighted to find the return of some old friends. It's not actually that big a secret, even though the book never mentions a certain someone by name. All I'll say is just look carefully at the cover; if you know what to look for you'll probably be as overjoyed as I was. There are also many great new characters -- Shy, Temple, Dab Sweet, Savian, etc. All of them are given unique personalities that set them apart and make them memorable, which I think is one of the author's greatest strengths (for example, who can ever forget a character like Sand Dan Glokta?) and is a big reason why I liked this book so much. After all, one of my chief disappointments with The Heroes was that it was pretty much about a whole lot of Northmen who were essentially all just a bunch of rough and gruff guys who did a bunch of rough and gruff fighting. With nobody really standing out for me, I felt Abercrombie's talents just didn't shine through like it did here. The second thing I enjoyed about Red Country is the dialogue. Admittedly, Abercrombie will at times fudge a bit of the vernacular and break immersion, which I confess jolted me out of at fantasy/western world every once in a while, but I believe he does it for good reason: to make the conversations interesting, clever, and funny. There are so many awesome lines, so much quotable material in this book, and I just adore his wit so much, that well, obviously I was more than happy to let that one fault slide. Anyway, definitely the best fantasy book I've read in a while. I was intrigued by the plot, amused by the jokes, shocked by the violence, touched by romance (well, the Joe Abercrombie kind of romance...the man certainly has a knack for writing the most hilarious and awkward sex scenes ever), surprised by the twists, impressed by the quality of writing, and most definitely sad when it all ended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hanne

    This is the murkiest Abercrombie yet. "How are you going to write this up?" Temple was asking. Sworbreck frowned down at his notebook, pencil hovering, then carefully closed it. "I may gloss over this episode" Sufeen snorted. "I hope you brought a great deal of gloss" Let me tell you, Abercrombie did not bring a lot of gloss to this book. If you're looking to escape in a magical happy-endings-type of fantasy world, move on, this book is not for you. But if you can handle a gritty, dark writing s This is the murkiest Abercrombie yet. "How are you going to write this up?" Temple was asking. Sworbreck frowned down at his notebook, pencil hovering, then carefully closed it. "I may gloss over this episode" Sufeen snorted. "I hope you brought a great deal of gloss" Let me tell you, Abercrombie did not bring a lot of gloss to this book. If you're looking to escape in a magical happy-endings-type of fantasy world, move on, this book is not for you. But if you can handle a gritty, dark writing style and you enjoy books that have absolutely fabulous character-building and great plotlines, you will eat this up. In this book Abercrombie does homage to the Western genre and the dedication at the start of the book immediately makes that clear: "For Teddy and Clint Eastwood but since Clint probably ain't that bothered mostly for Teddy." The story takes place in an imaginary Wild West, at a time when it was still pretty ... wild. Few people around and those that are around are mostly gold seekers or people wanting to start all over again, but very likely failing doing so. "It was a place of wild abandon, wild hope, wild despair, everything at extremes and nothing in moderation, dreams trodden into the muck and new ones sucked from bottles to be vomited up and trodden down in turn (...) Buildings were botched together from split pine and high hopes, held up by the drunks slumped against both sides, women risking their lives to lean from wonky balconies and beckon in the business" It’s impossible not to talk about character-building in an Abercrombie review. He’s just so brilliant at it! There’s my favourite mercenary – though here slightly older and whinier than when we met him before: "People have often accused me of inconsistency but i feel i have always, at any given junction, done the same thing. Exactly what i pleased." Jubair interpreting religion in a way that happens quite often when war and violence are around the corner. "You killed him," said one of the mercenaries, with that talent for stating the obvious some men have. "God killed him. I was but the instrument." Temple was one of my favourite new characters introduced in this book. And the act of jumping out windows is very memorable. Shy: “Might need someone to ride drag. Or jump out of a window. Or drive a wagon full of gold off a road.” Temple puffed himself up. “As it happens, I am an expert in all three.” And of course there are all the other old acquaintances that pass by, and that isn’t always good news.(view spoiler)[There is Logen of course, so glad he got a few years of that quiet country life he wanted; Friendly, still counting dice and people because ”Glory is hard to count” (I smiled when he was happy that he might have to go back to prison again), there’s Cosca, Shivers and… a mayor and though her name is not revealed, I’m convinced it is Carlot dan Eider. The way Abercrombie describes her at the start of the Crease chapters, her hating the union and knowing Cosca from way back… it’s got to be her! (hide spoiler)] Overall a strong 4,5 stars. The book starts a little slow perhaps. It took until part III ‘Crease’ for me to feel really engaged into the book. But the wait is worth it! Though officially it is a standalone, and it certainly can be read on its own, I still think the real brilliance of the book only shines through when you’ve read all the others too.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    I HEREBY DECLARE JOE ABERCROMBIE AN HONORARY AMERICAN. He understands the themes, tropes, and cliches etc. of the western genre more than any limey has a right to, and deploys them effectively while telling a great story that stands up to any of the other First Law books I’ve read (all of them excepting Best Served Cold and that short story collection thingy that came out recently.) What we have here is a lovely mix of The Searchers and Unforgiven and maybe a bit of Deadwood, but only made bette I HEREBY DECLARE JOE ABERCROMBIE AN HONORARY AMERICAN. He understands the themes, tropes, and cliches etc. of the western genre more than any limey has a right to, and deploys them effectively while telling a great story that stands up to any of the other First Law books I’ve read (all of them excepting Best Served Cold and that short story collection thingy that came out recently.) What we have here is a lovely mix of The Searchers and Unforgiven and maybe a bit of Deadwood, but only made better by the removal of the typical old west technology like steam engines and firearms, replaced with FUCKING SWORDS. I mean, a western bristling with sharp shit like swords, spears, knives, etc. is an instant sell for me. Thankfully the execution lives up to the wonderful concept. The characters in Abercrombie’s books are always a strength even if they’re not likable, and we have classic new additions in major players like hardass-with-a-dark-past (like there’s not enough of these characters in these books) Shy South and cowardly self-serving lawyer Temple, as well as some returning greats like Nicomo Cosca, Caul Shivers, and (view spoiler)[THE BLOODY NINE!! (hide spoiler)] I do have to say that I felt Shivers was criminally underused in this book. He’s one of the more complex and straight-up badass characters Abercrombie has come up with and I fucking swear to Hera I’d be shocked if he didn’t forget about his presence after introducing him and then kind of go “Oh yeah...I better do something with Shivers in the last fucking three pages of this book.” WEAK. Other than that, I had no complaints regarding the characters. They were all at the very least interesting, even the obvious redshirts. Going back to how much I liked Abercrombie’s hand at the western genre a bit, I have to say that you of course could like this book and not like westerns, but it really is a special treat for those of us who love books/movies featuring this setting. Long treks across the desert, hostile natives, sweat-inducing standoffs that erupt into brutal violence, migrating settlers hoping to make better lives past the frontier, all of this stuff is here and written wonderfully. The dialogue is sturdy and concise and features the musical drawl of the west. You really can tell that Abercrombie did his homework here and didn’t just shit out 500 pages of the usual First Law stuff with a ham-handed coat of western paint and for that I congratulate him. If you like fantasy and/or westerns and think a mix of the two is a novel idea, you should check this out. It’d do you a world of good to read at least the first three connected books first or you’re gonna miss out on some of the thrills having to do with meeting old characters again, but it certainly can stand on its own. Kinda makes me bummed I only have one more book from this series to read before I’ve run out of non-YA Abercrombie stuff. Listen, I know it sounds petty and closeminded to say that but I have to rely on information from the internet a little bit before I go out and drop like 20 bucks on a book (his stuff is pricey because it’s new and doesn’t show up in used bookstores in town a lot) and when I see that YA tag applied to his stuff I just don’t even wanna fucking bother. I have nothing against YA or those who read it whatsoever, but I just don’t wanna deal with coming-of-age stories and stories and characters dealing with youth. I’m just now shedding the last of that shit myself and don’t feel like revisiting it anytime soon.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    I absolutely loved this book! A fun engaging story with a big dose of dark and gritty, fantastic complex characters that you can't help but love or love to hate, twists and turns and never a dull moment, and all of it pulled together by some truly excellent writing. I was a bit nervous about reading this one with our book club as some people commented that those who haven't read The First Law trilogy didn't seem to enjoy it as much as those who had based on reviews. I've only read the first book I absolutely loved this book! A fun engaging story with a big dose of dark and gritty, fantastic complex characters that you can't help but love or love to hate, twists and turns and never a dull moment, and all of it pulled together by some truly excellent writing. I was a bit nervous about reading this one with our book club as some people commented that those who haven't read The First Law trilogy didn't seem to enjoy it as much as those who had based on reviews. I've only read the first book in the trilogy and thought it was excellent, but something about my mood when I read it made me think it was very dark and bleak and so I put off reading on in the series. Turns out my fears were unfounded. You really don't need to have read the trilogy before reading this, but I can see how it would make this far more enjoyable. There is some character cross-over and I think there are probably a bunch of jokes that went over my head due to my not having read the series. Luckily the humour is plentiful so I didn't really notice. The characters you meet in this novel are simply wonderful. I didn't get invested in them off the bat because they're not all straightforward good guys or bad guys. They've got interesting pasts which have made them interesting people. Thinking about my ambivalence towards some of them now is hard to recall, but I know it was there in the beginning. By the end I loved even the worst of the worst. Mr. Abercrombie is a magician that way. Fantastic. Fun. Do yourself a favour. Highly recommended!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kaora

    Not my favorite First Law book, but a decent installment.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    A wagon-train into the great western frontier, Joe Abercrombie-style! The reviews about this book are wildly varied; readers seemed to either love it or hate it. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. Would it be as bad as Best Served Cold? Would it be on par with the original First Law trilogy? Here’s what Abercrombie does with his characters and settings: he takes the familiar and turns it on its head, ripping an ear off in the process. In the original trilogy, he skewered traditional fantasy. H A wagon-train into the great western frontier, Joe Abercrombie-style! The reviews about this book are wildly varied; readers seemed to either love it or hate it. I wasn’t sure what to expect going in. Would it be as bad as Best Served Cold? Would it be on par with the original First Law trilogy? Here’s what Abercrombie does with his characters and settings: he takes the familiar and turns it on its head, ripping an ear off in the process. In the original trilogy, he skewered traditional fantasy. He followed that up with three stand-alone novels set in the same world: Best Served Cold, a brutal revenge story; The Heroes, Abercrombie’s take on military fiction. With Red Country, he has his way with the traditional Western. Mr. Abercrombie floods his twisted world with memorable characters, not a one who is even remotely likeable or lovable. Somehow, almost against your will, you end up rooting for everyone. Even the worst villains are given a point of view so you can understand why they’re so dastardly. His characters are “real”: they get hurt emotionally and physically, they question themselves, change their motives, and his characters grow old, aging over the course of time. Very few authors are willing to do this to their characters, and it makes Abercrombie’s characters much more real, almost leaping from the page. The story itself is the tale of Shy South taking back what was stolen from her farm and Temple finding himself in a long journey through the wilderness. All the familiar themes of the western genre are in place. Indians attacking a caravan? Yup. Last stand against impossible odds? Yup. Corrupt mayor in a wretched lawless town? Yup. Gold in them thar hills? Yup. Unprepared folks plunging into the unknown getting hammered by the elements? Yup. Riding off into the sunset? Yup. If you think of just about any Western trope, it’s likely rendered here through the prism of Abercrombie’s characters. I was happy to hear Stephen Pacey, who narrated the original trilogy. While I was never completely irritated by Michael Page’s reading of Best Served Cold (except for his rendering of Nicoma Cosca) and The Heroes, I found myself thinking, “Stephen Pacey would have read that better,” especially when he read characters from the original trilogy.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Holly (Holly Hearts Books)

    Have I ever read a western inspired fantasy? No. Do I care for western movies? Nope. Will I read anything Joe Abercrombie writes? OH YEAH. This book encircled me with action, emotion, mysteries and did it wildly. Joe Abercrombie is always able to involve simple minded people, violent brutes, clever and sly characters and alluded me to care about them SO FORKING MUCH!! This contributes to the “realness” of the whole story. Life, as much as we like to think otherwise, does not always have a happy endin Have I ever read a western inspired fantasy? No. Do I care for western movies? Nope. Will I read anything Joe Abercrombie writes? OH YEAH. This book encircled me with action, emotion, mysteries and did it wildly. Joe Abercrombie is always able to involve simple minded people, violent brutes, clever and sly characters and alluded me to care about them SO FORKING MUCH!! This contributes to the “realness” of the whole story. Life, as much as we like to think otherwise, does not always have a happy ending. To say I am excited to read Abercrombie’s new series coming out later this year set in this vast universe, is immensely understated.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Myke Cole

    Joe Abercrombie has gotten steadily better with each book, and RED COUNTRY is no exception. Abercrombie's ability to create flawed characters that aren't so dark as to be reprehensible is practically singular. They are just broken down enough to resonate, and just heroic enough to inspire. What many call a "dark" tone is actually a realistic one, the prose of a man who has a deep empathy for people living in the real world, and the compromises we all have to make to get by. A fantastic book by o Joe Abercrombie has gotten steadily better with each book, and RED COUNTRY is no exception. Abercrombie's ability to create flawed characters that aren't so dark as to be reprehensible is practically singular. They are just broken down enough to resonate, and just heroic enough to inspire. What many call a "dark" tone is actually a realistic one, the prose of a man who has a deep empathy for people living in the real world, and the compromises we all have to make to get by. A fantastic book by one of my favorite authors. You can't go wrong here.

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