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Acacia : The Other Lands
Reviewed by Peggy Hailey, © 2010

Format: Book
By:   David Anthony Durham
Genre:   Fantasy
Review Date:   March 08, 2010
RevSF Rating:   8/10 (What Is This?)

If you look at my review of Acacia: The War With the Mein, you'll find that I was reluctant to pick up something I knew was an unfinished trilogy. I ended up enjoying the book immensely, but I knew that book 2, when it came, would come with a built-in problem.

While book one of a trilogy can usually stand on its own, book two is doomed to be incomplete. Certainly characters are deepened and plot points are expanded, but it's all in service to setting up the endgame to come in book three. It's not that this set-up can't be enjoyable, it's just that the reader will be left dangling amongst the various plot-threads, waiting to see how it all comes out, a situation which is particularly frustrating if the story is good.

Make no mistake, The Other Lands is good. Durham builds on all the good points from Acacia: the world-building skill, the finely-drawn characters, the level of detail, and the solid pacing. His world is a lush mix of political intrigue, anthropology, mythology, and sorcery, and it's a pleasure to spend time there, even in the company of some very unpleasant people. There are villains aplenty here, and cultures beyond our understanding, but nothing simplistic. There are no easy answers to be found here, no hero without a touch of darkness, and no villain without reason for his or her actions.

The remaining Akarans, reunited at the end of book one, struggle to come to terms with a victory that doesn't feel very much like a victory. They are each also struggling with finding a balance between their responsibilities to the kingdom with those to their families. Having grown up apart and in such different cultures from one another, they find themselves unsure within their newly-reunited family, struggling to understand the motivations of people now very different than those they remember. Though they each have the same goal of a kingdom at peace, they differ significantly in how they think that should be achieved.

The various pieces are being moved into place for what looks like a truly epic endgame, with Acacia facing seemingly impossible threats both from without and within. Given the amount of care and thought that has gone into the story so far, I have no doubt that I will enjoy the trip wherever David Anthony Durham decides to take us.

Peggy Hailey really, really, really, really, really, really, really hates to wait for book 3. Seriously.

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