King Leodan rules the Akaran empire, enjoying the support of his people and his seafaring allies. But appearances can be deceiving for, in truth, Leodan’s seemingly benevolent reign belies secrets that plague the once noble monarch. Bound to an agreement made by his predecessors, he must pay a yearly tribute of thousands of child slaves to the mysterious race known as the Lothan. In exchange, his empire receives the mist, a powerful drug to which he himself has fallen victim. Guilt-ridden, he seeks solace in the mist, unaware that forces conspire against him. The Mein people, exiled 22 centuries ago, have plotted revenge. Their leader, Hanish Mein, dispatches an assassin to Leodan’s court while his forces, allied with the savage race Numrek, launch an attack on the Akaran forces. The empire falls into disarray, forcing the king’s four young children to flee. With their enemies in pursuit, they must go into hiding and build new lives for themselves, biding their time, awaiting the opportunity to take back Acacia.
This book has been compared to George R. R. Martin’s Ice and Fire series and, on the surface, parallels can be drawn. But big story similarities aside (a king is killed, his children scattered to the four winds…), Acacia is very much its alone animal. Author David Anthony Durham creates a world that is as richly detailed as the characters who inhabit it. Unlike the cookie cutter kingdoms of most fantasy literature, the Akaran empire possesses the depth and nuance of a real world nation, fraught with divisiveness and bolstered by self-serving allies. In much the same way, his characters are fully realized and morally complex. In his youth, Leodan challenged his father on the empire’s controversial policies and yet, year’s later when he assumes the throne, he comes to accept those self-same policies as a necessary evil. Initially, Hanish Mein comes across as a merciless villain devoid of any ethical standard and yet, as the novel progresses, we begin to, if not to sympathize with his plight, then at least understand his motives. Even the fearsome Numrek who display horrifying cruelty in the early battles prove entertaining and humorous in their own right.
The book is stylistically lush and Durham draws on his experience as a historical novelist to craft a story that is fantastical yet wholly credible. And, as is the case in most true historical accounts, events have a way of taking the most unexpected of turns. There are unforeseen developments, surprising collusions, and even a shocking death or three. The whole builds to a thrilling final act that is, in some ways, incredibly satisfying in its willingness to tie up the major narrative threads rather than leave them dangling for the next book in the series, but is, in other ways, somewhat unsatisfying in its abrupt resolution. While I loved the fact that the seemingly weakest/flightiest member of our royal foursome is the one who crafts and implements the plan that turns the table on the Mein, I felt that Corinn’s single-handed victory diminished her siblings‘ contribution to the uprising. In fact, in the end, the hard-fought battlefield triumph over Meander really seemed beside the point.
Which brings to mind two other smaller bumps I had with the novel. The first was Aliver’s decision to accept Meander’s challenge. Honor and ego trump common sense and, in retrospect, the hitherto charismatic character of Aliver was left the poorer for it. My second bump was the introduction of the “magic element”. While the Santoth were interesting and did play a significant role in the battle, they nevertheless felt like an extraneous otherworldly addition that, unlike Hamish‘s disembodied ancestors, didn‘t greatly influence the overall story.
Despite the aforementioned bumps, I really enjoyed Acacia. It was engaging, well-written, and promises to be a wonderful addition to my ongoing fantasy series rotation alongside Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle, Scott Lych’s Locke Lamorra adventures, and, yes, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire.
INForeman writes: “1.) Have all the main cast of Atlantis committed to the SGA film at this point, or are they still in negotiations?
2.) If they have all committed to the film at this point, did their negotiations include an option on additional films should they get greenlit?
3.) If additional films materialize, would filming them be worked around the schedules of the principle actors?”
Answers: 1) I’m not involved in the deal-making process so I’m not privy to the details. However, I hope to have an update in the coming weeks. 2) Again, I’m not privy to the details but I’d think it unlikely. 3) We would, of course, try to schedule production at a time that would be most convenient for the actors.
Iamjohn writes: “Since you’ll be coming up with episodes for SGU episodes in November, will you be doing a spoiler poem Jan 1st, or will you not be able to due to the super secret nature of the whole thing.”
Answer: Nope. That was the last of the spoiler poems. You guys should bug Robert Cooper to write one for SGU’s first season.
Susan the tartan turtle writes: “Is it a rat that Lulu has sticking out of her mouth?
Are pugs and French bulldogs flatulent canines?”
Answer: Yes and yes.
Georgia writes: “Have you ever considered publishing a zagat-like guide for Vancouver?”
Answer: Not yet.
Mellow Yellow writes: “I’m happy to know you are keeping busy and I can’t wait to find out what this Super Secret Project is. This deadline of June 2009, is that a deadline you gave yourself..or do you already have a deal and that is your deadline to turn it in?”
Answer: It’s the deadline I’ve been given.
Mellow Yellow also writes: “ How are you and the other writers approaching writing for SGU, since it seems it will have more character moments/driven story. Will you guys write out what each character is like..kind of like a guide and then get your stories from there or are the characters being developed as the story ideas come out.”
Answer: It’s always a little of both.
Arctic Goddess writes: “ What are the chances, despite the premise of the new Star Gate series, of past SG characters turning up as guest stars?”
Answer: I think it’s likely to happen sooner or later.
Chokolaj writes: “Can you tell us what has been your most interesting chocolate combo experience??”
Answer: Zotter’s dark chocolate, plum, coffee, and caramelized bacon is a winner.
Randomness writes: “Doesn’t Japan have a fingerprinting/photograph policy for all foreigners entering the country now?”
Answer: Yep. Believe it or not, they actually remove your fingerprints before you enter the country, then return them to you when you’re ready to leave.
Jean writes: “So are you waiting until the end of Season 5 airs before revealing the answers to your last spoiler poem?”
Answer: No. I just have to get around to it.
Joe writes: “Can you clarify just who will be heading back in on Nov. 10th to pitch stories for Universe? Will the entire writing staff of Atlantis be back? Will there be any new writers hired?”
Answer: It remains to be seen who’ll be in the room on November 10th. As for new writers – Brad and Rob are on the look-out. In fact, I just sent an email to one potential new writer this afternoon.
Tuskin writes: “Do you know what other actors are doing Commentaries?”
Answer: I don’t.
Zona writes: “bubba really has perfected the head-tilt hasn’t he?”
Answer: He has. Talk to him, and he’ll actually tilt his head as if he’s trying to figure you out.
Bailey writes: “ Hi, in preparation for your trip to Japan, you might want to take a look at this JUMBO PARFAIT!”
Answer: Damn! If it wasn’t for the fruit, I’d get one for sure.
JJ writes: “Will some SG1 or SGA main cast guest appear on SGU pilot movie?”
Answer: Most unlikely.
Patricia Lee writes: “If I may, I would like to hazard a guess at your super secret project. Okay, deep breath, here goes…”
Answer: I’ll have to offer a polite “No comment” for the time being.
Alicia writes: “what do you care? so have someone make a new one. does hollywood say that, oh, thats hard to shoot so lets not make a harry potter movie?”
Answer: I care because everyone prefers the new conference room. Well, everyone except you.
Shirt ’n Tie writes: “Will there be bloopers reel on Season 5 DVD?”
Linda Gagne writes: “I do find it funny that people here are still wondering who canceled SGA. That said, I do believe SCIFI would of kept a sixth season and it is my guess that is why they were thrown the bone of having the SGA movie air on SCIFI before it goes to DVD (they say it will show there first). There are two players left to blame here and those who are perceptive can figure it out.”
Answer: That’s some mighty shaky logic.
Shiningwit writes: “ On a more somber note my nephew had a grand mal tonic-clonic seizure this morning and battered his poor face off of his weight bench so now he has a black eye and bruises and absolutely no recollection of what happened…”
Answer: Hope your nephew is on the mend.
Chris U writes: “Would you have any interest in being a celeb judge on IRON CHEF AMERICA?”
Answer: Sure, but with my luck, I’ll probably end up with Battle Pomegranate.
Pat writes: “So, does this mean things went already less than “ideal” and we have to do without one of the well-liked “familiar faces” in the movie? Or is the group in which the “significant character death” occurs not congruent with the group of “familiar faces” you mentioned?”
Answer: Nope. It definitely is a familiar face.
Halo Luver writes: “1. Is there a reason for everyone speaking English and having the same accent in the Pegasus galaxy? Don’t say “translator nanites!”
2. If there isn’t a reason, how come nobody thought to have the peoples of Pegasus have different languages?”
Answer: But it is the translator nanites. And we happen to hear a particular language and accent because we are taking in the perspective of our English-speaking explorers. If we followed a French team off-world, they would encounter French-speaking aliens with funny accents.
Derek writes: “why cant it be a web cast for season six just to kind of tie up the cool stuff that the movie wouldn`t have time for ?”
Answer: It wouldn’t make financial sense to produce episodes for the web.
Tamijb writes: “Will the new alien race that was seen in Deadleaus Variations be seen in SGU?”