Review: Acacia

Posted 17 March, 2011 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

By: David Anthony Durham

Born into generations of prosperity, the four royal children of the Akaran dynasty know little of the world outside their opulent island paradise. But when an assassin strikes at the heart of their power, their lives are changed forever. Forced to flee to distant corners and separated against their will, the children must navigate a web of hidden allegiances, ancient magic, foreign invaders, and illicit trade that will challenge their very notion of who they are. As they come to understand their true purpose in life, the fate of the world lies in their hands.

I actually read this book a few years ago when it first came out to mass bound paperback. I liked it enough but I don’t know if I was busy at the time or what but it didn’t captivate me as greatly as I thought it would. But I decided to re-read the book recently when I realised that the second book in the trilogy, The Other Lands, was out in mass bound paperback and I was debating whether to pick it up (for reasons I will mention in this review). Major spoilers ahead!

Prior to this series Durham was a writer of historical fiction novels, which really helps for this novel. Acacia is populated with different cultures, traditions, religions and histories; you really feel the texture (if that’s the best word to describe it) when you read a story being told from the early years of Acacia or myths of long ago. It really adds to the overall story and just sharpens the reality that they live in. The descriptions of their way of life and of the politics that went on in this world greatly added to Durham’s world-building. It’s unique and as a historian, I appreciate the detail, it really makes the world come to life.

Re-reading it a second time, I realised that what’s really strong about this story is the characters and the drama that goes within each of the characters. The beginning of the novel can be considered slow by some because a chapter is devoted to each of the Akaran children; it’s a good introduction to each of them not only because they are the main focus of the novel but also because each of them were different in their own way–they each had their own views of the world, their own burdens, their own perceptions of their father and of their relationship with each other. These characterisations really flesh out the characters and are built upon through their interactions with other people. It can be highly internal, which contrasts interestingly enough to the world that they are forced to grow up in after the events of their father and the invasion of the Mein. Additionally, the reader also gains a glimpse of the thoughts of other characters like the Akaran children’s father, Leodan, the chancellor Thaddeus Clegg, the antagonist Hanish Mein and so forth. However, because of the highly internal nature of this portrayal, at times I found myself unable to really feel for the characters in a way I would when reading other novels, but this feeling doesn’t necessarily draw me away from the book as a reader.

What is also interesting is their dynamic as siblings, especially after they were separated. What is perhaps strikingly sad is the contrast between Aliver-Mena-Dariel compared to Corinn-Mena-Dariel that is pointed out at the end of the novel, that there’s a lack of warmth in the latter. It becomes increasingly clear as you read through the novel that Corinn becomes a titular character, moreso than perhaps one would think. There were warning signs early in the novel that there’s a possibility that her character would make such a steely turn but after everything she’s been through, you can’t blame her for doing what she did and feeling what she felt. Unlike the other siblings, she was behind enemy lines during the Mein occupation and fought back from there. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel at the end of the novel that she could turn for the worst at any given moment; I can imagine that this would be explored in the other two books in the trilogy.

Overall, reading it the second time I really appreciate the story that Durham crafted. It’s well-rounded and a truly fleshed out world. The characters that populate the story are interesting with their own demons and strengths. Of course there’s a mythical/fantastical element that’s intriguing in its own right and will likely continue in future volumes. As part of a trilogy, it’s pretty good as a standalone (if you’re on a crunch and are unable to invest in another trilogy but at the same time are interested in reading a good fantasy novel). I still find Mena’s storyline my favourite because her journey was pretty fierce and awesome (I’m biased, she my favourite of the Akaran siblings) but they all had interesting journeys. If you’re into fantasy or a good character novel, definitely pick this book up.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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