Friday, July 27, 2007

ACACIA - Final Review

If I were to have to describe ACACIA in one word, I would have to say it is intense.

ACACIA tells the tale of the four children of a king, and of their individual attempts to win back the kingdom of their father from the Mein invaders.

The kingdom of Acacia owes its stranglehold on the known world through the widespread use of a drug, which it obtains from a mysterious land in the unknown world. In exchange, Acacia pays an annual and horrific sort of a tax, called a Quota, which is paid in human lives. When the Mein take over, they find themselves beholden to the Quota as well. And at the end of the book . . . well, let's just say that this particular situation is unresolved. It is clear that the ultimate villain in this series is whoever it is who lives in the unknown world.

The book has multiple viewpoints. The viewpoints switch every chapter, George R. R. Martin style and includes:

Thasren, the assassin
his older brother Maeander,
their oldest brother, Hamish, chieftain of the Mein
Leodan, the king of Acacia,
each of his four children, including
Aliver, the oldest and the heir,
the beautiful and treacherous Corinn,
the smart and deadly Mena,
and the personable and passionate Dariel,
Thaddeus, the king's councilor,
Leeka, the aging general,
Rialus, a treacherous ambassador

And a few others. One thing that frustrated me about the novel was how often the viewpoint changed in the opening chapters. It interfered with my ability to develop an affinity with any of them. Only during Part Two did I finally learn to like most of the royal family. I also wish Durham could have pruned some of the point-of-view (POV) characters. Was it really necessary to make the reader endure Rialus's point of view when when other POV characters were present? Maybe Durham has a good reason us to know him so intimately, but as a reader when I got to another scene about Rialus (and others), I would more often than not put the book down for a while.

However, Durham is too generous and good of a writer to make me suffer for long. Since the chapters tended to be short, I usually didn't have to read very far before catching up with the less repugnant characters. I'd have to say may favorite characters were Mena, Dariel and Leeka. My least favorite were Maeander, Rialus and Corrine. I don't think Durham really expected me to like any of those characters. Some of them make great villains. Others are merely slimy.

I thought the Santoth would turn out to be bad guys. I was glad to be surprised otherwise. Hanish didn't turned out to be quite the villain than I expected, and a certain other character turned out to be much more of a villain than I expected. Aliver and Corinne turned out to be stronger than I expected, while Dariel and Leodan turned out to be weaker than I expected.

And the death of a certain messiah-type was not really that unexpected. After all, messiahs tend to die, do they not?

Speaking of messiahs, this novel has definite Christian underpinnings. However, they are very subtle. It speaks of the power of the creator not meant to be wielded by the created. I found this a powerful concept. It was behind the world's warped -- almost cursed -- magic system.

Would I recommend this book? Well, that depends on what you want from your novels. This book is not for readers who want a lighthearted yarn. It's not for readers who want a book that makes them laugh. It's not for readers who want a page-turning thriller. It's not for readers who want to finish within 24 hours.

It is for readers who appreciate suburb worldbuilding. It is for readers who enjoy being provoked to think. It is for readers who crave a long-term commitment to an epic fantasy (especially when they have been disappointed by such epics in the past). And it is for readers who enjoy truly unique ideas, and who don't aren't turned off by occasional brutality.

Will I read the next book in the series? Absolutely. As always, I am interested in hearing your opinions as well. I just love discussing books! This post will remain on top throughout the weekend.

The Amazon link for the US and the UK
David Anthony Durham's website, blog and forum
My other posts about ACACIA


clindsay said...

Hi Tia!

Glad you liked David's book. I'm his publicist and it's been such a fun project for me to work on!


La Gringa

Tia Nevitt said...

Wow. You have my dream job.

John Dent said...

I agree with your Assessment, Tia. I have only minor peeves with Acacia, which makes it my favourite book of the year so far.

David Anthony Durham said...

Hi all,

I can live with minor peeves. Of course, I'll always strive to be peeve-free, but that's absolutely and completely impossible, so I'm... contentedly striving.

I know the book has to live on it's own, but yes, Tia, I do have reasons for all of the choices I've made. Some of them will be clearer with future books. Some may never quite work for you. What I love about your reading and response was that you're clearly attentive when reading and careful - and courteous - with expressing your thoughts. None of those things can be taken for granted as a writer, so I thank you for it, and for the time you gave Acacia.

And John, considering the current stature of Acacia in your eyes I suggest you stop reading, at least until year end.

Tia Nevitt said...


You are welcome, and thank you for your kind words! I know it must be awful reading what people think sometimes, so I try to be careful.