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Acacia: The Acacia Trilogy, Book One Paperback – Apr 17 2012
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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.
*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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Top Customer Reviews
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).
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.
Eddard Stark and Leodan Akaran are both killed, and their children separate.
Aliver and Robb are both killed.
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 ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
'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!
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.
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