David Anthony Durham steps into the world of fantasy with his latest novel Acacia: Book One: The War With the Mein. Most known for his historical fiction novels — Gabriel’s Story, Walk Through Darkness, and Pride of Carthage — Durham seems born for the fantasy genre. His characters are compelling, always changing, complex, and the storyline unfolds with thoughtful precision and fluid pacing. At times, the plot may seem predictable, but just when you think you know exactly what is going to happen next, Durham twists the story in such a way that it leaves you questioning everything you thought you knew. Characters change; weaker characters rise while stronger characters fall; no one is safe, and it will surprise you who gets out alive and who may not live to see Book 2.
I could recap the story, give a summary of the novel — as many reviews do — but I figure you can read a summary about Durham’s novel on Amazon or some other Web site. I want to talk about his characters, his story, his style of writing, his approach to the fantasy genre. I’ve read several review comparing Durham to George R.R. Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire series. I do see some similarities: the four children fighting for their kingdom, the more realistic feel of the novel — a bit of a historical fantasy if you will –with limited magic. I have to say I’m a fan of minimal magic, and while Durham does play on this more than Martin, I still do not feel it was overdone. The use of magic is subtle, a kind of spiritual awakening, a fabric of his characters and plot.
One aspect I really enjoyed was the pacing of the novel. If you’ve read George R.R. Martin’s novels or J.R.R Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, there are parts of those that do tend to drag, but not with Durham. His plot moves much quicker; his chapters are much shorter, and you can move from one plot point to the next without getting bogged down in lengthy exposition, and even with this faster pacing, Durham is still able to develop strong, meaningful characters.
Overall, I’d recommend buying or at least checking out the novel at your local library. Durham’s Acacia is one of the stronger, more enjoyable fantasy reads I’ve come across.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars