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A novel by Troy Denning (2012, Del Rey)
Book 9 in Fate of the Jedi
42 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

The Jedi attempt to retake the Temple and Coruscant from the Sith and Abeloth, while learning about her true origin.



Read October 29th to November 12th, 2012, in Hardcover  
    As is usual with this author, there was a lot going on, and it was all very intense. For the conclusion to a 9 book series, it did manage to tie up many of the complicated plot threads, but it kept way too many open for the future stories, and even ended on a pessimistic note, both on a personal level for Ben Skywalker, and the galaxy at large.

Spoiler review:

I wonder if the authors are planning to create another endless war between the Jedi and the Sith, the way the one in the Old Republic novels seems to be drawn up (and of which Knight Errant was part). After the New Jedi Order, which was in my opinion the pinnacle of Star Wars novels, we had the strange Swarm War, followed by two series based on the Sith, and it seems that the Sith are sticking around pretty much for good.

Denning brings back the Killiks in this novel, as Raynar and a couple more Jedi visit them to learn what they know of Abeloth's species. There are some odd references here, making it seem like they have visited several Killik hives, but then as if it's the first time they've seen the Killiks since The Swarm War.

It turns out that the Thuruht hive was the one that imprisoned Abeloth the last time, building Centerpoint Station and its counterpart in the Maw cluster of black holes. Abeloth served the Celestial beings from the Clone Wars animated series, the father, son and daughter who lived to balance the Force. It was never clear what that actually meant in the TV series. And what kind of balance were they keeping? If they all died, including the Dark Side son, why does Luke feel that the galaxy is turning to the dark? I also find it strange that Luke could so easily check mission reports from the Clone Wars, after Palpatine's purge of the Jedi (wouldn't he also purge the Temple?), and the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, which supposedly destroyed everything, and which is miraculously restored in this series.

Anyway, Abeloth was a mortal who drank from the font of power and became somewhat immortal. According to the Killiks, she escapes every time civilization is destabilized (such as with 5000 years of war between the Jedi and Sith), and peaks when the flow of the Force is changed dramatically, the way Jacen supposedly did when he replaced the Dark Man with Allana on the throne of balance in his vision. I can't find anything convincing in the text where this is explained. Better to say simply that she was due to escape after the last Sith War 5000 years and 1000 years before, combined with the current crises.

There is another small subplot where Jag resolves his conflict with Daala, but Daala's response is never really seen. An Abeloth avatar enters the broken moon where Daala and her fleet are hiding, promising the Admiral that she could win a general election. Jag sabotages Daala's chances of winning, just the way that Daala sabotaged his, so that a third person could win and become Chief of State of the Empire. He finally gets to marry Jaina in the epilog!

Tahiri battles Abeloth's avatar with Boba Fett (who is still searching for the cure to the disease that keeps him off his homeworld) at a small asteroid base. There were some great scenes, and I think some really good Fett moments. The setup was something this author does really well, with great descriptions of locations, details, and thoughts. It makes reading these stories worthwhile, even though there are plenty of questionable things going on. By the end, Tahiri and Fett defeat Abeloth, and a Star Destroyer destroys the asteroid.

The main thrust of the novel, however, is the Jedi attempt to retake the Jedi Temple after Abeloth brings all the Sith back within its' boundaries. The novel changes pace and direction several times. Once, it even wanted to be a world war one movie, where it takes bodies and bodies to advance a couple of hundred meters. Unfortunately, the body count was rather ridiculous, because it was almost entirely Sith, and none of the dead belonged to any Jedi that were known to the readers. Then it turned into Corran, Valin and Jysella, Luke, Ben and Jaina (as well as Vestara) against thousands of Sith within the temple. At one point, they are all nearly dead, from exhaustion, burns, Force-weariness, and who-knows-what else. But they keep fighting, and they keep winning, against Sith who presumably are fresh. It shows how much stronger the Light Side of the Force really is! Actually, it was more of a joke than anything, perhaps a homage to old-style cartoons. But even though the locations changed, and sometimes the scenario, it was repetitive enough to get a little boring.

My favorite part, I think, was the coordinated attack on all the Sith senators and military commanders, where Luke, Ben and Vestara kill the highest-ranking Sith on Coruscant. I wish I could have seen more, except that the author decided to get quirky at some points.

When they enter the temple, and things start to go wrong -their entry into the Temple is abruptly sabotaged- everybody except Ben believes it was Vestara who betrayed them. It seems really strange that nobody could detect Abeloth's presence, even amid the darkness of thousands of Sith in the Temple. It was actually Abeloth who read into the future with the Force.

Vestara gets separated from the Jedi, and launches out on her own. She had decided at the end of Ascension that she would not make a good Jedi, but she knows that she has to run from the Sith, too, as she killed their leader several books back. The chase scene in the lower levels of the Temple made me think of a Scooby-Doo cartoon, as Vestara, injured, manages to outrun a dozen or more Sith in their prime.

The entire attack on the Temple makes it look like the Lost Tribe of the Sith has only a few members who know anything at all about the Force. This actually starts in the very first chapter, where Barv infiltrates the customs line. He states that he shouldn't use the Force and telegraph his presence, but he uses it all the time, from silent communication to influencing minds. In the attack on the temple, the Sith can't hit anything with their lightsabers, and their Force-lightning is much, much weaker than Palpatine's or Dooku's. They can't even shoot blasters into the dark corridors while chasing after Vestara! Meanwhile, the Jedi are expert marksmen, can usually deflect the Force-lightning, and kill hundreds of Sith, if not more.

Han and Leia start the book evacuating the Jedi students off Ossus. Didn't they end the last book by encountering hostile life-forms in Coruscant's undercity? Regardless, they reach Ossus only a few hours (or maybe minutes?) before the Sith attack, carrying off the entire occupants and much of the equipment. One ship gets lost, then shows up again after the Sith are defeated, only to make a suicide run against Tenel Ka's flagship -proving that it had been captured. They lose many Jedi students, instructors and their families on that ship when they are forced to disable it, and the Sith destroy it themselves.

Han and Leia play a pivotal role, though, in Ben and Vestara's ultimate breakup. Delivering Barv to the Jedi Temple so that Jedi can warn Saba's children of Allana's vision that their nest will be discovered, Han and Leia end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. All throughout this series of novels, nobody has known about Allana's true identity. I thought it was specifically mentioned that Ben and Jaina and all the others had no idea she was Tenel Ka's daughter. It seems unlikely that Jaina wouldn't figure it out, given how close she was to her brother. But in this novel, it seems that everyone knows! Certainly all the Jedi, and even Vestara figures it out quickly after a stupid slip by Luke. So when Vestara is cornered at an airlock evacuation point, she manages to get it open just as Allana (who stowed aboard the Falcon) is descending the ramp. Vestara tries to use that information as a bargaining chip with the Sith who have cornered her, and leads an attack that ultimately gets Barv killed. Later, through a series of fire-fights, Han, Leia and Allana manage to save Tesar's nest. But Jaina will eventually find out and tell Ben -and he'll believe her.

Luke, Jaina (made a Jedi Master!) and the others make it out of the Temple, but Ben is captured, and Abeloth unleashes a horrible sequence of earthquakes and causes volcanoes to erupt from Coruscant, causing fear and panic, both of which feed her and make her stronger. Ship takes Ben, Vestara and Abeloth back to the Maw, where they are supposed to drink from the Font of Power and recreate the family of the Father, Son and Daughter. Ben refuses, but in order to save herself, Vestara considers it.

Luke enters the dream state from Abyss and battles Abeloth there, with the help of a Dark Man whom he first saw in his dreams back in Betrayal. (How long ago was this all planned, or were the seeds of an unknown plot planted in different places so the authors could use them whenever they wanted, however they wanted, in the future?) Luke is grievously injured (of course), but together, he and the Dark Man succeed in killing the spiritual avatar of Abeloth, in part because Ben and Vestara are battling another avatar in the Maw, and Saba kills the one in the Jedi Temple, with help from Jaina.

The ending is bittersweet, which is getting tiresome, and not really what I want in my Star Wars novels. It looks like Abeloth is trying to rematerialize, as some Jedi have seen strange Force apparitions since her "death". Vestara escapes in Ship, presumably to join the One Sith that we briefly saw in the Legacy of the Force series. The Jedi have been voted off Coruscant, rightly so, I think, because they did indeed let the Sith invade, then came back to do battle, which spilled out into the Coruscant cityscape, and killed possibly billions of people.

So it looks like the Jedi and Sith will continue to do battle in the near and long-term future. The Jedi will go into hiding, but hopefully will not abandon their roles as guardians of peace, and not just against the Sith. Are we going to parallel the Knights of the Old Republic novels? Hopefully the stories and themes will not repeat between that series and the future ones involving Luke, Han and Leia, and their kids.

As a side note, I was quite pleased that despite the ridiculousness of the survival rate of the Jedi compared to the Sith, that no major second-generation characters were killed. But just like Luke's hope for a peaceful civilization filled with Jedi is fading, so is my hope that the future series can hold my interest. I really hope that I'm wrong.


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