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Authors: Joe Abercrombie

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Red Country

BOOK: Red Country
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Praise for Joe Abercrombie


The Heroes
is an indictment of war and the duplicity that corrupts men striving for total power: bloody and violent, but never gratuitously so, it’s imbued
with cutting humour, acute characterisation and world-weary wisdom about the weaknesses of the human race. Brilliant’

The Guardian

‘The futility of settling arguments by violence is the clear message of
The Heroes
, making it an anti-war war story – which I suppose all the best war
stories are, really – but it’s also a very strong continuation of his excellent previous books. Highly recommended both for fantasy readers and lovers of Cornwell and
Iggulden’

Bookgeeks

‘[
The Heroes
is a] blood-drenched, thought-provoking dissection of a three-day battle is set in the same world as Abercrombie’s
First Law Trilogy
but
stands very well alone . . . Abercrombie never glosses over a moment of the madness, passion, and horror of war, nor the tribulations that turn ordinary people into the titular heroes’

Publishers Weekly

‘Joe Abercrombie’s
Best Served Cold
is a bloody and relentless epic of vengeance and obsession in the grand tradition, a kind of splatterpunk sword ’n
sorcery
Count of Monte Cristo
, Dumas by way of Moorcock. His cast features tyrants and torturers, a pair of poisoners, a serial killer, a treacherous drunk, a red-handed warrior and a
blood-soaked mercenary captain. And those are the good guys . . . The battles are vivid and visceral, the action brutal, the pace headlong, and Abercrombie piles the betrayals, reversals, and plot
twists one atop another to keep us guessing how it will all come out. This is his best book yet’

George R. R. Martin

‘Abercrombie writes dark, adult fantasy, by which I mean there’s a lot of stabbing in it, and after people stab each other they sometimes have sex with each other.
His tone is morbid and funny and hard-boiled, not wholly dissimilar to that of Iain Banks . . . And like George R. R. Martin Abercrombie has the will and the cruelty to actually kill and maim his
characters . . . Volumetrically speaking, it’s hard to think of another fantasy novel in which this much blood gets spilled’

Lev Grossman,
Time Magazine

‘Joe Abercrombie is probably the brightest star among the new generation of British fantasy writers . . . Abercrombie writes a vivid, well-paced tale that never loosens
its grip. His action scenes are cinematic in the best sense, and the characters are all distinct and interestingly different’

The Times

‘Overall this is an immediately rewarding experience. There are reveals in the final third that are unexpected yet satisfyingly logical. The stand-alone nature of this
installment should attract new readers, and its tight, uncompromising focus makes for an absorbing read.
Best Served Cold
? Modern fantasy doesn’t get much hotter than this’

SFX

‘The books are good, really good. They pulled me in. Well-developed world. Unique, compelling characters. I like them so much that when I got to the end of the second
book and found out the third book wasn’t going to be out in the US for another three months, I experienced a fit of rage, then a fit of depression, then I ate some lunch and had a bit of a
lay down’

Patrick Rothfuss on
The First Law Trilogy

 

 

 

 

 

For Teddy

And Clint Eastwood

But since Clint probably ain’t that bothered

Mostly Teddy

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

Cover

Praise for Joe Abercrombie

Title Page

Dedication

I: T
ROUBLE

Some Kind of Coward

The Easy Way

Just Men

The Best Man

All Got a Past

The Stolen

II: F
ELLOWSHIP

Conscience and the Cock-Rot

New Lives

The Rugged Outdoorsman

Driftwood

Reasons

Oh God, the Dust

Sweet’s Crossing

Dreams

The Wrath of God

The Practical Thinkers

The Fair Price

III: C
REASE

Hell on the Cheap

Plots

Words and Graces

That Simple

Yesterday’s News

Blood Coming

The Sleeping Partner

Fun

High Stakes

Old Friends

Nowhere to Go

IV: D
RAGONS

In Threes

Among the Barbarians

Bait

Savages

The Dragon’s Den

Greed

V: T
ROUBLE

The Tally

Going Back

Answered Prayers

Sharp Ends

Nowhere Fast

Times Change

The Cost

Last Words

Some Kind of Coward

 

Acknowledgements

Also by Joe Abercrombie

Copyright

 

 

 

 

Some Kind of Coward

 

 

 

 


G
old.’ Wist made the word sound like a mystery there was no solving. ‘Makes men mad.’

Shy nodded. ‘Those that ain’t mad already.’

They sat in front of Stupfer’s Meat House, which might’ve sounded like a brothel but was actually the worst place to eat within fifty miles, and that with some fierce competition.
Shy perched on the sacks in her wagon and Wist on the fence, where he always seemed to be, like he’d such a splinter in his arse he’d got stuck there. They watched the crowd.

‘I came here to get away from people,’ said Wist.

Shy nodded. ‘Now look.’

Last summer you could’ve spent all day in town and not seen two people you didn’t know. You could’ve spent some days in town and not seen two people. A lot can change with a
few months and a gold find. Now Squaredeal was bursting at its ragged seams with bold pioneers. One-way traffic, headed west towards imagined riches, some charging through fast as the clutter would
allow, some stopping off to add their own share of commerce and chaos. Wagon-wheels clattered, mules nickered and horses neighed, livestock honked and oxen bellowed. Men, women and children of all
races and stations did plenty of their own honking and bellowing too, in every language and temper. It might’ve been quite the colourful spectacle if everywhere the blown dust hadn’t
leached each tone to that same grey ubiquity of dirt.

Wist sucked a noisy mouthful from his bottle. ‘Quite the variety, ain’t there?’

Shy nodded. ‘All set on getting something for nothing.’

All struck with a madness of hope. Or of greed, depending on the observer’s faith in humanity, which in Shy’s case stood less than brim-full. All drunk on the chance of reaching into
some freezing pool out there in the great empty and plucking up a new life with both hands. Leaving their humdrum selves behind on the bank like a shed skin and taking a short cut to happiness.

‘Tempted to join ’em?’ asked Wist.

Shy pressed her tongue against her front teeth and spat through the gap between. ‘Not me.’ If they made it across the Far Country alive, the odds were stacked high they’d spend
a winter up to their arses in ice water and dig up naught but dirt. And if lightning did strike the end of your spade, what then? Ain’t like rich folk got no trouble.

There’d been a time Shy thought she’d get something for nothing. Shed her skin and step away smiling. Turned out sometimes the short cut don’t lead quite where you hoped, and
cuts through bloody country, too.

‘Just the rumour o’ gold turns ’em mad.’ Wist took another swallow, the knobble on his scrawny neck bobbing, and watched two would-be prospectors wrestle over the last
pickaxe at a stall while the trader struggled vainly to calm them. ‘Imagine how these bastards’ll act if they ever close hands around a nugget.’

Shy didn’t have to imagine. She’d seen it, and didn’t prize the memories. ‘Men don’t need much beckoning on to act like animals.’

‘Nor women neither,’ added Wist.

Shy narrowed her eyes at him. ‘Why look at me?’

‘You’re foremost in my mind.’

‘Not sure I like being that close to your face.’

Wist showed her his tombstone teeth as he laughed, and handed her the bottle. ‘Why don’t you got a man, Shy?’

‘Don’t like men much, I guess.’

‘You don’t like anyone much.’

‘They started it.’

‘All of ’em?’

‘Enough of ’em.’ She gave the mouth of the bottle a good wipe and made sure she took only a sip. She knew how easy she could turn a sip into a swallow, and the swallow into a
bottle, and the bottle into waking up smelling of piss with one leg in the creek. There were folk counting on her, and she’d had her fill of being a disappointment.

The wrestlers had been dragged apart and were spitting insults each in their own tongue, neither quite catching the details but both getting the gist. Looked like the pick had vanished in the
commotion, more’n likely spirited away by a cannier adventurer while eyes were elsewhere.

‘Gold surely can turn men mad,’ muttered Wist, all wistful as his name implied. ‘Still, if the ground opened and offered me the good stuff I don’t suppose I’d be
turning down a nugget.’

Shy thought of the farm, and all the tasks to do, and all the time she hadn’t got for the doing of ’em, and rubbed her roughed-up thumbs against her chewed-up fingers. For the
quickest moment a trek into the hills didn’t sound such a mad notion after all. What if there really was gold up there? Scattered on some stream bed in priceless abundance, longing for the
kiss of her itchy fingertips? Shy South, luckiest woman in the Near Country . . .

BOOK: Red Country
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