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A novel by Christie Golden (2010, Del Rey)
Book 5 in Fate of the Jedi
42 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Luke and Ben team up with a fleet of Sith to attack the dark entity at the center of the Maw black hole cluster.




Read October 1st to 8th, 2011  
    This book was much better than the last one by this author, Omen. It was engaging, fun, and had a number of very good story elements. A few things stuck out as being too obviously revealed, and yet another cliff-hanger, which didn't prevent me from completely enjoying the book, but kept me from giving this a better rating.

Allies picks up immediately as Backlash ends, as Luke, Ben, Vestara and the Force-sensitive who helped them on Dathomir, Dyon, are trying to flee, but are surrounded by Sith ships. Luke has no choice but to make an alliance with them, and really doesn't have any trouble with it because they are both after the same thing: Abeloth, the being who lives in the center of the Maw cluster of black holes, and whom we saw in Abyss.

But he gets to keep Vestara, as insurance that the Sith won't break their deal. Being Sith, however, I doubt if they would care if one of their own was killed. This allows Vestara and Ben to get a little cozy, in an awkward teenage kind of way. I liked their banter in the ship and on Klatooine, and the way Ben was getting annoyed at his father for keeping an eye on them. It's only when C3PO translates a private conversation Vestara and her father had that Ben turns sour, and then only for a while, as he deludes himself that this sexy Sith might be able to do some good, after all.

The author has Luke state that one of Lando's mammoth asteroid mover ships is absolutely necessary for the fleet of Sith and Jade Shadow to get through the path of the Maw to Abeloth. I don't believe it, but can accept it as practical, given the undetermined size of the fleet, and that they might move off and be trapped in the black holes. This gives our characters some time to investigate the planet of Klatooine, home to a race of beings who signed their freedom away to the Hutts 25000 years ago, and are ready for rebellion. You know it's going to happen in the space of this book, and it does, because of the Sith.

It's in the market, with Dyon sent to keep an eye on the two teens, that Dyon goes insane. I don't remember enough of Dyon from Backlash (he's not even in my review!) to know if he was even in the Maw shelter during the Yuuzhan Vong war or not. I think something should have been mentioned. So Ben and Vestara go after him in a stolen speeder (showing how alike the Jedi and Sith really are). I doubt Ben could be so surprised at Vestara's ability to lift a speeder over a bunch of other ones so effortlessly -he could do the same, and must have seen his father do similar. And when they are in turn being chased by the police, we are told that Vestara is batting away blaster bolts, even though she left her lightsaber with Luke, and based on what happens next (after the speeder crash) I seriously doubt she was using Ben's.

It's nice to see a reasonable law enforcement agency here. They realize that although the Jedi caused a lot of damage, they also prevented Dyon from breaching the Fountain of the Eternals, a holy structure whose promise of protection cost them their freedom millennia ago. They also realize that they are completely incapable of holding a Jedi in prison, and give Dyon over to Luke immediately. But the experience does give Ben and Vestara, who are locked up together, a chance to bond.

The incident causes Luke to leave without waiting for Lando to arrive with his large ship, which took a little too long to get repaired. In that time, with Luke gone and Lando not yet arrived, the Sith try to take a piece of the Fountain, whose glass-like material is unique in the galaxy. They launch an assault, and easily keep the guards at bay, for a while. But even lightsabers have trouble cutting though it, and it's never clear if they actually managed to get a sample before they were caught, finally.

Jaina arrives at the same time as Lando, and they act as witnesses to the sacrilege, but in the end have to admit that the Hutts did everything they could to protect the Fountain, arriving in record time when the emergency was broadcast. On the other hand, the Klatooinians riot in the streets, calling the treaty void, and I have to agree with them, because the Hutts had such a poor defense in the first place. I can't understand why Jaina wouldn't call the Sith on their obvious lies. The Klatooinians and Hutts would certainly allow her Force-impressions as evidence.

So off they go, then, abandoning the Sith who reluctantly admits (lying)  that he acted alone, and will be killed for his actions. Jaina, Lando and the remaining Sith depart to help Luke.

Back on Coruscant, Daala is bringing the Galactic Alliance into the mould of the Empire, mainly by suppressing anyone who gets in her way, and seems determined to destroy the Jedi, as Palpatine and Vader did in Revenge of the Sith. But her plan is rather clumsy, getting the Mandalorians to lay siege to the Temple. When a messenger is sent out, who is not one of the sick Jedi, the Mandalorian leader kills the young apprentice in cold blood. I have trouble with this entire concept, given the strength of the Jedi and what we are told will come next. If a few new Jedi could divert Daala's Star Destroyer across a solar system in Champions of the Force, as well as the other feats they have performed, especially recently, I think the Mandalorians would be no trouble for them, despite the fact that lightsabers can't cut their armor. The Jedi are made of other things than just lightsabers, which the authors seem to forget way too often. Why can't they sense the willingness of the Mandalorians to kill an innocent Padawan, when they are just inside the door? Why didn't they come out swinging defensive lightsabers to protect her? Given the number of new characters who die in this series and the last, it's a wonder we have anybody left who wasn't in the movies.

Also on Coruscant, we finally get Tahiri's trial. As I said regarding the election of the Queen of Naboo in Attack of the Clones, the legal system seems way too American. Why can't the authors get together and come up with something unique to Star Wars, even if it's just in looks? Nobody could have imagined the Senate looking the way it did in The Phantom Menace, so it was written very American (or Western, at any rate) in any books it featured, such as The New Rebellion. I feel it's the same with the courts. Regardless of the dull setting, the trial was very interesting, as Tahiri's new lawyer (provided thanks to Jag Fel) tries to spin the tale of a girl who was manipulated by Darth Caedus. Everything feels natural, especially the Anakin imposter who shows up, except for one item that felt entirely wrong. I never, ever, got the feeling that Tahiri was ever intimately involved with Jacen when she was flirting with the Dark Side (which is something I had a lot of trouble with in the first place). Like Anakin Skywalker before him, he was completely obsessed with protecting his lover and child, especially their child in the end. I can't believe he would take Tahiri as a lover during that time.

This is one of the plot points that leaves us in a cliff-hanger, as things start to go wrong when the prosecution presents a recording of Tahiri's attack on Pellaeon. But it's revealed that the Admiral knew it was being recorded, so there's still a point of investigation to make in the future.

Han and Leia get a cameo here as Allana watches C3PO interact with Luke, and everyone learns that he is allied with the Sith, and are aghast. Honestly, I can't see the difference between them and any other villain in the various series, except that they wield lightsabers better. They plot to kill Luke and Ben once they deal with Abeloth, but Luke already knows this, and he plots to stop them from doing it. Their plot doesn't seem more nefarious than anybody else's to take over the galaxy.

So when Luke and the others make it through to Sinkhole station (thanks to Vestara's help, who proves herself better at navigation than Ben), they find it destroyed. Luke is certain that Abeloth destroyed it, but I'm not sure -she just doesn't seem that powerful. He is also certain that the station was put there to prevent her escape, presumably it was used to move the black holes as Centerpoint Station was in the Corellian system. That means she must have been extremely powerful. She's lost some of her potency over the years, it seems, because Luke kills her easily, though by that time he and the Sith and Abeloth are admittedly quite tired after a big lightsaber fight. That's no excuse, really, because we've seen Jedi and Sith exhausted before. It seemed like a cheap quick fix for the end of the character.

Except maybe there are more of these creatures around, because Luke and the Sith decide to keep their agreement as allies into the next book, at least.

Lando doesn't get anything to do in this book after Klatooine, so he and his ship are almost a waste of space. And Jaina gets to chase Ship around, until Abeloth is killed, after which Ship leaves suddenly. That's probably good for Jaina, because she was losing the fight. Speaking of Jaina, her engagement with Jag is over (sigh -doesn't this sort of thing happen every few books?). She asked him for ships to help Luke and he said no. As much as I've liked Jaina in the past, she's in her mid-thirties! She needs to understand that things can be made to work -they just need to find creative solutions. She can't impose her ways on everything.

There is another sub-plot in this novel, and it's interesting in that it plays on Anakin Skywalker's hope to end slavery, all the way back in The Phantom Menace. Just like the toppling of several dictators around the same time in the Middle-East this year, several planets have started revolts over slavery. The most obvious one is Klatooine, because we spend a lot of time there. But there is also the world of the Chevs and Chevins (the author made a mistake at one point, I think, about which were the masters and which were the slaves), and the Freedom Flight is introduced with real characters on Tatooine. We get a new news reporter to go into the rough spots and talk to them, and she even wins a slave at a drinking game! She sets him immediately free, however, and he now works for her.

Another planet unheard-of before now also has slavery, though Daala won't admit slavery exists in the Galactic Alliance. She doesn't want anything to stand in the way of resolving her Jedi problem, so she won't even let them revolt. I have a feeling this planet will feature big soon (unless they drop the subplot of course, which has been known to happen), because Daala has sent a bunch of Mandalorians to stop the uprising. This is guaranteed to win her more opposition. I have trouble believing any leader could be this ignorant about leading -and so stupid, no matter that the other characters in the book (her colleagues and enemies) say she isn't. She makes stupid decisions because of her anti-Jedi bias, which was born in the time of the Empire. It just seems like a setup for her downfall, and as such, is way too obvious. It doesn't feel inevitable, like I think it's supposed to be, but manipulation by the authors.

I also don't know what to make of the Fleet Admiral's death in the last pages of the book. He put up a good fight, but what's going to happen to Kenth Hamner's hopes of an escape when he finds out? Why put this hope in the reader's views, anyway, if a perhaps-not-so-random bit of violence in the streets was going to destroy it? It feels like more manipulation by the author, and breaks a number of story-telling rules. Maybe that's why it was done, but if so, it feels wrong.

So lots of stuff happens in this novel, with new storylines popping up (slavery), old ones being completed (Abeloth, I think and oh yeah -the sick Jedi are cured!), and others simply continuing with new twists (Jaina, the siege on the Temple, Tahiri's trial...). I quite enjoyed the novel, mostly because it was a lot of fun, and very easy to read -and because lots happened. It's the details that I started to question afterwards, and which make the book a little less enjoyable after the fact. It's a credit to this novel that it seems better than the sum of its parts.

As I've said before, I don't really like the way the Star Wars universe has gone in these last few series (everything after the New Jedi Order ended), so my enjoyment has to be taken moment-by-moment, as I try to forget how manipulated the circumstances have felt, and try to enjoy the characters for what they are doing presently. It's tough, but this book proves that there are still some enjoyable adventures left in this universe.


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