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on September 5, 2010
I think I would have liked this book better, if I had not read the back cover first. The events described, which I thought started the book, instead took 100+ pages to get to. This made the first 100 pages seem painfully slow. Not a flaw of the book, but an expectations mismatch.

The slow pacing of the book continued throughout, though. And it is slower than I think I would have liked anyway. It doesn't make it bad, this is just my preference. If you like that in a book, you may enjoy this one.

This really reads much more like a historical novel, than a fantasy novel, fantasy aspects are pretty minimal. If you are looking for High Fantasy, this isn't it.

The book is generally well written, populated with interesting characters. And the characters on different sides are all characters, not "good", and "evil". Everyone is going for their interests, or their idea of "right", it's not "good guys" vs. cardboard characters. Durham does this really well.

There's a very large cast, and a fair amount of background. It gives the book a nice feeling of depth, and of being a view into a existing world. The depth makes the world feel much more real than many books, which sometimes feel as if their world ends one step past the events in the book.

The one thing I really didn't like about the book was the combination of multiple points of view with cliff-hangers at the end of nearly every section. It made me feel like the author has been watching too much television, and didn't realize how poorly the cliff-hangers fit the structure of the novel. Every viewpoint change became an annoyance that threw me out of the narrative, instead of being an interesting shift to new events. This is the reason I won't bother with the other books in this series.

If you like slow pacing (I suspect a ten volume set coming), and aren't bothered by cliffhangers, the author does a lot of the rest really well, and you might really enjoy the book.
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on February 10, 2014
I was nervous about purchasing the book because of some of the comments within the bad reviews. I've never written an amazon review but feel complelled to do so. First the multiple character POV are not difficult to follow, especially with how many different ones there are. The stories background is very accessible once one gets beyond the initial confusion of the first 100 pages. Secondly, I don't know why anyone says the story plot is predictable. If anyone has read the 3rd book of the song of fire and ice, you will have WTF moments after page 600. The difference is that in GRRM just jumps into the WTF without any foreshadowing and with DAD there is some build up into these moments within 5 pages of them happening. And for the reviewer who said that he couldn't believe that one of the females became a martial expert within a few weeks or months and so the rest of the plot became unbelievable, well there is 'magic' in the book... the giant race of people, the santooth, the tunishnevre, obviously the book belongs in the fantasy section. Anyhow I am well pleased!
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VINE VOICEon March 31, 2009
Just when you might think "Acacia 1" is going to turn into a typical revenge fantasy, it begins to surprise. And when you reach the artfully cynical ending, maybe you'll be totally stunned.

It begins in a Hitchcock way: an assassin is sent to slay the "good king" of the island of Acacia, and in effect emperor of much of the Known World, and you can pretty much figure out by the plot description on the back cover that he will succeed. And so the suspense stems from the wait to see how he accomplishes this. And meanwhile, back at the palace (the story's told from multiple points of view), we meet King Leodan's four children, Aliver, Corinn, Mena, and Dariel (there's no queen--she died 'ere the story began), and the King's chancellor Clegg, and generals, and governers, some totally wicked barbarian fighters mounted on rhinos, and a merchant trading class. Drugs appear, and mention is made of another race living on beyond the "Known World."

Then, the assassin strikes, there's a prolonged sequence while the mortally wounded king dies, the four children are scattered according to a plan laid out years before. But nothing goes as planned. . . . only three get away, and none to where they were supposed to.

And then, nine years later, we meet the four again to see what's become of them. The escapees gradually begin slouching back toward island Acacia once again in order to put the good guys back where they belong. Unfortunately, as the reader has already learned, and they're about to find out, the empire that fell wasn't really all that "good."

And then, after a sequence with too much in the way of magical deus ex machina that bars a fifth star, scenes featuring maybe too much triumph over overwhelming odds (one stickfighter against eight? come on! This is a fantasy novel not a martial arts movie; the one survivor of battlefield carnage is The General himself?), and a logical Holmesian deduction made on a battlefield that really, really would have astounded Watson, we approach that stunning turnaround ending.

Yes, dear reader, this is of course part 1 of a trilogy. (What isn't these days?) And while I shall certainly return for part 2, to appear in Summer 2009, the ending of this book is so perfect in its way that I almost wish the author had simply left things as they were.
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on March 9, 2012
First, I am not a professional, paid reviewer by the publisher, or a family member of the author ... I am saying this because I would bet serious money that these two groups write most of the reviews on Amazon.

With that said, I loved the Acacia series. There was depth to the characters, interesting plots, and good descriptions of the fantasy worlds. I think I read all three books in about two weeks, and found myself looking forward to sitting down to read.

There was certainly some "jumping of the shark" in all three books ... where a main character was in a situtation where it was impossible for them to win - yet they did easily without much sweat. Thinks feel together too seamlessly at times, with little if any real conflict.

But despite the flaws, it was an interesting read, and I would definitely recommend it to friends.
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on August 30, 2011
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.
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on June 25, 2009
Parts of this fantasy novel reminded me of "Dune (considered Sci-Fi but is structured like Fantasy). Other parts reminded me of "The Chronicles of Narnia". And other aspects reminded me of the writings fantasy George R.R. Martin. Please don't get me wrong. I am not trying to imply that the talented Mr. Durham is a hack that copies other authors. He is following the tradition of others (like Martin) that build on what has come before. Just like Martin before him, he understands that fantasy needs to grow and change. We cannot live with the watered-down Tolkien clones forever. He has taken what the last innovator (Martin) has achieved and added to it.

Mr. Durham has taken the real world sophistication that Martin added to the genre and brought something new to the table. This tale adds a diversity that matches the world we inhabit. The races of the Known World match the all the hues of the real world. I know some fantasy authors have dabbled with greater diversity in their fantasy realms but nobody has ever achieved such a naturalistic feat of world building. This world does not feel like there is one main race and everybody else is an "other". The people of the Known World are truly interconnected. They have all developed and evolved on this world and none of the races feel like they were just thrown in to play the stereotypical roles of fools, heroes or villains. Now this new twist alone does not make a good novel so I am happy to report that the tale that is told is wonderfully written. We are given fully three dimensional characters and a story that unfolds in an unpredictable manner. The prose is clear and the words flow together. It is truly a pleasure to read this authors style of writing.

I am sorry to say that I cannot give this book a perfect score because the story does drag some in the middle but this is nevertheless a grand achievement. I look forward to reading the second book in this ongoing saga.
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VINE VOICEon April 23, 2009
David Anthony Durham has meticulously crafted an original world for his fantasy trilogy, and this book is a wonderful introduction to that world.

There are obvious parallels to George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, from the beginning of this story to the depth and sympathetic perspectives of each character, including the villains.

Political and military maneuvering abound in this story, and just when you think you know which cliche the author is about to follow, the plot gets turned on its ear, and the reader realizes that the ride is unpredictable as well as entertaining.

At times it lagged, particularly in the beginning, but such is the price of presenting characterization and the rich world the characters inhabit.

Definitely pick this one up if you like multifaceted villains, unexpected twists, and creativity from an author.
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on October 7, 2014
To say I enjoyed this book is a humongous understatement! The story, characters,setting and prose held me captive page after thrilling page. Not once did the author lose his mastery, and I watched events unfold as if I was there but also reading a history book about real people, battles, and places. Sword and sorcery fanatics, feed you addiction with this read. I would have added more stars if possible.
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on June 26, 2012
This book is somewhere between Dune (40th Anniversary Edition) (Dune Chronicles, Book 1) and A Song of Ice and Fire, Books 1-4 (A Game of Thrones / A Feast for Crows / A Storm of Swords / Clash of Kings), though not as smartly written. This is not meant negatively. It is entertaining fantasy, borrowing from classic themes. I am two books into the series and plan to finish off the trilogy, though the end of the second book was slightly anti-climatic as events I expected to take place here do not...

The characters all undergo metamorphosis and keep it feeling fresh.
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on June 15, 2008
***Spoiler Alert ***

My Acacian Journey - A review of both the book of CD and the book itself

Acacia has been an unusual experience for me. I began by first getting the unabridged version of the book from the library (all 23 disks), and listening to it nonstop during a two-day road trip. So I felt quite immersed in the story, but felt I was missing too much detail and nuance, due to having it read to me. I stopped listening at about disk 17, and decided to finish, instead, by reading the actual book. But "The Name of the Wind" became available at the library, so I spent the next few weeks reading that. I decided I'd begin Acacia (the book this time) from the beginning. That tells me I did enjoy the story, enough to read most of it all over again only 3 weeks after hearing it on disk. A few notes on this experience:

Hearing the book first meant that I was familiar with how the strange names of people and places were pronounced. Most striking of all was the book's subtitle, "The War with the Mein." According to the reader, Mein is pronounced like "mean." Which goes against the rules for English, certainly. I assumed it was pronounced as the German word "mein,", that is, like the English word "mine." This seemed a bit wrong to me. Why make up a name that everyone is certain to mispronounce? And it seems rather hokey to call your bad guys the "Means". Reminds me of Yellow Submarine, except these guys weren't blue.

But it was really cool to see these words after hearing them read to me for 20 hours or so. Strange, but true. I really enjoyed reading it after hearing it. And this confirmed for me that you really do need to *read* a book. Having it read to you is not good enough, though it is entertaining when driving for 10 hours straight. But there's no stopping (as you can do when reading) to think about what someone has said, or what just happened. The reader just rolls on. So that's a limitation of the medium. Hitting the pause button would be much more disruptive of the fictive dream than simply looking up from the page and thinking.

Finally, the voice of the reader is not like the voice in your head, which in my head at least, does not sound like a whiny twit when reading the words spoken by the women in the book. The reader attempts to come up with a different-sounding voice for every major character. He does a great job with the mens' voices. Meander especially was chilling to listen to. But the women - especially Corinn -- came across as very small-minded and weak. Reading the book, Corinn came across rather differently. A much stronger character, for sure. Durham's handling of women, however, could be much better. He has the two male siblings, Aliver and Dariel, sent off to lands where they learn fighting skills. He send the two female siblings, Corinn and Mena (unfortunate name, that -- sounds too much like "Mein") to places where they don't learn fighting. He then has Mena learn, in a single chapter, how to become a legendary fighter, and it just doesn't wash.

As for the story itself, here are my thoughts. Obviously, I liked it enough to essentially "read" it twice in a two-month span. I never do that. The writing style is very good, and better than 90% of the doorstop fantasy tripe out there. This is a first fantasy novel for Durham, who has heretofore only written historical fiction. Durham says, "Acacia is a novel about the myths empires create to explain their crimes. It's about how difficult it is to join idealism with action. It's about ambition and hope and dealing with the disappointments inflicted by a callous world. It's about family legacy, sibling rivalry, and striving to correct past wrongs." This comes across quite well, and these strong thematic elements make "Acacia" an important fantasy novel. Durham, an African American, was also attempting to include a vast racial diversity, and in that I don't think he was very successful. The various tribes all seem cut of the same cloth, and rather hackneyed cloth at that. They're stereotypical primitives. Durham's imagination seems to have failed him here, I'm afraid. The Meins and the Acacians seem very much alike, and the rest come across as third world knockoffs. Having read a lot of science fiction, I've seen many authors do a better job of imagining alien cultures. Durham is falling back on stereotypes from our own world too much, I feel.

Another nagging problem was that I felt the presence of a story outline. The characters often seemed to be fulfilling the needs of that outline rather than acting according to their true natures. The best example of this was the very end, when Corinn suddenly beomes very powerful and cunning. There was no foreshadowing this development. She was too obviously advancing the plot, and not in a way the reader expects.

The death, at the very end, of Aliver, seemed wrong. We see Aliver grow steadily in power and wisdom for 550 pages, and then he foolishly agrees to a fight with Meander. I could almost see Durham saying, "Okay, for the next book, I want Corinn to be the Queen, so I need to get rid of Aliver. Hm. How can I do that?" So he gives us a few paragraphs of Meander's thoughts, of Meander realizing that soon he will be seen as a mere nothing compared to his older brother Hanish. So he'll kill Aliver and thus do something important. This seems obviously hacked in, not natural, and it throws you right out of the story. I felt these characters would not do these things, based on what I knew of them.

One final quibble: I wish Durham had not waited till nearly the end to explain why the Tunishnevre (the ancestors cursed by the ancient Akaran Tinhaden) needed to be transported from the Mein homeland to Acacia. I kept wondering why Hanish was going to so much trouble, when he could simply take Corinn to the ancestors, and this made me begin to suspect a plot hole. Durham should have explained the need to have them "awoken" in Acacia right up front.

Acacia is an important new fantasy novel, and I look forward to reading the next volume(s). Durham does not say how many books are to come, but there is obviously at least one more. I'm sorry if this review seems overly negative. I hope the author finds these criticisms helpful, if he reads them. Fantasy that speaks to the problems our world faces is rare. Acacia is a breath of fresh air, though it stumbles now and then. Acacia and Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, Day 1) combine to give fantasy lovers great hope for the future.
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