Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
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Cannonball Read V: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

By Alexis | Book Reviews | March 22, 2013 | Comments ()


Shy is a hard woman with a dark past. Lamb is a giant of a man and a bloody coward. But he's the closest thing to a father Shy and her two young siblings is ever going to have. When Shy finds her farm burnt to the ground and her young brother and sister taken, Shy and Lamb take off cross country to find them. It is a journey that will cost them everything they are.

"What do we do if we catch them?" she muttered, keeping her voice down. "Chances are they're going to be armed and willing. Better armed than us, that's sure."

"Recon we'll have to be more willing then."

There are many detailed characters in Red Country but none is as riveting as Lamb, a quiet man who kept his head bowed for years, farming, raising children that weren't his own. Perhaps the story of Lamb draws from too many familiar tropes (the lone warrior, ronin, etc.) but Lamb's journey, dialogue, and challenges haunted me weeks after finishing the book.

I didn't want no trouble," said Lamb. "It blew in anyway. Trouble's got a habit that way." He pushed his wet hair out of his face, and his eyes were wide open, bright, bright, mouth open too, breathing fast, and he was smiling. Not like a man working his way up to a hard task. Like a man enjoying getting to a pleasant one, taking his time about it like you might over a fine meal, and of a sudden Shy saw all those scars anew, and felt this coldness creeping up her arms and down her back and every hair on her standing.

Elsewhere Captain General Nicomo Cosca leads The Company of the Gracious Hand, a fierce bunch of mercenary murderers and thieves, accompanied by a feckless lawyer named Temple. The Company of the Gracious Hand has been hired by the inquisition to route hidden pockets of rebels, which they mean to do by burning and pillaging their way across the country. It's a red country indeed.

This is a fantastic book that spans many characters, miles of travel, and battles. No one ends the journey unscathed, definitely not Lamb who turns out to have a much richer and darker past than Shy ever suspected. Abercrombie's First Law trilogy is also fantastic but the characters are so dark that you almost stop caring about them. In Red Country, Shy, Temple, and definitely Lamb are dark, broken characters and yet you never stop rooting for them to succeed. They are forced into many hard choices, each with a hefty price to pay, and each conflict brings an uneasy resolution. Yet the dialogue has so much sly wit and humor that the book never seems TOO dark or bleak. There is a spark of hope and warmth that keeps the balance.

Joe Abercrombie is a modern master of the anti-hero and Red Country is his best work to date. I highly recommend.

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of Alexis's reviews on the group blog.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Loved Best Served Cold. Shivers remains one of my favorite characters in that series. Red Country was right on par with the rest of the books.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Why is it always fucking farmers?

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    I just started reading this. I enjoyed the Law books, didn't much care for Best Served Cold, but then was drawn back in with The Heroes which I thought was excellent. Without getting spoilerish, and you certainly find out early in Red Country, but when he revealed who Lamb was I may have squealed slightly. He was one of my favorites from the Law books, and I was starting to worry he was never coming back. I am looking forward to this weekend as I plan to get some good reading time in and devour the rest of this book.

    Abercrombie is not everyone's cup of tea. There are not many (if any) "good" people in his books, and it can be really really bleak, but I enjoy the hell out of them.

  • Oh My God. This is my review and I HAD NO IDEA. Logen Ninefingers?!?! Seriously? Yes I picked up on the physical similarity but I totally whiffed the connection. (I figured that men who used swords a lot often had less than 10 digits, honestly it barely gave me pause for thought). I already loved this book but now I officially ADORE it.

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    Well, I mean, I just assumed, like I said, I only started reading it. With Caul there, and we know The Bloody Nine killed Caul's brother, and the rage issues in the Tavern when they catch up with the three breakaways. It has to be Logen, right? Are you just messing with me. I hope you are not messing with me. It is him, right?

    Edited to say: I just saw you didn't read Best Served Cold, so I can see why Caul being there might not have triggered the immediate thought it was The Bloody Nine. I was a little thrown when Caul talked to Lamb at the beginning, but I was sure it was him after the three breakaways at the Tavern. Anyway, I have some reading to do.

  • http://joshuabarsody.blogspot....

    This guy backs you up and also has cool clay Lamb/Logan sculptures to boot. So why didn't "the bloody nine" come out? Was that just because he wasn't under enough duress for that to happen? Or is there some backstory in Best Served Cold where he spends 6 years at a monastery learning to control it?

    Looks like I have some Amazoning to do - I feel like I'm completely ignorant of the book I just read! Which is actually sort of awesome because honestly - that's the mark of a damn cool book :)

  • Grand Leaf

    The Bloody Nine came out many times in the book but especially toward the end.

  • I feel like this is Momento or Inception - I need to go re-read with my new information. It's been a few years since I read the trilogy, but I thought that when the Bloody Nine came out everybody within a 100 ft radius was chopped to bits? Fighting in the Dragon cave or what not would have resulted in a total massacre. The fight for the mayor, circled by a bunch of drunk idiots, would have certainly ended in a swath of bloody bodies no?

  • Irina

    If you thought the trilogy's characters were hard to sympathize with, then you haven't read Best Served Cold - I wanted to kill every one of them, slowly and painfully. It was a hard lesson after reading and loving The First Law trilogy, one that made me skip The Heroes, but this book sounds much better.

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    Don't skip The Heroes. I wasn't a huge fan of Best Served Cold, but The Heroes was excellent.

  • I've held off on Heroes and Best Served Cold based on Amazon reviews that expressed the same feeling. But now that I loved Red Country so I may go back. Even though frankly this is a hard one to top.

    Have you ever checked out Mark Lawrence? Another Pajiba review of another book of brackishly dark heroes.

    I wouldn't consider myself a fan of brutal bitter fantasy books but Lawrence and Abercrombie are so fantastic. I would love somebody immensely capable to make either of these into an a dark adult fantasy movie.

  • Dan

    Oh, don't skip The Heroes. It's so great.

  • Grand Leaf

    "Abercrombie’s Law of the Blade trilogy..." --- might want to fact check this sentence ;)

  • mswas


  • mlb

    The First Law trilogy was wonderful !!! The places and people and journeys were vivid and alive - I was not going to read the other books since I could not image enjoying any others more but I just ordered it and will give it a try ---- thanks for reading interesting and "off the bestseller list" books ----

  • Ben

    To truly understand Lamb, you have too have read the previous trilogy which is called The First Law.

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