He applied the Page 69 Test to his latest book, Acacia, and reported the following:
I can’t claim that page 69 of Acacia is representative of the entire book. I’m not surprised, though. Hitting all of the aspects of a fantasy of Acacia’s size on one page strikes me as darn near impossible. The page does introduce a part of what the novel is about: the intricacies of political negotiation and the often loosing struggle to hold on to social idealism in the face of real world realities.Read an excerpt from Acacia and more about it and David Anthony Durham's other work at his website.
The scene focuses on a council meeting in which a young Aushenian prince, Igguldan, has come to submit his people to Acacian control. This comes after generations of holding out against the larger power, but the Aushenians simply can’t maintain their independence. Igguldan still wishes his nation could remain free and idealistic, but he’s facing the reality that their notion of a confederation of independent states has failed...
A Council member remarked that such a system might work at a subsistence level – each nation might make do and stay largely on equal terms – but none would achieve the wealth and stability and productivity the Acacian hegemony had created with the aid of League-managed commerce. They would have remained squabbling islands of national fervor, just as they had been before the Wars of Distribution.
Igguldan did not try to dispute this. He nodded and gestured that the palace around them was testament to the truth of that argument. “The Queen would have answered you by saying that the grandest is not always the best, especially not when the wealth is held by few, fueled by the toil of the many.” Igguldan ducked his head and ran a hand up through his hair. “But this is not what I came to speak about. Elena is of the past; we look to the future.”
Even the Acacian King, Leodan, recognizes that there’s something tragic in this…
“At times I can still envision the world your Queen wished for,” Leodan said.
“I can as well,” the prince said, “but only with my eyes closed. With open eyes the world is something very different.”
Leodan actually hates the inequities of the nation he rules, but he feels largely powerless to change them. He’s hidden the harsh realities from his children. He’s only lately introducing his eldest son, Aliver, to truth of the position he’s to inherit…
After the meeting adjourned an hour or so later, the king took tea with Aliver and his chancellor. The two older men spoke for some time, letting the conversation drift from one aspect of the meeting to another. Aliver was surprised when his father asked, “What do you think off all this? Speak your mind.”
“I? I think… The prince seems a reasonable sort. I can speak no ill of him yet. If he represents his people truly this is a good for us, yes? Only, if they hold us in such high regard why haven’t they joined us sooner?”
“To join us means a good many things,” Leodan said. “They are right to hesitated, but for some time now they have made it clear they would be our friends if we would be theirs as well.” Thaddeus motioned with his hand that it was not as simple as that. “As ever, your father is generous with his words.”
“No, what I say is the way it is. They have held a hand out to us in friendship for years now. We simply have not grasped it.”
“And it is well we did not. Our patience has paid off.” The chancellor spoke as if he were addressing the king, but his eyes touched on Aliver long enough to indicate that he was drawing out the issues more completely for his benefit. “What the prince did not admit is that Aushenia must be suffering greatly. I marvel that they remained outside the empire for so long...”
That’s about where the page ends, with Aliver getting the beginnings of his introduction to the political shape of the world. As far as that part of the novel goes, page 69 reveals important thematic aspects. At the same time I’m aware of how very much isn’t covered. In addition to political intrigue, Acacia is a novel of ancient crimes and retributions, of warrior princesses and ill-fated princes, of marauding pirates and invading races, of germ warfare and sorcery, of mythology and giant beasts. It’s a love story that wraps triumph and tragedy together in one complicated bundle.
Page 69 doesn’t convey all that, but that’s why I had to write the other 575 pages.
Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.