Waru Express: New Jedi Order Part 3

The Yuuzhan Vong just keep on coming.  Really, they must have an endless supply or something.  The good news is that things are starting to get slightly better for the New Republic.  The really good news is that I got to read more Allston and Stover books!  (I have my priorities straight.  Honestly.)  The really really REALLY good news is that I have not only passed the halfway mark in the New Jedi Order but that I have now read more than 100 books on this crazy little venture of mine.  Huzzah!  With all of that said, onward!

Dark Journey

I really like this book. I honestly do and it’s not just because we get to go back to Hapes. For starters, this is clearly a Jaina Solo book and I love when we get to see her take a leading role.  Even though she goes to some less than ideal mental states in the book, she emerges much stronger.  The title gives away that Jaina has a brush with the dark side and I honestly don’t blame her.  She thinks that both of her brothers are dead and the war’s taken its most drastic downward turn yet. I’d be pretty ready to dabble in the dark side too at this point.  I like how Elaine Cunningham uses Kyp Durron in the book first as someone who’s willing to help her use whatever means necessary to strike back at the Vong and then as someone who helps pull her back from that edge.

Although it is Jaina’s book, Tenel Ka gets to go through some neat character development too.  Taking up her mother’s crown is easily one of the two most significant events we’ve gotten to witness thus far.  Even though she is the heir, it’s not exactly the throne that I ever thought she’d take.  I just wish that we’d gotten a chance to watch her learn how to deal with being the Queen Mother in those first few years.  (Editor’s Note: Forever bitter about Hapes and wanting more of it.)

I’m also a huge fan of Jag Fel finally returning to the picture (along with the Baron Fel cameo) but more on that in the next two books.

What I especially love is how Cunningham introduces the Trickster plan.  It’s a clever idea from Jaina and there’s something rather delightful about her raising an eyebrow at the Vong and going “Yeah, I’m basically Yun-Harla.  What are you going to do about it?”

On top of that, this book is incredibly quotable.  From “Is every third human in this galaxy named Solo?” to “In his opinion, there were far too many dark haired, green eyed men in Jaina Solo’s orbit.” I’m consistently amused.

The one problem I have with the book is the pacing.  It’s not that it’s terribly done but Jaina doesn’t even arrive at Hapes until over a third of the way through. Of course, that can partially be blamed on how Star by Star ended because this book basically had to pick up immediately afterwards.  Actually, the other problem I have with the book is that poor Teneniel Djo gets used as a plot device and is a far cry from the strong willed woman we met back on Dathomir.

Aside from that though?  I love the book and I’ll just link this classic gif to illustrate my response to those who give me a hard time about it.

Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
Above all, Aaron Allston’s duology represents a definite turn in tone for the New Jedi Order series and Allston was the perfect author for the job.

I’m predictable enough by this point that everyone already knows I loved the reappearance of Wedge and Tycho and the Wraiths.  Poor General Antilles.  He’s so good at his job that he can’t lose even when he tries.  He’s just that masterful.  His sass to the remnants of the Advisory Council is also masterful.  The brief scene where Luke Skywalker and Kell Tainer chat while fixing his X-Wing ranks amongst my favorites in the series because it’s humorous and because it gives us a quick little glimpse at Kell and Tyria.  WRAITHS ARE THE BEST. (Editor’s Note: I stand by this. Wraiths >>>>> Everything else.)

Also?  This right here is absolutely how you do romance in a Star Wars book.  It happens as a natural part of the book, never feels forced, and is a lovely addition to the story.  It’s also a nice continuation of Jaina’s story.  Speaking of Jaina, her Trickster plan takes on a whole new level in this book and I LOVE IT.  Who doesn’t love a side of psychological warfare?

On the Vong front, we get to meet Czulkang Lah who’s like their Bel Ilbis.  He’s easily one of the top five most intriguing Yuuzhan Vong characters.  The wise old warmaster pulled out of retirement trope is an oldie but a goodie because it works.

What’s really important, aside from my biases, is that this is a fun book.  Allston excels at writing books that are distinctly Star Wars.  Yes the galaxy is still in a huge amount of trouble and yes things are still awful but they are slowly edging towards the better and the characters aren’t afraid to laugh on occasion.  It’s an enjoyable read and it’s FUN.

Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand
Let’s be honest: the only thing that could possibly make me love these books more is if Winter was in them.  (Editor’s Note: Actually… wait. Why wasn’t Winter in these books?)

Again, I have to point to this book and its predecessor as a shining example of how to write Star Wars, how to write romance in Star Wars, and also how to write Luke Skywalker.  Han and Leia and Luke and Mara have the best interactions in this book.  They are both couples who work well together and are clearly in love.  Han and Leia working to set up resistance cells around the galaxy and then getting arrested is perfect and so clearly them.  One of my favorite scenes with Luke and Mara is the one where he goes swimming in the tank of red goo and it eats his clothes.  “I guess I forgot to tell the stuff, ‘My clothes aren’t food either.’”  (Bonus points for the smirking Face and the uncomfortable Tahiri and Danni.)  I sincerely miss this Luke Skywalker.  He hasn’t had the happiest life in recent canon years but I really want the Luke Skywalker back who knows how to crack a joke, who believes that people can be redeemed, and who is just a generally a more likable character all around.  Sorry, rant over.  For the time being.

Obviously, I also adore all the parts with Wedge, Tycho, and Janson and also with the Wraiths.  The part where Wes flirts with Jaina over the comm and then realizes that “Sithspit, I was flirting with a nine year old!” never fails to makes the laugh.

AND THEN WEDGE AND TYCHO HIT THE VONG WITH THE EMPIRE.  BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT GOING TO LIKE THE EMPIRE.  Over all, it’s actually a brilliant plan.  They use the Vong’s knowledge of the New Republic against them by leaking news of a fake superweapon and then they use the Lusankya as a giant spear to take down their worldship.  It’s awesome.  I’d also like to take the time to note that I was never concerned about Wedge surviving the book even though that was apparently a worry that people had.  I refused to believe (and still do) that Allston would ever kill Wedge.

Shockingly, I do have one criticism for the book although this is probably personal taste.  The whole Lord Nyax plotline makes me shrug.  I just don’t think he was necessary and just never really got why he was a part of it.  Everything else about the Skywalkers and Tahiri and the Wraiths is golden though.  “Aunt Tahiri, tell me a story!”  Face Loran and Kell Tainer are my two favorite Wraiths and getting to see them in a book again makes me so happy.  I love that the Wraiths never lost their tendency to make jokes and quips and to also solve a problem by thinking so far outside the box.  Honestly, how can people not love them?

I’ll wrap up my Allston adoration now by saying that the other scene that I adore in this book is the one where Kyp, Jaina, and Jag talk and Kyp and Jaina decide that they are partners.  I honestly don’t recall if we get to see more of the three of them being awesome and pulling more Goddess tricks against the Vong while flying with Twin Suns but I sincerely hope they do.

Have I mentioned during this retrospective journey yet that Matthew Stover is flawless?  Because he is.  His brain and his writing hand should be insured for billions of dollars.  There is never any doubt that you’re reading a Stover book from the minute you pick one up.  No one uses verb tense changes for emphasis quite like him and neither does anyone else get into a character’s head like he does. (Editor’s Note: Just leave me and my Mean Girls jokes alone.)

It feels like Stover is the first author who really knew what to do with Jacen Solo in this series.  He was turned into this questioning philosopher during the series and that finally comes to its fruition here.  Vergere helps put Jacen through hell but at the end of the day, it feels like Jacen Solo finally has and knows his purpose again.  Vergere’s metaphor about Jacen being dead is an apt one because of this.  I also like how Stover uses Jacen’s empathy with animals as a large part of the story.  One of the coolest parts of the book is when Jacen convinces the amphistaffs to form armor around as he fights the Vong and the world brains.  It’s just badass.  That would definitely be something cool to see on the screen.

While Jacen’s journey is wonderfully written, Ganner Rhysode steals the show.  His character development from his first appearance to this one is nothing short of fantastic.  He goes from the posturing hero to someone who actually is a hero whether or not he believes it.  I get actual chills everyone time Ganner makes his last stand to hold off the Vong to give Jacen the time he needs and says “None shall pass.”  The entire sequence is amazing.  There are no words to properly describe how excellent it is.  I love that he becomes this God-figure to the Vong because that is how much of a badass he is.  Ganner has, by far, the best death in the Star Wars universe.  I will never be over this.

Destiny’s Way
Let’s start off with the most important thing about this book: The patented Jacen Solo pelvic thrust on the cover.

The task of following up Stover is not an enviable one.  Everything feels like a bit of a let down after Traitor especially since the prior books were Allston ones.

While I do have my issues with this book, can I just say how thrilled I was that an author FINALLY remembered that Winter exists and showed the relationship she has with the Solo children?  Sure she doesn’t have a large role in the book but it’s just really nice to see her.  (Editor’s Note: I am biased and do not apologize.)

There’s a lot that happens in the book and Williams does a pretty good job with most of it.  It’s nice to finally see the twins interacting again and it’s just wonderful that the entire living Skywalker/Solo family reunited in one place again.  Both of the twins have had a rough time lately so it’s nice to see them finally together.  The Knighting ceremony is also a very nice touch and I always thought it was super cool when Luke declares Jaina to be the Sword of the Jedi.

Even though they don’t have a very large role, I’m clearly happy to see Karrde get a small part in the book.  Karrde and Lando being the scoundrel pirates who help secure the Chief of State election for Cal Omas is great.  (Editor’s Note: I want to make an election stealing joke but I have nothing.)  I also love Kyp Durron’s rant during the first meeting of the new Jedi Council.  He’s so confused as to why he’s on the Council and then Luke just confuses the heck out of him with what he says that he’ll be supporting more offensive actions by the Jedi against the Vong.  Gosh Luke: he’s been a good little Jedi for months!  How dare you!

My biggest problem with the book is that Williams calls Tenel Ka “Tenel” 13 times.  Yes, I counted.  Why?  Because nowhere else in the Expanded Universe has she EVER been called “Tenel”.  How this got through to publication is beyond me.  My other issue with the book is also connected to Tenel Ka.  It’s very unfortunate that Williams doesn’t have some sort of scene where Jacen and Tenel Ka actually talk in this book.  I’d happily trade that lame scene of Jacen and Danni relaxing on the water for just a brief conversation between them.

Overall, I find the book to be an enjoyable read.  Obviously it’s a bit of a slid downwards after the previous books but it is a strong continuation of the series.  Williams does a great job with an entertaining read.  I have many a page marked simply because a quote makes me laugh such as Han’s quip about the Nostril of Palpatine or Kyp telling Jaina to use her godly powers to summon them some better food.

We’re almost there!  The end of is nigh!  Okay, maybe it’s just the end of the NJO but I’ll take my little victories where I can get them.  Next up, I’ll finish up the series.

Originally posted to Tosche Station on April 19, 2013.

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