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Double Review: The Other Lands & The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham

With these reviews a circle closes. πŸ™‚

Acacia was one of the first books I ever reviewed on this blog (in actual fact, the second book) and it definitely feels as if I’ve gone on a long, tempestuous, thrilling and ultimately fully rewarding journey with not only the readers who’s also enjoyed David’s Epic Fantasy trilogy buy have journeyed with David as he brought us this trilogy. (You can also read my 2008 interview with David here.)

And with announcements about the future of this blog on the way it’s only fitting that I post the reviews of these titles – as I said, a circle closes. πŸ™‚

Book 1 (my review here, in case you’ve not yet read it) set up what promised to be a truly epic story – a promise which The Other Lands and The Sacred Band fulfilled wonderfully.

The Other Lands

The novel doesn’t open, thankfully, immediately after the events of Acacia – a risk on David’s part, since we were met by characters who were subtly different from when me were introduced to them in Acacia, but a risk that paid off. Not only did David manage to show and explain how the characters had grown since I last read about them, but he also managed to set in motion the new cycles of growth and change that needed to happen to push not only the characters but the plot forward. After all, in Acacia we were shown a small part (yet a very important part) of the world David created – books 2 and 3 needed to show more of this world, and did.

In book 1 David also took the risk of removing one of the most promising and important characters of the trilogy, the effects of which are felt throughout book 2, from the normal man on the street right up to the sister who had to try and manage the thrust into the highest position of leadership. I was really surprised at this character’s return and was worried (I’ll admit) at what effect it would have on the rest of the cast, but David handled this all beautifully. πŸ™‚

The same can be said of many of the characters in the book – Corrin Akaran terrified me at the end of Acacia, and she continued to evolve in The Other Lands – I couldn’t help but compare her to Cersei Lannister, and to be honest, I don’t know who would come out on top if the two had to clash. Mena’s search for her place in the world (other than being an Akaran and the embodiment of a goddess) was heartfelt and beautiful, and I loved Dariel’s progression in the book, too. Each of the siblings reacted to the previous book’s events in ways that were both true to themselves (and to what they had survived) and in ways that echoed with me – one of the ways that we live through characters in novels, though they may be set in Fantasy-worlds) is through the character’s humanity and the author’s ability to evoke sympathy and empathy, something that David succeeded massively at in The Other Lands.

And the world that David created expands – Dariel travels to The Other Lands and I loved the strangeness, intensity and brutality of this place. Not only was it an excellent crucible to test and temper Dariel, but a way to explore a world intimately linked to the Known World but also brazenly different – it was handled and explained so well that I’m unable to decide which place is better.

The build towards the novel’s climax was suitably inexorable and tension-filled – the menace was palpable, leading me to not even want to guess at the conclusion in Book 3; the ‘good guys’ just seemed so overwhelmed that I had no idea how they were going to survive or triumpf – a very good thing to keep readers hooked and worrying.

All things considered, The Other Lands was an excellent bridging novel between the beginning of the trilogy and its conclusion in that it wasn’t only a bridging novel: it was a tale all its own, carrying forward some of the arcs (plot- and character-wise) from Book 1, creating satisfying new arcs, and leaving mysteries for The Sacred Band to explain. It’s the kind of novel that stands above most of the other Epic Fantasy novels on the shelves today – not least because of David’s Historical Fiction background, and shows that David is not only an author who can build convincing worlds but also a writer who excels at telling the all-important human stories within his beautiful and fantastical canvas. Highly recommended!

9 / 10

The Sacred Band

And now we come to what, especially in Epic Fantasy, is considered the make-or-break volume in a trilogy: the final book.

The first thing I’ll say is that I was pleasantly misled by the wonderful cover – and that David seems to have had the foresight to write a tale that not only explained the cover but then also surprised us with that explanation. Too many times a novel (especially Fantasy and its attendant sub-genres) are judged by the covers – whether in the stores before purchase or after putting the book down, and its rare that a cover manages to suit the novel (notice the plethora of Character-focused covers nowadays), so when an author manages to write a novel that gives the prospective reader an idea of what is awaiting him or her in the book -without having any directing input in the creation of the cover- that’s a well-done thing indeed. I know that David wrote the book first, believe me, but I truly like the cover for The Sacred Band because of the many layers of stories in the cover, all present in the novel. πŸ™‚ So, (whoever you are because I just can’t seem to find info on the artist / designer of the cover), well done, awesome cover!

Onto the meat and mead of the novel:

After the end of The Other Lands only one thing was for sure – the shit was going to hit the fan. David had manoeuvred his characters to where they needed to be and this invariably left them in places that were incredibly dangerous – Corrin in the Known World, having to prepare for a massive war, Mena in the ice trying to prepare herself for the coming carnage and Dariel in the Other Lands, facing not only hostile natives but approaching overlords…

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t think David will be able to pull this climax off. Why? Well, because of the threats facing the Akaran siblings and the Known World. I’ve read another book recently where the threat is just so massive that it couldn’t really be dealt with, and as I was feverishly plowing through The Sacred Band I was genuinely worried (readers of the novels will know what threats I’m talking about – I’d rather not spoil it for those that haven’t), but David not only managed to bring the climax, but also to bring it in a manner that was both satisfying and true to the characters and the story-arc they were part of. A tall order, indeed, when the characters didn’t suffer because of it – and neither did the tension, the action, the menace, the humanity. The novel and the series doesn’t end the way you think it will, I guarantee it – but the ending, and where this ending leaves the characters and the world, is immensely satisfying. πŸ™‚

Why am I not giving you any actual detail about the book itself, the characters, etc.? Well, to do so would spoil much of what is set up in Book 2 and all of what happens in The Sacred Band. πŸ™‚ I felt the ending was perfect and definitely consider it the most important part of the series – not because it should be but because it brings full-circle and basically explains the heart of what David was doing in this trilogy. More than that I don’t feel I should have to say – it’s an incredible book and an incredible trilogy, definitely one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of reading. πŸ™‚

9 / 10

Trilogy Rating: 9 / 10

To order your copies of The Other Lands, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

To order your copies of The sacred Band, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

And do head over and check out David’s website – you can read excerpts from the novels, there are order-links, and David also runs a blog there. In case you didn’t know, David has also written:

Gabriel’s Story,

Walk Through Darkness,

and Pride of Carthage.

David’s next novel will focus on telling the story of Spartacus. πŸ™‚

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

UPDATE: Thanks to fellow reader Andre Philander, the guy responsible for The Sacred Band’s awesome cover is Paul A Romano. Thanks Andre!

Final UPDATE: It appears Andre made a mistake and that Wikipedia is also wrong: the true artist is this man – and he work is AWESOME.

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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Reviews

 

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New WoT Book 12 Release Date & David Anthony Durham Wins!

my my, what a day! πŸ™‚ Not only did I find out today that I’ve been -whoops, can’t break the news yet (no no, it’s not huge or anything, and will make absolutely no difference to your lives, but it makes a huge difference to me!), but suffice it to say that I got really good news today- but there has been some incredible news regarding The Gathering Storm and coming from David Anthony Durham! πŸ™‚

First off, The Gathering Storm will be available in October! πŸ™‚ Yep, you heard that right! Check out this post at Dragonmount for the details! And SA-WoT fans, have no fear – I’ll make sure that Penguin SA has this info first email in the morning, and I’ll be damned if we’re not getting the book a minimum of 2 or 3 days after the new publication date! πŸ™‚

Awesome, awesome news!! πŸ™‚ Think we all need to stare in wondrous admiration at that cover again…

a-memory-of-light-uk

Now onto news from David Anthony Durham, author of the incredible Acacia – he was down at Worldcon for a few days, chatting to author-folk, part of panels and such, and then he won this award – AWESOME AWARD – and you know what, David thoroughly deserves it! πŸ™‚ Now, if you’re wondering why David won the award, then get Acacia, Book 1 of The War with the Mein. You’ll know why! πŸ™‚ And then you can join the ever-increasing legion of fans worldwide in anticipation of the sequel to Acacia – The Other Lands!

Be EPIC!

P.S. I’m back tomorrow with my review of A Darkness Forged in Fire by Chris Evans! And then Thursday, I’m Hitchhiking… towel included! πŸ˜‰

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2009 in Announcements

 

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The Other Lands & Nights of Villjamur

Just a very quick post to let you all know (for those who don’t already know) about some very cool news:

First of all, Gav over at Nextread has posted a very cool interview with Mark Charan Newton! Mark even drops some hints about the sequel to Nights of Villjamur! πŸ™‚

And David Anthony Durham shows off galley-proofs of the eagerly-awaited sequel to Acacia, The Other Lands! πŸ™‚ Guess you all know me too well – I definitely want me one of those! πŸ™‚

Anyway, next post will be an excerpt of Kaaron Warren’s Slights! πŸ™‚ Keep an eye on your RSS feeds, it’ll be up soon. πŸ™‚

Be EPIC!

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2009 in Announcements

 

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The Other Lands – David Anthony Durham: Cover Art and Description

A little over an hour ago David Anthony Durham sent me and three other bloggers this info, and I’ve got to tell you, I couldn’t have been happier to see it! πŸ™‚ What you see below is the official cover art to the much-anticipated sequel to Acacia, Book 1 of The War with the Mein, The Other Lands! πŸ™‚

David told us the following:

I just this morning got something from my editor, and I immediately thought of showing it you guys. You were so kind to Acacia when it came out, and I’m really keen to make sure you and your readers know that the follow up, The Other Lands, is really coming soon! I’m putting the finishing touches on the manuscript right now, but Doubleday has already gone into production on it. Looks like the Sept pub date might really happen. I think the UK and the French won’t be far behind either.

As part of what Dday has been up to, they’ve just shown me the cover! I’ve attached it. You may recognize the cover image from the German edition of Acacia. Strange but true, Doubleday fell in love with it enough that they wanted to do their own version of it for The Other Lands.

So, are you guys ready for that? I know I am! πŸ™‚ The world David created is one of the most vibrant in any epic fantasy novel I’ve ever read, and the characters are so alive that it’s scary (one of them in particular, in fact; remember her?), and if you haven’t yet read Acacia, get to it! πŸ™‚ Here’s the link to my review, and after you’ve read that, you can click on ‘Acacia’ above to order your copy. πŸ™‚ C’mon, you know you want to! πŸ™‚

Here’s the cover:

Book 2 of The Acacia Trilogy

The Other Lands: Book 2 of The Acacia Trilogy

And now for the description – and I’m giving out a spoiler warning here, guys and girls! If you haven’t yet read Acacia, don’t spoil it and read this description of The Other Lands! You have been warned! πŸ™‚

The apocalyptic struggle against the conquering Mein now won, Queen Corinn rules over the Acacian Empire of the Known World with a stern handβ€”aided by increasing mastery of the occult powers contained in the Book of Elenet. But far across the seas the mysterious inhabitants of the Other Lands seemingly control the fate of her empireβ€”supported as it is by an underground trade in drugs and slaves. When she sends her brother Dariel on a secret mission across the hazardous Grey Slopes to investigate, it begins another cycle of world-shattering and shaping events.

In this bold and imaginative sequel, David Anthony Durham’s epic imagination continues to expand the Known World of the novel into yet undiscovered lands, drawing on a literary tradition that stretches from The Iliad to George R.R. Martin.

Pre-order your copy now! πŸ™‚

Be Fantastic!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2009 in Announcements

 

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Spotlight: Shawn Speakman

You may be wondering why I’m spotlighting Shawn, and may even be wondering who Shawn is. There’s an easy couple of answers to that, and you’ve actually probably seen those answers yourself. πŸ™‚

Shawn is Terry Brooks’ webmaster, the guy who designed Terry’s wonderful website, and has been Terry’s friend for longer than most people nowadays keep friends. πŸ™‚

Shawn is also the man who redid and rejuvenated David Anthony Durham’s website,

Shawn is also the man behind Suvudu, the oft-updated and incredibly topical Random House Blog,

and Shawn is also a writer. πŸ™‚

If it wasn’t for Shawn, I would never have had the chance to send my interview questions to Terry Brooks; I mean, where in your life have you heard of a newbie-blogger (only six-months old!) getting an interview with one of the biggest names and grandmasters of Fantasy? That, my friends, is all thanks to Shawn Speakman. πŸ™‚

So follow this link through to Suvudu, where Shawn tells us about himself, how he discovered Shanarra, the vision he had of a book-cover, meeting Terry, becoming his webmaster, etc. It’s a great post, answering many questions I’ve wondered about myself (but I’ve never asked, because Shawn has already done me a huge favour). πŸ™‚

Fans of Terry Brooks beware – you may just become a fan of Shawn Speakman too. πŸ™‚

Be Fantastic!

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2008 in Spotlight

 

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The Publishing Industry

Those who know me and the fact that I’m both a blogger and work in a bookshop (and therefor, have a tenuous connection to the publishing industry) think that I’m damn lucky; I love reading, have a huge book collection, get discount when I buy, (used) to go to publisher’s evenings and got free books, people from all over the world (hopefully) now take my opinions into consideration when deciding what to read next, and the three major publishers here in South Africa send me books to review.

I’m straddling the border here, and there is one unfortunate thing: one side of my balancing act seems to be feeling the beginning of the economic rumblings…

Check out this and this; I’ve been following David Durham’s thoughts on the matter (these two posts), and have read the posts he linked to, and although I agree that we shoudn’t devolve into panic, we should follow Scalzi’s advice. πŸ™‚

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2008 in Musings

 

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Upcoming Posts. :-)

Well, there we go. πŸ™‚ David is, let me tell you, a wonderful gracious guy. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some very cool interviews with some very cool people, and I know the trend will continue. πŸ™‚

I’ve got a link for David’s site on the right under ‘Authors’ so go check it out! πŸ™‚

I’m reading Jo Graham’s Black Ships at the moment, (as I’m sure I’ve already said), and Jo has (as I’m sure I’ve already said) graciously agreed to an interview, so I’ll finish the book, get my review up, send her my questions and then post it here. πŸ™‚ The next author in line will probably be Peter F Hamilton; as soon as I get a chance to type out the questions I’ll send them through to him – if you’re reading this Peter, thanks for waiting! πŸ™‚

In September, I’ll have two Karen’s and one Kate: Karen Traviss, Karen Miller and Kate Elliot! πŸ™‚

And (this is something new I’ll be starting), I’ll be creating a new blof here on WordPress for news and interviews with other authors, the first of which will be Tess Gerritsen! πŸ™‚ More details on that as it happens. πŸ™‚

If I’ve forgotten something, I’ll be back later to update. Until then,

Be Fantastic!

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2008 in Announcements

 

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M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist specializing in satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

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