||I liked this book a lot. It was the best Denning
book, I think, since Star By Star, and I really like the way this guy
writes. It's not often that I read a book like this in four nights.
That's not to say it was perfect; far from it, as there were a number of
things that annoyed me, right from the first page.
Let's start with the annoying things. I don't understand
how Jacen snared Tahiri into even wanting to revisit Anakin's death,
which occurred in Star By Star. It might not feel like a long time to us
since he died, but it has been four years, and Tahiri has been through a
lot. Was Anakin the only person she ever had feelings for? And now she's
addicted to the time-flowing that Jacen has introduced her to. Also,
Jacen states that it's "unlikely" that they could change the past, and
he thinks to himself it's actually "impossible". Yet he worries about being seen if
they stay too long. Which is it?
Then there's the typical complaint about how
characters' strengths vary depending on what the story needs from them.
In one scene, Luke pins Jacen to his chair, and crushes the base of the
chair without even lifting a finger. Yet in the book's climax, Luke,
while definitely stronger than Jacen, has trouble finishing him off. In
the first case, Jacen was prepared, and was helpless. In the second,
Jacen was caught off guard, and held up his end of the lightsaber duel.
It doesn't make sense, and I find that annoying.
We also get Leia, who can't seem to defeat Tahiri.
Admittedly, Tahiri has been practicing lightsaber fighting a lot longer
than Leia, but I have trouble seeing them evenly matched.
Finally, the Jedi Academy on Ossus. If Jaina had
killed the GAG Major Sherpa when she met him, I don't understand how he would have harmed the
younglings. Surely she would have noticed a capital ship in orbit for
the threat of bombardment? Would the other GAG officers have gone on a
rampage? Most were locked in with Sherpa, and surely the Solusars could
have taken care of the rest? But maybe not. I haven't seen Kam and
Tionne so impotent... ever. Tionne should at least be able to sense the
threat of the Major's weapon. How the heck did Kam get killed by
sharpshooters, with the Force as his ally? Was Tionne also killed, or
just maimed? In fact, the Force seemed to
be missing for everybody at the Academy except Zek, who used it to sneak
up on the Major and kill him, finally. Jaina wasn't much better. She
seemed more like a Republic Commando than a Jedi. Why did she have to
snap the sniper's neck physically, when she could have done so with the
Force? She states that Luke could have incapacitated the guy from a
distance, but she had to resort to killing. So use the Force to do it.
Some of the Jedi should have been able to kill Sherpa from a distance.
Those are major gripes, but they didn't take up much
story time, and except for the last one, didn't affect the plots, much.
The easy flow of the excellent and snappy writing, along with the rest
of the plot, made it an excellent read.
One of my favorite kind of stories is where the bad
guy gets at least some of what he deserves. My biggest wonder is if we
needed five other books to build up to this. Could we have had this
without half of the other books? Something needed to drag us down into
the darkness Jacen (now Darth Caedus) was creating, but I don't know if
we needed all of those plotlines to get us here.
Regardless, there are two major plots in this novel,
which also branch out into some side plots.
In the first plot, Luke and Ben try to come to terms
with Mara's murder. It's refreshing to see here that Ben knows in his
heart that Jacen was the killer. I worried at the end of
Ben would forget all he knew about Jacen. As Luke points out at the end,
though, all of Ben's evidence is circumstantial. If there were lightsaber cuts, of which paradoxically there seem to be none, they
could also be attributed to Alema Rar, who was in the right place at the
right time. But the fact is that Ben knew Mara was hunting Jacen, and
they landed on the same moon, which is how Ben knew where to look for
her. I suppose that doesn't mean Alema couldn't have been there, too,
I felt like I was missing several chapters as this
book opened. Luke is said to have been in a true daze since Mara died,
and he has missed out on a lot. The daze lasts only a few pages, and
apparently it's only been a week since Sacrifice ended. In that time,
everybody says Jacen is trying to exert his influence to take over the
Jedi, but that, too, only seems to last a few pages, as GAG troopers try
to arrest Han and Leia inside the Jedi Temple.
In the second plot, Jacen sees a way to end the civil
war, by using a battle of attrition at Balmora, even if it eats away the
entire Fourth fleet, so that the Separatists (they use a different name,
but that's what they are) will not have enough ships at Kuat to win the
Jacen is surprised to learn of Jedi help at Balmora,
and Luke pulls off an extraordinary feat when he materializes in some
sort of real vision in Jacen's ready room. He was real enough for
General Gavin Darklighter to hear him, yet he disappears and Jacen's
guardian droid never saw Luke. When, upon learning of Jacen's treachery
in the Temple, Luke says they should set a trap for him, I was very
excited to see what he had planned. It was a letdown to learn that the
trap was simply to show Jacen that they could have set a trap and
surprised him. Luke's honor won't let him do anything more, yet.
Ben, on the other hand, wants to get close to Jacen in
order to kill the man who murdered his mother. Jacen "reluctantly" accuses Cal Omas, ousted Galactic Alliance leader, of
arranging the murder, and tells Ben not to act on it, but Ben briefly accepts that as truth. But when he
breaks into Omas' apartments, where he is under house arrest, he feels
in his heart that Jacen was leading him to this assassination. He
refuses to murder Omas, asking instead that the man fake his death so he
can get close to Jacen. Omas decides that it is better that Jacen fully
believe Ben murdered him, so he runs into Ben's lightsaber.
When Luke finds out, of course, he comes storming to
Jacen, in the middle of the Kuat battle, and confronts him with, it
seems, all of the Force at his command. I loved seeing him like this,
holding Jacen completely helpless. When Jacen tells Luke he has to fight
at Kuat, or he'll harm the younglings on Ossus, Luke leaves, and when he
launches, all of the Jedi leave the fight. It was a wonderful moment,
but I thought they would go to Ossus. Instead, they do absolutely
nothing about the younglings, not even communicating with Jaina.
Ben tries unsuccessfully to win back Jacen's trust. At
first, Jacen believes Ben's conversion of the blame for his mother's
death, but as time goes by (only a few hours or a day at most), he
realizes that Ben knows it was Jacen, and waits for Ben's strike, the
one that will take him down the Sith road. The strike doesn't come, and
Jacen becomes more and more annoyed with Ben because of that, eventually
thinking him weak. Ben offers suggestions about how to betray his
father, making Jacen think twice.
So, at Kashyyyk, as Jacen begins bombarding the planet
because Han, Leia and the Jedi Masters have all congregated there and
the Wookies won't give them up, Ben
offers more suggestions at quelling resistance. Jacen is completely
unprepared when Ben strikes. Of course, Jacen has to live, because this
is only book 6 of 9, so Ben has to fail, and it's through sheer chance,
as Lowbacca explodes a shadow bomb almost right on the bridge at that
exact moment, causing everybody to stumble. Still, Ben managed to take
off a small chunk of Jacen. (Did Lowbacca survive? The book doesn't
The Jedi take a lot of casualties attacking Jacen's
fleet, but I wonder how many of the officers are going to desert now,
seeing how exactly alike Jacen's tactics are to the Empire's under
Palpatine. He did it to draw Ben out, but none of the officers know
Luke, at that point, takes Jaina on an attack run of
the Anakin Solo, where they are met by Jacen in a stealth X-wing. Jaina
is horrified when she shoots Luke down, and his Force-presence
disappears, indicating he is dead. Even Leia, way off at Hapes by now,
feels it and assumes the worst. The readers aren't fooled, and it is
fortunate that Luke reappears only a few pages later, sneaking aboard
the ship, performing so much sabotage, and confronting Jacen.
The only way Jacen is able to escape is because of
Ben, which makes Cal Omas' sacrifice in vain. Ben is tied to a bunch of
Yuuzhan Vong torture equipment, similar to what Jacen experienced in
Traitor, and he hates Jacen all the more for it.
It is Ben sliding down the slope toward the Dark Side that gives Luke
pause. He is ready to defeat Jacen, even resigned to the fact that he
will have to kill his nephew, when Ben, in a fit of rage, tells him to
wait so he can perform the act. This pains Luke to no end, and when
Jacen disappears, Luke refuses to search for him any longer, as their
state of mind is way too Dark for the act they must commit.
There is another small subplot concerning Alema Rar,
who searches through the Jedi records to learn more about her ship, and
through Lumiya's stuff to find the data chip containing her "Sith"
contacts that we learned about in previous novels. She travels to
Korriban to meet them, and she returns in time to help Jacen's fleet
escape Kashyyyk. I don't yet know what to make of these "other Sith",
who consider themselves to be "one" instead of individuals. For now, I
wonder why they are needed, and I still resent turning Vergere into a
Sith. I'm also not sure I like the ancient techniques filtering back
into Luke's time period. I can do without Nomi Sunrider's battle
meditation, or the Sith equivalent, even if it was allegedly used by the
Emperor. Still, it provides for Jacen's escape, and that is really the
only way he could have escaped Troy Denning's characteristic "impossible
situation" novel climax.
The climax is actually really good, between Luke's
lightsaber battle (even if he doesn't get to immobilize Jacen as he did
earlier in the book), and Jacen's realization that he has now made the
ultimate sacrifice. Tenel Ka shows up with her fleet, and he deludes
himself into thinking she has come to save him, when she has come for
The epilog is a little disappointing, as the
Separatists, Hapans, Wookies, Jedi and Han and Leia sit down to talk
about what to do next, and nobody can agree. I liked Luke's position,
and the way he would not compromise. But instead of considering each
other neutral, why not all sign non-aggression pacts, as the Mandalorians
did with the Verpine in Sacrifice? I guess that would imply too much of
an agreement about what to do. Luke's priority to to remove Jacen. But I
wonder how Niathal will like Jacen's tactics, and how it will look to
the general population that the Empire has returned. In the New Republic
and Galactic Alliance, bombarding a planet that didn't cooperate was not
an option, as witnessed by the events that caused this crisis.
My favorite part of the book, other than Luke pinning
Jacen immobile, was the way Jacen was surprised by so many things in
this book. He still got what he wanted, but Luke and Ben managed to
surprise him so many times.
For a small book, the author managed to pack a lot
into it, and I am very happy with the results. I suppose everything is
relative, including expectations. I have not really been enjoying this
series, so even a small note in the right direction makes me overjoyed.
I can only hope the last three books live up to it and form a real
conclusion. At least this book has a conclusion, and for the first time
doesn't feel like a piece in a chain. The overall arcs are still there,
but there has been some closure, at least, especially in the way the
characters have realized, finally, where they all stand relative to one
another. All, perhaps, except for Tahiri.