50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richly Imagined Characters and World
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...
Published on July 10, 2007 by Scott Masterton
58 of 66 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great start, woeful middle, who knows about the end
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...
Published on June 28, 2007 by Troy Vitullo
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richly Imagined Characters and World,
'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,
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.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Departure!,
In the meantime, the heirs, separated during their flight from capture, mature in differing ways in disparate cultures over the next decade. The oldest son, Aliver, trains with the Talayans on the desert plains and enlists the aid of the mystical Santooth to avenge his father. The beautiful elder sister, Corinn, a prisoner in her own palace, becomes the concubine/lover of Hanish Mein. Third to the throne, Mena, is raised as a virginal priestess in a land that worships a sea Eagle and practices child sacrifice, and the youngest son, Dariel, is raised a swashbuckling pirate buccaneer.
Durham leans on his historical fiction background and blends a numerous, yet full bodied, cast filled with resonating histories, each contributing purposefully to the multi-layered plot and sub-plots. Much of the book establishes the complex histories, secrets, interrelationships of the Acacian people, their allies, enemies, and subjects. It also provides a detailed backdrop on the alliances, motives, and betrayals of court members and key figures with such deep conviction that initially, it is very difficult to sort the `good' from the `bad' guys.
I enjoyed the book and enjoyed how The Known World parallels reality in that there are multiple races that mimic reality. The reader will recognize a touch of ancient Nordic, African, and Arabian traditions and cultures that borrow from the Celtics and Aztecs. His creativity sparked in the creation of a feared group, The Leaguemen, a sea-faring group who specialize in the production and distribution of "the mist" and opiate-like drug that has stupefied most of Acacia into submission. The nations of Acacia struggle with slavery, war, greed, jealousy, drug addiction, and other social ills that have plagued mankind from creation. I am not sure if all of his "old" fans will embrace this novel; but there is no doubt that he will pick up new fans with this release. I'm looking forward to Book Two!
Reviewed by Phyllis
Nubian Circle Book Club
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Strange,
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Does Durham have something against dialogue?,
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sophisticated, Complex, Gritty, Epic Fantasy,
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
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ACACIA holds a vast and fully developed world,
Until the arrival of Thasren Mein. Long ago exiled to the ice-swept north, the Mein have prepared, schemed and waited. In a myriad of guises, Thasren makes his way into Acacia and strikes the killing blow, assassinating Leodan while the Mein support with savage assaults all throughout the kingdom. But Leodan has already put another plan into effect, one that will see his children safely away, scattered to the four corners of the world.
Each of them will be with a solitary advisor or guardian. Hidden from the Mein, Leodan hopes that his four heirs will find a way to seek each other out and combine their collected knowledge into a successful bid at salvation for all of Acacia.
In ACACIA, author David Anthony Durham has created a fantastic world presented in exquisite fashion. This is a world with little in the way of magic, so you need not fear wizards running rampant with awe-inspiring power. Its main focus is more on what we perceive as common problems --- slavery and drug addiction. Granted, the use of pacifying agents to lull the people into foul deeds is nothing new in the world of science fiction/fantasy, but Durham uses it in a fabulous way, and it makes for a strange juxtaposition that a king who would endorse and encourage what could be perceived only as an evil act is at the same time a compassionate and kind man.
Where Durham also succeeds is in keeping the line between good and evil a very stark gray. Hanish Mein, the older brother of the assassin and the lord of the Mein, is far and away the most interesting and intriguing character in ACACIA. This is no bad-guy-for-bad-guy's-sake stock villain; he is intelligent and charming, and sometimes it's difficult to see him as a true enemy. Much of what is found is very symbolic of our own tempestuous world, where even those we tend to see as bad, when shown in the proper light, are working for their own perceived good.
Durham does not play the reader for a fool. He prefers not to spell everything out for you and leaves some of the mystery in the telling, dropping you into the story rather than you just reading it. An example of this is when he recounts the journeys of the four children of Akran. As they begin, Durham does not tell you "this is Dariel's tale" or "this is Corinn's tale." You learn who you're following as the events unfold.
ACACIA holds a vast and fully developed world, one that readers will get to know. Thankfully, two more volumes will be releasing in the future. It is a world worth visiting and a land worth exploring, and Durham is more than capable of weaving the story and telling it to you. Intrigue, suspense, adventure. What more could you ask for?
--- Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Requiem for an Empire--David Anthony Durham's Acacia,
There are epic battles, pirate wars, Byzantine intrigues that would send Dan Brown running for cover. Wise readers, like the characters of Acacia, will be forced into a "trust no one" mentality. You won't find noble Elves here, and no jolly Hobbits, but you will find men and women who are moral conundrums, self-conflicted, often heroic, sometimes cruel and cowardly, but all with inner lives as rich and contradictory as human nature.
The twilight of the Acacian Empire, also serves as a metaphor for the American Dream, and Durham shows that beneath the hope, heroism, and fantasy lies a nightmare. He knows his history, and shines a stark light on themes of imperialism, globalization, slavery, exploitation of indigenous peoples, germ warfare, "ethnic cleansing," drug abuse and the drug economy. This gives the novel a level of realism rarely seen in fantasy. It is less escapism than political polemic, last seen so expertly realized in Frank Herbert's Dune, where the Spice economy served as a metaphor for the politics of Oil. When we grieve for the Acacians, we grieve for our own sins, and when we root for the heroes, we are rooting for the noblest and best parts of ourselves, the parts that seek justice and believe in the limitless potential for good. Acacia's greatest success is that it does far more than entertain, it challenges us to re-examine our own history, and fight the real demons of our age.
R.J. Crowther Jr.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars George R. R. Martin rip--off?? I think not!,
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid debut, but room for improvement,
The plot of this book is a very large, sweeping type of plot that not only covers a lot of ground, but a large timeline as well. The basic premise of the plot is the race called the Mein are tired of being exiled from a land they believe is theirs. They put into play a series of events to wrest control away from the ruling Arkans. Then the plot shifts to the plight of the four Arkan children as they seek to avenge the assassination of their father. The plot follows each of the four children as they make their own path in the world after being exiled themselves and each facing a different set of circumstances. During the course of the novel there are large scale battles, political intrigue, treachery, double speak, and numerous other things. There are also several sub-plots tied in very nicely to the overall scope of the novel. Not only do we get to read about each of the four children, we also get to read about the leader of the Mein, Hanish Mein, as he seeks to establish his people in what he believes is rightly theirs.
The characters in this novel are very good. Every character from Leodan Arkan to Hanish Mein has a purpose and a `voice' in which they speak. Each has their own motives and reasons for acting in the manner they do. This individualism leads to a much more believable story. Each and every character also have their own faults and often times do not act in a way that you would expect. There is also a great deal of character development within the pages of Acacia. For instance the four Arkan children start off as kids in the beginning of the novel, but by novels end they are not only older, but wiser in the workings of the world. Another thing I appreciated about this novel was the character dialog. Never does the dialog seemed forced or unnecessary. In fact, it all seemed to me to serve a purpose. I had the feeling if a character was speaking there was a reason behind it and they were all saying something important. Based on my experience, that is something rare in the fantasy genre right now. Truly solid characters all the way around.
Some overall comments on the novel as a whole:
The world is richly detailed. I appreciated Mr. Durham's way of intertwining pieces of the world's history into the conversation and prose. It made the world feel that much more alive and lead to believability of the characters actions. The `feel' of the novel is not the typical fantasy fare that is out there right now. It's dark, gritty, and feels much more real.
Some things I would have liked to have seen differently. I would have liked to seen the chapters labeled with the character featured in the chapter, much like G.R.R. Martin's chapters. It would have provided a better understanding and a reference point for me to grasp what I was looking at. I would have also liked to see a year/calendar type heading under the chapter number. There were a few times where things seemed to jump ahead timeline wise and I was lost for a time as to what just happened and how much time passed. While there are some bits of history interspersed in the novel, I would have liked to see a little more - maybe this one will happen in future novels. Lastly, there is one character in this book who's behavior change at the end of the book seems vastly different from what that character acted like during the majority of the book. This dramatic change seems to come out of thin air and seemed `wrong' to me.
Overall, this is a solid debut into the fantasy genre. There are some things that I would have done differently, yet the base of this novel is well done and should provide a solid starting point to what should be a fantastic series. I think most adult fantasy fans will find something to enjoy. This is certainly a book I can see myself recommending to the serious fantasy fan.
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Acacia: The Acacia Trilogy, Book One by David Anthony Durham (Paperback - April 17, 2012)