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 taking kids 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 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 has just helped the Union army to quell 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 and root out rebels that may have fled past the borders and find the rebel leader Conthus. The Company marches across the hills to Squaredeal, where a massacre occurs and the town is burned down. At the next town, Averstock, Coscas lawyer Temple is troubled by his conscience and together with his friend Sufeen he goes into town ahead of the company to give the townsfolk a chance to surrender. A pair of rebels corner them, and Sufeen is stabbed while the Company charges the town despite promising Temple to hold off for one hour. Averstock goes the same way as Squaredeal, with everything in town being raped, looted and pillaged at least once. A disgusted Temple deserts the Company. Starved and cold he comes across Caul Shivers in the forests, and shares his campfire. In the morning, however, they are attacked bay Ghosts (native tribesmen of the Far Country), and Temple falls down a ravine into a rushing river.
Shy, Lamb and Leef are introduced 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 a forge at Crease. Shy asks everyone in the Fellowship of Ro and Pit but comes up with nothing. Later, Shy fishes up Temple from the river at a crossing they just passed. Majud will only let Temple into the Fellowship if Shy pays for him, leaving Temple to work off his debt to Shy doing any and all jobs needed, mostly riding drag after the herd of animals. On the road to Crease, they cross the Imperial bridge at Sictus, where Shy's and Temple's haggling lets them all across. North of the bridge, we learn that Sweet is in secret talking 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 rises in the other's estimation 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, and Leef is killed, and the others retreat to the wagons. The Fellowship is sorely pressed, but despite losses they drive the attackers away. During truce talks Lamb kills Sangeed, and 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, and The Mayor in turn hires Lamb for her side, on Dab Sweet's recommendation. In the meantime, Shy asks around for Cantliss and the children, and finds that he is an associate of Papa Ring but that he hasn't been seen in Crease for some time. Temple is contracted by Majud to build a house, and finds that he is actually pretty good at it, and 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, and at the inauguration of Majuds new house, they kiss and later end up in bed together. However, on the morning the door is kicked in and Cantliss takes Shy hostage while Temple dives out the window. As the fight between Lamb and Golden begins, Savian makes his way into Papa Ring's house and rescues Shy. Lamb brutally kills Golden, and with his victory, The Mayor's associates attacks 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, uppsetting the balance of power with his mercenaries. He also wants Cantliss, to guide him to the Dragon People, who Cosca believes have a fortune in gold.
Shy and Lamb take Cantliss to find the dragon people, with Sweet, Crying Rock and Cosca's group with them. Lamb threatens a dragon person and asks them to bring Ro and Pit in 3 days. Lamb and the group attack before the three days and kill the dragon people, Lamb going into a rage and nearly killing Shy and Ro. Ro later tires to escape but is caught by Lamb and the rest of the children flee.They go to Beacon and the mercenaries celebrate, they also hang Cantliss. Savian is shown to be a rebel and arrested, Sweet, Shy and Lamb and Co begin the journey home, Lamb goes back to save Savian. Shy asks for Temple's help. Lamb and Savian team up and attack the mercenaries. Savian dies and Shy and Temple steal a carriage full of the gold stolen off the Dragon people, Cosca and his men chase after them. The carriage crashes and Temple and Shy are saved by the rebels who take the gold.
Shy and Temple return to Crease and they know Cosca and his remaining men are coming for them searching for the gold. With the help of the Mayor and a famous but old actor, they put up an act pretending to have a contract agreement with the Old Empire that protects them from any harm from Union people. Cosca is furious and doesn't accept it but the Union's Inquisition representative, Lorsen, intervenes and takes charge as there were strict orders to not provoke the Old Empire. Fed up with Cosca for failing his mission to catch any rebels, he arrests Cosca and decides to withdraw from what he falsely considers as Old Empire territory.
Lamb later returns to Crease and they all decide to leave since the Mayor tells them she doesn't want them there. On the road back they are surprised by Cosca and Friendly who somehow escaped and are now threatening to kill hostages unless he gets the gold back. Temple manages to diffuse the situation by having an honest talk with Cosca who regrets the way he lead his life. Cosca's sidekick historian Sworbreck seizes the moment and stabs Cosca in the chest who in his last moments smiles remembering the last words he had prepared for the occasion. Friendly frowns on Cosca's dead body wondering what he should now do.
Lamb, Shy, Temple, Ro and Pit make their way back to Squaredeal and settle there; Temple setting a lawyer/carpenter service, Shy buying the town's store and Lamb keeping his sword by his side. One day Shivers appears in town, finally finding the person he's been looking for. He notices however that Lamb now has a family and that he has left his old way of life behind and decides not to fight him and return back to the North. Lamb immediately packs his stuff up 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 leave. Shy tells him she's always said he's some kind of coward, Lamb says he never denied it and heads off towards 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.