The Sacred Band (Book 3 of the Acacia Trilogy)
David Anthony Durham
The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham brings the saga of the Akaran family, begun in Acacia, to a close. The novel picks up where The Other Landsleft off. Corinn controls Acacia with an iron grip her growing mastery over the magic learned from the Book of Elenet allow ever greater control over the populace. Dariel, still far across the sea in the Other Lands learning about the society formed by the former quota slaves. Mena has been tasked with defending Acacia’s northern border from invadeing Auldek. Last, the recently resurrected Aliver slowly begins to recover who he was. On a minor note one of the brilliant things this series does, and one of the things I’d love to see other shorter fantasy series do, is provide several pages (about two to three) of summary for the previous novels. In a genre wherein volumes are separated by months if not years this type of summary is extraordinarily helpful in helping ease a reader back into the story.
The Other Lands really opened up the story of the Acacia trilogy by introducing the continent of Ushen Brae and revealing the society formed by the quota slaves sent across the sea. The Scared Band expands upon those revelations slowly doling out the history and ramifications of the presence of the quota slaves and their former masters. Indeed over the course of the novel, and the course of the series at large, the themes of history and truth play an ever increasing role in how events unfold. There are multiple layers of each throughout each the novel’s cultural strata. The Akarans have always controlled the flow of their own history and the careful manipulation of which sends ripples of ever increasing size across the whole world. The Akaran’s manipulation of their own history intersects with revelations about the Lothun Aklun and the history of The Other Lands’ Free People. Meanwhile the Auldek, who have consumed the souls of the quota slaves to gain near immortality, struggle to maintain the simple memory of their own pasts.
Both Acacia and The Other Lands in a sense revealed small aspects of the full story unveiled here but as the true history of the world is unveiled over the course of The Sacred Band you begin to see how carefully Durham has crafted this world to reflect the decisions of its inhabitants over the course of generations. The Sacred Band is the strongest novel in a trilogy of consistently strong novels. The characters, both great and small, have a depth seen in very few other series. More often than not at first glance the characters may appear to adhere to a stereotype but over the course of the novels each of the characters, and particularly the members of Akaran royal line, follow a distinct and organic growth. Of the Akaran’s it is Corinn, whose evolution from a prisoner to near dictator over the course of the first two novels made for some compelling reading, that really shines in The Scared Band. Not to sound too corny but there is something of the “redemptive power of love” in her arc over the course of the novel. Where that love comes from is expected in most cases but something of a surprise in others. Similarly, Dariel’s arc from an impetuous pirate to something resembling a Christ-like figure, comes to a nice close here as well. I could probably spend a lot more time telling you how much I enjoyed the arcs of each of the series’ main characters but I will leave it at saying that each and everyone is fantastically and believably taken on a journey of discovery and growth over the course of these novels.
The Sacred Band is a splendid end to an oft-overlooked series that deserves to be read by more people. Durham is an accomplished world-builder who crafts characters with both hindsight and foresight. Durham started his career writing historical fiction, a fact which gives his writing and his approach to fantasy a very different feel compared to other genre authors. The Acacia trilogy is one of the most original and well constructed fantasies I’ve ever read and I look forward to seeing where Durham goes next.