Thursday, October 20, 2011

[Lisa’s Take] Acacia – David Anthony Durham

I do so love being proven wrong about a book. I recently posted in a comment over at The Tattered Scroll:

I’m about 200 pages into Acacia right now, and I’m finding it… ok. I’m not super caught up by the plot or massively engaged with the characters, and the writing style is only so-so. The world is interesting enough that I’ll keep reading, but I do hope it perks my interest a bit as it goes on,
As promised, I stuck with Acacia… and I was richly rewarded. Eventually.

This first volume in the trilogy is broken up into 3 books, each in the 200-250ish page range. Book 1 was almost entirely setup and background, and didn’t grab me at all. The main POV characters seemed dull and one dimensional, with the exception of the relationship between Leodan and Thaddeus. It felt like the author was doing a lot of telling and not a lot of showing; I discovered a new pet peeve in the form of:

“Let’s talk, Person A,” said person B.
“How do you feel about X,” Person A asked.
Person B began to speak about {insert long exposition here}
This is an odd thing to get caught up on, but given how much I enjoy witty dialog it was extremely jarring any time a conversation progressed for 2 or 4 statements, then branched off into a long exposition that was supposed to be dialog, but not presented as dialog.

Then book 2 started and Acacia got GOOD. Suddenly the characters were no longer flat and uninteresting. The four main(ish) POV characters grew up, which helped a great deal (so often children in literature are one dimensional). Suddenly Acacia seemed less “remote historical drama” and more character-driven drama, with personal struggles and gains. From this point on I positively chewed through the book, delighting in each turn.

And then book 3 hit and we discover that David Anthony Durham has a little Joss Whedon in him – or perhaps George R. R. Martin, given that this is the book-realm, rather than the TV-realm. Durham becomes absolutely vicious and isn’t afraid to send heads flying. I don’t think I’ve felt so stabbed by in-book betrayals since reading The Lion of Senet 6 years ago. Book 3 ends in a tumult of action that surprises and horrifies, cuts, thrills, and induces shivers. The best part of all of that? The part where it Actually Ends. I get so sick of “trilogies” that are truly just a single book broken into 3 pieces with no distinct narrative arc in each book. Acacia defies that trend and leaves you with a entire story to mull (while still managing to leave you craving more).

So there you have it – I went from totally tepid to pretty pleased with Acacia. I'm going to write off the rocky start to "new trilogy growing pains." I’ll be bouncing my way over to the bookstore tonight to pick up the second and third books right away (though I may break them up with a couple of other recent releases I’m anticipating, such as The Broken Kingdom).

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