Review: Red Country / Author: Joe Abercrombie / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
Joe Abercrombie has carved himself a well-deserved reputation for delivering fresh, new and intelligent fantasy novels. Red Country is more of the same; clever, tight and original, it combines the best parts of a wild west adventure with epic fantasy meandering. Though this latest novel is set in the same world as his previous books (such as the First Law series) and features some familiar characters, Red Country is entirely accessible to new readers.
The plot follows the journey of Shy South, a young woman with a rough past, who, along with her worse than useless step-father, Lamb, goes on a quest to rescue her family after bandits burn down her home and kidnap her brother and sister. Penning something that is part frontier adventure, part fantasy romp, Abercrombie has a ruthlessly efficient style that mixes the bitterness and hardships of the western with the dreams and nightmares of fantasy.
Though highly readable with an easy, flowing style, the story is also packed with a lot of detail; Abercrombie likes to tell the same scene from different perspectives, and though this is an excellent way of giving us the full story, it does make some sequences drag on. However, the pacing, like the rest of the book, is quite tight. The world is full and engaging, but also clearly inspired by some of the darker parts of human history. Character development is strong, though some of the heroes only get enough of a biography to service the over-arching tale.
If you like your fantasy with a healthy dose of cynicism, and your westerns with real people rather than leathery caricatures, then Red Country is for you.