“Of course a thing that could be made into a weapon would be made into a weapon. It did not matter if it was a thing of beauty. It did not matter if their mission was holy and benevolent. It only mattered that The Song could be twisted to serve human greed. If that was so, it was only a measure of time until someone grasped for it.”
The Acacia Trilogy
By David Anthony Durham
The War with the Mein: 0307947130
The Other Lands: 0307947149
The Sacred Band: 0307739600
That quote stood out to me in the final volume of The Acacia Trilogy. I wouldn’t say it’s the theme of the series distilled down into four lines of prose, but it is pretty representative of one of the many contained there in. On the surface, David Anthony Durham’s trilogy, and first foray into genre fiction, looks like run of the mill epic fantasy. His protagonists are four royal children whose father is struck dead in the opening moments of the first novel, The War With the Mein, forcing them to scatter, grow to adulthood, and return to restore peace to the Akaran Kingdom and the Known World. It’s not quite the farm boy prophesied to save the world, but it’s not far off.
I began with this quote not because of its significance to the overall message of Durham’s work, rather because it signifies an attempt to speak to something larger than the narrative itself. I suspect that many reviews written about Durham’s series will laud it for its progressive nature (edit: after writing this post I read Neth Space’s review that does just that) and rightly so.
At the start of the story, the Akaran kingdom has been ruled by a family for generations. Their power is maintained through an arrangement with a powerful entity across the sea. In exchange for a drug called mist, the Akaran’s offer up a quota of children for an unknown purpose. Through mist they create a pliable population to work the mines and fields that sustain their reign. Unlike so much fantasy, the series ends not with the status quo (i.e. – the evil defeated), but with legitimate change and progression toward something better, brought about by the will of the characters and their own growth. Suffice to say there’s a great deal to chew on with regard to Durham’s social commentary. Continue reading