Review: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

Synopsis for Red Country

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 . . .

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Joe Abercrombie is one of the best in the game when it comes to characterization. With just a few sentences, Abercrombie is able to sketch out the broad strokes of a compelling character – and it’s a good thing he has the skill, as Red Country boasts a cast of characters that rivals a Game of Thrones novel in its expanse. Despite a dozen different characters playing their roles in Red Country, none become lost in the wide expanse of the Near and Far Country setting in which the novel takes place.

The story is a long one, but paced well for the journey. It was with some dismay that I realized one night that I was several hours beyond an appropriate time to go to sleep, and the ending was still just out of reach. Remarkably, though, the novel never really dragged. Abercrombie’s well established First Law universe proves in Red Country to be astonishingly versatile, pivoting smoothly to a Wild West style frontier that feels as natural to the universe as any city in the Union.

The story itself is satisfying as well, though if I have one criticism for the book it is in the telegraphed nature of the most of its twists – most turns are far from shocking, though there is a decent one towards the end that helps take the sting out of a particular character’s death.

Overall, Red Country is a fine addition to my growing library of Abercrombie books and has renewed my enthusiasm for his work, which took a slight hit after I tried slogging through The Heroes and failing to click with that particular book. It’s also easily the best western style novel I’ve read in a long, long time.

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David Andrews
David Andrews is a long time blogger and writer, a fan of video games, books, history, and podcasts. You can find him on Twitter @proceduraldave
David Andrews

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