||Well written, with a good plot and a decent
resolution, which is all we can ask for in a Star Wars novel. Among the
Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi series so far, that is far
above the standards I've seen.
Of the two plots, I preferred the Han and Leia one,
which is a pleasant surprise. I've found the crazy Jedi plot tiring so
far, so it's nice to see it take a turn. One third of the way into the
series, we've found out why the young Jedi are going insane: they were
all in Shelter during the Yuuzhan Vong war, and they are being called
back to some dark power among the Maw black holes.
But what's nice about this story is that the Jedi
start to strike back, mostly in the form of Leia, Han and Jaina, Han
being an honorary Jedi, of course, as far as I'm concerned. They strike
back at Daala, and at Mr. Stiff Jedi Master, Kenth Hamner. When two more
young Jedi start to hallucinate, Han and Leia are there to capture them
before the press sees them, but security finds them, anyhow, at the gate
to the Jedi temple. Han and Leia lock the security agents out, which
gets them all in trouble. But everything in this story is written in a
manner that feels very real, from Han and Leia standing up to Hamner, to
the two Jedi who "resigned" because their leaders were considering
turning over the crazy Jedi to be frozen in carbonite, like Corran
Horn's two kids.
As usual, Denning writes with a lot of humor, some of
which almost seems inappropriate, like the Jedi Masters conning Han and
Leia into thinking that they had decided to turn the young Jedi over,
when they had decided enough was enough. Although the Jedi Masters were
acting out of character, especially given how serious they have been,
Han and Leia reacted perfectly in character, and were amazing to read.
A sub-plot of this one is the continuing romance
between Jaina and Jag Fel, head of the Empire. The sub-plot covers an
important topic: when love and duty conflict. As is stated, Han always
chose love over duty. This was most recently seen in the Yuuzhan Vong
war, in the barely tolerable stories Hero's Trial and
Jedi Eclipse. And
when Jacen went bad, he did nothing that would jeopardize his son, even
when Jacen tried to kill him. Although he did his part to bring about a
resolution, he didn't actually stand up to Jacen.
So when Jag reveals to Jaina that Daala is planning to
hire Mandalorians, which can only be to hunt down Jedi, he extracts a
promise from her that she will not tell the other Jedi, because this
would have implications in being able to bring the Empire into the
Galactic Alliance on an even scale. So Han's anger is understandable
when they find out from another source. But I don't think it is
completely in character.
Jag tries to make up for it during the trial of
Tahiri, which is obviously fixed for a media circus. (I still don't know
why she didn't kill the patrol sent to take her to prison at the end of
the last book.) He advises Daala to do the right thing and abolish the
Jedi court, and use the regular courts. Otherwise, she is showing a
conflict of interest, especially since Admiral Niathal was just as
complicit during the civil war, as she helped Jacen rise to power.
There is a great scene where Jaina leads a group of
Jedi to see Valin and Jysella Horn, encased in carbonite, in the
"secret" prison building. She has authorization from the Jedi judge,
which she uses for full effect with the media, especially when they are
refused entry and the guards almost fire on the Jedi and media alike. It
turns out that the two Horns are being hung as decorations in the
administrative sector of the building, which is humiliating to both
Corran Horn and the government. Daala of course claims that she knew
nothing of this, and will discipline those who did.
Back at the Jedi Temple, Han, Leia and the Jedi
healers are trying to use Jaina's stunt as a distraction so they can get
the sick Jedi off Coruscant. I liked the reappearance of Raynar Thul,
but really wonder if he's been in the Temple infirmary since The Swarm
War -what happened to him when Luke and the Jedi went into hiding on
Endor during Fate of the Jedi? Leia senses the Mandalorians around, and
she goes after them, along with Han and a few other Jedi. One of the
sick ones shows the interesting Force power of being able to reach
through metal to squeeze the life from within. Han creates another
distraction with Allana and the Millennium Falcon, which was fun, and
necessary, but not really noteworthy otherwise.
Daala has made a few mistakes in this book, which is
more like her, I think, than the way she was portrayed in the two
previous ones. Unlike Legacy of the Force, where it took almost all nine
books for the Jedi to come to grips with the situation, here they have
done so in three. I still don't understand why they didn't see it
coming, or why it takes so long for them to react. Being Jedi, I would
expect them to have lightning reflexes.
What has always rang false to me, since
Luke and Ben retracing Jacen's five-year journey, to see where he turned
over the brink to the dark side. Being exiled is fine, because I agree
Luke has been negligent. But we already know what caused him to turn to
the Dark Side: it was when he
decided that his daughter had to be kept safe, so that he could even
understand Anakin Skywalker's decisions when he saw R2D2's recording
back in The Swarm War. Now we've made some retro-continuity saying that
he saw some cloaked man sitting on the Hapan throne, and Jacen thinks
that destroying that man, through any means necessary, including
thrusting the galaxy into civil war again, was worth the price. The
problem is that we saw Jacen's fall through his own eyes, because he was
a major point-of-view character throughout the Legacy of the Force
series. And he never thought of that -it was only about making the
galaxy safe for Allana, not her throne.
Nevertheless, if that incentive for this plot is taken
as a granted of the series, I can ignore it as a fault of this book, as
long as the current destination proves interesting and in-character. And
it is, though it's as strange as much of what Troy Denning has written
for Star Wars. He always writes with an edge to a fantasy world.
Sometimes that's annoying, but here the fantasy stuff is borderline, and
it's written interestingly-enough. I still wished often that he would
get back to the Coruscant storyline, however.
Luke and Ben approach the Maw, and Ben feels the dark
presence coming for him, something nobody has ever felt before, which I
find highly unlikely. Regardless, they are drawn to a pair of black
holes, which has an exact replica, on a much smaller scale, of
Centerpoint Station, orbiting between them. Here Luke slips into a
mound (that's as well as I can describe it) of ancient Jedi and
Force-users who have relinquished their bodies in order to serve the
Force. It's more of a psychedelic drug than anything else, but Luke
feels that this is where Jacen fell dark, so he has to go, too. Ben tries to
keep Luke's body alive, and obtain information from the zombies who aren't
detached from their bodies so often.
Luke doesn't find much, but he does see Abeloth, the
source of Dark Side power that has drawn them here. It has also drawn
the Keshiri Sith, in the form of Vestara and her master. The main story
is a very plausible power struggle between two of the Sith lords, and
their apprentices, including Vestara. Vestara is chasing Ship, which is
commanded by Abeloth to remain. The planet is another typical Denning
creation, a place of horrors where the plants eat animals instead of the
other way around. Many of the Sith are lost to these plants. Abeloth
protects them, but Vestara sees through the illusion she is projecting,
but not until it's almost too late can she get her master to see it.
This storyline was also very interesting, unlike its progenitor back in
Abeloth sends the Sith to capture Luke and Ben, who
have traveled far in their strange realm. In the mists, the two Jedi even see dead Jedi such
as Anakin Solo, Mara and even Jacen, who act very much as the people we
knew and loved. It's touching, actually, but it's also a very strange scene that makes us wonder if they
were real, or parts of their spirits, or just Luke and Ben's imaginations.
But when they emerge from their trance, emancipated
but healing fast, they find the Sith at their doorstep. This scene was
very cool, and much better wrought than Han's maneuvers with the Falcon,
unfortunately. I liked the way Luke and Ben outmaneuvered the Sith from
the start, with Luke even putting a blood trail on Vestara, so although
she thinks she gave Luke another gash on his face -he actually let her.
Luke and Ben kill many of the Sith, including Vestara's master, but have
to let her go to save themselves. They fire on Ship, but it is unclear
whether Ship was damaged, left with Abeloth, or something else happened.
I assume Abeloth escaped the planet on Ship, but I don't think that was
It is said that Jacen left the Maw after seeing the
Fountain of Knowledge, and the dark figure on the Hapan throne, but we
know he went to at least one other place before returning to civilization.
Joiner King shows Jacen leaving the Fallassanni, so he couldn't have
been too concerned by what he saw here. When his spirit speaks with
Luke, then, he seems content that what he did was worth it, placing
Allana on the throne instead of the dark figure.
Based on what we see here, the station will probably
explode, as alarms have been going off ever since Centerpoint Station
was destroyed. So it seems unlikely anybody will be able to visit these
spirits again -this is probably a good thing. As another nod to Denning
continuity, it appears that the Kiliks did have a hand in creating this
station -and Centerpoint and the Maw, after all.
I liked the way this story was a turnaround for the
Jedi, but I especially liked the way the characters were well-presented,
and the story was well written, so that even the parts that seemed like
filler or were very strange or over the top were very interesting and
fun to read. I hope the authors can maintain this kind of quality.