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Monday, September 19, 2011

“The Sacred Band” by David Anthony Durham (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official David Anthony Durham Website
Order “The Sacred BandHERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Acacia: The War with the Mein
Read FBC’s Review of “The Other Lands
Read A Conversation HERE between David Anthony Durham & Robert V.S. Redick

AUTHOR INFORMATION: David Anthony Durham has written such critically-acclaimed historical fiction novels as Walk Through Darkness, Pride of Carthage, and Gabriel’s Story—winner of two American Library Association awards and one of three novels by the author that have been optioned for film adaptation. He is also the author of The Acacia Trilogy epic fantasy saga and was awarded the 2009 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction & Fantasy. He currently teaches Popular Fiction at the Stonecoast Low-Residency MFA Program.

ABOUT THE SACRED BAND: With Acacia: The War with the Mein and The Other Lands, the first two books in The Acacia Trilogy, David Anthony Durham created a vast and engrossing canvas where the surviving children of a royal dynasty are struggling to find their place in a world full of turmoil.

As The Sacred Band begins, Queen Corinn Akaran looms over the Known World because of her mastery of spells found in the ancient Book of Elenet. Meanwhile, her younger brother Dariel has been sent on a perilous mis­sion to the Other Lands, as her sister Mena travels to the far north to confront an invasion from the feared Auldek. Their separate trajectories will converge in a series of world-shaping, earth-shattering battles that will realize the Akarans’ fates—and perhaps right ancient wrongs once and for all...

CLASSIFICATION: The Acacia Trilogy is epic fantasy fueled by compelling characters, realistic world-building and powerful storytelling. May contain elements reminiscent of George R.R. Martin, Tolkien, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Brian Ruckley, but the series is defined by David Anthony Durham’s unique historical fiction-influenced viewpoint...

FORMAT/INFO: The Sacred Band is 576 pages long divided over four Books, seventy-three numbered chapters and an Epilogue. Also includes a map of the Known World and the Other Lands and a detailed summary of the first two book in the trilogy. Narration is in the third person via several different characters including Corinn Akaran, her brother and sister Dariel & Mena, Corinn’s councilor Rialus Neptos, the leaguemen Sire Dagon, Barad the Lesser, Aliver’s former companion Kelis of Umae, Corinn’s informant Delivegu Lemardine, Mena’s husband Melio Sharratt, and a few others. The Sacred Band is the third and final volume in The Acacia Trilogy after Acacia: The War with the Mein and The Other Lands. It goes without saying that readers should finish the first two books in The Acacia Trilogy before attempting to read The Sacred Band.

October 4, 2011 marks the North American Hardcover publication of The Sacred Band via Doubleday. A UK edition has not been announced yet, but the first two volumes of the trilogy were published by Transworld.

ANALYSIS: Over four years ago, David Anthony Durham burst onto the fantasy scene with Acacia: The War with the Mein, the impressive opening volume in The Acacia Trilogy. This was followed by The Other Lands in 2009, a respectable middle volume that was slightly disappointing compared to its predecessor, but set the stage for a potentially awesome conclusion to the trilogy. Which brings us to The Sacred Band.

In the third and final volume of The Acacia Trilogy, readers can expect a conclusion that not only fully answers questions about Tinhadin, the Santoth, the Song of Elenet, the League, the Lothan Aklun and the Auldek, but resolves major conflicts in a manner that was satisfactory, and occasionally surprising, while successfully wrapping up the trilogy’s numerous storylines—Elya and her children, the Free People of Ushen Brae and the Rhuin Fá, Corinn’s son Aaden and Aliver’s daughter Shen, the mist, the Numrek, et cetera.

Along the way, readers can also expect another well-written novel from David Anthony Durham,  highlighted by accomplished prose, rich characterization, morally ambiguous characters, creative world-building that reflects real history & social issues—slavery, forms of government, racial tensions, etc.—and an imagination that breathes new life into such classic fantasy tropes as dragons, prophesied heroes and war.

At the same time, The Sacred Band suffers from the same lethargic pacing issues that I had with The Other Lands. In this case however, I realized the pacing of the novel and its emphasis on characterization closely resembled Daniel Abraham’s The Long Price Quartet. Once I made that connection, I cared less about the book’s pacing and focused more on the characters and their compelling narratives—Corinn dealing with the pressures of leadership and trust issues, Rialus Neptos’ struggle for redemption, Dariel fulfilling his destiny, Mena’s warrior spirit, and so on.

CONCLUSION: Considering everything that occurred in the first two volumes of The Acacia Trilogy, The Sacred Band had a lot riding on its shoulders. Thankfully, David Anthony Durham was more than up to the task, delivering a rewarding conclusion in The Sacred Band that successfully wraps up The Acacia Trilogy...


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