Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Sacred Band Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: David Anthony Durham
Publisher: Doubleday
Genre: Epic Fantasy, Low Fantasy
Series: Acacia Book Three
Pages: 764

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(Spoilers to Acacia War With The Mein and Acacia The Other Lands are below).

The Sacred Band is the final book by David Anthony Durham in the Acacia Trilogy. Continuing right after the conclusion of The Other Lands, The Sacred Band looks to resolve all of the conflicts that had begun in the previous two installments.

Although the ending of The Other Lands was sure to draw controversy amongst readers, The Sacred Band redeems a lot of the more questionable plot lines that were introduced in the Other Lands. The Sacred Band provides a thrilling conclusion to the Acacia Trilogy and it reclaims sight of the fact this is a series about building a better world while questioning the morals of the characters doing so.

The Sacred Band continues directly after Corinn resurrects her brother Aliver from the dead at the end of The Other Lands. After doing this she places him under her control, much like she does with Barad at the end of The Other Lands. Corinn’s means continue to grow more questionable as she demonstrates what she can do to whomever opposes her.

Up north Mena begins to prepare the first line of defense for Acacia with former traitor Haleveen Mein. Rialus Neptus contemplates his loyalty to Acacia while he is traveling with the invading Auldek army that plans on destroying Mena’s forces.

Kelis continues his journey towards the Acacian capital with Shen and the Santoth who wish to have their banishment ended. The Santoth are also searching for Corinn’s book that contains the Song of Elenet.

Ushen Brae, the capital city of the Other Lands, is now in turmoil since the Auldek have all left, and no governing body has been established. As chaos ensues, Dariel seeks out Na Gamen the last living Lothan Aklun with Mor and a few other former slaves of the Auldek. Dariel hopes that Na Gamen will help him discover the Rhuin Fa, the prophesied savior of The Other Lands.

Being the final volume of the trilogy The Sacred Band looks to wrap up the myriad story lines that have been established in the morally complex Known World and Other Lands. The Sacred Band appears to be setting up a classic good vs evil climactic war to determine who will rule the world, which has been the go to plot line for many fantasy writers since Lord of the Rings.

Durham doesn’t necessarily go that route. A lot has been said about the moral ambiguities and complexities of the cultures and characters of Durham’s books, but even at the beginning of this book I believed Durham was going to step back on a more traditional route. Ultimately he doesn’t and instead sticks to what has been the heart of his story since the beginning: people overcoming complex moral and ethical issues while trying to build a better world.

The flaws of each of the Akarans continues to be a highlight of this series. Aliver’s optimism is inspiring but it is not realistic, something he has to come to terms with throughout the story, and this is partly why he is killed in War With The Mein. Mena struggles with her loyalty to Corinn, who’s decisions as Queen she is constantly forced to question. Dariel’s search for his place in the world also has him showcasing some questionable means to achieve his ends.

No character steals the spotlight and has more questionable means than the Queen of Acacia. What Snape was to Harry Potter, what Darth Vader was to Star Wars; this is what Corinn Akaran is to the Acacia series. The means Corinn uses and the ends she wishes to achieve become more and more skewed as the novel progresses, which is what makes her so fascinating.

Classic fantasy staples are also used in the book. The search for the unknown is used to convey a great sense of wonder and mystery in Dariel’s story arch. While large violent confrontations are commonplace in Mena’s storyline. The Sacred Band has all the great elements of a fantasy story, while at the same time it looks to move the genre in a new direction.

The Sacred Band has fewer issues than the previous book The Other Lands had. The most notable issue from the previous book was the pacing of the story. That being said Durham fixes a lot of the pacing issues found in the previous book in The Sacred Band. However, due to the close proximity of the two stories, The Sacred Band loses a lot of the emotional impact it could have due to these pacing issues from the previous book.

The action and various plot lines taking place in Acacia concludes to near perfection in this book. However, the conclusion to the plot lines in the Other Lands feels rushed. The story on The Other Lands should be of equal importance to the story coming off of Acacia, but it does not have that feeling in these books. While the plot line of the Other Lands has great potential it is not realized to its fullest which is a disappointment that effects the overall story.

The Sacred Band is recommended to everyone who read the first two books in the Acacia Trilogy. If you were discouraged by the second book in the series, the third book is a significant improvement over that book. The Sacred Band concludes the Acacia Trilogy in a way that I have not personally seen done in any other fantasy series, and that is a good thing.

Ultimately if engaging and deep characters interacting in a morally and culturally complex world is something that appeals to you than this book comes highly recommended. The Sacred Band answers a lot of the lingering questions posed by the previous two books, while adding to its already expertly crafted back story.

Score: 8.8

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