Thursday, April 12, 2007

Starred Kirkus Review!

I wrote a comment a while back about never knowing what the folks at Kirkus Reviews were going to make of any novel. It's a sentiment that I've heard others express before too. Truth be known, though, I think we are all quite happy when Kirkus comes through, which they have for Acacia: The War with the Mein.

I'll include what they said below, but I wondered what you all think about the danger of these pre-pub reviews being spoilers? It's hard for me not to want to get the word out that the reviews are coming in strong. I've waited so long to be at this stage. On some other discussion boards, though, I've seen a few people writing that they think the reviews so far have said too much. And that even the jacket copy on the arc gave away too much. Gives me pause...

I do end up thinking, though, that the "spoiler" information given in any of these early reviews is minimal. Yes, it does give away a death of a major character, but in terms of the arc of the book the death of that major character is really where the story begins. It's the reason for the many pages of drama that follows. I don't know how we could present any information about the novel without putting this fundamental premise out there. So, if you do read it know that all that's revealed is just the start of the story to come. And if you don't need to read it but still want to buy the book... Well that's even better!

Okay, all this is a preface to the joyful news that Acacia has received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. Here's what they said...

Something genuinely new from the author of historical novels about the black American experience (Gabriel's Story, 2001; Walk Through Darkness, 2002) and the Second Punic War (Pride of Carthage, 2005).

Volume One of a planned trilogy, it's set in a fictional empire, the Known World, whose political center is the fertile and temperate island realm of Acacia, ruled by King Leodan Akaran. He's a compassionate monarch who sincerely mourns his beloved wife and dotes on his four vibrant children: stalwart Aliver, his ingenuous brother Dariel and their sisters, headstrong Corinn and stoical Mena. Yet Leodan has inherited his wealth and power from "a slaving empire…[that] traded in flesh…[and] peddled drugs to suppress the masses. Opposition to Leodan's ostensibly benign reign appears at the outset, as Thasren Mein, one of three brothers who effectively rule a distant (and impoverished) northern wasteland, travels in disguise to Acacia to assassinate his people's longtime enemy. From every corner of the Known World, tribes and enclaves ally themselves with Akarans or Mein, and gradually assemble into battle positions. Meanwhile, a plan conceived long ago by Leodan and now orchestrated by his Chancellor Thaddeus Clegg (one of several characters possessed of divided loyalties) sends the royal children away, into separate adventures and ordeals: Mena among a remote island culture's sinister priesthood; Dariel as a warrior member of Rebellious Outer Island Raiders; Corinn as the mistress of Machiavellian Mein Chieftain Hanish; and Aliver as the hero he was bred to become, challenged to defend his people in single combat. The novel's strong echoes of Homer and Virgil, Tolkien, Norse mythology's Twilight of the Gods and America's compromised history as a republic built on slavery fuse into an enthralling, literate and increasingly suspenseful narrative.

Heavy going, but Durham has imagined its landscape and ethnography in persuasive detail. Many readers will eagerly await the continuation of Acacia's story.

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Blogger Constance Brewer said...

It's not who dies, but HOW they die that makes the story for me. I don't think the Acacia reviews or the ARC jacket give away too much. (Yes, I'm finally reading it) The death is the catalyst that sets the events of the book in motion. It's only a piece of the puzzle, and if people are afraid having that piece will ruin their reading, they need to switch to choose your own adventure novels. If I was told in a review a detailed account of what happened to each of the children after Leodan, that would be a spoiler for me. The joy is in watching each character grow and change in response to an event.

I knew about Dumbledore through spoilers before I read the last Harry Potter book, but it didn't ruin it for me because I didn't know who did it or why. It just made me more anxious to read for myself.

BTW, David, 'Awesome' doesn't begin to cover a starred review from Kirkus. :) Congratulations!

12:55 AM  
Blogger Gabriele Campbell said...

All those reviews make me drool like a Pavlov dog.

Why isn't that book out yet? ;)

5:03 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Thanks Constance,

That's how I see it too: the catalyst. After all this conversing about it I hope you actually end up liking the book...


5:33 PM  
Blogger Constance Brewer said...

And I hope you realize I may have a list of questions on Acacia by the time I am done. :)

I'm up to chapter 6 and I like it so far. I enjoy how the children's personalities are brought out, and how Leodan is portrayed as a father. He loves his children, and I like seeing that in a novel.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Hi David,

Congrats on the Starred Review.

I had actually heard of your book because on the Terry Brooks forum Colleen Lindsay was giving away 5 copies of Acacia (unfortunately I wasn't fast enough on the draw), so I was aware of it.

I am very interested in reading the book, if as much because of your racial background and the limited amount of African American SFF of which I am aware of (if Butler is still correct 10 years later, you would take her place as the fourth African American SFF author with Acacia).

So...I look forward to whenever it is published and if my library purchases the book so I can read it!

Good luck!!

11:22 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

I'd be interested in those questions, Constance. They might end up informing volume two…

Hey Joe,

Thanks for writing. Glad Colleen is getting the word out. I think she's doing a great job. I have to admit this whole wind-up to publication feels quite a bit different than anything I've experienced so far. Part of it is that Doubleday is getting the word out more forcefully. But also it just seems like fantasy readers are much more pro-actively interested in what's happening, what's coming out, in talking about new titles and - hopefully - welcoming new authors. Feels good so far.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Scott Oden said...

Congrats on another awesome review! Seriously, you need to save some good reviews for us other writers ;)

So far, I've not seen any Acacia reviews that have given away spoilers; they've been pretty well balanced: brief synopsis followed by commentary on you, your literary background, and the place Acacia is liable to have in modern fantasy. Which, I think, *should* be the focus of pre-pub reviews.

I think the reason for the forceful spreading of the word on Acacia was given by another reviewer: it has serious genre redefinition potential to it. I went to my local B&N last night to browse the sf/f section and was floored by the amount of urban fantasy -- vampires, werewolves, and elves on the mean streets of the Big City. Add to that the Vast and Neverending Epics and the profusion of licensed property/tie-in novels and I can imagine the average fantasy reader is dying for something new and inventive.

I'm 3/4 of the way through Acacia and it is new and inventive. I also imagine it's going to blow the doors off fantasy.

I'll try to keep my envy down to manageable levels :)

2:24 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hey Scott,

Very glad you're still liking Acacia. There are a few surprises yet to come. Let me know what you think after they are sprung on you.

I sure do hope the fantasy market wants something a bit new. I hear fantasy readers say that all the time. I took them on their word for it when I committed to at least three books in this genre. I'd like to do more than that, really, but only if readers are interested. I couldn't be more pleased with the response so far, though, which has me thinking being part of this fantasy crowd could be an awful lot of fun...

7:18 PM  
Blogger Scott Oden said...

Okay, I just finished a little while ago and I have one word: Amazing! :)

I'll elaborate in the next day or so.

1:23 AM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


7:19 PM  
Blogger Reginald Harris said...

Congratulations! Starred in Kirkus? A major achievement. Those of us in the library world are already fans: this will most likely mean we'll buy good deal more copies for our shelves!

9:04 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hey Reggie,

Thanks for the kind words. I love libraries, so any support I can find there is very welcome. By the way, I just got word that there's likely going to be an audio version of Acacia. Hopefully, many copies of that will find their way to library shelves.

Anyway, be well, and thanks again for writing,


3:41 PM  

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