Escape Velocity

A curated Collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Media

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When Shy and her surrogate-father Lamb return home from a trip to the village to sell the crops, they find the farm burned, Shy’s brother and sister gone and their caretaker hanged. A determination and a flicker of wrath stir in the otherwise placid lamb, and they set out to chase the perpetrators. Elsewhere in the Near Country, Temple, chief lawyer and secretary to the washed-up mercenary captain-general Niccomo Cosca, has seen enough of the company’s ‘heroics’.

Ok, this might be a HEMA-fencer’s weird pet peeve, but how is this man getting his second hand  inside the three-bar hilt on that saber? There is no way that is comfortable (if possible to begin with).   

Listened to the audiobook with Steven Pacey – who was a delight to listen to, as ever. I all seriousness, his narration is a good reason to start reading in the First Law-world.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Joe Abercrombie’s prose. Red Country delivers in that respect, with Abercrombie’s signature style of equal parts dark humour and dark violence, often juxtaposed to deepen the contrast. In addition, the return of several characters brimming with, well, character, means the pages come alive almost straight away.

Expect a bitter and gruelling tale, where no-one feels like they can ever do anything right and fate is as uncaring as the clay from which the miners in this story attempt to wash a single grain of gold. I feel like compared to Abercrombie’s previous works, Red Country even approaches the level of caricature, though in this case, I think it works well.

I won’t say that you couldn’t read Red Country without having read the original First Law-trilogy or the stand alone follow-ups – the story very much stands alone like the stories of Best Served Cold and The Heroes do. But knowing about some of the exploits of Niccomo Cosca, Caul Shivers and the Bloody Nine before picking up Red Country will add a nice layer of depth.

Having said that, I found that I enjoyed Red Country just a little less than the other stand alones – it’s still really good, but the other two have something really special that gripped me, be it the fall from grace of Monzcarro Murcatto in Best Served Cold, or the intriguing multi-point-of-view telling of a single event in The Heroes.

Red Country does something special too, in that it introduces somewhat of a ‘western’ theme in the First Law-world. That is an interesting mixture of tropes that I haven’t encountered before, but after five books in the First Law-world, I think I had it pegged as a mostly generic medieval/early Renaissance Europe-type-world. The gold rush and pseudo-native Americans, while well executed, didn’t quite land with me the way I would have hoped. It makes me wonder whether I would have enjoyed Red Country even more if it were not a First Law-novel.

Overall though, those are reflections on the relative quality of Red Country as compared to the superb The Heroes and the amazing Best Served Cold, and not reasons not to pick up Red Country at all. However, standalone as Red Country may be, I would probably recommend reading the other works in the First Law-world first.

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