There's a welcome return to many characters from previous books from the tough as nails Northmen to the ethically challenged mercenaries led by Nicomo Cosca
Alot has been mentioned about the western influences after all we have a wagon train pursued by Indians (substitute Ghosts), a depraved town in the grip of a gold rush, full of gambling, drunks and whores. A Clint Eastwood style ending where one of our protaganists rides off into the sunset, the only thing missing was the cigar but you get the idea and all this lends depth and scope to the story.
Red Country is set more than ten years after the first law trilogy in the Far Country.
Shy South and her step father Lamb return home from town to find their farm burned to the ground and the children missing.
Shy always considered Lamb, a big Northman to be a coward but he is hiding a dark and violent past that will shock even her. They track three of the bandits to a tavern in a small town. As they go to confront the attackers Lamb has some words for Shy 'Stay out of my way. You got to promise me that' an odd thing for Lamb to say but when Lamb faltered she would pick up what needed doing. Things don't turn out as Shy expects and she starts to believe Lamb is not all he seems, as they leave Shy says to Lamb 'Your name hasn't always been Lamb, has it'?
'We all got a past he replies' as he scratches the stump of his missing middle finger.
And there we have the return of the Bloody Nine, the story is not told from his viewpoint but from the people around him and we don't get the intense description that tells of his descent into the red mist. This doesn't detract the story in anyway as Shy South is a wry character with a dry sense of humour, she is forthright and doesn't hold back, and more than grabs the attention of the reader.
This is Abercrombie at his best the dialogue stands out as clever, dark as ever and witty. Both the plot and the characters are excellent, there are elements of searching for redemption as Temple the mercenary lawyer who has run from everything in his life attempts to do something worthwhile, becoming central to the plot.
All in all a well written, well paced, bloody and brutal tale in a lawless land and I hope this is not the last we hear of the bloody nine.