"A choice between killing and dying ain't no choice at all."
is likely my favorite fantasy fiction read to come out of the Big publishers this year (Orbit) I still mean to read a few more from TOR and PYR, but this will be pretty tough to beat.
Anyone else I really liked (published this year) is almost certainly indie.
I don't like giving away spoilers, but there are a few caveats to Abercombies books. The three standalone novels, Best Served Cold, The Heroes and Red Country could be read without having read the First Law Trilogy, but would be much better appreciated IF you have read them. A lot of back-story could be understood, but the true appreciation and context just won't be there.
They are rough, called Grim Dark by some, but I never felt like it was as nihilistic as others have claimed. Brutal perhaps, but in my mind no more so than Unforgiven and not even as terrible and gut wrenching as another favorite of mine =Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.
In any case, Red Country is absolutely a western set within Abercrombies fantasy world. It works as any western should, minus the gunpowder. Every scene and confrontation on the plains or saloon easily felt like it belonged in that American tradition.
Living in the Inter-mountain west, I caught quite a few nuances showing Abercrombies research and attention to detail that I think could have easily been passed over by other storytellers, but for me - it fit. It showed how close and true he worked to make this a great western with realistic touches ~ you have to be realistic.
Without spoiling too much, anyone that has read the books knows that the character laying the biggest mark in Abercrombies universe is Logen, 'The Bloody Nine' Ninefingers, and we've been missing him and wondering what happened to him for the last couple books.
He is back-anyone with any sense will know it is him in the first couple pages, so that's no spoiler. But he has tried to put his past behind him and everyone knows him now as "Lamb" the coward.
But when his step son and daughter are kidnapped, there is gonna be hell to pay and the sleeping giant is awakened.
It was just a little slow going in the beginning (not unlike The Heroes) but once things started to happen-Did they ever.
So many scenes and chapters erupting in my head that I'd love to mention but just can't yet, so many that made me want to cheer and laugh. Abercrombie has a wonderful knack for setting things up that make you so sure on how they will turn out and then turning them on its ear and twisting it upside down. Highly, highly recommended.
I so wish I could get my hands on the UK cover (above) these US covers are seriously lame, I wish a marketing rep could see that, all three of the US stand-alones have terrible covers, why is it so hard to just keep the brilliant UK ones? This US cover tells you nothing, shows nothing, and a basket-hilt rapier swung two-handed? Give me a break.
Abercrombie is a little slower on getting books out, The Heroes was released in February of last year, but I am so anticipating the next one already even if it will likely be 2014.
Unlike some of Abercrombies other books, this had a map-that only made me anticipate a wider travelogue than we received, not a big deal except for the tantalization of what might occur where - I kept expecting something to go on in the rock formation (canyon lands) The Three Emperors, but nothing did, just my being map happy I guess.
Now I've got a hankering to watch some of my favorite westerns while finishing up my Thanksgiving pie and turkey.