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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Brutal Fantasy Meets Western
After reading the book blurb above you could easily be mistaken for thinking that Joe Abercrombie has flipped his lid. Where the hell is the grimness? What has happened to the darkness? Shouldn't there be a fabulously graphic coming together of the two in order to create some sort of vile fantasy by-blow (let's call it "Grimdark" for want of a better name).

The...
Published 9 months ago by Pablo Cheesecake (The Eloquent...

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Marmite
Review:
For me Red Country felt like deadwood meets The hobbit. A western journey that was fairly pointless but was often violent.
This is far from my fav book by Abercrombie, its not that its trying too hard, its just that its, well 150+ pages too long. Sometimes (and heroes was heading this way) Joe Abercrombie doesn't seem to know where to speed things up a...
Published 22 months ago by Parm


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Brutal Fantasy Meets Western, 3 Dec 2013
By 
After reading the book blurb above you could easily be mistaken for thinking that Joe Abercrombie has flipped his lid. Where the hell is the grimness? What has happened to the darkness? Shouldn't there be a fabulously graphic coming together of the two in order to create some sort of vile fantasy by-blow (let's call it "Grimdark" for want of a better name).

The First Law trilogy was Abercrombie's take on the epic fantasy opus. The Heroes was a novel that explored the horrors of war, and now, Red Country heads off into the territory of the Western. I'll admit to being a little sceptical before I began reading. I found myself continually going back to the big question - can a fantasy novel and Western inhabit the same space and happily coexist with one another?

Shy South is used to hardship. Running a farm in the middle of nowhere has created a woman of single-minded purpose and determination. When her younger siblings are kidnapped she sets out to find them. She refuses to let any obstacle get in her way and will move heaven and earth to find her family. At first meeting Shy comes across as hard, almost unfeeling, but there are hidden depths to this young woman. She is much more than just your average homesteader.

The other main character is a Northman, known only as Lamb. Some try to distance themselves from the past while others, no matter how far they travel, just can't seem to escape it. Lamb has lived a peaceful, almost solitary, life for years but a series of events out with his control force him back into a place he thought he had left far behind. This character was the real highlight of the novel for me. There are some wonderful moments where we get to discover what's going on in the mind of this world-weary man. Lamb is seeking peace but finds only violence. There is an astonishing split second of acceptance about three quarters of the way through when he finally succumbs to his inner demons. That revelatory instant manages to convey a plethora of emotions in a single beat. It's truly stirring stuff.

Lamb has, over the years, become a surrogate father-figure to Shy, and she is blissfully ignorant of his dark past. To Shy, Lamb is just "some kind of coward", the scenes between the two are riveting. As the plot unfolds, Lamb slowly rediscovers/reveals his true self and Shy realizes she is caught up with a man she thought she knew but who she doesn't really know at all.

The other characters are just as delightful. Corrupt mercenary captains and army deserters rub shoulders with shifty business men and all other manner of scum. Nicomo Cosca in particular has a spectacularly florid turn of phrase which manages to be both amusing and nasty in equal measure, I liked him.

Let's not forget that, though it features the trappings of a Western, Red Country does still owe some of its existence to the fantasy genre. The politics that Abercrombie has explored in previous novels also make a welcome appearance. There is a compelling sub-plot that sees forces representing the Union, the Ghurkish Empire and even the native tribes, the Ghosts, all against one another.

Grimdark, if you'll excuse the turn of phrase, splits people right down the middle. Some relish it and all its brutal glory, while others consider it that one step too far. I can certainly appreciate that for some readers it is too much, but personally though I'm a fan. I'll grant you characters really suffer, in any number of different ways, but it always feels like there is a sense of hope. The possibility for redemption, especially for a flawed character, is a tantalizing prospect to behold.

As you'd expect from this author, if you've ever read any of his work before, things get properly bloody. Red Country is not a novel for the faint of heart. Violence isn't supposed to be glamorous, it's supposed to have a brutal rawness and Abercrombie knows just how to capture the unrestrained chaos of a single moment. People die, often in a violent and graphic fashion, nothing ever gets sugar-coated. The writing doesn't ever shy away from the consequences of any actions. I suspect, at least in part, that is the intent of this novel; characters learning to embrace their fundamental nature.

Yes, things get dark, yes thing get brutal. Hell, I'll freely admit that I felt mentally drained by the time I reached the last page, but damn if it wasn't worth it.

Once again, Abercrombie has decided that rules are there to be broken-can't say I blame him, it sounds like fun-and has decided to try something new. With referential nods to genre classics like The Searchers, True Grit and Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Red Country manages the impressive feat of being both a dark fantasy novel and a Western at its core.

By the way, the answer to the big question from earlier on is an emphatic YES.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Red Country, 18 Nov 2013
By 
Steve D (London, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
I've been wanting to read this book for over a year, patiently waiting for it to arrive in paperback. It got to the point where I considered the Kindle version, but his books have these wonderfully tactile covers that I feel like it would be a crime to not read the physical book. So I've waited and waited. And for the third book in succession Joe Abercrombie has entertained, thrilled and enthralled me from the first page to the last.

Where Best Served Cold was his version of a revenge thriller, and The Heroes his war story, Red Country is his - I have to say - loving tribute to the Western. The story starts as Shy South and her surrogate father, Lamb, return to their farm after a trip to the town of Squaredeal to sell their produce, only to find their home razed to the ground, old farmhand Gully hanging from a tree, and her young brother and sister gone. Shocked, scared and furious, they set off in pursuit, off into the west where the gold rush beckons and people head to make new lives despite the constant threat from the savage Ghosts.

I think it's probably fair to say that unless you're a fan of Hollywood's once-dominant film genre, Red Country might not have the same effect on you as it has had on me. The atmosphere and knowing nods to Western movies from the 40s through to the 70s and onward positively drip from the pages. So many of the cliches of that genre are taken here by Abercrombie, turned inside out and plonked down in his fantasy world. From the wagon trains being circled to hold off an attack by axe and bow wielding natives, to stampedes, to the siege as two outlaws try to hold off an army, to the shoot out in a dusty street, it's all here and more. The influences are many, the most obvious being John Ford's magnificent The Searchers, some hints of Rio Bravo and The Wild Bunch, a dash of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a sprinkling of Eastwood's 'Man With No Name', and a whole heap of the brilliant HBO tv show Deadwood - it's a positive treasure trove of iconic moments.

As usual, he doesn't skimp on the characters either, and he has a particularly strong bunch here, all of whom are trying to escape their murky pasts in one way or another. From Shy and Lamb through Temple and Cosca and on to the ageing scout Dab Sweet and the mysterious Savian, he eeks out detail and relationships with that rare and assured touch that has become so apparent in his writing. Nervous ticks or monosyllabic answers are capable of conveying everything a character is feeling. Possibly my favourite relationship in the book was that between Lamb and Savian - and they barely say a word to each other! Beyond that, the dialogue is just about perfect, so much so that you can almost hear it drawling from the lips of John Wayne or Gary Cooper or Clint Eastwood, and it is so funny at times - laugh out loud kind of funny. Plus he writes some of the best action scenes: the ones in this book took my breath away at times, they are so exciting, and terrifying, too. The scene during the storm is so vivid. Real 'big screen' writing, if you like.

I thought the pacing was just about spot on. I never once felt that it was dragging, and even had to force myself to slow down and drink it all in, because I didn't want it to finish too soon. As I turned the last page and read the final paragraphs it was with the goosebumps you get when you feel that something is just *right*.

In the end, though, one question did arise: if Joe could capture the Western vibe so perfectly in a fantasy setting, why not just write a Western? Suddenly, characters from his previous books were speaking in the aforementioned Western drawl - something which they didn't have prior to now - and it was impossible not to imagine them all wearing Stetsons and packing six-shooters (there are no guns in Joe's First Law world, yet he somehow still manages to give that impression). I also have to wonder if anyone who's never enjoyed the Western genre will see what all my fuss is about.

For me, though, Red Country is an absolute joy. At the moment Joe Abercrombie can do no wrong in my books. He may lack Erikson's inventiveness or Martin's publicity, but he is a damn fine teller of stories. I believe he's working on a Young Adult trilogy next. I can't wait.

`What are you going to do?' whispered Temple.
`There was a time I'd have gone charging over there without a thought for the costs and got bloody.' Lamb lifted the glass and looked at it for a moment. `But my father always said patience is the king of virtues. A man has to be realistic. Has to be.'
`So what are you going to do?'
`Wait. Think. Prepare.' Lamb swallowed the last measure and bared his teeth at the glass. `Then get bloody.'
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Abercrombie book so far! Loved it, 1 Aug 2014
This review is from: Red Country (First Law World 3) (Hardcover)
This was, without a doubt, my favourite book by Joe Abercrombie to date.

My preference when reading fiction is that the plot always be character driven. Whilst I can appreciate other story types for the quality of the writing as well as other good qualities, nothing brings me into a story quicker than well written and well rounded characters who have the necessary qualities that can carry a story.

The previous book in this series, The Heroes, was more of a war story than a character driven story. There was the familiar humour, the unexpected twists and quite frankly brilliant action and I knew from reading it that it was a good book for people who like that kind of thing... but this book was that much better for having all of that coupled with some really strong central characters to pull the story forward.

This is essentially the story of two people on a quest to return some stolen children. One of these people is a young woman who has a bit of a checkered past that has tempered her to be very stubborn and focused, especially when it comes to looking after her family. The other, an older man, has a very interesting past that he has managed to hide well for years. They must go on a journey that will force them both to face their true natures as well as provide us with an excellent tale in the process.

I don't want to say much more without giving away any spoilers but I can say that if you have liked any of Joe Abercrombie's books to date then you will love this. It had everything all of the other books had and much more... including a great ending!

My one main criticism of Joe Abercrombie has been that I don't ever feel satisfied at the end of the novel. I don't mind the fact that not everyone will get a happy ending (who actually does in life) but what I do mind is that there is often no satisfactory endings for any of the characters. People I want to see punished get away with it and learn nothing. People I want to see prosper end up in a terrible state and have really had a hard time of it, if they even manage to survive at all. Basically by the end of the novel (which is quite a long journey with Mr Abercrombie) I am begging for there to be at least one little glimpse of sunshine in the gloomy story that has been spun.

Thankfully I have come out of this book with a smile on my face. It is still not a happily ever after ending, far from it, but I felt a bit more satisfied that things had fallen into the right places for the story that had just been told.

Overall this is an excellent book that had a little bit of everything. There is a lot of violence and action mixed with an intriguing story but most of all a great deal of humour. There are wonderful new characters as well as some old characters that I have missed since I last read about them and was extremely happy to see them again.

I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Abercrombie has done it again!, 3 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Red Country (First Law World 3) (Hardcover)
With George R.R Martin producing what at best can be described as subpar work every half decade or so, fans of gritty fantasy such as myself, must look elsewhere for our fix. Thankfully there are plenty of pretenders to the throne, and Abercrombie is not only the best of the bunch, he also manages to put out a new novel roughly once a year.

Red Country is his latest work and the quality is as high as we have grown accustomed to from him. All of his stand alone novels set in the same universe as The First Law trilogy, has had some kind of theme. Best Served Cold was a revenge story, The Heroes was a war story, and Red Country is a good old fashioned western! Long term Abercrombie fans will immediately notice that this time, the theme has a much stronger influence on the material. In fact, I was some times in doubt as to whether or not I was actually reading a fantasy novel, and only the lack of guns, and the inclusion of characters from previous Joe Abercrombie novels, convinced me I was indeed in a fantasy universe I know and love. This probably won't sit right with everyone, and I can see why. It really is a big stylistic departure and not all fantasy fans are necessarily western fans.

I however grew up on a steady diet of westerns and consumed everything from Sergio Leone to Terrance Hill and Bud Spencer, and anything in between. I also happen to be a huge Robert E. Howard fan, and my favourite short story of his is (you probably already guessed this, if you can see where I am going with this): Beyond the Black River. So I immediately felt right at home with Red Country and as good as The Heroes was, there is no doubt in my mind that Abercrombie continues to improve upon the perfect and this is his best novel so far.

A must read and definitely my favourite novel of the year.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Marmite, 8 Nov 2012
By 
Parm (A bookshop near you) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Red Country (First Law World 3) (Hardcover)
Review:
For me Red Country felt like deadwood meets The hobbit. A western journey that was fairly pointless but was often violent.
This is far from my fav book by Abercrombie, its not that its trying too hard, its just that its, well 150+ pages too long. Sometimes (and heroes was heading this way) Joe Abercrombie doesn't seem to know where to speed things up a bit, it was the plodding that got to me (i need more pace, but thats a personal choice). The characters were great, Lamb, Shy etc so rich in detail, emotion, back story, I loved reading about them. Cosca and his men, so many rich characters, so deep and dark, but the journey was just too long for me. I think many will really love this book.
A good book, that could have been a great book. But as ever i look forward to what comes next from one of the Review:
For me Red Country felt like deadwood meets The hobbit. A western journey that was fairly pointless but was often violent.
This is far from my fav book by Abercrombie, its not that its trying too hard, its just that its, well 150+ pages too long. Sometimes (and heroes was heading this way) Joe Abercrombie doesn't seem to know where to speed things up a bit, it was the plodding that got to me (i need more pace, but thats a personal choice). The characters were great, Lamb, Shy etc so rich in detail, emotion, back story, I loved reading about them. Cosca and his men, so many rich characters, so deep and dark, but the journey was just too long for me. I think many will really love this book.
A good book, that could have been a great book. But as ever i look forward to what comes next from one of the truly talented fantasy writers out there

(Parm)
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3.0 out of 5 stars Hmm. not sure about this one., 6 July 2014
This review is from: Red Country (First Law World 3) (Hardcover)
Loved all his other books and was blown away by 'Hero's' but this book seems ill conceived and clumsy by comparison. The 'showdown' at the end is almost embarrassing it's so clichéd. Ok he's paying homage to Clint but it all just seems to fit uneasily with his previous work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 17 Jun 2014
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really enjoyed this book. best of first law world...put u probably need to read the other ones first.. which is a good thing also lol
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best Yet ?, 17 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Red Country (First Law World 3) (Hardcover)
Abecrombie re-acquaints us with characters from earlier books plus a new heroine in Shy South and and 'anti hero' Temple. Weaving in story lines from the past, this new story grips you tight. I think his writing is getting even better.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great, 3 Jun 2014
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Brilliant book in the same, down to earth vain of the other brilliant novels. A master story teller at his best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable, 29 May 2014
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On a series that just gets better with an ownership of characters and a view on life I'm looking forward to the next book.

You just have to be realistic, don't you?
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Red Country (First Law World 3)
Red Country (First Law World 3) by Joe Abercrombie BA (Hardcover - 18 Oct 2012)
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