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A novel by Michael Reaves (2009, Ballantine Books)
Book 3 of Coruscant Nights
17 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Force-sensitive Inquisitors hunt a powerful young Force user, who comes to Jax for training, as he contemplates a mission to assassinate the Emperor.



Read January 14th to 26th, 2013 on my Kobo Vox  
    Like the first two books in this series, it took a lot of effort to get interested, and in this case, even that didn't last long. The plot was almost non-existent, but more than that, it was boring. Only a couple of characters really did anything in the slightest, and they changed their minds based on no evidence or real argument whatsoever. The climax was also very strange, and made no sense.

Spoiler review:

This focus of this book relied heavily on the Clone Wars novel Jedi Healer, and a little on Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, namely the Force-enhancing bota and the bond I-Five had with Jax's father, Lorn Pavan, respectively.

There were no guest stars from other novels in this book, unlike the first two books in the series. Maybe that made it seem less interesting -I'm not sure. It just seemed that everyone simply sat around discussing non-issues. Looking over my reviews for Jedi Twilight and Street of Shadows, I can see that those books were probably just as bad, though at least they had some action or intrigue.

The main villains in this book are the new Enforcers, Force-sensitive people who do Darth Vader's dirty work. Apparently he and the Emperor have had time to find new Force-sensitives and set up an academy on how to use the Dark Side! And this less than a year (as far as I can tell) after Revenge of the Sith. Not that it really matters, as they all seem to be rather inept, anyway. This is along the same lines as what I said about the last book, in which Vader and the Emperor haven't had enough time to become notorious figures they are portrayed as.

There are only two real plots of any mention in this book, and those seem barely worth mentioning. In one, Tuden Sal, who betrayed Lorn Pavan back in Shadow Hunter, tries to hire I-Five to assassinate Emperor Palpatine. Everyone thinks this is crazy (including me), but I-Five considers it. But he thinks he should follow the majority vote of the group (Dejah, Den Dhur, Rhinann and especially Jax). Why? I suppose because it suits the author to drag this out for as long as possible. Jax doesn't make his decision until almost the end of the book, where he decides against the plot (because he detects a glimmer of the Force in I-Five), but then gets caught up in a discussion with some people from Whiplash (the group that smuggles people off Coruscant), and changes his mind completely -and for no apparent reason. But at that point, he decides that he should be the one to do it, using the bota.

The second main plot focuses on Kaj, a young Force-sensitive orphan who was sent to Coruscant to join the Jedi, but too late, obviously. Jax is convinced that he should be the one to train the boy, who has more raw power in him than Anakin did, apparently. The light-sculptures created by Dejah's late husband actually create a Force-bubble, which can hide the Force-sensitives, even of Kaj's strength.

There is a fight scene where Jax, Kaj and Laranth (the not-Jedi who is really good with a blaster) take on the Inquisitors. It is written reasonably well, but is nothing special. It's a wonder that Vader himself didn't come to the area to investigate.

Dejah, recall, exerted pheromones similar to Xizor, and also possesses some form of telepathy, where she can read emotions. She feels the Force coming off Jax and Kaj, and relishes it. So when Jax discovers that she has been trying to manipulate him, he increases his Force-established bubble which he thought had been keeping the pheromones away, and she rebukes him. She enmeshed Kaj in a trap set by the Inquisitors, who then bring him to Vader. Vader and his people mind-wipe the boy, making him think that Jax is the bad guy, and that he was in the Inquisitor academy.

Vader actually agrees to a trade with Jax: he will return Kaj and Dejah if Jax will give up the bota, Sith holocron, and the super metal that I-Five gave Jax in the first book. They all meet up, and Vader takes the bota and puts it in his control box to enhance his powers. I don't understand that at all. I've never heard that Vader's control box could transmit external stuff into Vader's air supply or blood stream, but worst of all, I don't understand why Vader would want to waste the bota at that time, instead of keeping it for another, more opportune moment.

Vader starts to emit a giant uncontrolled Force-storm, killing Dejah and Rhinann, damaging I-Five, and falling off a high-level ledge, but not to his death, even as Den Dhur comes to rescue them with the sector police squad. It was actually quite a confusing jumble, and not very interesting.

Of the minor characters, there is little to say. Den had been considering leaving Coruscant to go back home to a lover on Sullust, but decided he liked the action more, so stayed until the end of this book, at least. Rhinann spent the whole book trying to figure out where the bota was, so he might become Force-sensitive himself for a short time, and goes crazy when Vader uses it. Finally, the inept police chief from Street of Shadows turns out to be a pretty smart guy, and a member of Whiplash, too.

Kaj ended up being so damaged by the mind-wipe that he had to be sent off Coruscant to somewhere relaxing so he could try to regain his original memories. It's too bad he didn't end up growing into a Force-sensitive man like one of those found by Luke in Jedi Search. It would have given some nice continuity to this series, which otherwise feels like it is a completely separate entity.

One of the strange things about this novel was the characterization of the Force from the eyes of the three principal Force-sensitive people. Jax, Kaj and the main Inquisitor character (Probus Tesla) all see the Force as patterns (hence the title). There is nothing wrong with that, but it seems very strange, especially as they focus on it so much.

I suppose they had to do that, because there was nothing else to do in this book. It was not about much, plot-wise, and that plot had very little to do. There wasn't enough character development to justify all the time we spent with the characters, either. A fourth Coruscant Nights novel has recently been released, but it's hard to expect any more than what we got here, so I'm not very enthusiastic about it.


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