A lot of people thought the ending of The
Last Command was a cop-out, with Thrawn's Noghri bodyguard killing
him, and Pellaeon realizing he couldn't win, and so pulling out of the
battle. Personally, I loved it. I saw the betrayal coming the
moment it was mentioned that the Noghri would take revenge. I also
thought Pellaeon should remain alive. I'm glad he did, for he showed
an evenness that Admiral Daala couldn't in Darksaber.
And he was a good leader here. Unfortunately, he wasn't smart enough.
In order for him to gain the upper hand, he needed to be presented with
a gift from an unknown person who dabbles in the Force (even though he
has no Force sensitivity), and who has never-before-seen allies who can
use the Force to teleport their ships instantly. To me, that's the
sign of an author who has built up the conflict so high that the good guys
can't win on their own. I don't like that.
But the intense politics were great. That is something
that Zahn does very well, in the original Thrawn
trilogy, in his Conquerors Trilogy,
and in this, the two Hand of Thrawn books.
The story picks up almost immediately from where Specter
of the Past left off. Pellaeon is waiting for a response from
the New Republic to his peace proposal. He knows the pirate attack
on his ship was of Imperial origin, and he soon finds out where that origin
is located. He just has to catch a certain Moff in the act.
The dynamics between the Imperials is once again terrific. This is
the stuff I love reading.
A lot of the rest of the book seems like a waste of time.
I'm all for romances, and I know a real one needs time to grow,
but most of the Luke/ Mara scenes were very dull. And unless the
fortress and the "big threat" from the Unknown Regions is going to be addressed
in the upcoming series of coordinated novels, then it was a complete waste.
Almost a complete waste, anyway. It certainly advanced Luke's character.
Maybe it has put him on a different path. I think it advanced Mara's
character, too. Only time will tell.
Talon Karrde's plotline meanders so long that I wanted to skip
all the chapters that dealt with it. In the end, it matters to the
overall plot, but there must have been another, more interesting way to
get the information.
Han and Lando's trip to Bastion (the Empire's capital) seems
to have simply been to give more evidence of Thrawn's return, and to give
false hope. But neither lasts for more than a few hours, so why bother,
really. It wasn't even as interesting as Lando's exploits on the
Qella ship in that unrelated and unnecessary plot thread to the Black
Fleet Crisis. At least that one was exciting and interesting
at the same time.
Rogue Squadron and Bel Iblis were wasted, though without knowing
the end, at least it was entertaining and interesting. Knowing the
end, however, makes it seem very wasted. Perhaps the sense of futility
was trying to be conveyed. That might work.
Leia wasn't used much; she was mostly used as a point of view,
then to hatch a revelation at the end.
The most interesting scenes took place on the Star Destroyers,
as mentioned, or on the surface of Bothawui, among the bad guys there.
I love the strikes, and the counter-strikes. These are what makes
the whole book worth reading.
All in all, this series feels too much to me like setup, and
not enough story of its own. The New Republic has changed, Luke has
changed, and seems to be in love. Can that last? As far as
I recall, Mara wasn't in any of the Young
Jedi Knight books, though that is as easily explained by her being
off-planet as it is to remember that those books were written years before
I think Zahn was wise to send the kids off to Kashyyk with Chewbacca.
While I missed Chewie, the kids have only been written well as teenagers,
and even then, that's debatable. Nobody seems to know what to do
with them, or how much power they should have. Best to leave them
As I keep mentioning, the politics were great. Much of
the character work was also well done, the battle scenes were well written
(both in space and hand-to-hand), and there was great continuity through
the mention of so many events and characters (such as Tendra, from the Corellian
Trilogy) from past books. But the pacing was slow, much of the
storyline goes out the window in terms of relevance by the end, and the
Force seems to plan too many coincidences for my taste.