Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Review: Acacia: Book 1: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham

As I type this, it is the 14th of August, and on the evening of the 12th, at around ten minutes to one (yes, it was early morning), I finally read the last sentence of Acacia and closed the book. Setting it aside was both a relief and a chore, and not for the reasons you might think.

I remember sitting there, smoking a cigarette, thinking, David, that’s not fair, not fair at all! How can you give us a novel like this and then expect us to have to wait to read the next book? I laughed at myself and realized that I’m not the only one who had this reaction, and knew that David Anthony Durham had accomplished exactly what he wanted to accomplish; he had written a book that people would not stop thinking about when they set it down.(And I now find myself in a quandary; I now have The Painted Man and Acacia filling my head!)

Acacia ­revolves around the story of the Akaran’s, being King Leodan (Bitter but resolved to right ancient wrongs), and his children, Aliver (oldest son and next in line for the throne), Corinn (oldest daughter and stunningly beautiful), Mena (Youngest daughter and most emotionally sensitive) and Darian (Youngest son). The Akaran dynasty has been in control of Acacia (which is situated on an island) and the surrounding lands for centuries, having subdued the weaker cultures that live on the mainland by means both fair and foul, but they are all in for a surprise: the Akaran’s ancient enemy, the Meins (who were exiled to the far north of the continent) have plans to take vengeance on the ruling family. It is the story of how these plans unfold and affect the central characters that the book is about.

As I’m sure others had found during and after reading Acacia, Durham’s first fantasy novel is an intense read; this is no sit-back-and-drift read, but I say this with admiration. Durham draws us in emotionally, using characterization and POV so well that you feel what the characters are feeling, and since this novel revolves around the terrible affliction of war and the pain and confusion that spring from it, you end up feeling battered and bruised and elated and teary-eyed, laughing out loud when the characters do and gritting your teeth in determination as the characters are. I can honestly say that I have never been so exhausted by a novel, and this is especially strange for me because of the fact that I enjoyed it so much. :-)

That being said, Durham also knows how to write battle scenes, scenes filled with romance, humour, tragedy (especially after a shocking act in the third chapter) and sheer wonder. The ways in which Durham uses the fantasy staples of epic battles, the progress toward one’s destiny, and magic are new and refreshingly unique, and one of the many things that Durham does incredibly well is blur the lines between good and evil – every character has a bad and a good side, some of the good ones show their true colours and the bad ones make us wonder at our own misconceptions of what we have been raised to know is evil. I can’t help but think that Acacia is going to become one of the truly excellent fantasy books of this generation, but Durham has his work cut out for him for sure; after starting with such a powerful opener, he’s got to have some incredible things planned for Book 2, ­The Other Lands. I don’t think he will disappoint, though. :-)

I almost wish that these authors would give us a break sometimes! Erikson, Brooks, Jordan, Brett, Martin, Durham; hell, how many writers are we going to get hooked on?! :-)


To get more info on David on his work, click this link; for those in the US, order your copy here, for those in the UK, click here, and for those in SA, click here.

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