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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Fantasy Debut
David Anthony Durham's debut in Fantasy is absolutely spectacular.

A writer of historical fiction, David has had ample time and practice to hone his craft. This is obvious from the first few opening chapters of "Acacia: The war with the Mein", from the bubbling tension to the perfect characterisation of even the supporting characters. In fact it takes a while...
Published on 12 Jun 2007 by J. DENT

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing. . .
Hype has a funny way of creating expectations in a reader's mind. Naturally, with critics calling David Anthony Durham's novel one of the best fantasy debuts of 2007, my expectations were quite high. Too high? I think not -- not with everything that's been said about Acacia: The War with the Mein. Nevertheless, I'm sad to report that this book, in my humble opinion,...
Published on 18 Jan 2008 by Patrick St-Denis


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing. . ., 18 Jan 2008
By 
Patrick St-Denis "editor of Pat's Fantasy Hot... (Laval, Quebec Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Hype has a funny way of creating expectations in a reader's mind. Naturally, with critics calling David Anthony Durham's novel one of the best fantasy debuts of 2007, my expectations were quite high. Too high? I think not -- not with everything that's been said about Acacia: The War with the Mein. Nevertheless, I'm sad to report that this book, in my humble opinion, doesn't live up to the hype which was generated by the incredibly positive buzz surrounding this novel.

I feel bad about having to write a somewhat negative review about this one. As was the case with Brandon Sanderson's The Well of Ascension, Durham is a great guy and I really wanted to like Acacia. The near totality of the reviews I've read pertaining to this book -- online and in print -- make it sound as one of the best fantasy titles of the year. Hence, I was more than a little disappointed to discover that the novel suffered from a number of shortcomings.

My favorite aspect of Acacia turned out to be the worldbuilding. Indeed, David Anthony Durham created a fascinating universe, simultaneously traditional and exotic, which serves as a backdrop for his epic fantasy tale. His multiethnic cast, though not as well-done as Erikson's, is a welcome change to what has been the norm in the genre for years. The author's background in historical fiction is evident, thus allowing him to create an environment exuding a "realistic" feeling.

The prose is neat, and Durham paces Acacia adroitly. The initial premise and the ensemble of storylines woven together to assemble this tale are all very interesting. I found the plotlines involving the Lothan Aklun, the Quota, the Other Lands, the mist, the Numrek, the Mein and the Tunishnevre, and the Santoth to be absorbing. Those are the storylines that fueled my interest and urged me to read on. So where did it all go wrong?

What killed Acacia: The War with the Mein for me turned out to be the characterization. To say that they are lacking or leave something to be desired would be an understatement. For some unfathomable reason -- this is a first for me -- I absolutely hated all the main protagonists, good or bad. Throughout the book I kept hoping for the Arkan siblings -- Aliver, Dariel, Corinn and Mena -- to die. I kept wondering how Durham could come up with such an interesting setting, yet populate it with clichéd, two-dimensional characters that lacked a lot in the way of realism. Needless to say, I was unable to get into any of the siblings' storylines. As I mentioned in my review of Tad Williams' Shadowplay, it's decidedly hard to make royal teenagers likeable. Moreover, there were quite a few similarities between them and GRRM's Stark siblings. The fact that they achieve everything so easily, with all that's require of them falling into place perfectly, as if by magic, didn't sit well with me either. The supporting cast is a bit lame and unbelievable, which is what ultimately prevented me from enjoying the book beyond Durham's first-rate worldbuilding.

I found many of the concepts underlying the story to be engrossing enough to want to read the upcoming sequel. My only hope is that David Anthony Durham will up his game where characterization is concerned.

Acacia: The War with the Mein showed great promise. Unfortunately, poor characterization makes it impossible for this novel to fulfill its full potential.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Fantasy Debut, 12 Jun 2007
By 
David Anthony Durham's debut in Fantasy is absolutely spectacular.

A writer of historical fiction, David has had ample time and practice to hone his craft. This is obvious from the first few opening chapters of "Acacia: The war with the Mein", from the bubbling tension to the perfect characterisation of even the supporting characters. In fact it takes a while to realise who the supporting characters are, as David has taken as much care developing them as the main "cast".

By the middle of part one, this is cleared up. The star of act 1 is one of the secondary characters--Leodan, King of the Acacian empire. Although many other, less capable authors would not have bothered developing a character they intended to die early on in the story, David seems to have bucked the trend and done the opposite. Why is this so important? Because the reader cares more about what happens to a guilt-ridden, disillusioned widower and father of four than just "a King". In fact, Leodan is a pivotal character in the entire book, despite appearing relatively briefly. Were he not so well written, I wouldn't have cared what happened to his children. Were he not so believable and remorseful, I wouldn't have cared what happened to the "Known World". Secondary characters are just as important to the enjoyment of a book as Primary characters, whether they have a huge effect on the plot or not.

One of the great things about "The war with the Mein" is definitely the characterisation. The protagonists and indeed antagonists do not stagnate (which is a good job, as the book leaps a 9 year gap between act 1 and 2), and being in totally different situations grow in different ways- no two characters are the same. Skirmishes are usually skimmed over, or taken down the the personal level, allowing for yet more characterisation and tension as violence is experienced on the personal rather than grand scale.

Although I've made a huge issue of how well the characters are developed, Acacia has a lot happening in it, from full-scale invasion, through gigantic explosions to duels and weaselling. I was utterly blown away by The war with the Mein--and cannot wait for the next installment.

This isn't so much a fantasy novel as a novel written utilizing the fantasy genre. It feels far more realistic than a great deal of other fantasy books out there, partly due to the characters' realistic actions and reactions, and partly due to the inclusion of non-caucasian people and tribes (which in a lesser writer's version of events may have turned into elves or dwarves).

5*
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex fantasy in an intriguing world, 27 May 2009
By 
Christopher Meadows (York, UK) - See all my reviews
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Acacia is a novel which is epic in the broadest sense of the word, concerning the shattering and building of empires, across a large scale of time, and centred around a relatively small key cast of characters.

It is in this first area that Acacia does best. The world which David Durham has created is intricate, fascinating, and lovingly presented. The gradual revelation of each area of that world is handled well, and the reader is left breathless from the sense of grandeur and scope, and impressed by the background which interweaves each of the disparate cultures that are presented.

The book is written across a large piece of internal time; that time is not all present in the novel. The characters we will follow are introduced in the first half of the novel, and their fates left undecided - the reader is then re-introduced to those characters some years later. I enjoyed the abrupt nature of this change, exploring what were familiar characters, and reorienting my expectations from the character's actions, and the hints of their `missing time' gleaned from their interactions with others. On the other hand, some people may find this sudden jump in continuity more jarring than refreshing.

The characters are at once the greatest strength and weakness of the text. Each character within a faction has their own motives, and, as mentioned in other reviews, each faction of characters has their own point of view - Durham allows the reader to feel sympathy for one set of characters, and then swings to another viewpoint, and establishes your sympathy with those (often adversarial) characters instead. While some characters are less ethical than others, each has a valid point of view, and Durham tries hard to get us to understand it.

This `shades of grey' characterisation is one of the strengths of the book. Unfortunately, it feels as if the individual characters (as opposed to the factions, or groups of characters) are a little shallow. While some have their motives expressed in detail, others seem to remain question marks throughout the book. Perhaps that will change in later novels, but it is sometimes difficult to empathise with a character about whom we are shown or told a great deal, but not given much access to their personal motivations.

Having said that, the key characters are well written and represented, and while they may seem to play second fiddle to the world around them, that world is so rich that it may not matter. Throw in a plot which is reasonably deep and complex, with a few sharp twists and turns to throw off standard fantasy tropes, and this is an excellent novel. Highly recommended.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, 1 Sep 2008
By 
Y. ECHVERRIA - See all my reviews
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Solid fantasy outing, opening a promising sequence.

Beautifully written, reminiscent of Robin Hobb and George RR Martin, it depicts an easily relatable world, but from a refreshing perspective, and with an original pace.

It visits many fantasy cliches and milestones but feel like brand new. Some coldness in the very well drawn characters prevent a 5 star review.

Opening is slow but at the end of Book 1 of Acacia you will not be able to put it down until you know of the fate of Akaran heirs. It does keep up until the end.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All the ingredients..., 28 July 2010
All the ingredients for an epic to rival Martin and some of the best contemporary fantasy dons. Somehow, though, Acacia is just not that good. The main problem in my opinion is the style. There is a notable lack of humour. It's not that I'm wanting to laugh out loud. I don't even expect the wit and stylisation of Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy. It's just that Acacia takes itself so seriously that it becomes flat and pompous. At times it lacks subtlety when portraying very well meaning and powerful ideas. So whilst Durham writes a novel of war without good and evil per se, and with plenty of digs at our own world's hypocrisies and flaws, he does so in a slightly preachy way that often borders far too much on telling rather than showing, on parallels tediously drawn out rather than echoes or satires that might pack a more powerful punch.
The characters too are somewhat lacking. Although each is very carefully drawn, very lengthily explained - that is the problem. I always felt like characters were being explained rather than brought to life on the page.
For all these flaws, I give Acacia 3 stars because it is in theory and reality an excellent and detailed fantasy world with a lot of effort and intelligence put into it. It is so well pieced together, perhaps it neglects the passion needed to come alive.
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4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable treat, 9 Oct 2013
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took a few pages to get in to but by the end I was well enthralled. looking forward to next instalment.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting secondary world fantasy, 18 Feb 2013
It took me a bit of time to get into the book, which is not unusual when being introduced to a new fantasy world (also there was the stress). The first section of the large book dealt with a plot against a powerful ruler, an advisor who isn't all he seemed and a hidden foe emerging. It was stuff I'd read before. However the later parts, which start nine years later, were something of a revelation opening up the world, characters and plot. After establishing a world and quickly changing its order, the author wastes no time in taking the plot where it needs to go. There are two major regime changes, and details of at least 5 very different cultures/ways of life, all of them are given the space they need but none are dwelt on overly long.
The book not only follows the 4 Acacian heirs and those who serve them, but also the Mein who conquered the empire from the north and have generations of reasons to hate the Acacian dynasty. This is a story that has definite sides, but which shows the complexity of the situation, with each character having good reasons for what they do and how they are. Ancient, magical legends turn out to have truth in them, although it's clear that they have been retold and reshaped over generations to fit the agendas of the powerful. Early on the Empire is shown to be rotten to its core, a situation that the emperor regrets but doesn't get round to changing. The invaders may claim revolution, but their leader finds that his hands are tied by powerful and mysterious forces from the other side of the world, just as the previous emperor's were. The exiled heirs set themselves in opposition to the invaders and claim that they will truly change their father's empire (as he'd intended) but Corinn has seen the mechanisms of power and knows that nothing is quite so simple.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly overrated, 23 Jan 2013
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I was looking for a new epic fantasy and Acacia was extremely well-reviewed here on Amazon, so I thought hey, why not? Unfortunately the book was poor, and given its length I eventually gave up.

Let me start by saying that it's not terrible, which is why I haven't given it one stars. The story is acceptable, the world-building is a good mix of traditional and original, and it's clearly a very ambitious book. These things, however, are let down by two things: the writing and the characters.

The author has committed the two worst sins for character building: his characters are boring and they are inconsistent. The most interesting and likeable characters are the two youngest children, but so much time is spent jumping from POV to POV that we get to hear from them all too rarely.

The writing is something that a lot of readers don't care about, but I found it incredibly ham-handed - the use of words that the majority of readers won't know is annoying enough, but for me it was the pages and pages of description. I know this is fantasy, and I know there's a lot to describe, but the "show, don't tell" adage really applies here. We do NOT need the entire back story of every object the moment it first appears in the story.

Like I said, not a terrible book, just not a good one.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Getting there slowly..., 3 Jan 2012
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I received this with some anticipation having read some promising reviews, and was eager to dive in and explore a new world.

Well, it was a bit like swimming in treacle and in the end I opted for skimming through the pages, slowing only when something interesting was happening - and that wasn't often until the last third, when the pace picked up again.

To be fair David has created an interesting world, with intriguing hints of the "other lands" beyond. He has also given us a cast of characters who are more complex than usual - the problem is, as others have commented, that we don't really get to know them very well - or find anyone to root for. It's all rather impersonal and I found it difficult to emotionally engage with any of them.

I will probably give the next one a go as I'm curious enough to explore his world - but at the moment the world is considerably more interesting than the characters.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good fun and epic adventure, 16 Oct 2008
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Acacia: Book One - The War with the Mein (Paperback)
Having read David's Pride of Carthage I was quite looking forward to see what he would do with a fantasy setting. The book as you'd come to expect with David's work is well written, the characters crisp, the writing beautifully descriptive with a world full of shades of grey where no one is good or evil. It plays on all the best aspects from the fantasy world with political double dealing presenting readers with a fantasy nearly on the same epic scale as Steven Eriksons Malazan world. The one problem though, is the battle sequences, they don't seem to be fully realised in much the way that the rest of the book is as if bits and pieces have been taken out either as too fantastical or to keep the flow of things running for those not familiar with the type of battles presented within. It's a shame that it went this way as had a little more time been spent on that it would have made this a much better book. Still with around 600 pages, it's a good first effort in a fantasy world and will hopefully make readers sit up and pay attention to his work. Throw into the mix a story that leaves you with more questions than answers and a tangible threat for a following novel and I think that DAD has found a niche that will bring him fans the world over.
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Acacia: Book One - The War with the Mein
Acacia: Book One - The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham (Paperback - 19 May 2008)
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