Welcome back to the Waru Express, dear readers, after a bit of a break. (Editor’s Note: I took a week or so off for my own sanity.) We’re diving right into the New Jedi Order which requires an entire shelf all on its own. 19 books? Let’s go! Before we dive into the book reviews, I figured I’d let you all in on a secret: I don’t hate the NJO. In fact, I like a fair bit of it. There are certainly some books and occurrences that I strongly dislike and I think it could’ve been shorter but I enjoy the vast majority of it. Spoiler Alert: I love the Stackpole, Allston, and Stover books but does that surprise any of you? My point is that I’m not a hater when it comes to these books but neither do I blindly love them so while my thoughts are on these books are likely to be a fair bit more positive than most of the blogosphere, you’re still going to get a decent dose of snark. Starting with this post. (Editor’s Note: This was back in the day when I was more apologetic for the unpopular opinions I had about books. I’ve cut that crap out since then.)
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the first lengthy review post as I discuss the books from Vector Prime to Jedi Eclipse.
Ah yes. The infamous “Chewbacca is Dead!” book. I feel nothing but pity for R.A. Salvatore having to be the one to pull the trigger on this given how the fandom can be at times. Let’s get the giant wookiee in the corner out of the way. Yeah, Chewbacca dying sucks. Reading through the book knowing what was coming made all the scenes with Chewie that much more painful. He’s a big part of our group of heroes and it is sad that he dies. HOWEVER. His death certainly does signify to the readers that this oncoming threat isn’t going to be easily defeated and that no one will escape unscathed. Also? If you’re going to go out, this is certainly one of the more badass ways to do it. Chewbacca rejects your notion of death by blaster fire and goes down shaking his fist at a freaking moon. (Editor’s Note: CHEWIE LIVES!)
I’d really like to know what the heck happened to Jacen Solo between the end of Crisis of Crystal Reef and the start of this book. It feels like I’m reading about two completely different characters and I’m not even counting the lack of bad jokes because that’s something a person could reasonably grow out of.
Overall, I actually think the book functions quite well in its role. It sets up the Vong invasion, lets us get to see our favorite characters again, and tells us that this isn’t going to be an easy ride. I also find it to be an enjoyable book on its own. It’s nice getting to see the Solo kids have some fun before the galaxy goes to hell even if it’s only for the first half of the book.
The final line of the book sums it up the best: “But to Han Solo, the galaxy suddenly seemed a more dangerous place by far.”
Dark Tide I: Onslaught
Can we discuss how strange it is that little Gavin Darklighter is leading Rogue Squadron? HE’S 16 THAT’S NOT ALLOWED. (I will send cranky gifs the way to the first person who reminds me of his current rank as of 44 ABY.)
In other news, please raise your hand if you are surprised that Stackpole’s NJO books feature Corran Horn. (Editor’s Note: Crickets chirped.) I’m poking fun with love. Honestly! Actually, I think that Stackpole does a very good job of introducing Corran to readers who might not be familiar with him already. Stackpole also introduces us to Ganner Rhysode who, in my opinion, has the best character arc in this series by far but more on that later. The short version is that he gets to go through some great character growth in these two books and emerges from them a far less arrogant and an all around better person.
I really do enjoy reading this book. Things are starting to edge towards dire but it still has that great Star Wars feel to it. Also, no one writes space battles like Stackpole does and there are certainly some in here because we get to see Rogue Squadron again! Actually, there are a ton of things to love about this book and hopefully I can remember to touch on all of them.
Mara and Anakin’s trip to Dantooine is great. I hate that Mara is ill but it allows for all of this to happen. Personally, I’m always a fan of getting to see the dynamic between two characters that we might not have seen before and we definitely got that here. Mara’s lecture to Anakin about not using the Force for everything is awesome and incredibly logical. Too bad she can’t dish out that logic to everyone. On the flip side, she’s great about being supportive of Anakin who’s still getting anger from his father. Honestly, the entire bits with them are wonderful and I’d happily read more.
On the other side of the Solo Spawn Spectrum, we have Jaina Solo who joins Rogue Squadron! I also love that Stackpole lets us get some insight into an older Gavin Darklighter. Clearly Wedge and Tycho made the right choice with him. He cares about his pilots and he’s willing to stand up to those higher up the New Republic food chain if need be.
…which brings us to Admiral Kre’fey who is not having any of Fey’lya’s crap. BRO YOU BALLSY. He’s easily one of my favorite Bothans because he does not have time for this political crap. I cheer every time when he tells the Advisory Council that he’s going to resign and take the entire New Republic military and carve out his own government if they don’t agree to treat the Vong as a legitimate threat and stop playing political games. My absolute favorite line of the exchange comes when Fey’lya continues to be his usual self and Kre’fey turns to Gavin and goes “In my new empire, would you like a world for each of your children, or will they need whole systems to rule?” BEST. LINE. EVER. (Editor’s Note: The Cray-Cray In The Best Way Kre’Fey)
Really, this was just a great read all around and even better than I recall it being.
Dark Tide II: Ruin
It’s all Stackpole’s fault, guys. He brought Wedge and Tycho out of retirement to help save the galaxy. (To clarify, I’m joking. Don’t anyone start spreading rumors that I hate Uncle Stackpole.) They had a great little cameo in the previous book as “some old guys” and it’s awesome seeing them again here.
Speaking of Wedge, it’s time for my ‘Luke Skywalker is kind of a jerk’ rant. I get why Luke and Mara decided to just not mention the Chiss/the Empire of the Hand to anyone else. What I don’t get is why he failed to mention to his good friend Wedge Antilles that he finally found Soontir Fel and consequently, Wedge’s sister Syal. Wedge searching for Syal Antilles Fel has been a plot point for what? Almost the past twenty years of canon? Seriously? Way to not be a good friend, Luke. At least Wedge finally finds out that Syal’s at least still alive in this book thanks to the arrival of his nephew Jagged Fel. Jag is most definitely a welcome addition to the Expanded Universe even if he is a bit of an arrogant jerk here. Really though, I’d kill to see some sort of resolution to this storyline. Dear Del Rey: please let Stackpole write a short story where the Antilles and Fel families have their reunion. Please? (Editor’s Note: I still want this.)
I didn’t enjoy Ruin quite as much as Onslaught for two reasons. The first is that I get angry because of the aforementioned Antilles-Fel thing and because Elegos basically walks into his death. The second is that this book is definitely that plunge into darkness and as a reader, my brain wasn’t quite prepared for that yet. The destruction of Ithor is not easy to swallow and the GFFA media is stupid for placing the blame on Corran’s shoulders. That’s not to say, however, that I didn’t enjoy the book. I just liked the previous installment better.
One of things that makes the book good is all the interaction we get between Kre’fey and Admiral Pellaeon. Good ol’ Gilad Pellaeon is basically the best. I love how both military leaders aren’t interested in playing politics and just want to beat the enemy. All of their scenes together are great especially the one where they deliberately shut down Fey’lya’s plan to put Kre’fey back in charge of the combined forces.
Oh! And I can’t talk about this book without mentioning the Mara and Mirax stuff. That’s another thing I’d love to see Stackpole write because who wouldn’t want to know what those two ladies did to get themselves arrested and then exonerated? (Editor’s Note: *ahem*)
Agents of Chaos I: Hero’s Trial
Ugh. This entire book is just… ugh. Let me show you through a gif how I felt when I realized I had to read this book again:
Here’s the deal. I love James Luceno’s writing. No one writes a political novel in space like him. I just hate this book.
Hey Han! Let’s ask Chewie if he would approve of your drunken moping and Anakin blaming!
I’m not trying to make fun of the grieving process or depression. I’m really not. I just can’t take it for 352 pages. While other characters certainly make their appearances in the book, it is a Han Solo book and it just does not work for me. My overuse of gifs here has clearly given that away. (Editor’s Note: Ten bucks says that Chewie doesn’t spend the rest of the Sequel Trilogy drinking his grief away.)
On the other hand, the book does introduce us to some things that will be important in the future. The Peace Brigade makes its debut here as does that silly chicken Vergere. I know she’s not actually a chicken, I just like poking fun at her. We also got to see Belindi Kalenda again which is always fun. Also, the whole saga of Mara’s illness ends as Vergere’s tears cure here. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief here because now Mara can go back to kicking butt like she should be.
That’s all I have for this book. Just dislike and annoyance. Sorry.
Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse
The good news for me is that this book is better. I still don’t like the Han bits. I’m sorry, James Luceno. I love all the rest of your Star Wars books. These are just not my favorites.
Aside from the Han Solo stuff and the random Ryn sideplots, there actually is stuff to like about these books. We get to go back to Hapes! Political intrigue mixed in with beautiful people! It does always make me sad though to learn that Isolder and Teneniel’s marriage is on rocky ground and I wish we’d actually gotten to see more of Teneniel than her just doing Queen Mother stuff. On the other hand, any time Ta’a Chume is on page manipulating everyone, I am happy. The poor Hapan fleet though. 🙁
AND WE GET KARRDE AND SHADA. I love them both so much and I think that more authors should write about everyone’s favorite information brokers.
Have you figured out my Star Wars biases yet from this post alone? Have you?
Of course, I have to mention Centerpoint and ask why they continue to let Thracken Sal-Solo out of jail? This never ends well. Ever. Luceno is very good at working in past events into the story but also giving readers enough context clues and history within the text so that those who hadn’t read the referenced books aren’t at a complete loss.
Wurth Skidder bites the dust in this book, the first of Kyp Durron’s Mean Girls to do so. Even though he continues to be a bit of a jerk, I like that he didn’t go through the same character arc as Ganner. Instead, Skidder goes out in a heroic blaze of glory and helps further the divide between Kyp’s faction and the rest of the Jedi.
To top it all off, this is the book that really introduces Senator Viqi Shesh as a villain that you love to hate. Mostly I just hate her.
And that’s it for the first bunch of NJO books! Tune in next time as I roll my eyes at Balance Point and cry at Star by Star.
Originally posted to Tosche Station on April 5, 2013.