The Other Lands
David Anthony Durham
(Note: I thought I had posted this back in August. I have no idea why this didn't post last year. I only noticed when I was cleaning out my drafts)
In a case of taking waaaay too long to read a book, I bring you The Other Lands from David Anthony Durham. This is the second volume in Durham’s Acacia trilogy and one I had been anticipating since I first read Acacia back in 2007…except I never picked up The Other Lands in 2009 when it was published.
Big mistake. Huge.
With a nearly four year gap between reading the novels one might well be concerned with remembering who the characters were and how things connect together. Durham opens with a refresher of “the story so far”, which is something that more big fantasy novels should include. The other thing is that Durham is both thoughtful and skilled enough to craft the story in such a way to gently remind the reader of events from the first novel while never giving the impression of dropping a huge info-dump on the reader.
Durham has written a sprawling novel set a decade after the events of Acacia. The Empire is still recovering from the invasion of the Mein and continues to deal with some of the unexpected consequences of that war. Queen Corinn holds tight control over the Empire and uses her surviving siblings to cement her own power, improve the Empire, and to keep them out of the way so as to limit their potential for threatening her reign. Aspects of The Other Lands work as a thoughtful political thriller.
The Other Lands is far more than “just” a political novel. It is a sprawling epic adventure tinged with a growing sense of magic and one character’s “journey” to the titular Other Lands opens up the wonder of just how big this world is and more fully introduces the other cultures and races of the world. While still steeped in the historical detail that readers should expect from David Anthony Durham, The Other Lands is also chock full of wonder, delight, and tells an exciting story about a threat to the Akaran Empire far greater than any seen before. It builds and builds, topping the reader off with tension.
Now, this is the middle volume of a trilogy, so while Durham does work in complete story arcs, The Other Lands does serve to set up what is likely to be an explosive conclusion when Durham publishes the final volume.
The big mistake I mentioned earlier was simply in waiting so long to read this. Though The Other Lands is worth waiting for, it is a book that you shouldn’t wait on. It should just be read. Read Acacia, then read this. You should have anyway.