Release Day Interview: The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham


The Sacred Band by David Anthony DurhamToday is the release day for The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham!

It is also the day of completion for the Acacia trilogy.

In a world that decries the best epic fantasy series aren’t already finished, I beg to differ. The Acacia trilogy by David Anthony Durham is one of the best—and it is finished. Take a look at the fantasy blog reviews out there. They almost unanimously love it. It’s not surprising. Acacia contains everything that I love about epic fantasy—a massive, fascinating world, gray characters, betrayal, love, a touch of magic, and all written by a deft storyteller who understands how all of those things work together.

Curious? Here is a bit more about the series and final book:

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 tale of kingdoms in collision in an exciting fashion. His fictional world is at once realistic and fantastic, informed with an eloquent and dis­tinctively Shakespearean sensibility.

Now that you know a bit more about Acacia and The Sacred Band, let’s see what David has to say on the subject:


Shawn Speakman: Congratulations, David, on THE SACRED BAND being in fine bookstores today! For those readers who have not read the Acacia series, tell us why they should and what they can expect from ACACIA, THE OTHER LANDS, and THE SACRED BAND.

David Anthony Durham: Thank you, Shawn! Very glad to be able to talk with you here at Unbound Worlds.

I hope readers will find these three books to be big, epic fantasy with lots of characters, lots of plotlines, lots of action and history and world building – all of which gets wrapped up by the end of the third book. It’s not light fantasy, but it’s not exactly dark fantasy either. It’s not all dead serious, but it’s not pure escapism. It’s somewhere in between. I always hope to write meaningful work. I want to entertain, but I can only get invested in a story if the characters are struggling with substantial issues – both personal ones and larger scale ones. My vision of fantasy is that the magical setting can allow for really cool ways to explore real world issues. Serious stuff, but with dragons. Sorcerers. Great swordplay. Etc.

A big part of why I began the trilogy was that I wanted to write a big project that felt like a historical saga. But I didn’t want it to be bound to earthly geography or history or laws of physics. I wanted to tap into that storytelling tradition that has always looked to the fantastic and the heroic and the epic. And I wanted to do all of that in a world that had a complex cultural and ethnic texture to it. That’s the type of series I tried to write. I hope that’s what readers will find in it.

SS: How does it feel having finished your epic trilogy?

DAD: It’s absolutely terrific to have wrapped up the story on the time frame and at the length that I promised early on. There was awhile in that there that it wasn’t clear I was going to deliver. Part way into The Sacred Band I had that epic fantasist “Oh no! I need another book to finish this!” moment. My editor shut that down in a NY minute. He was having none of it. He said I had to get the job done as promised, even if we had to push back the third book’s pub date. I got a grip of myself, reconnected with my original vision of the books, and got it done in three. Very pleased about that, and proud of the outcome.

SS: When ACACIA first published, many reviewers compared it to George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice & Fire. It is epic fantasy on that same scale. Now that you’ve written three books and finished the trilogy, what do you feel about the comparisons now? Do they hold up? How are you two writers different?

DAD: I wrote Acacia: The War With The Mein before I’d read a word of George’s work. After I finished it I read A Game of Thrones and absolutely loved it. I thought it was great, and he became a favorite writer of mine. No doubt about it, I connected with Martin’s work a lot more directly than any other fantasy writer I can think of. So there must be similarities. But in a lot of ways the similarities are more about historical fiction than fantasy, I think.

I came to my large cast of character style of writing when working on Pride of Carthage. Nobody compared me to Martin then, though Pride of Carthage is structured like Acacia, and existed before it. I wrote it with lots of points of view, and then followed my own model when I wrote began The Acacia Trilogy. In lots of ways I approached Acacia like an historical novel, but of a place that I’d made up. In that regard, I think my work is a lot like George’s. Actually, the first thing of mine that George read was Pride of Carthage. I’m very pleased to say that he liked it! We connect on that level.

But other than that I think our writing is really different. I can’t say exactly how, but we’re two different writers. That’s obvious, though. My bank would be shocked if I suddenly started depositing George’s checks in it!

SS: You have spent the last several years working on this series. It was also your first fantasy trilogy. Did your writing process change during that time? And what did you learn about the fantasy genre from a writer’s perspective?

DAD: Writing three big books is always going to change a writer. Sure, I’ve grown during the trilogy. I think my writing style is a little more direct than before. When I look back at Pride of Carthage, I see some sentences that I now think, “Well, I’d cut that opening paragraph in half and start with a description of the knife instead of the butter…” That sort of thing. I’m a bit more direct. Some readers will still find my pacing slow, but I’ve picked up the pace a bit.

What did I learn about the fantasy genre? There are some terrific people reading fantasy. No doubt about it. I love that they communicate more actively with writers than literary readers do. I’m always happy to receive friendly emails. Makes my day, and that’s been a great part of being a part of the fantasy community.

SS: What are you currently working on? Are you going to stay in the fantasy genre or venture back out into historical fiction?

DAD: I’m working on three different things. My next novel will be historical, about the Spartacus rebellion in ancient Rome. I’m in the early stages of it, but I’ve found a voice to tell it in. If I carry on as I am at the moment, it’s going to be a first person novel. Not told by Spartacus, but by someone close to him.

I’ve also got to get cracking on another three-part story for George RR Martin’s next Wild Cards book. I had a three-parter about the same character in the last book, Fort Freak. It was lots of fun, and I’m very happy to be working with George and his cadre of writers. It’s good company to be in.

Lastly – and this is the first time I’m mentioning this publicly – I’m working on a middle grade fantasy series. It’s early days yet with this one. I just gave a big chunk of it to my agent and he loved it. So, here’s hoping something comes of that.

I’m feeling pretty good about the different prospects. I have more freedom now than I’ve ever had before and I’m going to make use of it!