4 out of 5
Red Country is a standalone novel set in a fantasy west. Shy South, her stepfather Lamb and her brother and sister work a farm outside of the frontier town of Squaredeal. Returning from a trading trip into town Shy and Lamb find their hired helper dead, all of the buildings burned and the children missing. There is nothing to do but follow the trail to get them back. Temple, a lawyer for a mercenary army led by the aging Nicomo Cosca finds he can no longer stomach the horrors of assisting the Union Emperor in his quest to eradicate the rebels hiding in the Far Country. So he does what he does best, he runs. The children find they have not been stolen to be sold into slavery but rather to a strange centuries old cult that wishes to raise them as their own. All of their paths cross in a small mining town that has been inundated by a gold rush.
While technically a fantasy novel Red Country is more a western with crossbows and swords. Outside of being set in an alternative world and hints of a past glorious empire with metal dragons there really isn’t much fantasy here. There is a great deal of blood, guts and depravity. The whole story could easily be transported to an old west gold rush setting and still remain true to itself. The story is well written and Abercrombie is obviously a skilled writer. The characters are well developed and as a standalone it works well. Unfortunately westerns are of much interest to me so I found I had to force myself to finish. The ending was also a bit rough. Just when you thought it was done there was more. If you enjoy westerns or extremely real fantasy you will enjoy this novel.