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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2012)
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 sees the return of one of Abercrombie's most beloved characters.

469 pages, ebook

First published October 18, 2012

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About the author

Joe Abercrombie

98 books25.6k followers
Joe Abercrombie was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and Manchester University, where he studied psychology. He moved into television production before taking up a career as a freelance film editor. During a break between jobs he began writing The Blade Itself in 2002, completing it in 2004. It was published by Gollancz in 2006 and was followed by two other books in The First Law trilogy, Before They Are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings. He currently lives and works in London with his wife and daughter. In early 2008 Joe Abercrombie was one of the contributors to the BBC Worlds of Fantasy series, alongside other contributors such as Michael Moorcock, Terry Pratchett and China Mieville.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,761 reviews
Profile Image for Petrik.
664 reviews41.2k followers
April 16, 2021
I have a Booktube channel now! Subscribe here: https://www.youtube.com/petrikleo

Say one thing for Abercrombie, say he knows how to make me love his book even when the setting is Western.

I have to mention one thing about the setting of this book first, I dislike the Western setting. It doesn’t matter whether it’s done in video games, movies, or TV series; I just can’t stand them. Here are a few examples of famous Western movies: 3:10 to Yuma? Sucks; The Assassination of Jesse James? I got a fever because of how bad it was; Hateful Eight? I fell asleep. There are more examples, but with the exception of Django Unchained, Western stories most of the time don’t work for me. This is why my enjoyment of Red Country means a good deal for me.

Red Country is the third and final installment in The First Law standalone trilogy, or in other words, The Great Leveller collection. The year is now 590 AU; it’s been six years after the events of The Heroes, and it’s been thirteen years since the end of Last Argument of Kings. The setting of the book is located on the Western continent of the World: Far Country.

Picture: One of the interior arts by Raymond Swanland for Red Country Subterranean Press edition

Best Served Cold was a revenge story, The Heroes was a war story, and Red Country—the final book in the First Law standalone trilogy—revolves around a rescue mission. Shy South and Lamb (her adoptive father) came home to find their places burned, and Shy’s brother and sister are kidnapped. Thus began their journey in traveling across the frontier to rescue them back. The plot and the setting were not the favorite parts of the book for me; they’re also why this book didn’t receive a higher rating from me. The plot was predictable, and in my opinion, Part II of the book was boring and tedious to read; it was a travel section oxen and their wagons—once again, Western stories and settings aren’t for me—for more or less 100 pages long. Abercrombie has stated that Red Country was a difficult book to write, and he said he felt burned out during the time of writing this. I think a few sections of the novel did reflect that.

“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 novel for me came down to two points: characters and action sequences; both are Abercrombie’s greatest strengths as a writer. In terms of NEW characters, this was hands down Abercrombie’s weakest yet—other than Temple, I seriously didn’t care about everyone else, not even the main character Shy South—but the returning characters? I can’t tell you how happy I was 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 already know who Lamb is. I’m not sure whether it’s a spoiler to mention who Lamb is or not; if you look closely at the US cover art, you should know who he is. But just to be safe, I won’t mention who he is; I won’t even post the Subterranean Press edition cover art here despite how much I wanted to. However, let’s just say that Lamb was one of the biggest reasons why Red Country 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.”

Honestly, my praises towards Abercrombie’s action sequences are getting repetitive, but I must do it again; he totally deserved it. Every action in this book felt dynamic and intense; the build-up in tension leading to each battle scene was so well done, and they exploded satisfyingly. The duel scene between Lamb and Golden was bloody incredible. Abercrombie probably won’t be able to write a duel scene that topped the one featured in the Last Argument of Kings, but there’s no denying that this duel scene was my favorite part of the novel; it was written magnificently. Plus, the great climax sequences and conclusion of Red Country sealed the deal to make me overlook the issues I had with the book.

Trust me, your experience of Red Country would be so much better if you’ve read all the previous books in The First Law World. There’s a lot of crucial character’s background and context that elevated the book, and you’re going to miss out on them completely.

Red Country concluded The First Law standalone trilogy wonderfully. I must say, it was bittersweet and satisfying for me. If you love The First Law Trilogy, please continue to the standalone trilogy as well. Also, if you’re a fan of Western stories, this is something you don’t want to miss. Remember, I’m not a fan of Western stories and settings; the fact that I’m giving this novel a 4 stars rating means I’m giving it high praise.

Bonus Picture: My gorgeous UK paperback edition of Red Country

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

You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping) | The Broken Binding (Use my code: NOVELNOTIONS121 for discount!)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions

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Profile Image for Robin Hobb.
Author 284 books96.9k followers
February 25, 2015
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.
Profile Image for oyshik.
207 reviews656 followers
January 25, 2021
Red Country (First Law World,#6)by Joe Abercrombie
Darkness, brutality, and tragedy. This book has full of violence, tension, and dark humor as expected by the author. But more than that, it's a good standalone book and much better than the previous standalone book(The Heroes) which I feel the weakest among the author's previous stand-alone books. Enjoyed the tale in this book.
Strange, how the best moments of our lives we scarcely notice except in looking back.

Good story.
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
213 reviews2,556 followers
April 6, 2022
4.5 stars. The best of the First Law singles

Check out my new youtube channel where I show my instant reactions to reading fantasy books seconds after I finish the book.

This book was pure enjoyment for me, in part due to how good it is written, and in part due to my lower expectations. I have not liked the First Law singles as much as the original trilogy, but this book hits very close to the quality of that trilogy.

Cosca is an amazing character in this book and legitimately had me laughing out loud at how funny he is. I didn't enjoy him half as much in his previous times in this series as I did here. I also loved that "lamb" was in this book, even though it's obvious within the first few pages what his true identify is. I actually think his character would have been weakened if Abercrombie kept it a true surprise. His need for a new identity makes sense, while still being able to appreciate who he is.

I also didn't realize how much I needed a fantasy western in my life. It seems obvious now that I think about it. I love westerns, and I love fantasy books. So mesh them together and you get quite the wonderful product.

I couldn't quite justify giving this book 5 stars because it didn't have that "grand" scale that hit the highest of high marks that some of the first books in the series hit. But it's awfully close, and a must read for anyone who is either an Abercrombie fan, or a western fan.
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews474 followers
December 15, 2012
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).

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.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended)
Profile Image for William Gwynne.
344 reviews1,328 followers
July 14, 2022
I now have a YouTube channel that I run with my brother, called 'The Brothers Gwynne'. Check it out - The Brothers Gwynne

“Strange, how the best moments of our lives we scarcely notice except in looking back.”

My 60th read of the year! Red Country made me hit my 2021 Reading Challenge!

Right after finishing The Heroes I began the third and final instalment thus far that Joe Abercrombie has set in the First Law World. A very different tone here, set in the same time period, but with a far stronger western, outlandish mood and atmosphere, which is awesome in my opinion. I'm going to make a bold statement, and say that Red Country is actually my favourite Abercrombie standalone! I really enjoyed Best Served Cold and The Heroes, but for me this was better. Each is drastically different, with different strengths, so I think it really depends on individual tastes which you will prefer. I loved the overall more intimate tone and also some of the characters from the original trilogy.... Aghh I was so happy to see one return! So, so happy! There were terrible things happening, but I was smiling, because he was back!

In Red Country, two children are taken by a band of bandits, and we are not sure why. So, a girl named Shy and her mentor and protector, Lamb, set off on a journey to recover them. Throughout this, they are flung into gang conflicts, the dangers of going West, and many life-threatening circumstances. In this we have a variation of other characters who end up having to help or hinder the other major characters, and most have different motivations and aims, often not directly linked to the main plot line, but still having a major impact on it.

“People have often accused me of inconsistency but I feel that I have always, at any given junction, done the same thing. Exactly what I pleased.”

Joe Abercrombie wrote his three standalone stories aiming at slightly different genres, with Best Served Cold being a revenge tale, The Heroes being military fantasy, and Red Country is a Western. I am not a massive reader of Westerns, but it just seemed to fit perfectly in this setting. The world is the same, but Abercrombie is a master of prose and exploring themes, so he managed to make the story feel so different with Western aspects, despite being in the same world as the previous books. Masterful in my opinion!

The characters as always were strong. Shy was the central perspective. She wasn’t the strongest of his characters, but I think she was still very enjoyable to follow, with a cool insight into those around her and some very unique traits. My favourite character that we met for the first time in Red Country was Temple. He is very intelligent, with a specialism in law, and yearns to be brave. But it would be fair to say that it doesn’t come naturally to him. It would also be fair that his natural instinct is usually to run away. These characteristics put together act as a catalyst for some of the best scenes, some of which are just absolutely hilarious, and others which act as a major turning point.

“In violent times folk like to kneel to violent men. In peaceful times they remember they’re happier standing.”

Joe Abercrombie also maintained his grim dark streak, of course. There are some brutal scenes here. On top of that, these characters just have a really rough time. I just want them to live a boring life, just farming with their family and friends. At this point, I would be happy to read a book about that, so long as these characters are given some measure of peace.

I think that the standalone trilogy in this world really compliment each other, and set up a number of conflicts to be explored in the next series in the world. The stories are wrapped up in each one, but there are certainly many questions left unanswered, and as such there is much to still learn about this world.

Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,895 reviews10.6k followers
April 10, 2013
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
Profile Image for Felicia.
Author 28 books128k followers
December 27, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,529 reviews788 followers
March 29, 2023
Having quite enjoyed the first three volumes of this series, but got fatigued with the relentless in a tough reality even the good guys are kind of bad, I hadn't sought out the 4th and 5th volumes and had this on my TBR for years; so finally looking to get it off my list, I read it. No real difference than the other books in the series, sought of journey across lawless and savage lands in search of kidnapped children, and for most, gold. It brings back a number of characters from the earlier volumes; but proved a mostly boring read for me, despite being action packed and twist ridden, nothing felt new or innovative.

Whilst reading I tried to think about what gets my goat about Abercrombie's pseudo-westerns and that's when it hit me, despite being written in the 21s century there's nothing new here, the 'savages' are discounted as footnotes; the 'cowboys' are underhand, selfish, sweary and mostly lack moral compass; and the 'good guys' are only a little bit better than the rest. Worse of all, the woman are only painted as heroic and/or interesting if the mimic male behaviours. The whole 'Grimdark' thing doesn't work for me at all to be honest, just feel s like repainting idealised interpretations of Western behaviour from the last few centuries, especially from the 'Wild West'. Just squeezes in a Two Star 4 out of 12 from me, for some of the well plotted combat scenes, an area where Abercrombie does excel.

2023 read
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.2k followers
March 30, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Scott  Hitchcock.
779 reviews221 followers
August 13, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Ivan.
415 reviews272 followers
February 27, 2017
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.

Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews315 followers
July 1, 2013
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
Profile Image for Krell75.
272 reviews15 followers
January 23, 2023
"I veri demoni li portiamo con noi"

"Quindi tendi a cacarti sotto in certe situazioni. E chi non lo fa? Tu non sei il prode cavaliere, io non sono la fanciulla svenevole e questo non è un libro di favole, poco ma sicuro."

Grandi personaggi, forti emozioni e tanta miseria ai confini del mondo.

Mi mancava solo questo romanzo per finire il ciclo della Prima Legge e il buon Joe anche stavolta mi ha trascinato nel suo mondo brutale e pieno di gente poco incline alla civiltà.

La qualità del romanzo è su alti livelli, perlomeno per i miei gusti, dove ad una trama avvincente si unisce una scrittura che focalizza il suo meglio nel creare dialoghi brillanti, che affievoliscono, ma non snaturano, le situazioni altamente drammatiche e le gesta sanguinose mostrate in abbondanza. Abercrombie non si risparmia mai e da questi dialoghi dipinge dei personaggi memorabili, come la giovane Shy Sud, il misterioso Agnello e il codardo Tempio, ma anche tanti comprimari che non si limitano ad essere semplici comparse, ognuno approfondito nell'intimo pensiero. Personaggi che evidenziano sempre l'indiscusso talento di Abercrombie come in tutti i suoi romanzi, uno migliore dell'altro, indistintamente.

Abercrombie quindi si conferma degno successore di Gemmell e con il ciclo della Prima Legge uno dei miei autori preferiti. Serie imperdibile ma non per i deboli di stomaco.
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
673 reviews596 followers
January 2, 2020
What a tedious read, it actually pains me to say that, this book is my sixth by Abercrombie and the last in this series and it sucks. Reading it was just so hard, everything was unnecessarily long and monotonous when it shouldn't be, the plot was actually a good one but the potrayal was terrible, if that isn't even an understatement.

‘Courage lies in bearing the costs. We all have our regrets, but not all of us can afford to be crippled by them. Sometimes it takes small crimes to prevent bigger ones. Sometimes the lesser evil is the greater good. A man of principle must make hard choices and suffer the consequences. Or you could sit and cry over how unfair it all is.’

The world building even though monotonous and repetitive is not the worst I've read but I know the author can do better cause I've read his other works. The book os written in third person multiple POV which makes it more fun and informative to read.

‘There are many humorous things in the world, among them the white man’s notion that he is less savage than the other savages.’
Mark Twain

The plot and characters were somewhat likable, and the return of a very and most likable of The First Law made a dramatic return in this, also Shivers and Nicoma Cosca consists of all the former characters in this series that made a return, the rest are all new. Shy South is the protagonist who lost everything when her house and farm got burnt down and her siblings got stolen, she and her stepfather made a tedious journey which they met some very weird people on the road to get them back.

‘Either a man’s always ready for a thing like this or he’ll never be.’
Profile Image for Dave Edmunds.
246 reviews51 followers
July 16, 2021

"Live long enough...you see everything ruined."

Surprise, surprise! Another Joe Abercrombie novel and another five star review. Would you expect anything else from a loyal subject of Lord Grimdark? Not a chance. Red Country is the final book in his collection of three stand-alones that are connected to his magnificent, stupendous First Law trilogy.  It certainly hits the target as one of his very best and does not let the reader down. Not if you're after dark, violent and bloody fantasy with one of the best set of characters you'll find in fiction that is.

With his standalone pieces Joe aimed to give us three different types of narrative within a fantasy setting. In Best Served Cold he gave us a Kill Bill style revenge tale and in the Heroes a war story. In Red Country he dons his Sergio Leone hat and gives a spaghetti western with blades instead of guns.  Indeed he dedicates the book to Clint Eastwood and you know what? I'm dedicating this review to Clint to. I was brought up on his movies and he's one of my movie icons.  I'm sure he'll be frilled when he reads this.

Say one thing about Joe Abercrombie, say he gives you great characters. Red Country is no exception, although it is not quite up to the insanely high standards of the previous novels. Don't get me wrong, there's outstanding character work on display here. But when you constantly set the bar at a ridiculously high level like Lord Grimdark does, it's just not possible to constantly keep raising it with every new piece of work.

Shy South and Lamb

So what about the characters?  We have Shy South (the good), a young farm girl with a dark past who's trying to live a good life caring for her young siblings.  A returning fan favourite in Nicomo Cosca (the bad), who is leading his band of mercenaries to root out rebels wherever they may be. And finally Lamb (the ugly), a cowardly farm hand with a bloody and violent secret that will not stay hidden.

There's a load of other great characters thrown in and it really is a fantastic bunch despite the slight criticism I made earlier.  In fact, if I was to say the one thing I love most about Red Country it's the character of Lamb and the story surrounding him.  I don't want to spoil anything by saying too much, but I was so invested and engrossed in the mystery surrounding his character.  Honestly, if you're a fan of First Law you'll be a huge fan of Lamb.

"She poured out a measure but Temple declined. 'Drink and I have had some long and painful conversations and found we simply can't agree.'

'Drink and I can't agree either.' She shrugged and tossed it down herself. 'But we keep on having the argument."

The use of dialogue is also tremendous. I'm not sure if I said it before but it's very Tarantino-esque in what he does for the genre where the conversation and interactions become the focal point of the novel. It's so engaging and entertaining where you look forward to the banter between certain sets of characters. Certainly one of Abercrombie's strongest qualities.

The plot, as with all the standalone novels, is very solid. When a band of villains burn Shy's farmhouse to the ground and kidnap her brother and sister, they prompt a rescue mission that see's her and Lamb journey into the wild west to try and get them back. Violence and mayhem stand in their way and the western backdrop lends itself fantastically to this style of narrative.  Fans will eat up the world building that is included in this as we are introduced to brand new locations like the bandit town of Crease and the unchartered territory of Far Country. 

"Battle is...not always glorious. A general must be a realist. Victory first you understand"

We also can't leave without talking about the action scenes, which are absolutely top draw.  I can't think of anyone who writes them better than Abercrombie. They're so realistic and he brilliantly renders these in terms of the raw emotion and relentless violence.  I literally can't get enough of them.

My only criticism with Red Country is what the author does with Nicomo Cosca. One of my favourite characters from the series so far, Joe takes him from a hilarious, drunken legend to a bitter, old wretch of a villain. It was really sad to see and he certainly didn't hit anywhere near the highs that he soared to in Best Served Cold, where he absolutely stole the show.

" 'Scared is good' he said 'the dead are fearless and I don't want either of us joining them' "

That's it for now. I can't spend all day on Goodreads when there's more First Law to read. You got to be realistic.  An easy five stars like all of Abercrombie's work. Next up his short story collection Sharp Ends. I do love a good short story. Thanks for reading. Peace!

Joe Abercrombie AKA Lord Grimdark
Profile Image for Niki Hawkes - The Obsessive Bookseller.
720 reviews1,172 followers
July 9, 2021
I’m becoming an Abercrombie fangirl.

Red Country was probably the biggest offshoot from the main trilogy so far. It had a sort of Wild West/colonial vibe that I didn’t hate. But as offshot as it may have been, it effectively tied up some burning questions I’ve had since the end of the first trilogy. Ahead of most of the books I’ve read lately by a long shot, it ranks somewhere near the upper middle compared to other books in the series so far.

The characters are so rich and vibrant and not a single one of them can be put on a pedestal. I think truly flawed characters might be the magic ingredient to why authors like Abercrombie and Hobb are among my favorites. Maybe it appeals to my growing cynicism, but oftentimes when people act their worst in books it’s more believable and relatable. Even in the most depraved bastards Abercrombie writes about, there’s always a spark, a smidgen of a redeeming quality that makes them feel, well, human. And he’s especially good at putting his characters in such horrid situations that it can’t help but bring out the best or worst in them (usually the worst). It truly is a mastery of characterization that I hope to live up to one day in my own writing.

The way I talk about these books makes them seem like such downers. And in truth they kind of are. But that bleakness is part of their brilliance, because when something good happens, it’s stands out that much more profoundly by contrast. I love each and every one of the characters I’ve read so far and I can’t wait to see what happens to them next.

Recommendations: if you like grimdark fantasy, read all the things Abercrombie. Give the first trilogy a bit to get going, then hang on!

Via The Obsessive Bookseller at www.Nikihawkes.com

Other books you might like:
Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, #1) by Brian McClellan Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1) by Robin Hobb Kings of the Wyld (The Band, #1) by Nicholas Eames The Emperor's Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, #1) by Brian Staveley Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1) by Steven Erikson
Profile Image for Hamad.
990 reviews1,306 followers
April 30, 2021
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷 Support me

“Strange, how the best moments of our lives we scarcely notice except in looking back.”

Best Served Cold ★★★★ 1/2
The Heroes ★★★
Red Country ★★★ 1/2

As you can see from the above ratings, Red Country was somewhere in the middle between The Heroes and Best Served Cold. For now BSC will hold its place as my favorite Abercrombie book!!

This is more like BSC in the way it is told because Shy who is the Protagonist is trying to search for her siblings. Her step father Lamb is with her in this journey. On the other hand we have Cosca and his group trying to get richer.

The writing is good because it is Abercrombie and I am no stranger to his writing. I love how he mixes humor, banter and serious quote in a mix that works very well. I also love how his characters have key phrases which is realistic and I think more authors should be doing that! On the other hand, I think it was too long for no good reason and I found myself bored in the last 15% or so. I was checking how many minutes I have to read with my kindle and I was kind of detached. Also throughout the book, there were moments that really pulled me in and moments that bored me out and I was thinking of everything but the book.

The characters are great and Abercrombie is a master when it comes to that. Lamb was my favorite and I have to embarrassingly admit that it took me more time than it should have done to know he is. Shy is a cool addition to the world and there are characters we already know that keeps improving just like Shivers. I liked Cosca in BSC much more than in this book because he was like central to the story but then we leave his narrative for a good chunk of pages before coming back to them.

“The trouble with running is wherever you run to, there you are.”

The pacing was kind of weird, as I said previously, some parts were more interesting than the others which affected my perception of the pacing. I felt it was fast sometimes and slow other times.

The world-building was something I am afraid of because I am not a fan of Western stories, something I dreaded before reading the second era of Mistborn before realizing I should have trusted Sanderson and I can say the same about Abercrombie, I had no problem with the western settings and it felt like a real extension of his world that we know so I respect that!

“Better to have steel to hand and find no trouble than find yourself in trouble with no steel to hand.”

Summary: I think overall it was an average book with the usual great writing and characters. I think the plot and pacing were not interesting for me at more than one point and that the book kept going on more than it should have. Anyway, I am closer to the Age of Madness Trilogy so I regret nothing!
Profile Image for Laura Tenfingers.
558 reviews88 followers
March 20, 2022
Bestest of the best of the best. I can't get over how much I loved this book. How does it work that what Joe likes to write is exactly what I like to read??

This even beat out Best Served Cold, my standing favourite. And while I thought the sex scene there was one of the best ever written, and most stomach-turning, it turns out I was wrong. The one here was even more sickening and even more shockingly hilarious. Perfectly awful.

Shy was an amazing lead woman, having Lamb around was heart-breakingly glorious, even a cameo by Caul Shivers, one of my favorites. But for me, Temple absolutely stole the show. Loved every second, every profession, every reversal in his conversations with God.

I can't get enough of these books and basically spent the whole journey thinking how badly I need to reread the whole series. But now there's The Age of Madness... can't decide if I should reread before or after...just so good.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56k followers
February 21, 2020
Red Country (First Law World, #6), Joe Abercrombie

“Each land in the world produces its own men individually bad – and, in time, other bad men who kill them for the general good.” – Emerson Hough

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

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

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

تاریخ نخستین خوانش نسخه متن اصلی: روز چهاردهم ماه دسامبر سال 2019 میلادی

عنوان: کشور سرخ؛ نویسنده: جو ابرکرامبی (ابرکرومبی)؛

کتاب ششم از سری «نخستین قانون»، با عنوان «کشور سرخ»، آنها خانه او را آتش زدند. آنها برادر و خواهرش را دزدیده اند. اما انتقام در راه است؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Paul.
2,306 reviews20 followers
January 10, 2018
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!
Profile Image for Eric.
867 reviews74 followers
July 19, 2013
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.

- The book, for as slow as the first three-quarters of it was, had too many climaxes at the end. It was a bit overwhelming how many plot-threads needed wrapping up.

- I didn't like the book's final ending. 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.


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.
Profile Image for Elena Rodríguez.
526 reviews240 followers
January 9, 2022
“Bien saben los muertos que he cometido muchos errores. Supongo que cualquier persona puede hacer lo correcto a lo largo de su vida si toma las decisiones correctas que yo nunca tomé”.

Creo que mis expectativas estaban muy altas con este libro. Después de mucho sopesarlo, creo que me encuentro ante el libro más flojo de la primera ley junto el segundo de la primera trilogía.

Los personajes se me han quedado un poco flojos y no conseguí sentir tanta empatía por ellos como en otros libros. Eso no quita el hecho que sean malos personajes, creo que Shy Sur es un buen personaje, así como Lamb. Sin embargo, pienso que me faltó esa chispa que caracteriza tanto a Abercrombie.

"-Eliges un camino, y piensas que sólo es para el siguiente ¿verdad? Luego, treinta años después miras atrás y ves que has elegido el camino de tu vida. Si entonces no lo hubieses sabido, a lo mejor hubieras elegido con más cuidado.
-Quizá. Pero, para ser honesto, te diré que nunca elegí nada con mucho cuidado.
-Siempre pensé que moriría por la causa.
-Y lo harás. Aunque la causa se reduzca a salvar mi viejo y gordo culo.
-No será menos noble."

La historia se me hizo un poco cuesta arriba y sigo teniendo más preguntas que respuestas en torno al mundo de La Primera Ley. Además, tengo el presentimiento que el autor se sirvió de éste para dar respuesta a algunas historias del pasado. Con esto se reafirma que debes leerte los independientes de la saga por orden.

Asimismo, cada vez estoy más segura que la cuarta parte y esta necesitan continuación y me da rabia que se hayan quedado en libros auto-conclusivos.

Bueno, ahora solo me quedan los relatos y podré adentrarme a la nueva trilogía.

¡Qué ganas!

“- ¿Crees que la muerte te teme?
-La muerte me ama. No podría ser de otro modo después de todo lo que he hecho por ella y de toda la gente que le he enviado. Sabe que no tiene mejor amigo que yo.”
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,160 reviews2,010 followers
March 30, 2016
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!
Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews445 followers
December 29, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,478 reviews940 followers
December 12, 2016

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. .

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.
Profile Image for J.J..
56 reviews
July 30, 2020
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!
Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews314 followers
July 4, 2014

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.

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. . 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. 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.
Profile Image for Sarah  Aubert .
458 reviews339 followers
December 17, 2022
I cannot believe the flack this standalone gets! I thought this was fantastic - maybe even the best of the three! I love a sibling rescue story and the cast of characters here was the eclectic blend I've come to expect from Abercrombie and the humour was exquisite. The Western Atmosphere was well crafted and the characters fit the aesthetic perfectly without sacrificing any of their previous development. The ending was perfect and this has catapulted my First Law obsession back into full swing.
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