Monday, December 16, 2013

Audio Review: Red Country

Red Country
Joe Abercrombie
Narrator: Steven Pacey
The First Law World
Orbit/October 18, 2012

They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following. 

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll 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 step father Lamb for company. But 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 an alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust...

Brilliant!  This was such a treasure to listen to.  Not only did Abercrombie do an amazing job creating a world of fantasy woven into a western-like setting but Pacey's narration truly brought it to life.

It it not necessary to have read the previous books set in the First Law World.  Red Country is written as a stand alone but it did make me want to grab up those previous books in the First Law World and discover how some of the characters fared in earlier installments.

The world Shy South lives in is a harsh world filled with hard work, numerous responsibilities and little enjoyment.  But Shy carries on with her life, if not truly happy, then perhaps nearly content.  All of that is about to change when her siblings are kidnapped.  We see how both Shy and Lamb shed their current roles as farmers and become hunters and killers. It is a violent world they journey into, as they reach back into their pasts to cope with the present.

The story is filled with a host of secondary characters who don't like being kept in the background.  As the plot progresses, an ensemble cast quickly forms to join with Shy and Lamb on their journey.   Abercrombie took the time to develop the secondary characters to give them not only backgrounds but make them standout in their own ways.  From the most powerful to the youngest, the characters' emotions and actions show how some of them must change and grow along with the story in order to survive.  While other characters remain the same to the last, staying true to how they have been portrayed.

The characters are not the only ones who are well developed.  The places Shy, Lamb and the others travel to are brought to life in Abercrombie's vivid descriptions of not just the buildings and harsh environments but the smells and sounds.  Those descriptions help the reader understand what the characters are feeling and thinking when they encounter these uncivilized settlements.  

Red Country is a magnificent blend of action and adventure.  The fight scenes are beautifully startling in their brutality.  But it is the characters that are the driving force in this adventure.  They pull you in and make you, if not like them, then at the very least earn your grudging respect.

Hat's off to Abercrombie for creating these fascinating characters and Pacey for giving them their voices!

Rating: A+