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A novel by Troy Denning (2009, Del Rey)
Book 3 in Fate of the Jedi
42 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Luke and Ben travel to a dark-side power full of Force spirits, as the Jedi decide to do something about the hallucinating young Jedi in spite of the Head of State.



Read August 2nd to 9th, 2010  
    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 Outcast, was 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 Omen.

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 explicitly stated.

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. The 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.


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