A Better Man Not Wanted: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie

red-country

Joe Abercrombie continues the tale of Logen Ninefingers and his quest to be a better man. Although this may look to be a stand alone novel, you truly need to have read The First Law Trilogy (for the history of Logen and Nicomo Cosca) and Best Served Cold for more on Cosca as well as the origins of Caul Shivers.

Abercrombie creates such fascinating characters and such intricate plots with creative prose that it really boggles the imagination with how he got this particular set of people in the mess that they are in.  In this instance, Abercrombie focuses the story on Shy South, chasing her kidnapped siblings with help from her stepfather, Lamb.  Once again Abercrombie is creating a major character whose story is supported by the incredible cast of misfits from previous stories.  I find it an interesting trick to outwardly appear to follow her, when in truth he’s telling the stories of Logen, Caul and Nicomo.  He did much the same thing in Best Served Cold when all the action was driven by the main character, Monza Murcatto, but often segued into the stories of Caul and Nicomo.

Logen is definitely not a lamb in sheep’s clothing, but a wolf whether he wants to be one or not.  What does a god-touched man of war do when all he wants to be is a man of peace?  He has learned other professions, could live other lives, but how does one turn away from being the most skilled fighter of his generation?  What do you do when you are truly good at your calling?  How do you turn away from violence if that’s the thing you are best at?  Trouble seems to find him, even when he’s not looking for it.  He doesn’t love war or fighting, but when he continues to cross paths with people who only understand violence as a solution, he has no choice but to engage them the only way he knows he can win.

My favorite line from this book is about Caul: ‘“I hope this is a lesson to you. Never take eggs from a metal-eyed man.” Sworbreck wrote that down, although that struck him as an aphorism of limited application.’  The origin of Caul’s metal eye and his reasons for following Logen are from the previous books I mention.  I think the phrase, ‘an aphorism of limited application,’ is an apt description for Abercrombie’s fiction. It has a limited application and I mean that as a compliment–it’s in the exact right place and says the exact right thing for the scene. That sentence (and many other memorable ones) could only appear here.

I hope we get to see Logen again, and part of me hopes that he finds what he’s looking for. Part of me wants him to keep struggling because it’s such good story material.

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