||Rather unexciting until the end, but
with enough good characterization that it was fairly enjoyable,
This was a chase
story, plain and simple. There were no big plot twists, and at least one
that I had expected. I still wonder if there is another twist concerning
the twins in this "trilogy", because of the way the "bad" twin helps
them out, offering a way for Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to track Balog, the
Of course, Eritha comes right out and
says that her sister is behind the kidnapping, and the power grab, but I
don't know if I entirely believe her. She seemed pretty sincere in her
emotions, especially about Tahl, yet she did manage to track them very
easily (possibly knowing their destination), and to escape from the
Absolutes at the end without reason. I can't see a motivation for her to
do any of that, though. Perhaps her loyalties are torn, because she
really does like Tahl.
The plot was rather simplistic, and the
only way it became substantial in any way was to diverge from its stated
premise. I find it unlikely that Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan could find a few
slightly burned rocks in a trail that could be hundreds of meters wide,
or more. However, they do it several times over the course of the book.
One reason that I am suspicious of Eritha is because she managed to
track the Jedi more easily than they tracked Balog.
Every delay that they create, whether
to rest, wait for the tracking droid, circle around to find their
pursuer, or tend to Obi-Wan's broken leg, means that Tahl might have
less chance to live, but it also makes the story better. Qui-Gon knows
that any delay could cost Tahl's life, but he is torn between his
heart and his duty as a Jedi. I suppose this is the type of conflict
that George Lucas wanted to avoid by revealing the forbidden nature of
love among Jedi during Attack of the Clones. The Jedi might get a poor
reputation of taking care of their loves before the public. By the time
of Attack of the Clones, however, that reputation must already be sorely
tarnished, as they risked a fifth of their order to save two Jedi and a
Senator. In fact, a lot of Jedi were killed in that battle, and as Mace
Windu says in Shatterpoint, I hope Anakin was worth it. My point is that
they took care of their own before their responsibility to the rest of
That's beside the point here, though,
because Qui-Gon is a very good Jedi, and he honors his duty above his
heart. After abandoning Obi-Wan and the miners to the raid by the
Absolutes, he circles back to help them. The best part of the book, as
far as I'm concerned, was that moment, and the discussion that preceded
it. Obi-Wan takes on the role of the responsible adult here, pointing
out to his Master that their duty to the public is first and foremost to
their very essence as Jedi.
Obi-Wan gets in a lot of good moments
in this book, because Qui-Gon is so very distracted by his love for Tahl.
Even during the otherwise monotonous tracking through an endless desert,
Obi-Wan's thoughts go to his master. At one point the author mentions
specifically that the two have changed roles, which I didn't find
necessary, but it is true, and I like it a lot.
Obi-Wan is using his master's lessons
against him, forcing Qui-Gon to focus. When Qui-Gon is finally brought
back to the present, time and again, he manages to teach Obi-Wan some
more, different lessons of skill and compassion. But Obi-Wan gets to
take on the role of caretaker and concerned friend to Qui-Gon, worrying
that his master isn't taking care of himself, not sleeping, and so on.
For Qui-Gon's part, some of my favorite
parts of the book dealt with his past relationship with Tahl, through
flashbacks. Each flashback goes father back in time, and in each one, we
see how they can pick up where they left off, how good friends they
were, even when they hadn't seen each other for years. We get a
discussion where Tahl doesn't think Xanatos is the right Padawan for
Qui-Gon, or a battle before the masters when they were still too young
to be Padawans (like the one that Obi-Wan fought way back in
Force), and finally the day they became friends, over a competition that Tahl won climbing a sheer rock face (and I'm sure that Yoda knew they
were there, even if they thought they avoided him!).
So it is aching for Qui-Gon to delay,
even for the duty of a Jedi, even to mend his Padawan's injured leg.
They spent the night with the miners, and then came back to it after a
slaughter when one of the miners comes looking for their help. This is
probably the most gruesome scene in this series to date, as the
Absolutes left nobody alive, not even the helpless children. I don't see
any reason for this, except to make them even meaner than they were
Qui-Gon's decision to return to help
the miners was fortuitous, though, because he finds traces of soil from
boot prints, which leads them directly to the caves where the Absolutes
were headquartered. Who knows how long it would have taken, otherwise.
Infiltrating the caves, they set up a
distraction by blowing up a bunch of corridors, and watch as Balog shows
up and races to Tahl. She is near death as they rescue her, but Balog
escapes. Once again, I must complain that Obi-Wan could have dealt with
the situation better if Qui-Gon hadn't called him away. We could have
made this Obi-Wan's first kill, and it could have led to many more
stories, where Qui-Gon, bent as he is on revenge at the end of the book,
wanted Balog brought to justice himself. It also would have prevented
the flooding of the caves, as the escape door never would have been
However, they manage to escape, as the
caves had been evacuated after the explosions, and after Balog set off
the rest of the explosives, effectively destroying the caves. It turns
out that Balog was looking for a list of informers, of which he had been
a part, before the Absolutes were abolished. He thought Tahl had it.
As I mentioned in
The Ties that Bind, I
find it strange that the governing Assembly could name successors to the
leaders unilaterally. As leadership changed, the people should have been
given a voice to decide if they approved, even if they didn't vote for
an entirely new government. This planet appears to have a throne,
instead of an assembly. To have one of the twins, Alani, not even an
elected official, try to wriggle her way into the role of leader doesn't
This is another reason I think Eritha
is lying. I believe she is the bad sister, and that Alani is the good
one. Tahl even says that Alani is the one who found her a way to
infiltrate the Absolutes. Alani was also the one who had connections
with the Worker underground. I see a pattern here...
The ending of the book was quite
tender, as Tahl dies on the hospital bed. Qui-Gon's anguish is clear,
and Obi-Wan, I think, finally realizes what has driven his master for
the last few days. I think there is a parallel at this point to a moment
earlier in the book, when one of the miners found her lover dead on the
road, killed by the attack of the Absolutes, while she was away trying
to get help from the Jedi. She was too late to help him, just as Qui-Gon
was too late to help Tahl. I hope he doesn't blame Obi-Wan or the
miners, because I don't think the delays are what caused Tahl's death.
Even if they had caught up with Balog in the desert, I don't think she
would have survived, because of the inhibitors injected into her system,
and the isolation suit she was wearing.
On an unrelated note, I can't figure
out where the artist was inspired to draw the cover for this book. At no
point do we see Tahl standing up on her own (and I'm pretty sure that's
Tahl in the distance). Nor do we encounter a tunnel such as that one.
Regardless, the book was once again
well written, and I enjoyed the character moments, but it barely moved
the plot forward. The next book should be interesting, as we see how the
Jedi deal with revenge, from an individual perspective (Qui-Gon's), and
from the outside. I just hope Qui-Gon's brush with the Dark Side can be
resolved in the books that we have left in this series.