Shy South comes home to her farm to find a blackened shell; her brother and sister have been stolen and she’s going to have to return to her bad old ways if she’s ever going to see them again. She sets off in grim pursuit with only her cowardly old step-father Lamb for company. But it turns out he’s hiding a bloody past of his own. None bloodier.
Their journey will take them across the lawless plains, to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feuds, duels and massacres, and high into unmapped mountains to a reckoning with ancient enemies, and force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune…and a man no one should ever have to trust…
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Narrator: Stephen Pacey
Publisher Orion Publishing Group
Running Time: 19hrs 52 mins
Series: First Law World #3
My Rating of ‘Red Country’: 5 out of 5
Red Country, for my money, was everything an Abercrombie book should be and managed to pull itself back on track where the previous book, The Heroes, diverged a little. I enjoyed The Heroes, but it was more of a battle report than a fully-fledged novel to my mind. Red Country takes us back out on to the road, with various different POV characters at various different places (rather than simply everything happening in the same locale such as with The Heroes).
As with all Abercrombie novels we have a deep cast of characters that features returning faces and new faces alike. They all feel like actual people with actual motivations and I felt attached to all of them. Again, as with all Abercrombie books, the author is aware that too many POV characters floating around in the soup makes it somewhat of a mouthful, so some of these characters take their final bow, some move off into obscurity and others live to hopefully appear another day.
Books four (Best Served Cold), five (The Heroes) and six (Red Country) serve a purpose that most other writers of series never think to add. They give you a meaningful ‘this is what happened after the events of the series’ to both characters you know and love and the world as a whole outside of the small percentage of it mentioned in the opening trilogy. In Red Country, we are taken to Abercrombie’s version the Wild West as Shy and her cowardly stepfather, Lamb, are on the hunt for the bandits who made off with their children.
Like Best Served Cold, the plot revolves around vengeance. Unlike that book, the motives are different, the thoughts going through the characters’ heads are rarely on the same page as far as how to enact that vengeance goes, and there are so many layers between the varying characters on display that it makes it feel more open than Best Served Cold, which had a very linear, episodic feel to it.
As a writer myself, I marvel at Abercrombie’s skill. His character development, his world building and his simple turns of phrase are very distinct, so very Abercrombie, that it just stands out above other writers in the genre. He has a talent of making all characters, even the ones you shouldn’t really care for, feel important and worth loving. I feel that Red Country perhaps had some of my favourite characters from any of his books. Considering the amount of strong, deep charcters already fleshed out in the world Abercrombie has created, it shows how talented he is that the sixth book in the world has some of my favourites when so many brilliant ones came before it.
As ever, Stephen Pacey’s narration is utterly sublime. I have no doubt said it before and will probably say it again; the man was destined to narrate Abercrombie books more so than any other narrator was destined to narrate anything.
Having already read the first two books in the Age of Madness series, I am all caught up. Cannot wait until the next instalment is released later this year. I only hope that the next book isn’t the last. I don’t tend to read YA books as a rule, but I’m half-tempted to give Abercrombie’s YA series a go.