It took slightly longer than anticipated thanks to some difficulties with the library but I’ve finally finished the first leg of my Expanded Universe reread. (Editor’s Note: There was a two week gap between the opening post and this first one.) The short version? There were certainly some ups and downs and WOW am I glad to be getting out of these eras and away from these old school Sith. (Sith Fatigue is a real and dangerous disease, folks. It claims hundreds of readers every year.)
The Old Republic: Revan
I’ll freely admit to being a HUGE KOTOR fangirl back in the day. Somewhere, buried on a hard drive, is probably a lot of half-written fanfic about the characters. I was obsessed with Revan and had slightly ridiculous crushes on both Carth Onasi and Atton Rand. (That was totally my right as a 14 year old girl.) If you’ve never played either of the Knights of the Old Republic games, the one thing you should know is that your character (Revan in the first game and the Exile in the second) is essentially a blank slate. You decide their gender, their looks, and their personality. Therefore, I spent most of the first half of the book trying to reconcile the Revan in my head (a very snarky lady) with the canon Revan who is decidedly not her and is, in fact, a man. (Curse you, canon!) Also, I insist that Natalya Donn is totally a better name for the Exile than Meetra Surik. I mean…. Meetra? Really?
As a whole, the book left me feeling mostly underwhelmed. The basic premise? Great. I’ve always been intrigued about what made Revan originally turn to the dark side and where he disappeared to in the time between games. I wasn’t as thrilled with the execution. For starters, the book falls just short of 300 pages; something that makes me glad I didn’t purchase this book as a hardcover. I also felt that many of the action sequences fell victim to video game syndrome where paragraphs often felt like they were queues of action commands. Additionally, I found myself missing the presence of characters like HK-47 and Jolee although I can understand why they were left out of the book.
My biggest issue was with the pacing. Obviously Karpyshyn was aiming to answer some of the questions players had about the gap between games which, as one of those players, I appreciated. However, the ending felt rushed, weirdly open ended and I still don’t really know what happened. (I’m also a bit miffed about the Exile’s unceremonious exit but that’s another rant entirely.) Two-thirds of the book occurs in the gap between games and the last third post-KOTOR2. It certainly could have benefited from a more even split and more pages. Actually, upon further reflection, I’m comfortable with saying that I hated the ending.
This all isn’t to say that the book is horrible but it won’t be making my ‘Essential EU Reads’ list any time soon. It’s certainly worth the read if you were a KOTOR player and if your Revan was male, you’ll probably have a much easier time getting into the book than I did. I did enjoy the parts with Canderous (even wished there had been more of them) and I especially appreciated the nods to the Mando language.
At the end of the day, it’s not a replacement for KOTOR3 (honestly, nothing really could be) but at the very least, it’ll help fill the KOTOR shaped void in your life for a little bit.
(Editor’s Note: It actually turns out that this book makes me mad and I got madder about it the more I thought about it. I stand by liking the Mandalorian stuff but besides that… yeah no. This just happened to have the misfortune of being the first book I read for the project and so I was softer on it than I would have otherwise been.)
The Old Republic: Annihilation
I did a full review on the book that you can read here but the short version is that I soundly enjoyed reading it. You should go read it too.
(Editor’s Note: This book was conveniently published right when I started the project and so I wrote a proper full review for it. If you don’t care to read the whole review, I can sum up my thoughts. It was a fun read that only required a little bit of out-of-universe reference to understand The Old Republic Star Wars landscape. It was a pleasant surprise and I particularly liked the protagonist, Theron Shan, who gave off the biggest Corran Horn vibes ever.)
I went into this really wanting to like Kerra Holt from the start but that didn’t exactly happen. I liked John Jackson Miller’s writing style and the story was mostly enjoyable but I just couldn’t fall in love with Kerra. Indifference is the best term that I can think of. Again, I feel like I need to clarify that I didn’t dislike or hate the book. I just didn’t find her to be a protagonist that I clicked with. It was a bit frustrating because I felt like I should love Kerra because she was carrying the book but I didn’t.
The part of the book I probably enjoyed the most was the last third when we were introduced to the Sith Arkadia, her way of ruling, and also the dynastic struggles. It was different from either the traditional Sith Empire presented in the Old Republic novels or the typical Rule of Two Sith. I believe that Arkadia’s plotline has been continued in the comics and I’m interested enough in that to perhaps give them a try. Miller is a magnificent world builder and I’m still quite excited for his Obi-Wan book. Overall though, I’m indifferent towards this one.
(Editor’s Note: I still can’t figure out why the hell I didn’t click with Kerra. It is a mystery for the ages.)
Darth Bane Trilogy
Oh the Bane books. I actually enjoyed these for the most part. Unfortunately, I’m just getting sick of the Sith. This week has basically been Sith overload. Also Karpyshyn overload since he wrote 5 of the 6 books for this round up but mostly Sith overload. I’m looking forward to getting away from the Really Old Republic eras. The Bane books are a very solid trilogy though and worth the read if the era or the characters interest you.
I liked the first book, Path of Destruction, because it gave us the background of a Sith Lord in a way that I feel like we haven’t really seen before. It lets us understand why he chose the path he did. On the other hand, despite Des’s less than ideal early life, I thought that his rise to the sole Dark Lord of the Sith just seemed too easy. While he was clearly going to survive the book, I never found myself wondering if he might not achieve his goals. Everything just felt like a little stumble. I enjoyed it but there were never any big surprises. I did really like how Karpyshyn never specified Revan’s gender in this book.
And then we come to the second book. Zannah is possibly the most sociopathic little ten year old ever. Okay, so she does mellow out a little bit after the first few chapters but still. She’s an interesting enough character but I still don’t feel like I got to really know her outside of “the future Sith Master.” I also felt that maybe some of the story lines that wrapped up in this book (Caleb, Johun’s desire for revenge) might’ve had more of an impact if they had either taken more of the story or hadn’t so neatly framed the book. On the other hand, I liked Bane’s obsession with creating a holocron because it fits nicely with his focus on the Sith archives from the previous book. The sometimes scholar angle is an interesting facet to a Sith.
But the third book… Dynasty of Evil is absolutely the pay off. It’s nicely paced and the story arc in place since the first book comes to its proper conclusion. More or less. The reappearances of characters like Lucia and Serra felt a little bit too convenient but the overall book made me okay with it. On a related note, I also appreciated the female dominated cast in this book and that all of the characters felt fully developed. Karpyshyn’s writing kept me interested throughout the entire book and never wishing we could just skip to the inevitable final duel between Master and Apprentice. The only thing that really tore me out of the story was when a character had worked for years to master the difficult ‘lightsaber throw’ because if that’s not a video game action then I don’t know what is.
I was a bit frustrated by the ending. The writing in the final chapter heavily hints that Zannah’s body had been taken over by Bane… or at least that’s how I read it but the Word of God says that I (and everyone else who came to this conclusion) is wrong and we all read too much into it. On the one hand, I’m happy that Zannah did succeed in becoming the Master but on the other hand, the writing was perhaps too ambiguous for the author’s intentions. The epilogue left me with a ton of questions that basically go “So what’s going to happen to Set and this new Master/Apprentice pair?” Overall though, I did enjoy the book and how everything isn’t tied up with a bow.
Upon skimming this while editing, I realized that this reflection has sounded like I’m being really mean to Drew Karpyshyn but I swear it’s not intentional! I actually think that his more recent contributions to the Expanded Universe show his growth as a writer given how much I enjoyed reading both Dynasty of Evil and especially Annihilation. That being said, I am definitely excited to get away from the Really Old Republic Era and move forward to the Prequel Era. Sith Fatigue has been a killer.
Six books down, one hundred and twenty-four to go.
Originally posted on November 19, 2012.