Friday, January 11, 2008
Book Review - Acacia: Book One, The War With the Mein
I did as much reading as possible during our recent two week vacation. (Two weeks of vacation, by the way, is the way to go if you have the privilege to do it.) One of the books I finished during that time was Acacia: Book One, The War With the Mein by David Anthony Durham. I won a signed copy of this one from one of my favorite podcasts, The Dragon Page: Cover to Cover.
I really enjoyed Acacia, and highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys the Epic Fantasy genre. The story is expansive, and covers the political landscape of Durham's universe, called The Known World. The book is broken into four sections, three of which Durham calls "Books" plus an Epilogue. It's 576 pages long, currently in hardcover only, and sells for $26.95 US. The chapters are short, which I really prefer, so the story moves along at a quick pace.
The story starts with a Meinish assassin, riding out to carry out his destiny: to kill the Acacian King and restore his family's rule over The Known World. Book One follows his attempt (no spoilers) as well as the lives of the ruling family's children. The Akaran family has ruled in Acacia for generations, while the Meins have been exiled in the frozen North. Book Two picks the story up 10 years later, and follows the war that is well underway. Book Three ends the war, and resolves the battle between the Akaran and Mein families in a really surprising way.
I loved this book because the world Durham has built, and the characters that reside within, are multi-cultural. It's a refreshing thing in this genre within which I'm just starting my adolescence. I don't know enough to speak for the entire genre, but with what I've devoured within the genre, people of color have not been present except as evil outlanders (Tolkien), scary conquerers from across the sea (Jordan), or fun sidekicks who have minor roles (King). In Acacia, the ruling Akaran family is brown. The armies of the south have skin as black as coal. And the revolting force from the North is a white race. Also, the women in this universe play pivotal parts - so far - in the politics and wars we follow.
Of course, multi-culturalism isn't enough to keep my interest. This is an exciting story, with some really subtle big ideas. The story is really about Empire: how an Empire is made, how it becomes invisible to those who benefit from it, and how difficult it is to imagine another way of living once it has been established.
If you're looking for a good read, check this one out. I'm going with 5 out of 5 nipples (and yes, I did say nipples. I'm stealing my unit of measurement from Jack Mangan until someone else comes up with a better one).