||Somehow, I liked this book better than the previous
one. It was somewhat less weird, and much more of the plot took place
away from the hives.
I suppose after so much exposure to the hive and how
it works, it is inevitable that the reader would get used to it enough
that it wouldn't be too bothersome. Regardless, although Luke, Han, R2D2
and C3PO spent much of the book on the planet with the hives and UnuThul,
they didn't spend much time interacting with them.
They are concerned about the way pirates have been
operating out of the nebula the hives have moved into, and that black
membrosia has been making its way into the Galactic Alliance. This is an
alcoholic beverage that can severely intoxicate, especially insectile
species like the Verpine. In fact, a verpine-crewed ship smashed into
the shuttle of Supreme Admiral Sovv, the person in charge of the fleets
during the Yuuzhan Vong war, killing him.
When they land on the new planet of the hives, they
discover the hives are dying, and Raynar thinks the Jedi knew about this
before they recommended settlement there. It turns out the Fizz is an
ancient planetary ecological defense mechanism, which has been there for
millions of years, perhaps since the creators of the Maw and Centerpoint
drove the Killiks off Alderaan. From the start, I found it very odd and
unlikely that the insect species would chop down trees to make houses
and apartments. Didn't the Killik Twilight painting show huge tunnels?
Wouldn't the insects live more with the land than destroying it in
industry they don't need?
Raynar convinces Luke and Han to stay behind in a show
of good faith, but when they go poking around and discover the Dark Nest
influence, and that Raynar even denies meeting with Alema Rar when Luke
and Han were present, they are imprisoned.
Outside the nebula, it was the politics that kept the
book interesting. The division among the Jedi is getting wider, though
most of this happened in the five years between the end of the war and
the beginning of this new series. In the year since the last book, Luke
has tried to guide the Jedi towards a more Light Side path, where their
Good actions foster their nature. Alema has definitely used the Force
towards dark intentions. Unfortunately, Luke has been the sole leader of
the Jedi for so long, that nobody knows how to fill his shoes when he is
gone. The Jedi are ruled by a Council, but Luke is the equivalent of
Yoda and Mace Windu from the prequel trilogy council.
So when he disappears, and the leader of the Republic
finds out, Cal Omas devises a way to try and split the Jedi even further,
presumably so he can take control of the Order at some point. I have
trouble believing any of the Jedi would accept the idea that they need a
leader in Luke's stead, but over objections, Corran Horn is appointed.
I'm sure Cilghal and Kyp could have voiced their objections in another
way. If they hadn't left, they could have opposed the appointment. But
nobody made that kind of remark.
Finally, Leia has started her Jedi training under a
Jedi Master, Saba Sebatyne. I absolutely love Saba. She had a tremendous
sense of humour, and her hissing laugh is entirely believable. The way
she treats Leia as a simple Padawan is great. No matter what kind of
hurry Leia is in, she must obey the rules of the Jedi Academy. Stop and
remove shoes and meditate when crossing the sacred grounds, even if the
fate of the galaxy is at stake! This is a good lesson for Leia to learn,
as she has a bad habit of barging in and voicing her opinions. Notably,
it is exactly opposite to the opinions of the elite Clone Troopers and
their Jedi Generals in Triple Zero. I like it much better.
Leia and Saba are captured by the Alliance fleet as
they tried to rescue Luke and Han, once they learn more of what the
Killiks are doing -especially landing colonists within Chiss territory.
Leia completely misjudges the situation, but it is fortuitous, because
they are on the Alliance Star Destroyer when the hive ships come racing
out and unleash their Gorog assassin bugs. Leia finally gets the upper
hand on Alema, though the Twi'lek escapes when Raynar takes control of
the Star Destroyer. Gavin Darklighter isn't much help, as his Admiral is
on that ship, so he can't side with the Jedi.
Once again, we get a big battle among the insect
hives, this time from the ships the Killiks were building using stolen
parts. It is obvious that Raynar is being manipulated, and that he has
sided with the Gorog, even if he doesn't know it (and maybe he does). As
the Alliance ships fight the hive ships, with Jedi in stealth fighters
dropping shadow bombs (they had also come to rescue Luke), Luke, Han,
the droids and the Sullustan and Ewok smugglers introduced in
King try to find Lomi Plo, who is presumably manipulating the entire
Lomi Plo keeps herself invisible, somehow wrapping
herself in a cloak of their doubts (?). Still, Luke fights an invisible
enemy with his lightsaber to a stalemate. He is supported by Mara in her
starfighter against the Gorog warriors. They manage to disable almost
all the hive ships, but Raynar gets away with a Star Destroyer.
There are two more pieces to the puzzle, which do not
really affect this book much. The first is Alema gaining access to
R2D2's command codes. He is forced to show Luke two more holovideos from
Revenge of the Sith, the first pretty much confirming that Padmé is Luke
and Leia's mother, the second showing the much more painful assault on
the younglings by Anakin and the clone troopers. Unfortunately, that's
all we get; Padmé is not the Unseen Queen, after all. Alema is trying to hurt
Luke, and sow doubts of Mara in his mind. Mara's story about the
assassination as Emperor's Hand is much more believable than Alema's,
And then we have Jacen Solo. It was obvious that Tenel
Ka's child was Jacen's from the moment she was observed in the nursery
with a nana droid. Just as Leia's training took place frustratingly
behind the scenes, so did the birth of Jacen and Tenel Ka's daughter. I
guess that answers the question of whether Jacen stayed the night as a
guest or as something more in the last book.
Jacen's reaction was great, though in the end, it
probably proves the point of why the Jedi of old banned emotional
attachments. The Gorog assassin bugs arrive at the same time as Jacen
and Ben Skywalker. Jacen fends them off with a Force illusion and
several thermal detonators, then goes after Ta'Chume, Tenel Ka's
grandmother, who sent the assassins after the child. Jacen is well on
the road to the Dark Side, even if he was killing an evil person with
his evil intentions. He even tries to start the war that will
potentially cause genocide, in order to save his daughter. Toward that
goal he is ruthless, lying to Jaina and the others to get them to try
and trick the Chiss into launching an attack on the Killiks by launching
an secret attack of their own.
By the end of the book, The Swarm War has already
started, on many fronts.
This novel was much more broad in its plot than the
previous one, but it still had all the little things that made that book
so enjoyable despite its plot. (I have to wonder at the obvious
switching of letters in the words ethmane from The Joiner King, and hamogony, here, though. What a strange and lazy way to make alien
sounding names for a gas and wood, respectively.) The politics were
fairly well written, but it is the implications that made me like the
book even more. I suppose the good rating here depends entirely on what
comes next. I certainly hope the conclusion is satisfying, and not just
setup for the next series.