David Anthony Durham,
The War with the Mein #1: Acacia
(Anchor, 2008)

For 22 generations, the Akaran dynasty has ruled the Acacian Empire. The current king, Leodan Akaran, dreams of a better world for his children. He wishes to heal the corruption at the heart of his empire before passing it to them, but even kings are not entirely free to do as they might wish.

For 22 generations, the Mein people have been exiled to the frozen north, forced to battle beasts and elements to survive. Their current chieftain, Hanish Mein, dreams of a better world for his people, a world of warmth and prosperity. Above all, he seeks to release his ancestors from the curse laid on them by the first Akaran king: though they die, their living spirits remain bound forever to their moldering corpses. Only the blood of an Akaran heir will end the curse. And so Hanish schemes and draws on unlikely allies and brings war and devastation down on Acacia.

But the shape of the future is not easy to predict and both Meins and Akarans will be surprised at how things eventually play out.

Acacia is the first volume in David Anthony Durham's The War With the Mein trilogy. To call it an epic would be something of an understatement: in mass-market paperback, the book weighs in at 753 pages. Fortunately, Durham's narrative style is lively and engaging, otherwise, getting through such a lengthy novel -- and only book one of a trilogy, no less -- would be a trudge comparable to Aliver Akaran's hike across the desert in search of the mythical sorcerers of Acacia's past.

Each chapter is conveyed from a different viewpoint: each of the Akaran and Mein heirs, as well as various other key figures. All of these differing viewpoints make the tale extraordinarily intricate, as well as allowing for plenty of twists and turns.

The Byzantine plot deals with love, hatred, loyalty, corruption, betrayal, power and who holds it -- even what happens when enemies come to love one another. The answers are surprising and the outcome more so, with the shape of the Acacian future promising to hold even more surprises. It's unfortunate that the next volume is not due to be released for nearly a year.

review by
Laurie Thayer

11 October 2008

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