Acacia, a prosperous empire ruled from the eponymous island and built atop a horrific foundation, is thrown into chaos, as the Mein, a warrior race long-exiled to a snowy Northern plateau, descend to wreak vengeance on behalf of their cursed ancestors. Leodan Akaran, king of Acacia and a man of lofty ideals but lacking the will to achieve them, is struck down by a Meinish assassin and his four children, Alliver, Corinn, Mena, and Dariel, are spirited away from the island and scattered across the empire.
The book is structured in three acts: the first establishes the world and characters and slowly builds to Leodan’s assassination, the second picks up nine years later, showing what has become of the Akaran children after their dispersal, and the third unsurprisingly deals with the climax between the Akarans and the Mein. The book immediately kills any suspense leading up to Leodan’s impending assassination by revealing the event to the reader in the back-jacket description. However, one would be unable to describe the book’s premise without that reveal, so the reader must be patient as Durham slowly rotates through the book’s players until at last reaching the death of Leodan.
Durham’s Acacia feels familiar for readers of A Song of Ice and Fire. There is political squabbling amongst the ruling class, hundreds of years of history that have devolved into legend, and a group of young siblings that initially bear a resemblance to the Stark children (particularly Robb, Sansa and Arya). Once the adult versions of the Akarans emerge, they move away from these archetypes into their own unique characters. There are two minor stumbles towards in the character development, as one character’s quick progression into a master swordsman strains credibility and another is pushed to the side during the climax with nothing to do.
Compared to the Mistborn trilogy, which I read immediately preceding this book, Durham’s writing evokes more vivid imagery and he manages to go deeper into his character’s psyches. At times, this can be a little tedious and so the book simmers on a slow burn, carefully building to a boil, rather than pulling the reader into a page-turning frenzy. Overall though, the story of book 1 is satisfyingly resolved while setting the stage for book 2.