Ossus Library Index Star Wars Timeline




A novel by Sean Williams (2010, Del Rey)
The Old Republic, book 1
Set 3520 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

A Sith, a Jedi, a Mandalorian and an Imperial spy find themselves at an auction of a unique artifact, which leads them to an habitable planet that tries to defend itself from all of them.





Read May 5th to 19th, 2014 in Hardcover  
    This book was an exciting start to a new series. In the past, I have not usually enjoyed novels without the big three main characters from the Original Trilogy (Luke, Han and Leia), and especially books from the point of view of evil Sith characters. But this one managed to give enough for all the characters to be interesting. It consisted of mostly two battles, with a little character development mixed in, but they were kept fun, with enough twists and betrayals to keep it fresh.

Full spoiler review:

Even after finishing the book, I wasn't clear on why the starship was traveling through pirate space on its way to see the Mandalorians. For a people so intent on secrecy, living on a planet orbiting a black hole outside the galactic plane, it seems a very risky thing to do, especially when they weren't ready to take on the galaxy. But maybe that really was part of Mandalore's plan to draw them out, somehow knowing that they wanted to strike at the Empire.

The story revolves around two Force-powerful people, in a time that looks like what we were heading for after the Fate of the Jedi series. I kept wondering if we had jumped forward in time, instead of backward.

Eldon Ax is a Sith apprentice who longs to go out into the galaxy and kill Jedi. I've never found the Sith to be very interesting individuals, except where they go off on their own philosophy, such as Darth Bane. It's clear that she hates her master, and is ready to go through him if he doesn't let her go her own way soon. But she becomes interesting when her motivations become questioned, after it is revealed that her mother managed to escape the Empire and take various robotic specialists with her in protest when they took her infant daughter. Shigar Konishi is a Jedi apprentice who has just been told by the Council that he is not ready to take the Trials. He already has great doubts, which is why the Council has made this decision.

By the end of the book, both have changed, and are a little further from their core belief system. Ax thinks a little more compassionately, and Shigar has a little pent up rage. Strangely, though, only Ax is free, as she has killed her master with the help of the hexes, while Shigar is only beginning his trials. I would have though that facing the hexes and the Sith would be enough to earn him his Jedi status - but I guess the Sith were so numerous that they would be promoting Jedi all the time when they met, so the trials must be something different in this time period.

There is a little bit of interesting history given in this novel, as it follows soon after the Sack of Coruscant. It's hard to believe the Sith could actually sack the planet, but I guess the same thing happens several times in Luke's time period, most notably in The Bacta War, Dark Empire (especially), Star By Star, and Apocalypse, but people keep coming back. The Republic and the Empire don't know it, but they are both invited to an auction of two mysterious objects found by a pirate, now in the hands of a Hutt. The ship that Jet Nebula attacked blew itself up rather than being boarded, but two things survived. Both Republic and Empire are interested in the navicomputer, because it must contain the coordinates of its world of origin. Apparently, habitable worlds that are not inhabited are a hot commodity in this time of continuous war. It turns out, however, that the other object is the more important. Nobody understands at the time that it is a miniature droid factory, one that manufactures complicated and tough-to-kill droids -the hexes (it's funny how everyone comments on the "good name" that the Republic envoy comes up with for the droids).

Ax, being a Sith, tries to steal the devices. But as luck would have it, Shigar is also looking for a way to see them, and the Mandalorian Dao Stryver is blasting his way into the Hutt's vault to steal the thing, too. The battle that ensues seems to last half the book, but showcases everybody's ability to fight, and the incredible ability the hexes have to deflect and absorb energy weapons, cloak themselves, and join together to become super-droids. In the end, the droid-maker is destroyed, as are all the droids. But Stryver gets the navicomputer, which he uses to find the location of the mysterious planet. Shigar and Ax each get one of the disabled droids, which they deduce also knew the location of their planet, since they were intent on escaping. They each figure out the location of the planet by tapping into the droid brains.

Both the Empire and the Sith are convinced by the apprentices to send a small fleet of warships to take control of the planet -at this point, I don't see the difference between the two, except that the Empire doesn't hide its menace. The Republic seems to be so corrupt and aggressive that is really seems no different -but I guess almost losing a war, and being at war for so many years takes its toll on democracy.

The story also features an elite Republic warrior who was kicked out because she reported on the shady dealings of her superior officer, and an Imperial spy who is the main aide of the Republic Supreme Commander of the fleets -a pretty good position.

Shigar finds Larin trying to protect the weak of Coruscant in the lower levels - a tough job, and he knows she's depressed, and looking for a way to redeem herself. So he takes her along, and she proves herself in the fight in the Hutt's palace, and is assigned a squadron in the battle above Sebbadon, where she skydives with some of the people who resent her, and they learn to respect her.

Ula Vii is just as conflicted, as he knows the Republic is corrupt, but he also knows that the Empire is a bad place as long as the Sith are ruling it. He strives for a better world, and he thinks the Empire can give it to him, if only the Sith would kindly remove themselves from power. He can't let either side know he is a spy, so he keeps trying to think of ways to sabotage the Republic's efforts, without giving too much power to the Sith. He doesn't actually do much of either. But when the two fleets are ripped apart by the hexes above Sebbadon, they must join together to defeat the droids, and Ula is put in charge of both of them, believe it or not (but only after he reveals himself to the Sith privately). He spends too much time trying to keep the two fleets from destroying each other as the only way to defeat the hexes, that he can't give anybody an advantage.

On the planet itself, the droids are constructing something that could get them away from Sebbadon, and into the galaxy at large, where presumably they would destroy every living thing, as they contain their master's prejudices. Ax is paired with Shigar's Master, where she sees that anger and pain and oppression are not the only paths to the Force. I really liked her awakening, the scorn that she treats the Jedi Grand Master with, only to be proven wrong again and again. She is rescued where her own master would leave her behind, and she sees the Jedi do incredible things using peace and serenity, which she thought was not possible.

Meanwhile, Shigar is paired with Ax's master, a very powerful Sith, who gets on Shigar's nerves so much that he turns to anger to fuel his passion, unleashing a storm against the Sith. But Ax's master shoots Force lightning at Shigar, who fires it back, wondering why his master wouldn't teach him such a powerful technique. His anger made him feel so much more powerful. But he does rise above it, at least for the short term, and when he returns to Coruscant, he is told he is ready for the Trials.

Ax, for her part, finds the center of the droids, where her own clone awaits, imprisoned and ignorant of everything, poisoned by her mother's bitterness. The droids killed everyone except for the Cinzia clone, who holds the key to destroying the hexes. Although she considers using the hexes, she destroys them herself, using her own DNA, after her clone is killed. But she does control them long enough to have them perform one final duty -kill her master.

The ending was typical of what we know about Star Wars droid armies, that they can all be destroyed from a central processor. But I liked the way the characters changed from the beginning of the story to the end. Shigar became more certain of himself, though I think he might be on the way down the Dark Path. Ax is becoming enlightened that there are other ways to do things. Ula is so certain of himself to start with, but ends the book at a complete loss, without even his former position among the fleet, and knowing that he wouldn't want it back anyway.

Dao Stryver and Jet Nebula end the book together, with Jet's magnificent droid, who ended up hijacking the combined fleets of the Empire and Republic to erase all information about Sebbadon from their memory banks. Presumably that won't stop them from returning, as they all had to get back to the galaxy through hyperspace, so should be able to retrace their route, not to mention that they still have the deactivated hexes they used originally, and they know intellectually where the black holes are.

Still, with two major battles (typical of a video game style book), and some character development, I can't really ask for much more. Plus the author managed to make me like some Sith characters, which is a feat in itself.

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