I was extremely excited to get an advance copy of David Anthony Durham's epic fantasy Acacia because Durham is a Black man. Durham disproves the common belief that Black people do not read or write science fiction or fantasy. David Anthony Durham joins the ranks of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Samuel R. Delaney in proving that Blacks do write science fiction and fantasy.
I am very ashamed to admit that I expected to see a book full of Black people using magic against orcs and dragons. I pictured something like a Wesley Snipes-inspired Lord of the Rings. Thank goodness I was wrong.
There were no Black people introduced until about 250 pages into the book, but I was not disappointed. For one thing, Durham's writing is so beautiful he could have been writing chick lit and I would not have minded. However, he did deal with two topics that I feel hit the African American community right at its heart: drug addiction and slavery. Durham mixes these three elements (fantasy, drug addiction, and slavery) exquisitely, resulting in one of the most original fantasy novels I've ever read.
At the heart of the Acacian empire is its king, Leodan Akaran. He is the twenty-second Akaran king to rule in peace. The Acacians have created a rich and prosperous empire that has built its wealth on enslaving its people and selling another portion of its people away to the Lothan Aklun in exchange for a drug which pacifies its users so that they will never be able to develop enough will power to complain about their life. Despite being a king who has enslaved thousands, Leodan is a kind, loving, and troubled man who loves his children more than his kingdom. Which brings up the question: can you rule a kingdom if you don't put your empire above all, including your children? The answer to that question is no — during a banquet, Thasren Mein successfully travels from Mein Tahalian and assassinates Leodan.