This is what I've been waiting for. Excellent characterization of all
characters, a bold story, lots of action, lightsaber fighting, starfighter
dogfights, and inner turmoil! There is political action and treachery as well,
and some real consequences from everything that has come before. This is by far
the best New Jedi Order book so far. I might even go so far as to say that this
is the best Star Wars book ever!
The length of the book really makes it
feel epic in scope. And since we know these characters so well already, if the
book is well written, we will feel for them, and we are with them for long
enough that we will experience everything with them. And this book is certainly
well written! It is fantastically written. That isn't to say there aren't any
problems- there are certainly things that either confused me or contradicted
what I feel the characters would really do, but they are isolated, and very
small in comparison to everything that was done right.
The real pleasure in
this book comes from the combination of movie-style heroics, a very vibrant
writing style, and incredible sacrifices for the characters. Halfway through the
New Jedi Order, we are reminded that nobody is safe anymore. Some characters,
even ones we expect to survive, won't. In fact, this author managed to kill off
far more Jedi than all of the other Star Wars novels and comics combined!
Yuuzhan Vong have finally finished "shaping" the vornskrs they found out about
in Conquest. Talon Karrde inadvertently let the Peace Brigade know that his pets
could track the Jedi by the Force (I wonder if anybody will find this out). That
was all it took for the Yuuzhan Vong to mutate it into a terrible weapon. Not
only can the new voxyn track Jedi, but they are tough to kill, even with a
lightsaber, they spit acid, have toxic blood, poisonous fangs and tail, and emit
ear-piercing and mind-numbing squeals! The Vong don't even need to keep track of these beasts,
just let them loose on a planet, and they will take care of themselves. Among
the casualties that we hear about are Anakin's friend Lyric (from
and the twins' friend Lusa (from the terrible The Crystal Star and later the
Diversity Alliance series). At one point, Corran Horn was on the run, and I
wondered if he would make it, either!
There are two real stories here, a
localized one surrounding Anakin and his team as they try to kill the voxyn
queen, and a broad, galaxy-spanning conflict involving all of the other main
Anakin takes with him all of the people introduced in the Young and Junior
Jedi Knights series, from Tenel Ka and Lowbacca, to Zekk, Raynar and Tahiri, as
well as his brother and sister. Sure, that sounds convenient, but it also makes
the story more personal. All of these characters have similar personalities to
the ones they were given in the previous books. I have always liked Tenel Ka, and
here she is demonstrated to be as good as ever, and siding with Jacen, as they have
always been good friends. The only one with whom I had a possible exception was Tahiri, as she is described as being more emotional that she should be, given
her upbringing by Tuskin Raiders. But perhaps her experience in
opened her up more. Also on Anakin's team are many other Jedi that we have heard
about or barely seen in previous New Jedi Order books, including Ganner, who was
forced to grow up quickly in maturity in Ruin. But the best characters are brand
new, the three barabels, who have a terrific sense of humor, can do incredible
things with the Force, and are very swift and strong, allowing the group some
protection. It's too bad that two of them don't survive. I hope we hear from the
last one again, though.
The elaborate mission to Myrkr forces the Jedi to
allow Lando to hand them over to the Yuuzhan Vong for capture. The Vong
commander tortures them in a very interesting and emotional scene on his ship.
It was really hard to read about their pain, as descriptive as this author is.
But it ended at just the right moment, before going too far. I wonder, however, how much of it was a
ruse on the part of the Jedi. Was Jaina really broken, as she says? After they
"win" the waiting game, nobody seems to feel that Jaina betrayed them. But I
suppose it opens her more to what happens later. The Jedi go into a
"battle-meld" that resembles the trick they used in the asteroids in
Prime. This time, Jacen leads the whole group to share thoughts. As they take
over the Vong ship, they know exactly what is happening everywhere else. Pretty
cool, and well presented, I hope it doesn't become a standard, because it makes
them a little too powerful. If it was so advantageous, why didn't Luke and
his battle group use something similar? The answer is because this allowed us to
get deeper into the minds of the young Jedi around Myrkr, and they could share
in the emotions of others, which brought them really close together, and made it
more difficult when somebody died.
I really enjoyed seeing the infiltration of
the world-ship on Myrkr. I wonder how the Jedi knew to go for the world-ship,
and not the planet, which would have been my target. I suppose the call of the
captive Jedi helped them decide. It is also the captive Jedi that forced them to
land in the wrong area of the ship, forcing a long and arduous journey to get to
the cloning lab. To everybody's surprise, the captives are Dark Jedi, making
their task even more difficult. Most of the group resents the Dark Jedi for
endangering the mission simply for being so far from the labs! Zekk even knows
them from his time in the Shadow Academy. The Dark Jedi, however, lead them
towards the cloning labs, through mazes and slave-cities that the Vong use to
train their Jedi-hunting voxyn.
The best part of the team's efforts came in the form of fighting and guessing
the Vong movements. It's about time that we see some countermeasures to the
Yuuzhan Vong weapons, like the sticky-blorash jelly and the various poisons. I
really felt like it was real, the way it was described. I am also glad that one
of the NJO authors has finally remembered Jacen's affinity for animals, and
Lowie's computer skills. I am very glad that the specializations so apparent in
the Young Jedi Knights has disappeared (where it seemed that they could do
nothing else), but it is nice to see some remnant.
The journey through the world-ship takes its toll, as they are constantly
hunted. It's really exciting to see how none of the Jedi died before coming close
to their target (except for their pilot). Suddenly, two Jedi die in the tunnels.
Then, one by one, their group falls to attrition, as Vong and voxyn keep up the
pace, and the Jedi start getting tired and low on ammunition. The group very
quickly went from sixteen to ten or eleven between the time they entered the
feral voxyn nests and the cloning lab. Poor Raynar -we don't even know if he
survived when the Dark Jedi took off and abandoned the rest of the group. I have
trouble believing that the author just put them in to die, and I suspect we'll
see them returning eventually. The group manages to destroy the lab, but the queen
gets away. The group is split up, and they finally manage to steal a ship and
kill the queen. But the cost!
I wonder what prevents the shapers from creating more voxyn queens? They did
it once; they should be able to do it again, given enough time. It does seem
quite convenient that there was only one of the creatures. I know they won't, but
could the Vong clone a clone? The quality might be lower, but it might be better
than nothing. However, given how much time it took to train the voxyn, they
might think it not worth the while.
And we come to the price of victory. Just like I was spoiled to Chewbacca's
death by the Star Wars Insider well before reading Vector Prime, I was spoiled
similarly by an unshielded article in the same magazine to another death, which
is why I cancelled my subscription!
----- MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD -----
Anakin's death was magnificent! It is such the opposite of Chewie's death that I
absolutely loved it! Anakin was badly hurt rescuing Jaina from an ambush, and
the wound continued to get worse as they tracked closer to the cloning lab. It
got to the point that he knew that he had to sacrifice himself for the others to
escape, becoming one with the Force to inflict so much damage on the Vong
forces. Anything that I say would be insignificant compared to the description
in the book, so all I can do is praise the author for doing such a beautiful
job. The only thing missing was a thought of Chewbacca in his mind as he died. I
said at the end of Rebirth that since Anakin and Tahiri were falling in love,
one of them had to die. I figured it would be the minor character of Tahiri, an
obvious choice. I'm glad the authors decided to go the other route -it's much
As good as that was, however, it still pales in comparison to
the follow-up. We see the resonance in the Force come to Luke first, and he
nearly gives in to rage himself. Again, the description is incredibly beautiful,
and brings tears to my eyes re-reading it. The Force then reveals Anakin's death
to Leia, and as a result Han, which was almost as good. Wow! That chapter was so
powerful. This author managed to undo the damage that Luceno did to the
character of Han Solo in Hero's Trial, as he now promises to be the strong one.
He feels himself retreating back into grief, and sees that Leia will not be able
to pull him out this time. So he has to bring her back! (In fairness,
however, he probably couldn't have been so strong if he hadn't gone through
that previous experience.)
I wonder why Anakin's
body didn't fade into the Force. Was he too young? Jaina goes back to retrieve
it, being bitter and full of rage at Anakin, Jacen (who forced her to leave) and
the Yuuzhan Vong. She gives into her rage, and uses the Dark Side of the Force
to defeat many Vong. I have a feeling that more of this is what awaits us in
Journey. I liked seeing Vergere use the lightsaber to absorb the
Force-lightning, just as Obi-Wan did in Attack of the Clones, which only came
out six months after this book! Clearly inside knowledge!
Jaina's fall to the
Dark Side (which might not be complete) is so gradual that I was not surprised
when it finally happened. She was getting so frustrated, and it built up until
her brother was killed. She ends up in the ship with the survivors, and has to
leave Jacen behind as he is captured and a fleet of Vong warships arrives,
preventing a rescue. As Dark Journey is likely to continue Jaina's side of the
story, so Traitor will likely continue Jacen's side, as it will
probably take a
full book to get him out of this mess, if he indeed does.
Before heading to the other main plot of this book, I am deeply interested in
what Vergere is up to. She was a Jedi in Cloak of Deception and
and she is not hunted by the voxyn. She works against her own people, but didn't
betray the Jedi when she knew where they were. She is working against Nom Anor,
but with Tsavong Lah. And when she finally captures Jacen, is that really what
she wanted, or does she have some plans that we cannot yet fathom? I am sure a
future book will follow this up, but I hope they have a really good explanation.
I don't want to be disappointed by this one.
The other plotline deals with the turning point in the war. It seems like
several turning points, but the climax of the book is like a terrific
movie-ending climax. It was so visual, so well described, and so realistic.
On Eclipse, the new Jedi base, Luke makes the decision to rally the Jedi
under one banner, and take the fight to the Yuuzhan Vong. They rescue millions
of hostages (with help from Wedge and a couple of special Star Destroyers) that
were being held until the Jedi surrendered. They create tactics to use the Force
to push bombs and steel slabs into enemy ships (courtesy of Kyp Durron and
another barabel Saba Sebatyne), gather a cloaking screen around them by using
the Force to collect photons, and capture several Yammosks! Danni Quee (from
Vector Prime) creates a Yammosk locator using gravity waves, and Cilghal is able
to create a Yammosk jammer which she uses to rescue Luke, Leia and Han from
Coruscant right at the end of the book. I wonder if she prematurely gave away
the existence of this counter-weapon, though.
We also see much-needed political
wrangling. I loved the interactions between Borsk Fey'lya and his allies and
rivals. Decreasing in popularity, he suddenly extends his support to the Jedi.
The uproars in the senate were wonderfully crafted. It shows just how
ineffective the Senate has become, reflecting my own thoughts in several pre-NJO
books. In just 25 years, it became even less effective than it had been in
Palpatine's time. No wonder the New Order must have been somewhat welcomed by
many. As Leia states, and Luke reiterates later (when they decide to fire
through the refugee ships), is this New Republic worth saving?
Senator Viqi Shesh embodies that corruption. However, she seems to feel
the heat of her betrayals near the beginning of the book. She seems to know that
she is being used, which prompts her to take action, first to try and
assassinate Borsk, and then Luke and Mara's child, Ben, in the care of Han and
Leia. She obviously can see that Tsavong Lah is going to discard her,
because she openly shows herself to be a traitor, knowing that the Vong will
not keep their promises to her, and she has lost any hope to gain the power she
craves. So she goes after Han, Leia and Ben full force, right until the end,
instead of trying to rectify her mistakes. Typically Kuati!
All of the battles and political mess that the author give us leads to one
final climax: the Battle for Coruscant. This battle takes up nearly two hundred
pages, save for occasional moments at Myrkr. And every page of it is
magnificent, putting us right in the thick of everything. We see things from
every perspective, including Coruscant at city level. If anybody was
disappointed in the way Coruscant fell to the New Republic in
this ought to correct that.
I couldn't begin to describe the battle if I
wanted to. It is just too large. We easily feel the tension as the Vong fleet
moves closer and closer to the planet. It's a good thing that Han and Leia
discovered the hidden fleet near Borleais, or else there would have been no hope
at all. Every time the battle groups regrouped, we notice that they have moved
closer to Coruscant. Thanks to Lando's battle droids, and his tactical
expertise, the planetary defense network is able to fend off some of the enemy
But the fact that the Vong fleet is using refugee ships as a front line
divides the military, also dividing the senate, and probably whole families.
Knowing that the refugee ships will be destroyed anyway, many generals fire
through them to get at the enemy, but many others refuse. They must destroy enough of the fleet to keep
the planetary shields up, which of course doesn't happen. First the mine network
is destroyed, doing its job. But there aren't nearly enough. The orbital weapons platforms are taken down.
And while this is happening, the planetary shield is constantly bombarded
-mostly by the refugee ships. It overloads, and the enemy pours into Coruscant's
skies! Wow! That was terrific! Borsk of course knows that they cannot surrender
at any cost. But that's what I thought the senate was going to do. I figured
Coruscant would survive only because of surrender. But the battle was so
believably described, that I almost believed that the New Republic would
survive, and maybe Borsk thought so, too. But hope would arise and then disappear again. And when we realized
that Coruscant must fall, it was really disheartening!
Just when I thought the
battle couldn't get any better, the author made a martyr out of Borsk. As the
Yuuzhan Vong take over the planet, he invites Tsavong Lah to join him at the
Imperial Palace, so that he can surrender personally. Unfortunately, Lah doesn't
take the bait, and Borsk is forced to blow himself up without taking the warlord
with him. But he does take all of the "data towers", which house all the
sensitive records of the New Republic, and most of the Imperial Palace with him,
along with thousands of Vong soldiers.
Even though we've loved to hate Borsk over the years, his end was also very
I can't wait to hear what happens to Coruscant after the battle. Now that the
center of government is destroyed, I wonder if the Vong will remake the planet,
similar to what happened to Nar Shadda. Or is there still too much potential
information for them to destroy it? Will Coruscant survive the New Jedi Order? I
suppose part of that question will be answered starting with
As amazing as Anakin's mission, and the battle for Coruscant were, there are
several things that I almost could not overcome. Both plots probably should have
ended much earlier than they did. I am not saying that the book was too long,
only that their stories went too far.
I don't believe for a moment that Leia and Han would remain on Coruscant when
they knew an attack was coming. Even if Leia had complete trust in the military
(which she does not), she no longer trusts the government. The senate could
easily render the military ineffective, as it essentially does at the very
end. She would have been off planet
long ago, especially with Ben in their care. I also do not believe that Han would let the Falcon sit in a cargo bay
for so long, especially with the battle near, without checking on it several
times a day.
All of this was an excuse to get little Ben in mortal danger. For Han and
Leia are attacked by a Viqi Shesh who no longer has anything to lose, and in the
confusion of the panicked spaceport, they manage to let C3PO and Ben get lost as
they go after this new personal enemy. The pair ends up launching on an evacuating
transport, which is captured by the Yuuzhan Vong. Lando gets to use his new
battle droids -Vong hunters- to rescue the baby. The good part about this is
that C3PO gets to be a hero again, mimicking the baby so that Shesh goes after a
decoy. Meanwhile, Luke and Mara also go after the ship, but don't make it,
and crash their X-Wings in Coruscant's only Sea, and nearly dying when a
Vong drop-ship tries to land on them. Han and Leia pick them up in
the Falcon, where Cilghal helps them escape. I don't think that part was
necessary at all, but it was also so well written that I didn't mind in the
slightest, and it gave us a point of view to see the last defense of the planet
from the inside, and have a final conversation with Borsk.
The plot on Myrkr
went on for too long, as well. They should have been able to kill the voxyn
queen at the cloning facility. As it was, the cloning facility was way too
complex, and the author didn't put enough guideposts in to let us wander around.
Anakin's movements before his death were so confusing, I had to read it three
times, very carefully, to figure it out. We didn't really need to see the group
split up. But it does give Jaina time to fume and use the Dark Side without
Jacen knowing about it, while she retrieves Anakin's body.
I was initially complaining that the author had some trouble with writing the
technical side of the story, especially the strike team's landing on the
world-ship, which was rather confusing. But by the halfway mark, except for the
sequence above, he more than made up for that! However, all the way through the
novel, almost without exception, he nailed characterization head-on. It was
magnificent to read the characters, because they were exactly who they should
be. And he was able to sprinkle past continuity throughout the book as well,
without it intruding. This is the way to do it, not the sloppy way it was done
in Jedi Eclipse. (I've just recently found out
that James Luceno will likely be writing the NJO series finale -please no!
Or else let him grow up and write maturely!)
If the large, galaxy-spanning
events make the book seem epic, it is the little things that make this novel work so beautifully. From the author mentioning that the girls seemed to swarm around Anakin
because he was so handsome, to Han's thoughts that he had been gone for too
long, selfishly thinking only of Chewie's death, the thematic element of the dejarik game whenever we were seeing events from Tsavong Lah's point of view, to
Han finally realizing that the Millennium Falcon's co-pilot's seat
was way too big for Leia, among so many others,
everything just felt right!
It is interesting to see how far the New Republic
has come in two years. They are able to fight off coral-skippers like they were
TIE-Interceptors. The Jedi have found a new base and already lost it. The Errant
Venture is still carrying around all the young Jedi, and probably will for the
remainder of the war. And now the New Republic military is without a home base,
without its chief of state, and has splintered, evacuating senators from
their home sector, abandoning Coruscant.
This book has left us with three hanging plots, and I expect the next four
books to deliver us from these cliffs with as much enthusiasm as this author
did. Despite its few faults, the themes, the characters, the story, not to
mention the energetic and descriptive writing style, make this a Star Wars book
not to miss. All that, and the cover artwork is superior to most of the
books in this series, too! More great art like this, as well, please!