||By a long shot, this is the best Clone
Wars novel that I've read, so far.
I was skeptical of a novel written based
on a game. Although The Ruins of Dantooine turned out alright, and the
first Dark Forces trade paperback was also good, the second and third
ones nearly turned me off those kinds of novels for good.
There is nothing to worry about in this
book. The author is an excellent writer, and I am happy, for now, that
she is continuing to write for the Star Wars universe.
This story follows four clone
commandos, each of whom was the only survivor of their previous squad,
and a Jedi Padawan who lost her master to the Trade Federation while he
was trying to reform the local government.
All five of the main characters are
given lots of time, with Darman and Padawan Etain getting the most. Even
the main bad guy, a Mandalorian who thinks that cloning Jango Fett was
the worst thing the Republic could do, lets us get to know him.
There is actually not much of a story,
as the novel is a military character story. The clones have been sent to
the planet Qiilura in order to destroy a lab that is researching a virus
that would target only clone troopers. The Republic wants the mastermind
behind the virus taken alive.
Character-wise, Etain is a Padawan who has no
self-esteem, and has trouble summoning the Force for any purposes
herself, including saving herself from a rapist at the beginning of the
novel -she relies on darkness and leafy crops to do that. She gets more
training from Darman than she did from her master, I think. Not in the
Force, of course, but in concentration and fighting technique.
Darman was separated from his current squad
when their ship crashed, and he stayed on board later to gather more
weapons. He meets up with Etain at a farmhouse, and they try to make
their way to a rendezvous point with the others.
One of the things I really liked about
this book was how their plans kept changing. They went through not only
plans A, B, and C, but they must have gone through most of the alphabet,
as they said, until they were really just making it up as they went
along. They even made mistakes that made their work much more difficult,
as when they influenced the Weequay to believe there were two squads, so
that Ghez Hokan sought to protect both the research facility and his
The book is also memorable, I think,
because the characters learn as they go. The commandos learn to become a
team, to gain from each others' strengths. Etain learns self-confidence,
primarily because the clones were bred to think of her as a commander,
and they actually listened to her suggestions. She also learns to care
about them. This is displayed as one of the reasons that Jedi cannot
have attachments, but I think it is different, because typically she
wouldn't have to send casual friends or lovers out to die, whereas these
were her troops. As such, they were no less important to her, though. I
wondered at one point if she and Darman would become intimate. That
would have been funny, I think, as neither of them have any idea how to
go about it.
The others in the squad are the leader,
Niner, and Fi and Atin. Each one had their own personalities, strengths
and weaknesses. Atin was grouchy because he had already survived the
deaths of two sets of squad-mates, and had a large scar across half his
face. I think my favorite moment in the
whole book was the quiet talk between Etain and Atin, as she tried to
eliminate his guilt. His reaction to the idea that she had made her own
lightsaber was quiet and very memorable: "Impressive."
I liked the way the clones had to adapt
to their inexperienced commander, and the way that Etain led them to do
it. Although she kept thinking she was inept, the fact was that she
wasn't. If Anakin had thought that Obi-Wan was holding him back in
Attack of the Clones, then Etain should feel that her Master was
holding her back even more. She didn't even know that there was a war,
or a clone army, and yet when the clones looked up to her, she acted
like a leader, except for her self-depreciation. She also proved herself
just by taking some of Darman's load, carrying his extra pack without
effort by using the Force.
Etain uses the Force throughout,
earning more respect from both the clones and the ever critical Jinart,
a shape-shifting alien, as she dug a huge hole into rodent tunnels,
diverted debris from an explosion, and influenced the minds of several
The assault on the complex was
well-written and quite enjoyable, like the rest of the book. The
destruction of the communications center was as fun as it was
unorthodox, diverting mining explosives into the complex. "P for Plenty"
is right -anything that they could overdo, they overdid.
Darman and Atin worked their way into
the complex through the rodent tunnels into the drains, and captured the
lead scientist, dragging her out again the same way. The blast doors,
meant to prevent the virus from getting out, also prevented Hokan from
getting back in. Darman was able to set some very powerful explosives,
and Hokan couldn't even rescue any of the virus, nor the remaining
scientists, who died either from sniper fire or the explosion. If
anything, I think that is a weak part of the book, as everything
occurred too neatly wrapped-up. Of course, now Palpatine has the
mastermind behind a potential clone virus...
The showdown between Mandalorian Hokan
and the Mandalorian clones was also quick and a little disappointing. They
didn't get to meet face to face except for a brief instant. It was a
battle of the sharpshooters, instead of a more personal battle, which I
expected. Still, Etain got to remove Hokan's head with her lightsaber,
her second real kill, not including the Weequay she sent to his certain
death. It was nice to see a Padawan's first kill, something I always
advocated for Obi-Wan in the Jedi Apprentice series. The emotional
effects there would have been worth exploring. Here, it is briefly
explored, but is necessarily brief because of the war.
The commandos had their own jargon,
which was neat at first, but got tiring after a while. There was so much
specialized terminology that it almost got in the way of the story at
times. It did seem rather realistic, in a way, though.
I could get used to the author's style in
more Star Wars books. There is at least one more Republic Commando
novel, so I know that we'll see the clones again. I wonder what kind of
Jedi commander Etain will become, if her new Master allows her to take