Red County by Joe Abercrombie
(Review by JS)
Having loved this authors other work- Best Served Cold and the First Law books, I bought Heroes and then this one as soon as they were published with no hesitation, but then due to my rather large pile of books to read I was forced to leave them on the shelf.
After being off work for a length of time though, I was able to catch up on many of these books, and these two were moved speedily to the top of the pile.
This is the description:
Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she will 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. However, 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...
Now you will read some reviews where people complain that this is a western style novel not me though. I have always loved Westerns, (I have a collection of old spaghetti western films at home, which my husband always shakes his head over when he goes through our DVD collection) so really liked this concept.
The story starts with Shy returning to her home from a supply trip with her stepfather Lamb, to find her home destroyed and her brother and sister stolen. She is determined to get them back so the two of them set off on a quest to find the people responsible and to get the children back.
This sounds a simple plot, but the author creates a journey that is vivid and full of danger and the reader meets brilliant new characters and also some much more familiar.
Now Shy like the lead character Murcatto in ‘Best served Cold’ is no weak female. She is an excellent strong lead with good back-story that comes out more as the story goes on. She has self-doubt due to her past, but this if anything makes her more of a complete character, which whom the reader can connect.
Lamb, what can I say about him? Anyone who has previously read Joe Abercrombie books will recognise him without a great deal of difficulty, but his real name is never mentioned. Shy herself is completely unaware of his other persona, and her shock at seeing this darker side of her cowardly stepfather is very entertaining.
I liked the characters of Temple, Sweet; actually, it is easier to say I liked the whole Fellowship, as all the characters are good and added to the story as a whole.
There are reviewers who say that this book is a let down and that it is the weakest of all the Abercrombie novels, I totally disagree. This is a fine novel, which to me shows a strong writing style which if anything is getting better as the books continue. Yes, maybe the plot slows slightly at times, but this is normal for many large books, and to me does not affect your enjoyment of the novel as a whole.
I read Robs review of this book, which he wrote last year, and he mentioned that this was a contender for his book of the year. Having now read it, I must say that I feel the same but for 2013 instead.
10 out of 10