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  1. #1
    Peckish hippokrene's Avatar
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    Acacia: The War With the Mein (question)

    This is the first book of a trilogy that I've heard some great things about.

    It started off wonderfully. The first third of this book had me falling in love with it. It had just the right blend of worldbuilding, interesting characters, and a plot that promised to be epic. If I had only read the first 1/3 of the book, I'd have told you it was a five star story.

    Now, I'm smack in the middle and the lack of payoff, as well as the way various plots are heading, makes me want to put the book down and not touch the trilogy.

    If someone has read this trilogy, can you advise me as to whether it gets better?

    I have a couple specific complaints so SPOILERS AHOY...

    ----------------------------------
    1. Do we get battles/conflict scenes later in the book?

    The book is entitled 'war against the mein' and two of the perspectives are that of generals on the front line, yet there have been no battle scenes. We've had the general knocked out after the first attack and awakening after the battle is over. We've had the garrisoned fort taken without siege or effort because every last soldier was killed in a deathtrap that we never see. We've had a magical plague that manages to effect 100% of an army of over 20 thousand soldiers in two days so that the other army can just waltz into the camp and slaughter them with no resistance.

    All other battles are handled via summery 'they boarded the ship and killed everyone,' 'your brother riled up the southern tribes and has been leading them over the mountains.'

    This avoidance of conflict scenes seems to appear even outside of battles. When we first see the prince, he's a wet-blanket who can't connect to his men and can't win a real fight. Then there's a time skip and suddenly we're *told* he's a beloved member of a tribe of warriors that women compete to have the child of and he just got back from slaying a great, magical beast.

    I'd have liked to see Prince boy in action hunting said great beast and slaying it. You know, actually *showing* me how he's developed over time through drama and conflict.

    2. Do the protagonists ever become more proactive?

    Hannish Mein, our bad guy POV, is active and Daniel, aka Spratling, is active.

    The other main characters tend to be far too passive to me. They basically do whatever others tell them to and never think or plan things on their own. I understand they're children at the beginning, but I've read tons of YA fiction where characters their age manage to show some thought and independence. At 400 pages in, I'd expect them to get the ball rolling but I haven't seen it yet.

    3. Does the pretty princess character get better?

    There are only two female POVs in the book. I have no problem with traditionally feminine women in fantasy, and that one of these POVs likes dressing-up, pays attention to her looks, and dreams of getting married to a hunky prince is fine. Heck, I have friends in real life that are like that... but that's not the entirety of their character. They still manage to be intelligent and have interests other than looking good and romance.

    Corin (the pretty princess) has done *nothing* in nine years in her enemy's court but look good. Even with servants around her saying they're loyal to her and would be willing to attempt a rebellion or subversion at her command. Her current storyline is her acting petulant while lusting after the man who invaded her country and had her father killed. Moreover, their only interaction is him insulting her intelligence, belittling her dead father and her culture, and threatening to kill random servants. What about this is attractive?

    Imagine Sansa from Game of Thrones, only she's 25 instead of 15 and developed a crush on Joffery after he had Ned Stark beheaded.

    Bonus Questions: Are there anymore Deus Ex Machina resolutions?

    "We're going to face an army five times our size on their soil, how will we win? I know, I'll just pull a magical plague out my butt that has never been mentioned previously, that won't sicken any of my own people, but will completely destroy the other army in two days!"

    He might as well have said, "Don't worry bros, I got a deathray."
    ---------------------

    Okay, so, do these problem go away?
    Last edited by hippokrene; December 30th, 2011 at 03:09 PM.

  2. #2
    boss of several cats... Severn's Avatar
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    I knew there was a reason I avoided these...

    Hey, I bet the answer to your question will be 'no, no they don't.'

  3. #3
    There is no tomorrow RedMage's Avatar
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    I read the first book a few years ago. I want to read the second and third. All the stuff you liked, hippokrene, is the same stuff I liked about the first book. But, and this is why I'm not reading the second and third, is because of the questions you raise.

    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    It started off wonderfully. The first third of this book had me falling in love with it. It had just the right blend of worldbuilding, interesting characters, and a plot that promised to be epic. If I had only read the first 1/3 of the book, I'd have told you it was a five star story.
    I thought the same thing about the beginning. Much slower than I wanted it to be though. Much, much too slow after reading the synopsis. At page 50 I was wondering where the plot was, and at page 75 I was wondering why I wasn't on page 20. It felt like I was on page 20.

    I've had this problem with synopses before . Maybe I should stop reading them and just read the books...

    But, to your questions. (btw, it sounds like you are further into the book than just "halfway")

    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    1. Do we get battles/conflict scenes later in the book?

    The book is entitled 'war against the mein' and two of the perspectives are that of generals on the front line, yet there have been no battle scenes. We've had the general knocked out after the first attack and awakening after the battle is over. We've had the garrisoned fort taken without siege or effort because every last soldier was killed in a deathtrap that we never see. We've had a magical plague that manages to effect 100% of an army of over 20 thousand soldiers in two days so that the other army can just waltz into the camp and slaughter them with no resistance.

    All other battles are handled via summery 'they boarded the ship and killed everyone,' 'your brother riled up the southern tribes and has been leading them over the mountains.'

    This avoidance of conflict scenes seems to appear even outside of battles. When we first see the prince, he's a wet-blanket who can't connect to his men and can't win a real fight. Then there's a time skip and suddenly we're *told* he's a beloved member of a tribe of warriors that women compete to have the child of and he just got back from slaying a great, magical beast.

    I'd have liked to see Prince boy in action hunting said great beast and slaying it. You know, actually *showing* me how he's developed over time through drama and conflict.
    I did not mind the lack of battles and action in those ways. Personally, I am having much more trouble completing The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin than I had with this.

    Acacia's story is very much a political one. What conflicts there are, are political, personality clashes, or down right just personal, internal conflicts that characters have with themselves. Self-loathing, disgust with the person in the mirror sort of thing.

    There is a big battle though, one I found to be...decent, at the least. Had it happened earlier in the story and not at the end then it would have been great. But after so much build up with each of the characters it turned out to be a bit of a let down. Still, I would finish the book for this were I you.

    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    2. Do the protagonists ever become more proactive?

    Hannish Mein, our bad guy POV, is active and Daniel, aka Spratling, is active.

    The other main characters tend to be far too passive to me. They basically do whatever others tell them to and never think or plan things on their own. I understand they're children at the beginning, but I've read tons of YA fiction where characters their age manage to show some thought and independence. At 400 pages in, I'd expect them to get the ball rolling but I haven't seen it yet.
    I think you're forgetting about Mena, the third of the children. She goes on a quest that we get to see and has a good bit of action with it. Along with Spratling/Dariel's parts, hers were the most active for me. Hannish's parts I did not care for for the longest of time. Certain aspects were interesting, yes. However, when it comes to action, he really didn't have any either. As you said about Corinn's only desire/purpose in life is to be pretty and to make every head turn at her passing, well, I could say that after he conquers Acacia, Hannish's only purpose/desire is to annoy and gaze lustfully at Corinn. With little to no action on his lustful gazes, I might add. Though I don't think that is the kind of action you're talking about. But even that would have been nice to have had!

    Spratling/Dariel and Mena are the proactive characters. Spratling is actively playing the role of pirate, targeting Meinish ships, outposts, soldiers/sailors, etc.

    Mena, sadly, is very much stuck having to be a traditional woman of the story's time period. Yes, she is a tomboy and is trying to be a strong woman who is an individual and can do everything that a man can do. But there are people who are controlling her, keeping her from doing what she wants as much as they can for all that she is their goddess incarnate. Still, she escapes the control freaks quite often and is able to be her own person.

    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    3. Does the pretty princess character get better?

    There are only two female POVs in the book. I have no problem with traditionally feminine women in fantasy, and that one of these POVs likes dressing-up, pays attention to her looks, and dreams of getting married to a hunky prince is fine. Heck, I have friends in real life that are like that... but that's not the entirety of their character. They still manage to be intelligent and have interests other than looking good and romance.

    Corin (the pretty princess) has done *nothing* in nine years in her enemy's court but look good. Even with servants around her saying they're loyal to her and would be willing to attempt a rebellion or subversion at her command. Her current storyline is her acting petulant while lusting after the man who invaded her country and had her father killed. Moreover, their only interaction is him insulting her intelligence, belittling her dead father and her culture, and threatening to kill random servants. What about this is attractive?

    Imagine Sansa from Game of Thrones, only she's 25 instead of 15 and developed a crush on Joffery after he had Ned Stark beheaded.
    No. It does not get any better. At all. If anyone is to empathize much with her greatest-potential-of-every-one-but-do-nothing-at-all character except for hating herself for falling in love with Hannish, well, I expect they'd be the same middle school girls who would claw your eyes out and worse for saying Twilight is not like the best book ever written like ever.

    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    Bonus Questions: Are there anymore Deus Ex Machina resolutions?

    "We're going to face an army five times our size on their soil, how will we win? I know, I'll just pull a magical plague out my butt that has never been mentioned previously, that won't sicken any of my own people, but will completely destroy the other army in two days!"

    He might as well have said, "Don't worry bros, I got a deathray."
    I honestly read the book several years ago and haven't been back. I love the world building throughout the book, the character development in the first 1/3, a few characters storylines throughout...yeah. I won't describe the end to you but, it was similar in feeling to a deus ex machina if not an actual one.

    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    Okay, so, do these problem go away?
    No. And that's why I won't read more of the series.

    I have been wanting to read Durham's Pride of Carthage historical novel about Hannibal. But, now that I think about all of these issues, I don't think I actually will.

    I do encourage you to read to the end. If only to have a conclusion to those characters and storylines you have read so far. It is a good book, and Durham is a good writer. But I came away with feelings that there was something lacking in the over all plot, that motives were simple and therefore poor, that explanations were not adequate in any which way. All three coming together, they served to drop this book from a 10 to either a 6 or a 7 for me.

  4. #4
    Registered User Carlyle Clark's Avatar
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    I've read all three.


    Answers to your questions in order(GENERIC SPOILERS):


    1. Yes, a great big glorious one, too.

    2. Yes, they become very proactive.

    3. Yes, expoenentially more complex--but not in book 1. She became the most compelling character for me.

    Bonus Question: No, there aren't.
    Last edited by Carlyle Clark; December 31st, 2011 at 01:36 AM.

  5. #5
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    "We're going to face an army five times our size on their soil, how will we win? I know, I'll just pull a magical plague out my butt that has never been mentioned previously, that won't sicken any of my own people, but will completely destroy the other army in two days!"

    He might as well have said, "Don't worry bros, I got a deathray."
    This was my biggest letdown. The book built up this to be the mighty clash between the 2 biggest badd-asses in the book and their armies. Then the magic deathray wiped out the whole other army and I guess the author thought something like: "HAHAHAHA, the readers would never expect this brilliant tactical turn of events". For all that he might aswell have summarized the whole chapter concerning the battle with "Then GOD came along and smote the other army to pieces" for a similar affect.

    I haven't touched this series after that amazingly bad conclusion to what could have been an amazing battle.

  6. #6
    I really enjoyed Acacia but am currently struggling to get through The Other Lands (Book 2). I am about 1/2 way right now and there just seems to be no plot to this book.

    Also, I don't like or dislike any of the characters. Durham could kill off anyone on a whim and it would not phase me one bit. That, to me, is a problem.

  7. #7
    Nobody in Particular kcf's Avatar
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    In my opinion, the book gets better. And the second book in the series is much better and third even better.

    Your specifics:

    1. Yes, there is a big battle toward the end, complete with combat between 2 champions. The results are...interesting.

    2. Yes, the characters do become much more proactive, especially in the second and third books.

    3. The set-up the princess in this way is very intentional. Corin's character undergoes huge changes and growth in the novel and even more in the next two. It's a fascninating evolution that goes in a way that I doubt you'll expect.

    Bonus: Well, there is more of the duex ex machina in the coming books. It's not as blantant, but it is present. Also, Mena is a bit of a Mary Sue - she gets better, but still never getting past the Mary Sue.


    Overall, it's a great series - I've reviewed each book and the full series on the blog.

  8. #8
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    I'm not sure the original poster wanted to ask questions as much as wanted to point out the things he disliked about the parts he read. And that's fine. To each their own.
    I thought the Acacia series was pretty so-so myself, but given the tone of the original 'questions' it seems logical for the poster not to waste his time reading more. That's my view anyway.

  9. #9
    Registered User HeclaBull's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Khale View Post
    I really enjoyed Acacia but am currently struggling to get through The Other Lands (Book 2). I am about 1/2 way right now and there just seems to be no plot to this book.

    Also, I don't like or dislike any of the characters. Durham could kill off anyone on a whim and it would not phase me one bit. That, to me, is a problem.
    Yeah, I felt the same when I read the second one. I loved the first and flew right through it, but the second dragged for me and I had very little interest in some of the main characters' plots (and these were characters who I was deeply invested in during the prior book).

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by hippokrene View Post
    Bonus Questions: Are there anymore Deus Ex Machina resolutions?

    "We're going to face an army five times our size on their soil, how will we win? I know, I'll just pull a magical plague out my butt that has never been mentioned previously, that won't sicken any of my own people, but will completely destroy the other army in two days!"

    He might as well have said, "Don't worry bros, I got a deathray."
    This was the biggest problem I had and stopped reading. I enjoyed his writing style but the deathrays was too much for me.

  11. #11
    Greymane Wilson Geiger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Severn View Post
    I knew there was a reason I avoided these...

    Hey, I bet the answer to your question will be 'no, no they don't.'
    Any reason should be your own, and not somebody else's.

    I'm sure there are samples out there. I've read Acacia and Other Lands, and really enjoyed them both.

  12. #12
    Registered User Carlyle Clark's Avatar
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    I read all three and enjoyed them.

    I would say The Other Lands did suffer a bit from middle-book-of-a-trilogy-syndrome, but the final book more than made up for it. It was one of the most satisfying conclusions to a trilogy/series I've read in that it wasn't predictable as so many are.

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