Review: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

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Author: Joe Abercrombie
Series: First Law World #6

Pages: 465

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They burned her home.

They stole her brother and sister.

But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she’ll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she’s not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old stepfather Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb’s buried a bloody past of his own, and out in the lawless Far Country, the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust…

The past never stays buried…

It had to happen sooner or later. This saga was too good to keep the pace over so many pages. One epic story after another had to have a dry spell at some point. OK, maybe I’m going a bit too far about my impressions of Red Country. It is a strong story with strong characters, but it lacks the page-turner factor of the previous stories. Let’s see what we got in that corner of the Circle of the World…

This time we go to the Near Country to meet Shy South, a farmer/thief whose only goal in life is giving her little sister and brother the best opportunities she can afford. They are her whole world; so, when they are kidnapped, she set her mind in finding them and get revenge. For this jounrey, Shy has the help of Lamb, the old Northman who is like a father to her and swore an oath to protect her family. Too bad his bloody past could become an obstacle for such a noble endeavor. The journey brings with it new friends and unlikely allies, like the mercenary for hire Nicomo Cosca and his Company…

This saga has always been heavily driven towards the characters, but without forgetting the importance of a good story. Red Country is not the best example of that. The story we are told is not strong enough to hold the weight of so many pages. Yes, it has a big impact during the first chapters with the kidnapping and the journey and it also has a fabolous ending full of epic moments and revelations, but in between those slabs of the book there are too many dull chapters. I don’t want to say boring, because that wouldn’t be fair; but the other books had a much better pace and many more points of view of the same conflict. It saddens me to say this, but a great part of this book is just filling pages for the sake of it.

Sadly, Joe’s mastery with the characters has not been enough to clean the sour taste from my mouth. We have some really good characters like Shy, Temple, Cosca, Lamb and many others; but, for reasons, almost all the story is focused only on Shy and Temple. Both of them in the same side, same place and, mostly, same objectives. There wasn’t any kind of variety to keep things interesting as in previous books (yes, comparing sucks, but it is meant to happen) and that didn’t help to get me through the slowest chapters of the story. I will insist again about this not being a boring book. Just not what we were familiar with in the First Law World.

Of all the new characters, Temple is the one that stands out the most. Even though he is presented as a coward with basics responses, we soon get to learn that he is way more complex than that. And witty, very witty. So much that I found myself laughing hard in the most unexpected moments, something for what I’m very grateful for. The author has usually displayed a very dark sense of humor, but with Temple he has tried something else and it works wonderfully. This book is also way heavier in the romantic department than previous ones, thanks to the dance between Shy and Temple. I love reading Romance, but I consider a bit weird the fact that a big portion of the story is spent in blooming that relationship when there were kids in danger waiting for a rescue…

There are plenty of old acquaintances during the journey to the Far Country, but we don’t get that big of a chance to catching up with them. Some of them have been a huge disappointment, like Nicomo Cosca and Friendly. The first one for showing his worst face ever. I thought he had mended his ways, but I was utterly wrong about it. Friendly is also there, but he is even more underdeveloped than in Best Served Cold. Will I have the chance to get to know him better in the new trilogy? Only time will tell… There are also several hidden identities that are not really as secretive as the author was hoping. Even The Mayor’s real name was pretty obvious.

It is not an epic book, but it is a very enjoyable one. It feels like a mandatory stop in the story to put some relevant pieces in the board the way the author wants. I think we won’t see the real importance of Red Country until we get our hands in the new trilogy that is being published.

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