Waru Express: New Jedi Order Part 2

Things might be going really downhill for the galaxy but boy are they going uphill for me as a reader!  I actually find the middle chunk of New Jedi Order books to be incredibly solid reads and rather enjoy all of them despite the emotions they might provoke from me.

Balance Point:
It’s a marvel I stuck with the New Jedi Order because Balance Point is the third book in a row that just doesn’t impress me. It’s not that it’s necessarily bad, it’s just meh and I find it to be boring.

Again, the bits with Mara and Anakin working together are definitely a highlight. Actually, everything with Mara in this book is a high point. And that’s about it.

The entire point of the book seems to be an excuse for the Solo family to continue to have its issues and to resolve most of them by the end. The other point seems to be for Jacen Solo to continue to have his philosophical issues with using the Force and I still don’t buy any of that reasoning. By this point, the war’s been going on for a year and the Vong are clearly an issue. I don’t believe for a minute that Jacen Solo would sit back and not give his all to defend the galaxy. It just doesn’t fit with this character. With Tsavong Lah declaring that he wants all the Jedi dead and singling out Jacen, this feels like it was almost tacked on editorial meddling when they realized that he wouldn’t be the Solo kid dying.

I’m sure there are other people out there who liked this book but not I.  I’m going to stick with my resounding ‘meh’ for my review.

Edge of Victory I: Conquest
For me, this is the book that starts a marked upswing in the quality of the New Jedi Order again.  From here through Traitor is smooth sailing for me as a reader even though I know that tears are incoming.

Conquest manages to do what the Agents of Chaos books could not and that is tell a story on a smaller scale where the majority of the plot rests on the shoulders of one character.  Anakin’s story is just a small part of the larger war but it’s an interesting one.  Plus, it definitely introduces some more plot points that are absolutely going to be important later.  I love that Greg Keyes gets us inside of Anakin’s head in a way that we haven’t really before.  It’s a huge part of why this book succeeds.  He grows as a person during the story and his understanding and use of the Force grow with him.  Seriously, this is a great read just for the Anakin bits even before you take the rest of the story into account.

And then there’s poor Tahiri.  This was actually my first exposure to her as a character (I never read the Junior Jedi Knights books, so sue me)  (Editor’s Note: And I should really fix that) and I thought she was adorable and that she and Anakin are the cutest best friends/future couple ever.  The poor girl absolutely gets put through the wringer in this book though.  She’s spent the past year feeling abandoned by her best friend and now she gets captured, tortured, and has her brain messed with so that at least part of her thinks she’s actually a Yuuzhan Vong named Riina Kwaad.  That’s just really rotten luck right there.  The only plus side for the readers is that it makes for a very interesting plot line down the road in the hands of the right authors. (Editor’s Note: Did you spot the subblogging? Wait, is that even a thing…?)

Oh.  We can’t forget Nen Yim who is absolutely my kind of crazy.  (No, I don’t actually think she’s crazy.  Smart and resourceful are better adjectives.  I just like that expression.)  We also get to see Vuu Rapuung, a Shamed One by the actions of an angry lover.  Even though he doesn’t make it out of the book alive, both of these Yuuzhan Vong end up having an effect of the overall storyline for books to come.  Also, I feel the need to tell everyone that I started reading all of Rapuung’s lines in my head in the voice of Achmed the Dead Terrorist after the tenth time he shouted at Anakin something along the lines of “Silence infidel!”.

And of course, we get to see a lot of Karrde and Shada in this book.  You guys know that made me happy as did the reappearance of Booster Terrik and the Errant Venture.

Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
If you remember this book, you already know what my next sentence is going to be.  MORE Karrde and Shada in this book?  FOUR FOR YOU GREG KEYES.  YOU GO GREG KEYES.

Seriously though, I like how Keyes writes both of the characters and also how he writes them as part of a plot line without it seemed shoehorned in.  After the troubles that Han and Leia have been having, it’s nice to see them figuring out how to make things work again.  (Editor’s Note: Karrde and Shada: The Original Space Married Couple.)  Working the privateer side of things alongside Karrde and his group is absolutely something that Han would do.  The only character who feels out of place and like he was included in the plot just to have him there is Jacen Solo.  On the other hand, I feel like that actually fits with how Jacen’s feeling right now so it works for me.

The only thing missing is Corran Horn bursting in with an expression of horror.

The only thing missing is Corran Horn bursting in with an expression of horror.

It’ll also come as no surprise that I adore the bits with Corran, Anakin, and Tahiri.  I like to think that once they got back to the Errant Venture that Corran called Winter and lamented to her for a bit about the trials and tribulations of babysitting a Solo child.  They’re just really good at getting into trouble.  I think the dynamic between Anakin and Corran is a good one, similar to how the one between Anakin and Mara was a good one.  I like that we get to see Tahiri working her way through what happened to her on Yavin 4 and I also like how she doesn’t want her best friend to start treating her any differently than before.  And hey: what can I say?  I love the Anakin and Tahiri first kiss because they are ADORABLE.  Positively adorable.  This is part of what makes the next book so hard to read.

And then we get to the whole subplot where Kyp manipulates Jaina to score a tactical victory against the Vong.  I’ll admit that I can actually see both sides here.  On the one hand, I really hate that he manipulated her to get people like Wedge and Gavin to listen to him.  On the other hand, I can’t really disagree with blowing up a ship.  Maybe it’ll seem heartless but it is a pretty big strike against the Vong and seeing how their current rate of invasion was going, I’d say that’s a good thing.  (Hashtag why Bria would never make it as a Jedi.)

Oh yeah.  And Ben Skywalker was born.  (Editor’s Note: In the post TFA world, that is so weird to see again.)

Star by Star
Say what you will about Troy Denning’s more recent Expanded Universe novels but this first one was spot on even if it does destroy me emotionally.  Please forgive any lack of coherency because of that.

Let’s just dive right in with the kicker.  Anakin Solo is dead and it is heart breaking and everyone is crying forever.

Yes, I know that his death was because of Our Lord George’s orders but that certainly doesn’t take away from the emotional blow.  (Editor’s Note: Actually, I think this got debunked but whatever.)  Anakin dies a hero and it’s like a bit of the New Republic dies with him.  It’s incredibly tragic that he’s only 16 and had the potential to be this shining beacon of hope and the next leader of the Jedi and his life is cut short right there.  Tahiri telling him he has to come back to get a kiss kicks me in the gut every time and Leia’s reaction to her son’s death just completely knocks the wind out of me and makes me want to cry.  I may make fun of the Solos for being the worst parents ever but Leia completely breaking down when she feels Anakin’s death in the Force gets me every time.  Basically, it’s not fair that he dies and I will always have those “what if he had lived?” questions in my head.

This is one of the books that plays out like a film in my head and that’s largely due to the fall of Coruscant.  It’s a “How can things possibly get any worse?” moment and in my head, I can just see the Yuuzhan Vong attacking the planet and destroy much of the city while refugees flee while Leia makes her impassioned speech to the people of the New Republic and it’s all set to a heart breaking John Williams score.  I do, however, think it’s profoundly unfair that Borsk Fey’lya, out of all the characters, gets one of the best deaths in the Expanded Universe.  (Editor’s Note: One of. Not THE best death.)

Despite my feelings about Troy Denning’s more recent contributions to the Expanded Universe, I find Star by Star to be a great read.  It feels like he really gets the characters and everything about the book just makes sense.  Actually, my one caveat there would be why Luke Skywalker agreed to let 17 young Jedi go on this mission.  Obviously, destroying the voxyn queen is important but that’s almost an entire generation of Jedi right there and there was a very strong possibility that none of them would make it back.  And all three of the Solo children too?  I understand that it had to happen but all of this just makes me rather sad.  Despite my questioning of Luke’s judgement here, I do still like the book.  I find it to be well written and where it succeeds, it seriously succeeds.

On a brighter note, I do appreciate the addition of the Barabel Jedi to the Expanded Universe in this book.  I found it entertaining that Tesar and the Hara sisters had this sense of humor that the humans just didn’t get and I also found it added some nice diversity to the cast.  Also, you have to appreciate that Troy Denning pokes fun at how many times the Solo children were kidnapped.  And also that Ben Skywalker is briefly kidnapped while in Leia and Han’s custody.  (Editor’s Note: Winter does not get paid enough for this nonsense.)

I’ll leave you now as I go find a tissue box and metaphorically cry forever.  Up next, you’ll get to hear everything from my potentially vaguely embarrassing thoughts about Dark Journey to my righteous anger and annoyance over how a character is referred to as just “Tenel” in Destiny’s Way.

Originally posted to Tosche Station on April 11, 2013.

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