I love urban fantasy novels and I’ll admit to really never have read a true fantasy/high fantasy novel. So, I was a bit nervous when asked to read The Sacred Band, which is book 3 in the Acacia trilogy by David Anthony Durham. After doing just a cursory review of The Sacred Band, I realized I wasn’t going to even be able to read it without reading the first two books. So, I got book 1, Acacia from my local library (the publisher was kind enough to send book 2). I tried to get into Acacia, as I do like fantasy movies, but I just couldn’t get into it. Sadly, I’m marking Acacia and the rest of the trilogy as DNF.
Leodan Akaran, ruler of the Known World, has inherited generations of apparent peace and prosperity, won ages ago by his ancestors. 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. On his deathbed, Leodan puts into play a plan to allow his children to escape, each to their separate destiny. And so his children begin a quest to avenge their father’s death and restore the Acacian empire–this time on the basis of universal freedom.
I decided to DNF Acacia after about 4 chapters. I just could not connect with the characters or the plot. I couldn’t care about what happens. Part of the issue was just too much detail/description in the writing. Yes, I know high fantasy is a lot more detailed than other genres. It’s probably why I prefer fantasy movies to the actual novels. I’m a reader who likes a lot of plot and a lot of action within that plot. If you overwhelm me with attention to minute details, you’ll lose my attention. An example of what I mean…let me give you a quote: “To complete his appearance, the man shaved the sides of his head and bound the long hair at the top of his skull up into one tight knot wrapped in thin strips of leather. The skin at either side of his head was as pale and pink as pig flesh.” Um, IMVHO, I think the intent behind this description could have been accomplished in a much simpler sentence. Something along the lines of “He pulled is long hair up into a knot, shaved the sides of his head, just as the natives did, in an effort to blend in.” Much shorter, less distracting. To me, it’s not pertinent to the plot. He needed to blend in to try and accomplish his goal. I don’t need what is, to me, a screen writer’s dream of a descriptive paragraph. Now, please don’t get me wrong, Mr. Durham’s writing isn’t bad, it just isn’t my cup of tea so to speak. I’m learning I’m just not a high fantasy reader. And if you are, I’d suggest you pick up Acacia and give it a go. You may very well like it. I just don’t like all the detail and description. I want action and world building weaved eloquently into the plot. Hey, if we all liked the same stuff all the time, what fun would it all be? *G*
My guess would be true high fantasy lovers would adore Acacia and the entire trilogy. Me, not so much. Now, if you make it into a movie…yeah I’d watch it. There’s a reason I’ve never read Lord of the Rings and just prefer to watch the movies *wink*.
The Other Lands
The Sacred Band
Also reviewed by: DC Perry, Fenryng, SF Site, Strange Horizons, Fantasy-Matters
I appreciate the even handed way you approached talking about my books. I agree with your approach. There has to be diversity in how writers write, but as a writer I also respect that there are diverse differences in the tastes of readers. We won’t always be a perfect match, and that’s not a bad thing. For example, I take the notion that my prose includes “a screen writer’s dream of a descriptive paragraph” as compliment – though I know you didn’t intend it that way. ;)
I would argue that Acacia isn’t “high” fantasy, though. No elves, dwarves, hobbits to be found in it. Not quite a high fantasy setting at all, but that’s a small distinction.
Thanks for giving it a try, and for the attention.
Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you took the quote as a compliment. It certainly wasn’t meant to be bad :). Best wishes and if the movie rights sell, I’d def be interested in watching it!
Sounds good. I think a couple of my other books have a better shot at actually being in film, but you never know. If it happens the movie would be it’s own thing – maybe better than the book in some ways. Here’s hoping…