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Red Country (First Law World) Paperback – October 15, 2013
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"Terrific fight scenes, compelling characters (some familiar, some new), and sardonic, vivid prose show Abercrombie at the top of his game."
―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) on Red Country
"Magnificent, richly entertaining"―Time on The Heroes
"Imagine The Lord of the Rings as directed by Kurosawa."―Lev Grossman, Wall Street Journal on The Heroes
"[Abercrombie has] begun breaking his own rules. And succeeding wildly at it. ... [R]arely has Abercrombie had so much fun while rollicking through his colorful cast's foibles and witty dialogue - and rarely has he dished out so much straight-for-the-heart poignancy."―The A.V. Club
"New, fresh, and exciting."―The Independent (UK)
"Exhilarating... Abercrombie's knack for wit and grit holds your attention throughout, and his eye for character means that there's heart as well as muscle."―SFX (UK)
"Abercrombie writes fantasy like no one else."―The Guardian (UK)
About the Author
- Publisher : Orbit (October 15, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 480 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316187208
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316187206
- Item Weight : 1.14 pounds
- Dimensions : 6 x 1.5 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #66,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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While The First Law is a self-contained series, that didn't stop Abercrombie from writing more stories set in that world. And while I haven't read any of the others, if they're even half as good as the incredible Red Country, I need to read them post-haste.
It won't take you long to realize that Red Country is Abercrombie's take on the Western genre, even with its fantasy trappings. Opening on a town far away from the cities of The First Law, Abercrombie shows us weathered, hardscrabble men and women who have left behind the comforts of "civilization" for the new frontiers of the Far Country. Some are looking for gold and new wealth; some are leaving behind their old lives in hopes of a fresh start; some are businessmen, looking for towns where they can make their fortune; and some are soldiers of fortune, expanding the Empire by force and crushing any thought of rebellion among those who might be using the lack of central authority to make their own power.
It's familiar fare, done with Abercrombie's usual rich writing, dark humor, and complex characterization. And when the young siblings of a woman named Shy South get kidnapped by raiders and sold to a tribe, it's easy to think that Abercrombie is going for a Searchers homage here. Here's the uneasy relationship between profit, racism, and violence; here's characters whose lives of violence have led them to indulge their worst tendencies; here's questions about the relationship between "civilization" and "savage" and which is the case.
But then, in the space of one line, Abercrombie made me realize that what I was reading wasn't The Searchers; it was Unforgiven - a study of a lifetime of violence, of what it does to the soul, and whether there's any returning from it. Oh, there are other elements at play here - the exploration of frontier towns will remind any Western fan of the seedy anarchy that Deadwood gave us in its first season, and that Searchers feel never quite goes away - but in true Abercrombie fashion, this is a story about violence and those who deal it out.
(This is the part where I mention that, while you don't have to read The First Law to appreciate Red Country, it definitely will increase the book's greatness. While Red Country entirely stands alone, there is an aspect of the book that is deeply informed by the events of that series and is never spelled out in Red Country's pages. It gives the events we're watching a whole different feel, and undeniably raises the tension of what we're reading as we wait for that shoe to drop.)
There's a lot going on here - Abercrombie follows several major characters as they interweave, and alternates third-person limited narration between them (although we are never given a window into the mind of one key player, interestingly, leaving him defined entirely by his actions). And while the story starts simply enough - with the pursuit of these kidnapped children - there's so much more going on, including the fate of the tribes who inhabited this land before "civilization" came along, a fight for self-sovereignty, a crew of mercenaries destroying everything in their path...
...and yet, what makes Red Country great is none of that. No, what makes it great are the character arcs, as Abercrombie does something he never was able to do in The First Law: he lets them attempt to find redemption and absolution from their sins, as they grapple with their pasts and look inward to see if change is possible. Does Abercrombie give us easy answers? Unequivocally no - this is a hard book, with brutal violence, characters who let us down, and changes for the worse. But he never forgets that the quest for redemption is important in of itself, and maybe worth doing, even if it's never quite possible. And as we watch these characters struggling through the darkness and attempting to find any light to cling to, Abercrombie finds their dignity and humanity, even while keeping true to the broken people they are.
Red Country is an absolute knockout - it's riveting, exciting, brutal, surprising, and completely gripping, but more than that, it's satisfyingly rich, both in terms of the world we're seeing and - more importantly - in terms of the characters we're meeting. It's everything I loved about The First Law but even more so, giving me unforgettable characters and a final scene that couldn't be more perfect in how it draws together the themes of the book. The First Law was stunning, but this is something truly special. A must for any fantasy fan, but also for anyone interested in how you tell the story of an antihero.
Three books a little over a year ago and I could barely recall anything of the plot or characters beyond Logen. Figuring that maybe a handful of books later Abercrombie would improve on his world, I picked up Red Country. Nope, the only thing it brought back were the memories of painfully flat characters and stale, re-wrapped plots. There is literally no one that evolves in the books. Lamb is Eeyore throughout, Shy plays the hard edged tomboy, Temple... meh it's not even worth typing up as there's that little thought put into each character. They're summarized in a sentence and that's it. Even the flamboyant, idiotic sell sword captain gets stale very quickly.
The plot seems to borrow from First Law, small start, huge trek, climax. We spend an abhorrent amount of time toiling across a dusty plain that may be the only thing of the entire book that evokes any sense of scale. The rest of the time, you're beaten over the head with foreshadowing and supposed 'ah-ha' moments.
The worst part of the book is the ending, both in Crease and with Lamb. The Crease ending is shameful for the twist and the absolute silliness of it all. I was going to give the book two stars, until I reflected ever so slightly on how laughable it was. Guess no one was ever taught to look both ways when they cross the street. Lamb's ending was also yawn worthy in predictability.
Hopefully I'll learn my lesson and when someone throws Abercrombie's name out there as an author to read, I'll revisit this review and remind myself, DON'T DO IT!
Now, Red Country. Fantastic book. Just great. A fun and wicked romp across the World of the First Law's 'Wild West'. New character fill the Near Country and are accentuated by the return of some old ones, one in particular that I was immensely pleased to see (though this character is never referred to by their true name, you'd have to be blind to misunderstand who we're dealing with here).
Joe's strength has always been his characters, this book is no different. They occupy a bleak world, filled with some nasty folks, and they deal with it the best they can. Sometimes you realize the characters you thought were the 'good guys' have been the nasty ones all along. Joe is good at that. He's good at bringing even the smallest character, with the least screen time, to life. It leaves things with a sort of open feel, like he could dive back in and write more about any section of the world and any small character he'd like at any time. Speaking of which, I've recently been made aware that Joe is hard at work on another trilogy set in the First Law World, further down the timeline. That news is the cherry on top of this read, and I'm eagerly awaiting it.
Top reviews from other countries
Some wonderful old characters from the earlier books reappear (Glama Golden among them, though much older and even more narcissistic than before), and some new, vibrant characters are brought into the world fully grown, truly human, and often rotten to the core once you get past their public persona).
I have read and re-read this book so many times now, I've lost count, and every time I still get shocked when the characters are revealed in their true light,and events happen around them.
I would advise anyone who hasn't followed this series from the beginning to start here, with red Country, which is just so awesome in itself as to be much better than many others, as it's borderline historical, rather than fantasy, but still has all the blood and guts most hard-line fantasy fans love and expect from such an author.
2021 has been a good year for what I call quasi-Westerns, or Western tales in a fantasy setting. Wizard and Glass is my favourite in the Dark Tower series so far, The Wind in the Keyhole gave me more than I had expected, and then this. I won’t spoil it by mentioning who’s in this book, but readers will figure it out pretty quickly I think.
Criticism? One character in particular, Nicomo Cosca, has had a very uneven ride throughout the First Law series. Each time he’s in a book, it’s like he’s a whole different character, and that can be jarring at times. This was probably my least favourite version of him.
The twists in this book, for the most part, were pretty predictable. Nonetheless, it was mostly a 4 star read for me, elevated as I mentioned earlier by that Unforgiven vibe, plus epic fight scenes, events and dialogue that Joe Abercrombie does best. And the humour too, of course.
Only Sharp Ends left now, and I’m done with First Law. Planning to move on to Faithful and the Fallen next, along with Poppy War.
My favourite characters from the series overall? Bayaz, Logen Nine-Fingers, Glokta, and Bremer dan Gorst.
Red Country is a good read and kept me interested throughout, its a fairly simple story with a Western feel to it, some interesting characters and gives a bit of closure to a few characters from the original trilogy including one who may be missing a digit.
If you like epic fantasy like "a Song Of Ice And Fire" or "Malazan Book Of The Fallen" then you will come to love these books. That's coming from someone who is very snobbish where fantasy literature is concerned.