Acacia: Book One: The War with the Mein Hardcover – 25 Jan 2008
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"David Anthony Durham has won acclaim for his historical novels, and brings his knowledge of the past and other cultures to create a rich and compelling world on his first foray into fantasy. His skilful storytelling, depth of characterisation, and an ability to unsettle reader expectations is reminiscent of George R.R. Martin, but his is a distinctive new voice" (Lisa Tuttle THE TIMES)
"Durham brings to mind Tolkien with the expert detail with which he's built his alternate land. This could be the arrival of a fantasy classic" (SFX magazine)
"Where this sort of thing really works is not just in the attention to detail, but the attention to character. And with its epic duels and mighty sea battles, the whole thing is suffused with a feeling of Greek myth and legend" (DAILY TELEGRAPH)
"He is a master of the fantasy epic...How will it all end? If the first volume of this projected series is any indication, in brilliant - and brutal - defiance of fantasy conventions." (WASHINGTON POST)
"Complex, multi-layered...a world whose history feels as real, complicated and unpredictable as our own...whose characters and events will be as real in the minds of his readers as history itself." (SFSITE) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
The bestselling historical novelist turns to epic fantasy with a powerful story of treachery, murder and revenge... --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
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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Most recent customer reviews
Otherwise a good read and I will def read the next Acacia book