Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When Shy South and her cowardly stepfather Lamb return home to find their farmhand dead and Shy's two siblings missing, they venture into the Far Country to find them. They join a fellowship and head to the mining town of Crease. During their travels, Shy is forced to confront her own checkered past and finds that her stepfather has a past of his own...
On the heels of finishing A Dance with Dragons, my jones for dark fantasy with morally ambiguous characters was not sated so I turned to Red Country. Red Country is my first Joe Abercrombie book and won't be the last.
Red Country promoted as being a fantasy western and I'd say that's fairly accurate. It's a story of revenge and redemption, two staples of the Western genre, and the trip across the Far Country to Crease has a very western feel to it. Crease has a setup not unlike the town from Fistful of Dollars (or Yojimbo, if you prefer). Lamb and Shy riding out into the unmapped country to find their missing loved ones is straight out of a lot of westerns. Without giving too much away, it also reminds me of Unforgiven quite a bit once Lamb mans up and shows his true colors. It's nice to see fantasy that strays from the rut of medieval pseudo-European quest stories.
The characters are an interesting bunch. Shy is a woman wondering why she managed to escape justice for her dark past. Lamb is a Northern barbarian trying to keep a promise he made to a dead woman. Temple is a lifelong screw up trying to turn things around. Cosca, one of the antagonists, is pretty lovable for a villain. They are far from the average fantasy cast and this is far from an average fantasy tale.
Joe Abercrombie's books are known for being dark and gritty. What people rarely mention is that they have a fair amount of dry humor and clever imagery in them as well. The quotable lines are surprisingly frequent. What I'm trying to say is that Abercrombie's writing was a lot more enjoyable to me than that of a lot of fantasy writers.
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