Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Acacia by David Anthony Durham

Acacia: The War with the Mein, the first book in the Acacia Trilogy by David Anthony Durham, opens with an assassin setting off on a quest to the capital in order to free his people from a harsh conqueror. He travels from the harsh winter of his homeland to the brighter climate of the central part of the Akkadian Empire. This introduction provides a sweeping glance of the sprawling world Durham has created, while introducing the Mein, the race that will form such a key part of the novel.

Acacia is a successful first book in a trilogy. In addition to introducing the Akkadian empire as well as the many other people who inhabit the world, the reader also learns of, the magic system. It is one that remains quite low-key but which still leads to an awe-inspiring scene later in the book. An array of characters are also introduced; all of them interesting, most of them flawed, and a few of them heroic. In this, Durham can certainly be compared to the current king of character driven fantasy, George R.R Martin. From reading Acacia, I would say that he could give Martin a run for his money.

Leodan’s children, the main characters of the book, lives form the spine of the story. Each one of them is different, but each one ended up being a character I came to love. Their father, Leodan, one of my favourite characters, is king of this vast empire, a man who loves his children, but who is involved in a dark and loathsome deal with the devil. Hannish Mein, a character I think everyone can love to hate, is the ruler of the Mein and capable of both great love and great cruelty. His quest to fulfill the desires of his undead ancestors forms a major part of Acacia. It’s not just the characters that are well-written, but the world itself is richly developed. Durham’s earlier historical novels obviously prepared him for the world building he has done in this story, and the history of the Akkadian Empire resonates throughout.

The story itself is told in three parts – the lead-up to Leodan’s assassination and the scattering of his children; the lives of his four children in the years following that assassination; and the gathering of those children with all of the consequences that holds for the empire their father lost. Throughout, Durham plays with the reader’s expectations, leading you down what seems a very familiar road, only to throw a bag over your head, spin you round five times, and then pull the rug out of from under your feet. The surprises might leave you reeling, but they make for an intriguing, exciting novel.

Ultimately, Acacia tells an intriguing story, as well as setting up a fantastic world for further exploration in subsequent books. Durham certainly sets a high bar for the follow-up, The Other Lands. I can’t wait to dive back in.

Release Date: June 27th 2007  Pages: 763  Format: Paperback 
Source: Purchased  Publisher: Random House Buy It: Book Depository

This is a review by Joel. You can find him here on Goodreads or on Twitter @RavenusReader 

1 comment:

  1. Joel, loved the way you discussed both characters and magical system in your review. Good to hear these potentially confusing elements were successful--that's the kind of fantasy I can get behind!


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