In preparation for the conclusion of David Anthony Durham’s Acacia trilogy, I re-read the first two books, Acacia and The Other Lands. I previously reviewed Acacia at some length over at Tor.com, and don’t have much to add now except that it does start a little slow and obvious, which makes the time-jump of several years after the first section all the more welcome.
I read The Other Lands not too long after it came out and then stalled badly on a review. I’ve just finished a re-read and will again try to do it some justice, especially since I’ve promised myself I can’t start the third (now out) until I wrote this one up.
As much as I liked Acacia, I think I like The Other Lands more, except insofar as it’s not nearly as standalone. Instead, it ends on the pause when everything’s been set up and is about to come crashing down: by my count, we are now poised on the verge of two world-spanning conflicts and one at-least-continent-spanning one. And yet the book still strikes me as faster-paced and more full of the fantastic than the first, so the happenings on the way are not static exposition.
(The prose style still tends somewhat toward exposition, and I’m not sure it’s best suited for some of the more delicate character work that’s being attempted. This is mostly an issue with regard to Corinn, regarding whose characterization I remain very nervous. Also, I’m not sure if I was supposed to find Melio as much as a jerk as I did.)
It’s also broader than the first book, not just in visiting the Other Lands (which are of course not Other to those who live there) but the characters we’re introduced to: more women, non-elites, queer people (not that they would self-identify as such). Also, SFF writers, take note: if you have already shown the full range of human skin colors in your story, then you may introduce beast-people without making your readers worry that you are taking the massively problematic step of substituting beast-people for humans of darker skin color.
If the theme of the first was stories and history, the theme of this one is children: existing, expected, unexpected, hoped-for, lost, prohibited. It is so universal that, I admit, on the re-read I occasionally felt like I was being hit over the head with it. (A very important note: Mena’s method of birth control does not work for humans in our world. But then, the attentive reader realized in Chapter One that human physiology is not the same there, when Corinn is said to have given birth after more than a year of pregnancy.)
Anyway, if you remotely liked the first, you should like The Other Lands. And it ends on such an amazing last couple of pages that it’s taken a real effort to wait to write this post before starting the next one. Now, it’s time to see if I think the series sticks the landing. Watch this space.