The Other Lands picks up about 9 years after the events of Acacia. Princess Mena hunts fowl-creatures created as an unexpected consequence of the release of Santoth sorcery that plague the land. Prince Dariel is haunted by decisions of his past and seeks his place in the empire. Queen Corinn maintains an iron grip on her empire while lacking the mist drug that previously kept the population numb. The seeming calm of Corinn’s rule changes as multiple plots surface and threats emerge from beyond the Known World.
I liked The Other Lands a good bit more than I did Acacia. In my review, I mentioned that Acacia gets off to a relatively slow start – I didn’t feel that way about The Other Lands. This time we start with action, and while the remainder of the action is largely in the political and personal arenas, it still hums along at a pretty good pace. While the shear number of political plots at hand dwarfs the standard political thriller and had me anxious to see how they unfold.
The Other Lands is in many ways a very typical middle book of a trilogy. Acacia stood fairly well on its own – it had complete story arcs that came to fruition. The Other Lands picks up about 9 years after the end of Acacia and seems to largely serve as a bridge from the first to the last book in the trilogy. And it ends with something of a cliff-hanger – a pending war and pretty much nothing resolved.
In Acacia Durham tackles some weighty topics under the guise of epic fantasy. Four princes and princesses learn after the death of their father that the wonderful empire they will inherit is actually pretty evil, thriving on trade in slavery and drugs – they provide the slaves and in turn, get drugs that keep the populace controllable. As if that wasn’t enough, in a coup d’etat, an oppressed ethnic group takes control of the empire and actually makes things worse. With Acacia Durham takes on drugs, slavery, ethnic/racial tensions, gender disparities, personal responsibility, and much more.
In The Other Lands, Durham builds on this foundation. Can ideals reform the empire, or must the empire be ruled by a pragmatism that largely reinforces the status quo? What happens when royalty meets slaves his family sold? If you take away one drug, must it be replaced with another? Actions have consequences, some of which get dealt with in The Other Lands and many are yet to be realized.
The above questions and more mold the various characters of The Other Lands. They all dwell on the past while looking to the future. Each grows in their own way, and not always in a positive direction. These basic struggles of human nature that show through these characters in their extraordinary situations are the underlying strength of Durham’s writing.
The Acacia Trilogy is shaping up to be a cerebral, yet entertaining take on second-world fantasy with a little bit for everyone. The Other Lands builds on the potential of Acacia as Durham finds firmer footing in the genre arena and leaves me waiting anxiously for the third and final book. Fantasy fans should definitely give this series a go. 8/10
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