by The Wanderer
Author: David Anthony Durham
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Low Fantasy
Series: Acacia Book Two
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(Spoilers to Acacia: War With The Mein are below).
The Other Lands is the second book by David Anthony Durham in the Acacia Trilogy. The plot of this book continues nine years after the first novel as Durham looks to build upon his highly impressive fantasy debut War With The Mein.
Fast paced narrative, and complex relationships again dominate this sequel. Ultimately this book, like most second books in trilogies is preparing you for the final installment of the series, which is done very nicely in this book. Although Durham delivers a book that is a worthy rival of the first book, The Other Lands falls short of eclipsing it. Nevertheless a solid second book is still delivered and readers of the first book should be pleased with this sequel.
Nine years have passed since Aliver died and Corinn usurped the throne from the rule of Hanish Mein. Now calling herself the Queen of Acacia she works to keep the Empire united using whatever means she has to. While securing her empire, she has secretly been studying the Song of Elenet, becoming a powerful sorceress in the process.
Mena is sent to battle the foul things, destructive monstrous creatures that appeared after the Santoth destroyed the Meinish army. When Corinn receives news from the League that trouble is brewing across the sea in The Other Lands, she sends Dariel with the League as her personal ambassador. His arrival there sets off a chain of events that has him come face to face with the slaves they have been sending over seas for years and with the Auldek, a mighty race that enjoys bloodshed and are more formidable than their Numrek counterparts in Acacia.
In addition to these troubles, disciples of Aliver’s who are not pleased with Corinn’s rule have begun gathering to form their own revolution. With prospects of war coming in every direction, the question that remains is what will the fate be of the Known World and The Other Lands?
The Other Lands functions as a typical middle volume of a trilogy. It multiplies the problems that the characters will have to face, it grows the world that the story is set in, and it begins to set up the final large conflicts that will need to be tackled in the series’ final book.
One of the strongest elements of this whole series is Corinn. After she emerges triumphantly at the end of the first book in the series by defeating Hanish Mein and by seizing the Song of Elenet her character is transformed into someone who’s very complex and grey. Corinn wishes to free her people from their dependency on the Lothan Aklun and end the slave trade, yet she allows the League to continue on with their slave breeding island. She loves her siblings, yet sends them to face dangerous tasks that she would be much better suited to face with her knowledge of the Song of Elenet. Corinn wants to improve the lives of her people, but she doesn’t end slavery and she continues the rule of her empire with an iron grip.
The relationships between the various factions battling for control of the populace: the League, the Queen, the Auldek, the Lothan Aklun, and the people themselves creates a lot of tension in the story. The power struggles and issues mimic a lot of the social and political issues that plague us here on Earth. This manages to keep a lot of the thematic content of the story relevant to the issues of our world, but by doing this in a fictional world it allows the reader take these issues in with a very unbiased view.
Magic again is present but kept at a minimum. How the Song of Elenet works is never exactly revealed, but the direct results from using it are seen throughout the story. By not giving readers specifics of how the song works, readers are left to wonder how much power Corinn really has, and what the Song of Elenet can do for or to the people of Acacia?
The plot line that brings readers to the Other Lands is also intriguing as readers finally get to see what’s been happening to all of the quota children over the centuries. In addition to this, new cultures are introduced in the Other Lands which add to the complexity of the story, and these new cultures provide a nice contrast to the previously introduced culture of Acacia. Once again the lines between good and evil, and better or worse are blurred.
Pacing is again an issue with The Other Lands, even more so than in the first book. The first third of this book suffers the most from too fast of a pacing of the plot lines. However, the second third and final third of the book manage to slow down the frantic, chaotic pace established in the first section of the narrative.
The narrative also suffers from the addition of new narrators, most notably Sire Neen from The League, who’s point of view chapters could have easily been left out and told by someone else.
The other major criticism comes at the end of the novel as many different plot points are added and resolved. Without giving away any spoilers, most of these points at the end are tied together very nicely while also making you excited for the final volume of the trilogy, except for the last plot line. This plot line I disagreed with completely and its inclusion will ultimately have a huge impact on the final book of the series.
The Other Lands is recommended to people who enjoyed the first book Acacia: War With The Mein. Although this book does not surpass the story of War With The Mein, it is safe to say it holds its own. The middle volume of the Acacia Trilogy is a rewarding book, and it will have readers eagerly anticipating the final book of the trilogy.
Again this is a low magic, blurred good vs. evil fantasy series, so the book is also recommended to anyone who enjoys those types of ideas mixed in with elements of fantasy. This series is comparable to A Song of Ice and Fire, so fans of those books might have something here to enjoy, too.