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A decent sequel to Acacia
on September 19, 2009
If you read Durham's first novel in the Acacia series (simply titled "Acacia"), then nothing in this book will really be a surprise to you, ranging from the plot to the way Durham does exposition. To his credit, the author does try to offer a "What Came Before" section to any potential readers who haven't read the first book, but the series is obscure enough that it's rather unlikely that a large number of readers are reading this book without reading the first in the series.
"The Other Lands" continues 9 years after where we left off in "Acacia", with Corinn Akaran in control of the Acacian Empire, and her siblings serving her while off on their own adventures. However, as Corinn is not someone to simply let a potential issue (like the relationship with the mysterious Lothun Aklun and Auldek in the Other Lands) sit there, she decides to send Dariel (her younger brother) as an ambassador along with the League (the sea-going traders and merchants who manage the horrifying trade in "Quota", namely child slaves). At that point, things begin to spiral out of control, leading to the events that will take place in the Third Book, as well as uncovering most of the mysteries surrounding the Other Lands and the backstory of the Acacian Empire.
One improvement I really liked in "The Other Lands" is that the story is significantly character-driven, to a greater degree than Acacia. The entire bad sequence of events that takes place in the book is set in motion by the stupidity and arrogance of a particular group of people, and the other characters are left to deal with the consequences. Corinn really comes into her own here, and arguably outshines both her siblings as a viewpoint character.
One issue, which also plagued "Acacia", is that at times Durham gets very heavy on the exposition on his world - and since the story takes place almost entirely from the viewpoints of different characters, the voices of those characters gets drowned out by the voice of Durham the Historian and Worldbuilder. That personally did not bother me too much (I'm a fan of World-Building in fantasy, and always eager to learn more about a fictional fantasy society), but I can easily see it being a problem for people who do not want to sit through several pages talking about why the Auldek are the way they are.
Nonetheless, it is a good sequel to "Acacia". Just as importantly, it avoids the problem that middle books usually have, of being essentially "sandwiched" between important events in a series. "The Other Lands" manages to both set up the next book in the series, as well as convey important information and developments on its own right. I recommend both it and the series to potential fantasy readers.