||Ho-hum. Boring. Uninteresting. There
is little more to say about this book. It wasn't bad by any means, but
there was so little to it that it didn't hold my interest.
All of the action takes place in the
Sheklowna sector, a place we've never heard of, on a bunch of planets
we've also never heard of (except perhaps in the short stories or Galaxy
guides that I don't read, but I wouldn't know).
A group of stormtroopers, all of whom
were sickened by the Intelligence Bureau's (ISB) orders to fire on
unarmed civilians after the Rebel cell had pulled out, kill an ISB
chief, and decide to desert their Star Destroyer rather than face the
death squad. Incidentally, they are on Captain Ozzel's ship (I don't
know what Vader thinks he would do with Ozzel as a punishment, as the
next time we see him, he is an Admiral. Perhaps simply putting him on
The Executor keeps him in Vader's sight. That Vader kills him in
Empire Strikes Back is unplanned).
The stormtroopers, who call themselves
The Hand of Judgement afterwards, continue to serve the oath they made
when they signed up to be troopers, to protect the citizens of the
Empire. On the first planet they land, they tackle a group of swoop
riders who were attacking unarmed farmers. I don't think they find out
that the farmers were actually Rebels, and that they weren't
transporting farm equipment, but weapons. Later, they land on a planet
whose leaders took over the previous government and have created a
climate of fear and embezzlement. They destroy the hold of this
government over the people, and restore the true government. Both of
these cases turn out to be the work of pirates linked to the same group,
a group the sector governor has created in order to defend his territory
when he calls for independence from the Empire. The stormtroopers track
the pirates to a base, which has just been wiped out by Captain Ozzel's
Star Destroyer, where they find the link to the governor.
Meanwhile, Mara Jade, Emperor's Hand,
after noting very expensive artworks in a governor's safe on a mission
from the Emperor, goes in search of their source, to find out who needs
so much money all at once that they would selling them. She tracks down the pirate group, which
has been hiring other pirate groups into a large force. She comes to the
rescue of one ship carrying ATSTs, and calls the nearest Star Destroyer,
Ozzel's Reprisal, for help. While on board, she notes the strange
departure of one ship, but doesn't know about the deserting
stormtroopers. Ozzel and the ISB colonel think she has come to investigate the
deserters, and decide she must die instead of passing that information
along. So they destroy the pirate base she was trying to infiltrate. She
survives, but just barely. She also finds the trail to the governor's
office, when the pirate leader starts to call for help.
At the same time, Luke and Han have
gone to see what they can do about the pirates, who are attacking Rebel
and Imperial and civilian targets indiscriminately. After coming to the
aid of another rebel ship, they are picked up by the Hand of Judgment,
who don't know they are rebels, and
who take them to the pirate base. They arrive just about the same time
that Mara is leaving. When they leave, it is for the stormtroopers to
find the governor, and Luke and Han to find Leia, whom Luke knows is in
danger after a warning from Ben Kenobi in the Force. She was on the
capital of the sector to hear about a plan from one of the rebel cells
to do something drastic. After the spaceports are locked down when they
meet their contact, the treacherous Disra from
Specter of the Past, they realize it was a setup.
Darth Vader, to tell him that Leia Organa was on his world.
So Han, Luke, Leia, Mara, Darth Vader
and the Hand of Judgment all meet on the capital planet of the sector.
Actually, they all have different missions there. Mara thinks the
governor ordered the attack on her at the pirate base, so she wants to
kill him. She meets the Hand of Judgment and co-opts them to join her.
Luke uses the Force to find Leia, who is hiding as a waitress at a
poor-neighborhood's restaurant. Her goodwill there made the people feel
better about themselves and perhaps raised the standard of the entire
neighborhood. Vader, of course, is searching for Leia.
I have two big problems with this book.
The first is in how powerful Mara is in the Force. She had much more
than a rudimentary knowledge, as she had in
Heir to the Empire. There,
Luke sensed that she had the raw energy, but no focused skill. Here, she
puts her lightsaber (made with Mace Windu's crystal) through a series of
very complicated maneuvers while trying to keep it out of sight while in
a hovercraft! She is so refined that she has the same skill as in
Prime! She appears to be more powerful than Vader. I thought it was poor judgement to give her such skill at this time period.
The second problem I have is the use of
Ben Kenobi. Whenever Luke is in a jam, Ben appears and gives him
explicit instructions. He even heaves a great sigh when Luke answers like
a four-year-old, wanting the next bit of information instead of thinking
for himself. Ben even gives him a security code, and tells him that Leia
is in danger, though I suppose he has a vested interest in Leia.
Other than those two problems, there is
nothing plot-wise that is wrong with the book. The five stormtroopers
are almost identical in their personalities, but that is not too
surprising. The attack sequences are thoroughly described, but not very
interesting, even the assault on the ATST in the city streets. The twist
in the book is that Mara is after the governor because she thinks he
ordered the Reprisal to kill her, but that was actually Ozzel. She
stumbled onto his plan for secession just because of that error. Anyway,
the Hand of Judgment does not kill the governor, because he is the uncle
of one of them. But he does try to kill Mara after revealing his plan.
Vader arrives with word of the treason, though, and takes the man into
The only good point worth mentioning
was the idea that somebody could work for the Empire and not be evil.
Both Mara and the Hand of Judgement know there is corruption in the
Empire, but both are trying to make it a better place. Mara doesn't
realize how corrupt the Emperor actually is.
I can't say that I enjoyed reading this
book, but I didn't dread picking it up night after night, either. It
simply didn't interest me, and I am glad that it is over.