David Anthony Durham burst on the scene with his debut novel Acacia: The War with the Mein, which was published in 2007. I first came across this work after I finished reading a Dance with Dragons and I was looking for something to fill my scattered hearts. Perusing the isles of my local bookstore, I come across a thick tome with a beautiful picture of an acacia tree on the front cover and in big bold letters is a quote from none other than George R.R Martin. He said, “David Anthony Durham has serious chops. I can’t wait to read whatever he writes next.” Sold, I immediately run to the checkout counter and I haven’t looked back. Acacia very much reminded me of the A Song of Ice and Fire in the movement of characters, epic scope, and a sense of wonder about what else is beyond the horizon. In 2009, David Anthony Durham won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer for Acacia and the sequel Other Lands and he was hand picked by Martin to write in his wild card series. That is all the accolades I need to read an authors work, so lets dive in!
Leodan Akaran, ruler of the Known World, has inherited generations of apparent peace and prosperity, won ages ago by his ancestors, but at a terrible cost. A widower of high intelligence, he presides over an empire called Acacia, after the idyllic island from which he rules. He dotes on his four children and hides from them the dark realities of traffic in drugs and human lives on which their prosperity depends. He hopes that he might change this, but powerful forces stand in his way. And then a deadly assassin sent from a race called the Mein, exiled long ago to an ice-locked stronghold in the frozen north, strikes at Leodan in the heart of Acacia while they unleash surprise attacks across the empire. The children are forced to flee to distant corners of the world against their will, they children must navigate a web of hidden alliances, ancient magic, foreign invaders and illicit trade to find out who they really are.
This book is riddled with mystery, hidden agendas, and power hungry barbarians looking for revenge. The all powerful force pulling the strings behind the scenes is the League. A naval powerhouse who is responsible for the trade between the Acacia empire and the other lands across the sea. The other lands provide the empire with an addictive but toxic drug in exchange for the lives of children. This is the deadly truth that Leodan Akaran has kept from his children until their lives are changed forever. Following the stories of the four children real delight. By far the most interesting ones were Dariel as he becomes a deck hand looking to cause harm to the league and their operations. Also Mena as she trains to become a great swords man and thief in a far away land. Eventually the four story lines converge in an epic conclusion that will leave you speechless. I am still in awe of how David Anthony Durham was able to pack so much world-building and character development into one thick book, that I just wanted to dive right into book 2.
Now, I have to get into some slight negatives I did have when I first read this book, but have since grown to love upon rereads. This book can be a slow-burn especially in the beginning. Mr. Durham is a very descriptive writer and he has a beautiful way of telling the story but it can be difficult at times. He will spend multiple paragraphs describing a particular scene that has little to no importance to the overall story. Some readers enjoy this type of story telling, but it was dull for me at first. Also, the story and action doesn’t pick up until the 200 page mark. However, once you get the hang of the writing style and you get to the end of the first part, the story just fly’s and you wont be able to put the book down. There are several shocking moments in this book that George R.R Martin would keep in his back pocket for the Winds of Winter. Magic is kept in the background for most of this book which just builds up the suspense, sense of wonder, and creativity Mr. Durham holds in his beautiful mind.
In conclusion, thirteen years after publication Acacia still remains a relatively unknown commodity around the fantasy community. Its creative, bold, shocking, and asks your the important question what would you do to keep the power you hold and what price would you pay to implement changes. Fans of George R.R Martin, Tad Williams, and even Robert Jordan I believe will find something to enjoy in this story. It lived up to the hype for me and I can’t wait to talk about it with my followers!