Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

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Someone find me a mop and a swear jar. Joe Abercrombie is letting the blood and swears flow in his latest novel – Red Country. I’m a newcomer to Joe’s gritty fantasy so approached the effort with some trepidation. Not for the violence – though in parts they can churn the gut – but because this was a part of his respected universe. Of course it was going to be accessible, as a standalone novel, but would my mind gel with the ideas he has had in place for years?

I’d love to say there was a simple plot plodding throughout but after some time there seemed a myriad darting back and forth with nefarious purpose. This was no bad thing though I did pause to wonder if this was a little much to cram into one book. Having said that, this could be standard practice for Abercrombie and I wouldn’t know. I always got thew feeling I was coming to the end of a story and there still seemed to be many pages to turn. Funnily enough, I actually didn’t want it to end. The story of Shy and Lamb was entirely engrossing.

Shy South’s younger brother and sister have been stolen from their home while Shy and her step-father, Lamb, were trading goods. This sparks a journey through mud and blood to retrieve the children and take them home. But, in traditional mysterious fashion, everyone is keeping secrets, particularly Lamb. As the cast travel they cross paths with many people and the ensemble grows plentiful. Superb members of the cast rise above for their sub-plots – Temple was a personal favourite. His story is one of redemption, guilt and sarcasm. In fact when Abercrombie isn’t splitting sides with various blades, he does it with humour. There was many a moment when the tension was broken with a wry quip, but you don’t have to worry, the narrative is always knee deep in claret.

I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and found plenty to enjoy within its wild west fantasy hybrid environment. The dialogue is always smart and Joe’s writing is refreshing in its descriptions and pacing. There seems no stereotype here, each piece of this vast puzzle feels wholly original. If these are the traits of the young fantasy writer then I’m eager to read more.

Published by Gollancz. This book was kindly sent from the publisher.

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