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Red Country
Joe Abercrombie
Gollancz, 451 pages

Red Country
Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie was born in Lancaster, UK in 1974. He went to Manchester University to study Psychology, then moved to London. He found work at a TV Post-Production company, leaving two years later to become a freelance film editor. In 2002, he sat down and began to write, completing The Blade Itself, was completed in 2004 and bought by Gollancz in 2005. Joe now lives in North London with his family.

Joe_Abercrombie Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review:Best Served Cold
SF Site Review: Last Argument of Kings
SF Site Review: Before They are Hanged
SF Site Review: The Blade Itself

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Dominic Cilli

"Sworbreck had come to see the face of heroism and instead he had seen evil. Seen it, spoken with it, been pressed up against it. Evil turned out not to be a grand thing. Not sneering Emperors with world-conquering designs. Not cackling demons plotting in the darkness beyond the world. It was small men with their small acts and their small reasons. It was selfishness and carelessness and waste. It was bad luck, incompetence and stupidity. It was violence divorced from conscience or consequence. It was high ideals even and low methods"
—Joe Abercrombie, Red Country, p341
I won't lie. It is novels like Red Country that make Joe Abercrombie one of my favorite authors. It's full of blood, treachery, honor, friendship and a thousand other little things that elevate it from mundane fantasy into the sublime. He is doing things a little bit differently than other authors in the genre. Following his First Law Trilogy, he has given us three more stories each occurring in the same universe and each has built upon the world he created there, but each can also be considered a stand-alone work. Initially, Abercrombie gives us a good old fashioned revenge story with Best Served Cold. Following that, we get a "Civil War Battle" type story in The Heroes and now, in spectacular fashion, we get what feels like a good old fashioned spaghetti western with Red Country. The novel's dedication contains a facetious shout out to Clint Eastwood, so that may be a tip-off to the type of story you can expect in Red Country.

Shy South lives on her farm with her gentle stepfather Lamb and the rest of her siblings. While away, Shy and Lamb return to find their farm has been attacked and destroyed and her brother and sister Pit and Ro, have been stolen. Shy has never been one to take anything lying down so she and Lamb set off after them. Eventually, they are joined by a host of colorful supporting characters and their fellowship begins their long journey into the untamed far country. As their sojourn continues, Shy's bloody and unsavory past is revealed and she is learning that her step-father, the soft-spoken Lamb, may have had an unpleasant past of his own. His missing ring finger is a window into a history that is far more "bloody" then anyone can imagine.

Readers of the First Law Trilogy are going to immediately guess at who Lamb really is. Abercrombie never once in the entire novel speaks his other name, but everybody familiar with Abercrombie will know exactly who it is. So if you are new to Joe Abercrombie, you're just going to have to go back and read The First Law Trilogy for a complete history of Lamb's past. Lamb is not the only character from past stories who shows up as readers of Joe's previous work will quickly find out and delight in. As for Red Country, this is Joe Abercrombie catching his stride. He is in absolutely rare form in Red Country. The story combines different elements of classic American Western films such as The Searchers and The Wild Bunch, so the plot will seem familiar, but it is still executed wonderfully. The story is as black and vile as ever, the dialogue is razor sharp and the exchanges between the characters are at times laugh out loud funny. Abercrombie's background as a television writer is really serving him well as an author. It's evident in all his writing, but especially so in Red Country. It feels like it's ready for television as it is and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if some astute producer picked up the option for the book. But until then, we will have to "settle" for his writing.

Red Country is easily one of the best fantasy novels I have read this year. It's filled with action, humor and camaraderie and the final product is arguably his best work to date. It is fair to say that some of the emotional punch may be taken out of Red Country if readers haven't read the rest of Abercrombie's work, but it is by no means a prerequisite to enjoying it. Red Country is a good book on its own merits, but a terrific one in context with the rest of Joe Abercrombie's work. Do not hesitate to read Red Country or any of his six novels to date. They have all deservedly earned a place high up on my bookshelf.

Copyright © 2013 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best."

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