I have to mention one thing about the setting of this book before I start my review, I truly despise Western stories. Doesn’t matter if it’s done in video games, movies, or TV series I just can’t stand them. Here’s a few example for famous movies, 3:10 to Yuma? Sucks, Assassination of Jesse James? I got a fever because of how bad it was, Hateful Eight? Fell asleep, and many more (why did I even continue watching them, sometimes I feel like I don’t appreciate myself) with the exception of Django Unchained, I hate all Western stories. This is why I’m surprised that I still ended up loving this book despite some problems I had with it.
Red Country is the third and final book in the First Law standalone trilogy (or in other words The Great Leveller collection), the year is now 590 AU, six years after the previous book, 'The Heroes' and thirteen years after the end of the main trilogy, and now the setting of the book is located in the Western continent of the World, Far Country.
All the books in the standalone trilogy followed a simple premise as the main plot and there's no exception for this book as well. Shy South and Lamb (her adoptive father) came home to find their places burned and Shy’s brother and sister kidnapped, thus began their journey in travelling across the frontier to get them back. I’ll admit the plot and the setting is not the greatest part of this book, it’s also why this book is not a five stars read for me. There’s no surprises in the plot, the book is divided into five parts; the second part however is insanely boring and tedious to read. It’s just travelling with oxen and their wagons (again, I hate Western stories and settings) for more or less 100 pages. The reason why it felt so boring, I think it's due to the reason that Abercrombie himself stated this was his hardest book to write and he felt burned out during the time of writing this and imo, it can be felt in some parts of the book here and there.
“Though I’m very happy with and proud of the result, Red Country was a difficult book to write. I felt at times somewhat uninspired. Somewhat burned out.” –Joe Abercrombie
What truly redeemed this book for me come down to two points, characters and actions sequences, both are Abercrombie’s greatest strength as I always mentioned in all my reviews. Don’t get me wrong, in terms of NEW characters, this is hands down Abercrombie’s weakest book, other than Temple, I seriously don’t care about everyone else, not even the main character Shy South. However, the returning characters… oh man… I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally see one of my favorite characters of all time making a comeback here, yes I’m talking about Lamb and I think by now most of you probably already know who he is. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you who Lamb is, even the covers of the book shows who he is already and if you’ve read all the books in the series up until now, you’ll know who Lamb is by page 8 of the book. For the sake of my trademark spoiler-free reviews, I won’t tell you who he is, I won’t even post any pictures here despite how much I wanted to, but do know that Lamb is one of the biggest reasons why this book worked for me so well despite the problems I had with the pacing, story and some characters.
“That's what courage is. Taking your disappointments and your failures, your guilt and your shame, all the wounds received and inflicted, and sinking them in the past. Starting again. Damning yesterday and facing tomorrow with your head held high. Times change. It's those that see it coming, and plan for it, and change themselves to suit that prosper.”
Finally, action scenes, I don’t know how many times I can praise Abercrombie’s action sequences but I must praise him on this aspect over and over again cause he totally deserved it. Every action in this book are very dynamic and intense, it’s amazing how the tension towards the battle scenes builds up and explode satisfyingly. One duel scene in particular between Lamb and Golden is bloody amazing. Although the duel scene in this book doesn’t come close to that (let’s be honest here, if you’ve read Last Argument of Kings, you’ll know nothing can top that duel scene), there’s no denying that it’s my favorite part of this book and it was written magnificently. Plus, the great climax and ending of this book sealed the deal to make me overlook the problems I had with the book.
I’ve mentioned this in my Best Served Cold and The Heroes review but I’ll repeat it once again because I saw some readers who actually started Abercrombie’s work from the standalone, DO NOT do that. Most of the time authors say it’s okay for you to read their books because it’s a ‘standalone’ but seriously, trust me that your experience would be so much better if you’ve read the all the previous books accordingly first to know what’s happening behind all the returning character's past.
Red Country is a great conclusion to the standalone trilogy and I must say, it was bittersweet and satisfying for me. I can’t say anything else in this review without spoiling anything, if you love Abercrombie's work, please do continue with the standalone trilogy as well. Also, if you’re a lover of Western stories, this is something you don’t want to miss, the fact I still gave this book a four star despite how much I despise the setting goes to show just how great this book is. I'm concluding this review with another mandatory beautiful quote post:
“Strange, how the best moments of our lives we scarcely notice except in looking back.”
Best Served Cold: 4/5 Stars
The Heroes: 5/5 Stars
Red Country: 4/5 Stars
The Great Leveller Collection: 13/15 Stars