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Acacia: The Acacia Trilogy, Book One [Paperback]

David Anthony Durham
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 17 2012 Acacia Trilogy (Book 1)

The first book in David Anthony Durham’s acclaimed fantasy series, the Acacia Trilogy—a timeless tale of heroism and betrayal, of treachery and revenge, of primal wrongs and ultimate redemption.

Leodan Akaran, ruler of the Known World, has inherited generations of apparent peace and prosperity, won ages ago by his ancestors. A widower of high intelligence, he presides over an empire called Acacia, after the idyllic island from which he rules. He dotes on his four children and hides from them the dark realities of traffic in drugs and human lives on which their prosperity depends. He hopes that he might change this, but powerful forces stand in his way. And then a deadly assassin sent from a race called the Mein, exiled long ago to an ice-locked stronghold in the frozen north, strikes at Leodan in the heart of Acacia while they unleash surprise attacks across the empire. On his deathbed, Leodan puts into play a plan to allow his children to escape, each to their own destiny. And so his children begin a quest to avenge their father's death and restore the Acacian empire—this time on the basis of universal freedom. Forced to flee to distant corners and separated against their will, the children must navigate a web of hidden allegiances, ancient magic, foreign invaders, and illicit trade that will challenge their very notion of who they are. As they come to understand their true purpose in life, the fate of the world lies in their hands.


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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this sprawling and vividly imagined fantasy, historical novelist Durham (Pride of Carthage) chronicles the downfall and reinvention of the Akaran Dynasty, whose empire, called Acacia, was built on conquest, slaving and drug trade. The Acacian empire, encompassing "The Known World," is hated by its subjugated peoples, especially the Mein, who 22 generations earlier were exiled to the icy northland. Having sent an assassin to kill the Acacian king, Leodan, the rebel chieftain, Hanish Mein, declares war on the empire. As Acacia falls, Leodan's treasonous but conflicted chancellor, Thaddeus Clegg, spirits the king's four children to safety. When the Mein's rule proves even more tyrannical than the old, the former chancellor seeks to reunite the now adult Akaran heirs—the oldest son Aliver (once heir to the throne), the beautiful elder daughter Corinn, their younger sister, Mena, and youngest brother, Dariel—to lead a war to regain the empire. Durham has created a richly detailed alternate reality leavened with a dollop of magic and populated by complicated personalities grappling with issues of freedom and oppression. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The outwardly idyllic life of widower Leodan Arkan, ruler of the Known World, and his four children belies the underlying darkness of drug and slave trafficking that supports the kingdom's prosperity. Meanwhile, in the frigid north the long-exiled Mein are planning the war they inaugurate by assassinating Leodan at a public gathering. The tension is palpable as the enemy forces make their move. Rampant intrigue and treachery place the lives of the Arkan children in great danger, and they are spirited away—scattered to the four winds—in hopes of keeping them safe. None of the four knows where the others are, and each has to discover his or her own destiny. But all are determined to avenge their father and restore the Acacian Empire. Durham has created a viable, vital world, his plotting is impeccable, and his characters are diverse in race and multidimensional in personality. A full-bodied history of events leading up to the situation portrayed and a well-conceived mythology are woven into the narrative, giving it even greater substance. Fortunately indeed, this is just the blockbuster beginning of the War with the Mein. Estes, Sally
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A for "Acacia" Oct. 9 2009
By Zafri M. TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
A for "Acacia" by David Anthony Durham

The pacing of the novel is fantastic. No wasted space, all interesting. Durham makes good use of events happening off-scene for dramatic effect, and he fills in the blanks that he skipped over extremely well.
The world building is where this novel shines. You learn it bit by bit and you always get the feeling there is some other mystery still be to be revealed.

A definite recommendation in the epic fantasy genre. If you have problems with swearing, sex, and violence, get this instead of GRRM's A Game of Thrones (although I would still point out that Martin's novels are some of the best fiction out there).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Please Consider THIS Review. Oct. 26 2012
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I have just finished reading Acacia by David Anthony Durham.
Here are my thoughts--the praise, and the criticisms:

First off, I'm an avid fantasy reader, (Tolkien, Martin, Jordan, Lewis, Sanderson, Durham, Novik, Paolini, Flanagan, Erikson...) so I know what I'm talking about!

So, read on, Like or Dislike, Comment, and Read my other fantasy reviews!
...

1. Aren't the Akarans partly based on the Starks?

My reasoning went thus:
Leodan Akaran--Eddard Stark
Aliver Akaran--Robb Stark
Corinn Akaran--Sansa Stark
Mena Akaran--Arya Stark
Dariel Akaran--Bran\Rickon Stark.
The parallels go further.

*SPOILER*
Eddard Stark and Leodan Akaran are both killed, and their children separate.
Aliver and Robb are both killed.
*SPOILER ENDS*

Corinn and Sansa are both lady-like and both don't really leave civilization.
Mena and Arya are both tom-boyish, good fighters.
So, is it coincidence, or is there a similarity between the Akarans and the Starks?

2. Good World-building.

The land Acacia takes place in is exceptionally well-built by today's standards.
The best fantasy worlds always seem to fit together. Everything makes sense--the allegiances, the past battles, the armies...
Acacia was like this, due in part to DD's career as a historian.
I always say, "Fantasy Should Have Ground in Reality."
UNLIKE Brandon Sanderson's land of Roshar, (Read my review on the subject) The Known World fulfills this rule perfectly.

It feels like a world that could have existed, there isn't a WHOLE LOT of magic in the first book. Just enough to make it believable, and at the same time give you no doubt that it's fantasy you're reading.
Read more ›
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent worldbuilding Jan. 18 2012
By dom
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I really liked the world of Acacia and the political structure built by Durham. The Acacian Empire is not benevolent although the people in it a highly likable... good book
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  148 reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richly Imagined Characters and World July 10 2007
By Scott Masterton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Will Durant said: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within". It was true of Rome and is equally true of David Anthony Durham's mythical land of Accia.

'Acacia' is Durham's first professional trip into the world of fantasy...and what a trip it is. The story follows the lives of four royal children raised by a father that has insulated them from all the darkness in the world. The Empire is built upon slavery and trade in a highly addictive opiate called Mist. The children see none of this and are spoonfed idealistic stories about the nobility of their family line and the Divine right by which their family rules. Their idealistic, loving but deeply flawed father is eventually assassinated in a successful attempt at overthrowing the dynasty that has been in place for generations.

Each of the Akaron Children is secreted to different corners of the Empire where they develop new skills and more importantly, new perceptions of the world that once had been theirs to rule. The lessons here are numerous. Good and evil are a shell game; concepts that become more and more "muddy" as each of the children sees the beauty as well as the darkness in cultures not their own. These newly developed abilities, perceptions and allies may collectively return them to power, but more importantly, balance a world filled with inequaties (much like our own). Moral pitfalls fill this novel and it becomes clear how difficult it is to juggle idealism and the power to transform those ideals into reality.

This is the 'Heroes Journey' in true Joseph Campbell fashion. Filled with political meanings and starkly human motivations, 'Acacia' could very well join Frank Herbert's 'Dune' as one of the most influential novels in Fantasy/Science Fiction. The book is fleshed out by Durham's mastery of the language and one cannot help but compare this book favorably to George R.R. Martin's Fire and Ice series. Like Martin, Durham is not afraid to create a fantasy world with real grit and meaning. There are many lessons for our time in this book and it's easy to tell that Durham's previous novels were historical in nature and it's difficult not to draw parallels between the current state of affairs in the world and this story.

This is a dynamite novel (in any genre) and if Durham is able to hold true to his vision in the future 'Acacia' books this is well on it's way to becoming classic literature. I can hardly wait for book two!
58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great start, woeful middle, who knows about the end June 28 2007
By Troy Vitullo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I agree a lot with M. Borchelt's review. However I have to say the first third of this book was the best first third of a book I've read in a long long time. Great action, wonderful character development, excellent details that help the reader visualize scenes and conversations in ways that other authors haven't touched.

With such a deep knowledge of human character then, how could the book degenerate into such pap? Every one of the four main characters who were written so insightfully as children become cardboard cutouts of various comic book/fantasy/romance characters by the end of the second third of the book. By that point, any cliffhangers become meaningless because I was truly hoping he would kill them off and start over.

By the last third, even the (mostly) well-written villains become automotons.

The plot has similar problems. It advances well and quickly in the first third of the book, begins faltering in the second third, and then becomes just a repetition of the same formula by the third piece. At this point each chapter becomes almost the same in format. It starts with few pages discussing where the plot is, maybe drawing some history into it, or else just focusing on a vapid character's obsessive and/or meandering thoughts, then it proceeds to the expected piece of action or dialog that shoves the plot onto the next step.

The action in the first third of the book is exquisite. It's realistically written, hard-edged to the point that when one fairly ludicrous fight comes along (man vs giant) I was swept right along with it and believed it.

By the middle third the action is humdrum; people severing limbs with sabers, for instance, or one person taking on four and not receiving a scratch. A main character trains in sword-work and becomes a master in weeks (if not days ... it's hard to tell how he advances time). Things like that completely sever my suspension of disbelief.

This book had so much potential.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange Aug. 30 2011
By RG69 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was a strange one for me. The book is well written and the author is certainly talented. The story ideas are there. I did read the whole thing, but I was never engrossed in the story. When I really love a book I will put it down, but find myself thinking about what may happen next. I will then find time to pick it up again because I can't wait to find out. I didn't find a single character I really liked or cared about in Acacia. I also didn't like the way the dependence on the drug Mist was handled. I think it is a brilliant idea in a fantasy novel, but it is touched upon without proper reasoning. If most of the world is addicted to this drug I think it would have more ramifications then what was said in the book. The author uses it as a good plot point to give the League(the drug supplier) a point of power, but he never expounds on a world of addicts. If most people in the U.S. were addicted to crack, I think people would act differently. I think that was my main problem with the story. The League is so strong because they supply the drug and everyone needs it, but aside from one or two examples you don't read about people using the drug. Nor do you ever get anything about the drug effects. No withdrawals for those without it, no broken down old addicts. It is not nearly explored enough and just feels like a plot point made to give the League strength. I may pick up the second novel and hope the writer goes deeper.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does Durham have something against dialogue? Jan. 15 2009
By Pharaoh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This was like a fantasy history book. Too much telling, not enough showing. In one chapter Spratling and his crew are discussing how to attack a League platform. Instead of writing the entire conversation like a normal person, Durham just writes a couple of lines and exposits in-between. Not only does that make it seem like he doesn't care about his characters, it makes it seem like the characters do stuff just for the sake of moving the plot forward. I thought the whole downfall of Acacia was rushed; there's a plague that kills off half the population (and a minor character) and it's only briefly mentioned and then forgotten about. No emotional impact whatsoever. And then in the second half Mena, Dariel and Alivar become Mary Sue's. Not good.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated, Complex, Gritty, Epic Fantasy Aug. 11 2007
By A. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
For those who like their epic fantasy more along the gritty lines of George R. R. Martin's Fire and Ice series, this is highly recommended. Set in a diverse, highly realized world and chock full of political, economic, cultural and social conflicts, written with great sophistication and complexity, it enriches the basic story of a flawed by wise king who is assassinated, leaving his four children to deal with treachery and plots and a ruthless enemy, the Mein, who seem to almost walk over the Acacians, who have ruled for centuries.

Nine years later and the four children have survived, despite all odds. One is captive of the Mein, ruled by Hanish, now the Emperor of Acacia. The others have grown up, scattered to the far parts of the diverse Empire, which rules the Known World. A daunting task is before them. Can they fight back against the Meins, who have seemingly taken over the running of the Empire with few problems and have had nine years to entrench their position? Should they? The Mein have powerful allies. They have had a long grievance against the rulers of Acacia, who have wronged them and others and have held power through slavery and trade in narcotics. However, the Mein haven't changed anything, they have simply replaced one set of rulers for another. In the spirit of their dead father, the remaining siblings don't want to simply regain their power, but to remake Acacia for the better.

Nothing, though, is black and white. To regain power, they may have to ally themselves with sorcerers who have been exiled by Acacian forebears at the beginnings of their history--sorcerers whose intent may be good but whose power is warped and evil. Meanwhile, the Mein, while not changing things for the better, are certainly no worse than the old regime. Yet one of their goals is to spill the blood of the Acacian heirs in order to bring back their ancestors who are hungry spirits desiring nothing but bloody vengeance.

Amidst battles and bloodshed, dark sorcery, dangerous rites of passage, sea raids and battles, tribal battles for leadership, strange gods and goddesses, plots and treachery, the four heirs and a myriad of secondary characters live and fight and love... Empires rise and fall... and in the Unknown Lands, plots and kingdoms stir, affecting Acacia. The first book is long and meaty and covers more than enough to be satisfying on its own. Knowing that this is the first book of a series is almost overwhelming, but still very welcome
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