||A much weaker plot than its
predecessor, as I didn't feel the story moving forward at all.
While the first book in this trilogy,
to the Empire, had a great setup, introducing us to a new villain, who
was a true military genius, this book feels like everything has already
been revealed, and we are getting more of the same thing. The big mystery of
the Mount Tantiss project is revealed at the end as a cloning scheme, which is why
Thrawn wanted to buy so many new ships.
There are four or five plots going on
here, and I didn't feel that any of them were particularly memorable.
The parts that I felt were really important occurred mostly between Luke
and Mara. Unfortunately, the rest of Luke storyline was quite boring.
I dislike the way the author has made
C'boath so powerful, especially in that he can cloud Luke's mind, so
that only when he enters Mara's ysalamiri bubble does he realize that he
has been brainwashed. More than that, he is able to make Luke actually
do things against his will! C'boath seems to suggest that Luke, Leia and
Mara are the only Force-sensitive people in the galaxy, even though Mara
used it far less than, say, Kyp Durron would have. Even though the
author didn't know about these potential Jedi, he should not have kept
the list so narrow. It also begs the question of why C'boath wouldn't
have sensed Luke and Leia before Thrawn came. Regardless, even though
Luke knew that C'boath was insane, he tried to follow the Jedi's
example. I don't see the subtlety that was apparently in trying to turn Luke to C'boath's
way of thinking. Given that the way Luke solved the dispute with the
Barabel (our first Barabel of the expanded universe!), he should know
the best way to solve disputes, even if C'boath has more experience than
I have wondered through the last book
and this one why C'boath just doesn't kill the ysalamiri used to strip
him of the Force. Even if he loses control of a stone when it enters the
anti-Force bubble, he should be able to aim it and give it enough
momentum to kill the creature, freeing him from its debilitating
effects. The author seems to imply that the Jedi are helpless without
the Force, despite Luke's abilities back on Myrkyr in the last book.
The way Luke and Mara leave the Jedi
Master also has the typical problems associated with Luke's
interpretation of the Force. It is frustrating to see Luke so
idealistic, thinking that C'boath can be cured, so leaving him alone on
Jomark while they take off to free Karrde. Luke knows, though Mara is
the only one to admit it, that C'boath is more dangerous alive, that he
will attempt to kill many more people. Therefore killing him while he is
defenceless is not the same as killing in cold blood. By not killing
C'boath, or at least rendering him defenceless, they allowed many more
people to die at his whim, most notably at the end of the next book, but
including the people he is currently subjugating.
There is rather heavy emphasis on Talon
Karrde in this book, which is referenced to his knowledge of the Katana
fleet, a cool concept about slave-rigged ships that disappeared into
nowhere fifty years earlier. He mentions them to Mara at the beginning
of the book, and she uses them as a bargaining chip to get away from
Thrawn, who in turn imprisons Karrde, trying to get the information out
of him. This is where the genius of Thrawn shines. Not in studying the
artwork of various species. Not in suddenly grabbing information out of
thin air. There are sparse clues pointing to a previously-unknown
adversary who has ships belonging to the Katana fleet, otherwise known
as Dark Force (meaning that the title of the book is not only referring
to the Dark side of the Force in the form of C'boath). Since Iblis had
three pre-Empire Dreadnaughts, Thrawn pieced together that he must know
the supplier of the found Katana fleet.
General Garm Bel Iblis is one of the
founders of the Rebel Alliance, but he split from it when he thought Mon
Mothma was taking too much power to herself, wanting to become the new
Emperor. Is it possible that few people actually knew, throughout his
reign, that the Emperor was a Sith Master, and that he had control of
the Force? Han and Lando, trying to figure out who framed Admiral Ackbar
by putting lots of money into his bank account when an Imperial raid
occurred at the end of the last book, end up on Iblis' base planet. They
spend a lot of not-really interesting time there, and end up thinking
that the former Corellian Senator should be rejoining the New Republic.
At first I thought Iblis came out of
the blue, but the New Republic really needed a new ally, somebody who
comes from the outside. The circumstances behind his appearance had a
nice twist to it. Unfortunately, it feels like an add-on to the story,
only tenuously connected, really.
Meanwhile, Mara and Luke audaciously
board the Imperial Star Destroyer Chimaera and free Karrde. It was a
really cool sequence, where Luke used his lightsaber, and Mara used her
knowledge of back-door systems from her Emperor's Hand training, to get
through the garbage chute to the prison level, where Karrde is being
held. Thrawn had picked up the empty Millennium Falcon orbiting Endor, where Leia and Chewie had left it, and once they are discovered,
they manage to use it to escape. The interplay between Luke and Mara was
well-written. Even though she wants to carry out the Emperor's last
command of killing him, we can see that she really doesn't want to do it
anyway, through all of the rationalizations she makes.
Leia gets the most interesting part of
this book, I think. She goes to the homeworld of the Nogrhi, in an
attempt to convince them that they should forsake the Empire. Leia
learned about a new culture, and that knowledge took a while to gain.
She realized almost immediately that she should not have come, but she
was left with no choice but to stay and learn about them, because Grand
Admiral Thrawn arrived at just that moment to try and figure out why the
Nogrhi teams kept failing to capture her. While Thrawn's timing in going
to Honoghr seemed a little suspicious, like so many meetings in
the Empire, his suspicions about Kabarach were very well-founded,
especially every time he visited the village. As the only
survivor of the Kashyyyk mission, it makes a lot of sense to meet with
this Nogrhi, and it would be important to someone like Thrawn to see his
surroundings. I like the way, however, he came to the wrong conclusion,
thinking that Kabarach was imprisoned by the Wookies and gave them
Unfortunately, after Thrawn leaves,
Leia's explanation of how the decontamination droid was poisoning the
land of Honoghr was very complicated, and I don't see the Nogrhi really
understanding it, since I had to read it a couple of times. I also don't
understand, once the matter had been settled, why the Nogrhi wanted Leia
to bring them some of the poison from Coruscant. They seemed to want the
cylinder that came out of the decon droid, which contained the poison.
If they wanted that, they could have disabled any of the other decon
droids. But why would they want the poison to help them grow crops? I
believe they wanted some sort of antidote, but that is not what the text
states -I read it three times trying to get a different interpretation
out, and failed.
I realize that I spent a lot of time
complaining about the book in this review. The above rating suggests,
however, that I did quite enjoy it. Most of what I liked, however, was
in little things. Luke and Mara's interaction, and Leia's with the
Nogrhi (until the end) are examples of how the author impressed me.
Little plot points also made this novel worth reading. I like the
introduction of Delta Source here, giving us another mystery that
doesn't get solved until the next book. Also, even though Thrawn loses
every single battle in this book, he comes out looking stronger than
ever. A strange turn of fate.
In retrospect, I'm sure nobody thought
it unlikely that Vader had a real human right hand through the Battle of
Yavin, and that the Emperor took that hand from him after the
destruction of the first Death Star. As we now know from
Attack of the
Clones, however, Vader -Anakin Skywalker- lost his right hand a lot
earlier than the events in A New Hope!
The big conclusion to the novel comes
after Han and Lando return to Coruscant, at the same time as Luke, Mara
and Karrde. Karrde, being grateful to Luke for rescuing him, offers the
Katana fleet to the New Republic. But with Ackbar's arrest and Fel'ya's
political posturing, by the time they get there, only fifteen of the two
hundred ships remain. Thrawn got there first, after apprehending Bel
Iblis' contact. The battle is quick, especially after Karrde's people
arrive, and Bel Iblis' ships arrive. Han gets to destroy a Star
Destroyer by slamming one of the Dreadnaughts into it. They gain control
of the master slave circuit from the main ship, but are boarded by
Imperial troops. They eventually win control of the ship, but realize
that every face they encountered was the same -clones.
It was quite a gripping conclusion,
with a different feel than in many books. The battle was short, allowing
the remaining ships to fall into New Republic hands, and discrediting
Fey'lya at the same time. It is just unfortunate that the rest of the
book was not as gripping. Hopefully, the final book in the trilogy lives
up to the memory of being an amazing conclusion.