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The War With the Mein: Acacia Book One    by David Anthony Durham order for
War With the Mein
by David Anthony Durham
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

David Anthony Durham's last book, Pride of Carthage, was a fictional retelling of Hannibal's attempt to take over Rome; Acacia, Book One: The War With the Mein, opens a fantasy series. While the title suggests a world of African magic and people, this is sadly not the case. Nevertheless, the Known World is one in which magic has not existed for some time, while mythology, legend and old ignored gods are very much in everyone's mind. Acacia at first seems to borrow a little too much from the likes of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time and George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, but then establishes itself halfway through as a unique story.

The Akaran Dynasty rules over the Known World from the island of Acacia. The Acacia tree is the symbol of the dynasty, with its many braches and strong curling roots, it shows the power and control of the Akarans. The dynasty is ruled by King Leodan who to all outward appearances is a strong and just king, but behind closed doors is a befuddled mist addict. This drug is traded by a distant race that, in return for an annual supply, requires a number of child slaves. This unknown, despicable trade has gone on for generations. While Leodan disagrees with it wholeheartedly, he is a weak king and unable to do anything. This is a society where the past hangs over the present like a domineering father, making sure everything is done just as it has always been, regardless of moral questioning.

King Leodan has four children: two boys (Aliver, the apparent heir, and Dariel, the youngest) and two girls (Corinn, the beautiful older sister who looks to be a useful bargaining chip for forming alliances, and Mena, the quiet, younger sister who shows the most promise from the reader's point of view to break away from the imprisoning bonds of the Akaran Dynasty). Then there are the Mein: a race exiled generations ago to the far north for fighting against the Akarans. It is there that the seeds of revenge and the will to overthrow the Akarans has grown for generations. Hanish Mein, the current leader has set plans into motion with an assassin sent south to kill Leodan, and an unknown people - the Numreks, giants with giant beasts - summoned from the north to overthrow the Akarans once and for all.

Acacia takes a little while to get going, but once the story is established, all of a sudden plans spring into action. Soon King Leodan is dead and his children have fled, hiding in different corners of the Known World, while the Mein and Numreks take over as the new rulers. With all hope seemingly lost, it is now up to the four children to somehow unite behind a strong army and cast out the Mein. The only way this will be possible is by calling on gods, magic, and legends from the past and using them to their advantage.

Durham's world of Acacia is a unique one with many facets that have appeared in fantasy before, but also many that have not. While the first book in the series is a seemingly obvious one where the ruling good dynasty is overthrown by the evil one and then must fight back and retake the throne, it provides an excellent foundation for a series that will generate a great deal of discussion amongst fantasy readers.

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