Red Country is the title of Joe Abercrombie's sixth novel. It was released on Thursday, October 18th, 2012 in the U.K. and on Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 in the U.S.
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 alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer, Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust...
The past never stays buried...
Warning! Spoilers! This section contains plot details.
Shy South and her stepfather Lamb live in a farmstead south of the little town Squaredeal in the Near Country, a lawless and largely unsettled land west of Starikland. After provisioning in town, Shy and Lamb come back to find their farm burned to the ground, their old friend Gully hanged and the two children Ro and Pit gone. With their old life gone up in smoke, they follow the kidnappers to get the children back. In pursuit on their ox-cart, they come across more burned farms and meet young Leef, who has also lost a younger brother to the kidnappers. At a tavern in the town of Averstock, they find three men who have left the band of kidnappers, and Lamb kills two of them with a surprising amount of skill and violence. From the third, they learn that the kidnappers have been stealing children from all over the Near Country, and that their leader Grega Cantliss has a buyer somewhere past Crease, a mining town in the mountains west of the Far Country, past the Sokwaya river. They ride off on the three kidnappers' horses, but a man from the tavern catches up to them and introduces himself as Dab Sweet, the renowned scout, and offers the three of them a position in the travelling Fellowship he is paid to guide to Crease. At this point we learn that Lamb is missing a finger.
Meanwhile, the infamous captain general Nicomo Cosca and his mercenary band the Company of the Gracious Hand have just aided the Union army in quelling the rebellion in Starikland. After the final attack on Muldova, Cosca is hired by Inquisitor Lorsen and Superior Pike of the Union Inquisition to continue into the Near Country in search of the rebel leader Conthus while rooting out rebels who may have fled past the borders. The Company marches across the hills to Squaredeal, where they burn buildings and massacre townsfolk.
At the Company's next stop in the town of Averstock, Cosca's lawyer Temple experiences an attack of conscience. Together with his friend Sufeen, Temple enters Averstock ahead of the company to give the townsfolk a chance to surrender. A pair of rebels corner them, and Sufeen is stabbed. Meanwhile, the Company charges the town despite having promised Temple they would hold off for one hour. Averstock goes the same way as Squaredeal, with raping, looting, and pillaging. A disgusted Temple deserts the Company. Starved and cold, he comes across Caul Shivers in the forest and shares his campfire. In the morning, Temple and Shivers are attacked by Ghosts (native tribesmen of the Far Country), and Temple falls down a ravine into a rushing river.
Dab Sweet introduces Shy, Lamb and Leef to the Fellowship of Abram Majud, filled with people who all have their own reasons for going to Crease. Majud himself is transporting a forge invented by his partner Curnsbick, which he intends to use to set up shop in Crease. Shy asks everyone in the Fellowship if they've seen Ro and Pit, but comes up empty. Later, Shy fishes Temple from the river at a crossing. Majud will only let Temple into the Fellowship if Shy pays for him, leaving Temple to work off his debt to Shy by performing odd jobs, mostly riding drag after the herd of animals.
On the road to Crease, the Fellowship reaches the Imperial bridge at Sictus, a ruined old structure now held by a father and son who have fortified it and now claim to own it. Shy and Temple haggle with the boy and his father and strike a deal for the Fellowship's passage. North of the bridge, we learn that Sweet is secretly in talks with the ghost tribe of Sangeed to attack the Fellowship and split the earnings from loot or ransom. A storm passes by, and the Fellowship's preacher dies under stampeding cattle. Temple proves his worth to the others when he delivers a prayer, and later accompanies Shy, Sweet, Crying Rock and Leef on a hunting expedition, where he teaches Leef how to skin an animal. Ghosts attack them, killing Leef. The others retreat to the wagons. The Fellowship is sorely pressed, but despite losses they drive the attackers away. A few members of the Fellowship meet with Sangeed to discuss a truce, during which Lamb leaps over the fire and kills Sangeed. The Ghosts retreat.
Crease is a mining town where gold prospectors drink, gamble and whore their fortunes away. The town is divided between Papa Ring and The Mayor, who hate each other. After years of hostilities they have agreed to put on a fight in a month's time to decide who will rule the town and who will leave. Papa Ring has hired the famous prize-fighter Glama Golden to fight for him, while The Mayor hires Lamb on Dab Sweet's recommendation. In the meantime, Shy asks around for Cantliss and the children, and finds that Cantliss is an associate of Papa Ring's but hasn't been seen in Crease for some time.
Temple is contracted by Majud to build his and Curnsbick's shop, thereby honing his skills at carpentry. Though he is tempted to run away from his debt to Shy, he sees the project through. As the house is finished, he is also contracted by the Mayor to draft a legal document signing Crease to the Old Empire instead of to the Union. Flush with money, he pays off his debt to Shy. The night after Majud's new house is completed, Temple and Shy get drunk and end up in bed together. The next morning, Grega Cantliss kicks in the door to their room at the inn. Temple dives out the window in fear, allowing Cantliss to take Shy hostage.
As the fight between Lamb and Golden begins, a member of Majud's Fellowship named Savian makes his way into Papa Ring's house and rescues Shy. Lamb brutally kills Golden. With his victory, The Mayor's associates attack the rest of Crease, burning down most of Papa Ring's side of the street. Papa Ring is hanged, and with Cantliss captured Shy and Lamb prepare to go into the mountains after Ro and Pit. However, Nicomo Cosca comes into town, upsetting the balance of power with his mercenaries. Cosca wants Cantliss to guide him to the Dragon People, who he believes have a fortune in gold.
Shy and Lamb take Cantliss to find the Dragon People, with Sweet, Crying Rock and Cosca's group alongside. Along the way they encounter the leader of the Dragon People, Waerdinur, as he bathes in the Seeking Pool. Lamb threatens blood if Waerdinur does not give up Pit and Ro in three days. Waerdinur refuses, telling him the children are Dragon People now.
Waerdinur sends eighty warriors to track down and kill the outsiders, leaving the Dragon People's home city of Ashranc poorly defended. Meanwhile, Lamb and Shy decide to attack Ashranc before the three days are up, arriving after Waerdinur's warriors are gone. The warriors meet Nicamo Cosca and his Company in the village of Beacon, where Cosca achieves victory thanks to the cannons given him by Superior Pike.
In Ashranc, Lamb and Shy fight their way underground, where they find evidence of the geothermal activity which has caused infertility in the Dragon People and led them to purchase stolen children from Grega Cantliss. In a treasure chamber divided by a deep chasm and spanned by a bridge, they find mountains of treasure along with a huge mechanical dragon, an ancient artifact said to have been built by Kanedias, the Master Maker. Lamb meets Waerdinur on the bridge, and the two face off in combat. Ro, having developed an attachment to Waerdinur, jumps in and stabs Lamb. Lamb flies into his Bloody-Nine state where he cannot tell friend from foe, and nearly kills Ro before Waerdinur jumps in the way to take the grievous wound on Ro's behalf. Friendly, Savian, and Sweet restrain Lamb until his berserker rage wears off. As Waerdinur dies, he says “We only wanted what was best for them”, while Ro clings to him in tears. Lamb takes Waerdinur’s sword made by the Master Maker for his own.
Ro later tires to escape with the rest of the children, but Lamb catches her. They return to Beacon, where the mercenaries celebrate and hang Cantliss. Savian is revealed to be a rebel and arrested. Sweet, Shy, Lamb, and the others begin the journey home, but once Lamb has taken them far enough to be out of harms way he goes back to save Savian. Shy goes with him, finding Temple in Beacon and asking for his help. Lamb rescues Savian, and the two team up to attack the mercenaries while Dab Sweet unleashes a herd of horses to cause chaos and Shy and Temple steal Cosca's carriage containing most of the gold stolen from the Dragon People. Savian dies in the fight, but Lamb escapes. A few of Cosca's men chase the treasure wagon on horseback. Temple takes the reins while Shy fights them off, but before she can kill them all Temple crashes the carriage.
Before Cosca's men can kill Temple and Shy, the rebel leader Conthus shows up with her men and kills the mercenaries. Conthus had been posing as a woman named Corlin, traveling with Savian under the guise of his niece. Conthus and her rebels take the gold, allowing Shy and Temple to return to Crease mostly empty-handed. With Cosca and his remaining men after them, they enlist the help of the Mayor and an aging actor named Iosiv Lestek to arrange an elaborate ruse. When Cosca and Inquisitor Lorsen show up, Lestek poses as Imperial Legate Sarmis, a war leader of the Old Empire with a fearsome reputation. With ten ordinary townsfolk dressed in costume to pose as Sarmis's personal guard, Lestek uses the treaty Temple drafted for the Mayor to declare the town of Crease an annexed territory of the Old Empire, thereby protecting them from any harm by the Union. Under strict orders from his Union superiors not to provoke the Old Empire, Inquisitor Lorsen has Cosca arrested and withdraws from the territory.
Lamb returns to Crease, and they all decide to leave since the Mayor tells them she doesn't want them there. Cosca and Friendly, having somehow escaped Lorsen, waylay them on the road back and threaten to kill hostages unless they surrender the gold they no longer possess. Temple manages to diffuse the situation by speaking candidly with Cosca, who regrets the way he's led his life. Spillion Sworbreck, a writer and historian traveling with Cosca to document his exploits, finally becomes so fed up with Cosca's behavior he stabs him in the chest. Cosca struggles to remember the last words he's prepared for the occasion of his own death. Just as he remembers what they were, he dies.
Lamb, Shy, Temple, Ro and Pit make their way back to Squaredeal and settle there. Temple goes into business as a lawyer/carpenter. Shy buys the town's general store, and Lamb keeps his sword by his side. One day Caul Shivers shows up in town, having been searching for Lamb in the name of vengeance for a long time. When he sees that Lamb now has a family and has left his old way of life behind, Shivers decides not to fight him and returns to the North. Lamb immediately packs his things and gets ready to leave. He justifies this as the safe thing to do for them but Shy tells him that he's leaving for himself. Lamb admits it, embraces them and says a few kind words and climbs his horse to go. Shy tells him she's always said he's some kind of coward. Lamb says he never denied it, and heads off into the sunset.
POV Character Edit
- Shy South, a young woman with a shady past looking for her younger siblings
- Temple, lawyer at the Company of the Gracious Hand
- Ro South, the sister of Shy, who has been kidnapped by bandits
Other Character Edit
- Lamb, a weathered man with an even darker past, Shy's step-father
- Pit South, the brother of Shy, who has been kidnapped by bandits
- Leef, a young boy looking for his brother
- Grega Cantliss, a bandit
- Abram Majud, a metalsmith and leader of a Fellowship to the Far Country
- Dab Sweet, the famous scout of the Far Country
- Crying Rock, the companion of Sweet
- Iosiv Lestek, the famous actor travelling to a cultural extravaganza in Crease
- Savian, a shady character, possibly a rebel
- Corlin, Savian's niece
- Lord and Lady Ingelstad, nobels fallen on hard times
- Sangeed, the feared leader of a Ghost tribe
- Nicomo Cosca, captain general of the Company of the Gracious Hand
- Sergeant Friendly, the First Sergeant of the Company
- Sufeen, an idealistic scout in the Company
- Spillion Sworbreck, a writer and Cosca's biographer
- General Brint, leader of the Union army fighting the rebels at Mulkova
- Superior Pike, the head if the Inquisition in Starikland who hires the Company
- Inquisitor Lorsen, a member of the Inquisition
- Conthus, the legendary leader of the Starikland Rebellion
- The Mayor, the saloon owner of The Mayor's Church of Dice
- Papa Ring, the saloon owner of the Whitehouse
- Waerdinur, the kind-looking leader of the Dragon People
- Caul Shivers, a man seeking a nine fingered Northman
Returning characters marked in bold.