The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham (War with the Mein: Book 3)

With the first two books in the Acacia Trilogy, Acacia and The Other Lands, David Anthony Durham has created a vast and engrossing canvas of a world in turmoil, where the surviving children of a royal dynasty are on a quest to realize their fates - and perhaps right ancient wrongs once and for all. As The Sacred Band begins, one of them, Queen Corinn, bestrides the world as a result of her mastery of spells found in the ancient Book of Elenet. Her younger brother, Dariel, has been sent on a perilous mis­sion to the Other Lands, while her sister, Mena, travels to the far north to confront an invasion of the feared race of the Auldek. Their separate trajectories will converge in a series of world-shaping, earth-shattering battles, all ren­dered with vividly imagined detail and in heroic scale.

David Anthony Durham concludes his Acacia Trilogy, and brings the trials of the Akaran’s family to an end with the third instalment, ‘The Sacred Band.’ Durham - normally associated with fine historical books – has produced a thrilling fantasy series the equal of many other fantasy series currently doing the ropes.

In the ‘Sacred Band’ we pick up where we left off from the second book, ‘The Other Lands’, and find the Akaran children now spread widely across Acacia, Ushen Brae and the world beyond. We finally discover more of the Auldek and the Lothun Aklun. In ‘Acacia’, these races were hinted at and explored in part in ‘The Other Worlds’, but now we get to fully discover who, and what these other races are, and how they histories have influenced the world of Acacia.

And so to the Akaran children: Corinn is now an Iron Queen holding the throne for her eventual heir; Mena is a warrior of the highest order defending the northern borders; Dariel is far away learning about the quota slaves and becoming a pirate; and Aliver, the eldest child, has been resurrected from the dead and aims to return to the throne.

The overall story, and especially ‘The Sacred Band’ has a strong political drive and message running through the narrative, and Durham uses his expertise of history to create a believable world controlled by deception, intrigue and fear, yet it is a world yearning to be freed from this tyranny by its people – if only it were that easy – and Durham teaches us that life is not all roses.

The characters are basic stereotypes, and over the course of the trilogy develop into interesting people whose lives and futures you long to discover about: Corinn is my favourite character, and as we chart her life from prisoner to despotic Queen, we understand the role that circumstance plays in shaping a character’s life and beliefs.

All in all, this is an excellent end to an often overlooked trilogy. For me it is the equal of many out there and fully deserving of a read by lovers of fantasy. It contains many elements one expects in fantasy: magic, kings, queens, warring tribes, near immortal races and countless others. As a side note, it is great to have a summary of the previous two books in this book - and if like me you don’t won’t to wait until a series is completed before reading all the books in one go – then this is a great plus to get one back up to speed with what’s gone on before. I do wish summaries will one day be made mandatory in fantasy series – wishful thinking. Anyway, this is one of my favourite fantasy series of the last few years.

9/10 An excellent end to an often overlooked trilogy.

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