We’re so close to the end of this project and also so close to me dying of high blood pressure. I’ve said before that I didn’t hate this series completely the first time I read it and that still remains true now. However, there is a definite turning point where my enjoyment of the books shoots waaaaay down and that turning point was the ending of Sacrifice. I’m also realizing that reading all these books so close together isn’t doing me or the series any favors. When there are months between publications dates or you’re just casually reading the books, you have time to cool down between each book. When you’re reading them for a blog, you don’t get that breathing space so I apologize, I really do, for the fury displayed in this post.
Ironically enough, much of that fury isn’t directed at Fury.
I’m trying really really really hard right now to take some deep breaths after finishing this book. It’s possible that this book upsets me even more than Sacrifice did because I’m honestly scraping the bottom of the barrel here for any positives about this book. I guess that I can’t really hate on the writing style? It didn’t offend me or anything. Oh! I did like the brief scene with Han, Leia, and Tenel Ka towards the end. It’s a nice moment and I love that the Solos see Tenel Ka like part of the family.
Yeah. That’s all I’ve got.
Honestly, I don’t even know where to start. How about at the beginning because that prologue? Single-handedly reduced Tahiri’s characterization to just one thing and made it like she hadn’t matured since age 15. I do not buy for a minute that Tahiri would ever be taken in by Jacen’s Sith bull$#!&. (Editor’s Note: Honestly, it drives me crazy how many authors kept treating Tahiri like she was entirely about Anakin. It’s such a disservice to her and it’s not fair to those who actually wrote her moving past his death and what the Vong did to her.)
Everyone is on stupid pills at this point though. I know Tenel Ka loves him but I think she’s just a bit too easily taken in by Jacen’s lies at the beginning. I also can’t get over how downright STUPID both Luke and Ben are in this book. Ben’s “plan” involving Omas? It’s so stupid that I can’t even wrap my head around it. As for Luke, I would think that the Grand Master of the Jedi Order would know better than to go after Jacen by himself.
What else drove me up the wall about this book? Saba giving the eulogy for Mara’s funeral is stupid and not right at all. Karrde not being at the funeral is beyond not okay. Jaina’s storyline continuing to be limited to some stupid love triangle while she gets to do almost nothing else except be angry at Jacen is a disgrace to her character.
And then we get to what I’m just going to refer to as torture porn. I can handle a heck of a lot of violence and gore in fiction. It’s not something that tends to squick me. The gratuitous loss of limbs on Ossus? Made me sick to my stomach. It’s a disservice to both of the Solusars and it’s stupidly extreme violence just for extreme violence. When you add in Jacen putting Ben in the Embrace of Pain, you get a book that’s filled with torture porn and that has no place in the Expanded Universe. (Editor’s Note: Little did I know that Crucible would be released in a mere few months and be almost as bad.)
Also? At one point, an Admiral refers to Jacen as a “master tactician” to which I say “Since when???” Really though. I’ve been asking that this entire series. Since when is Jacen any good at this? Spoiler Alert: Even a mediocre tactician knows better than to attack Kashyyyk and tick off the wookiees. No really. And speaking of tactics and people who are actually good at them, how did Gavin Darklighter manage to refrain from bashing Jacen’s head against a wall? While we’re tangenting, I really want to know who said that it’s okay for little Gavin Darklighter to be a Rear Admiral. He’s like 12! Yes, I’ve been waiting to make that quip since Rogue Squadron. Shut up.
I was Allston-ed again. Honestly, if I hadn’t had an Allston book up next, I probably would’ve gone and cried to Brian and Nanci and begged them to let me out of this project. Instead, I was actually smiling by page 32. Compare this to me literally enjoying nothing in the first 60 pages of the previous book.
This is a book where everyone actually feels like themselves again except for Jacen who has by now been so far derailed that there’s no hope for him except for the Skrull retcon. The team up with Han, Leia, Jaina, Jag, and Zekk to take down Alema is very well executed and everyone feels like they’re in character the entire time. It seems like Jag is finally cured of all that awful crap he’s been put through since the Vong war ended. I also liked how Zekk’s history with the dark side was worked in here without becoming ridiculous. Allston also writes a good Kyp. I think that’s a character who’s been very underused since the New Jedi Order ended. (Editor’s Note: Goddamnit Kyp deserved better than languishing wherever they put their Jedi Masters.)
Obviously the parts that made me wipe away metaphorical tears of joy were all the bits with Wedge, Tycho, and Syal. The scene where Wedge refuses to point his blaster at Tycho and instead uses a very sophisticated finger gun makes me grin. Honestly, the Antilles-Celchu family (shut up, Syal calls him Uncle Tycho so it’s true) split because of the war kills me inside. It’s less tragic than what happens with the Solo-Skywalker family because no one dies and they aren’t actually trying to kill each other but the fact that they are reluctantly fighting on different sides of the war makes me sad. These are people who deserve to be happy. Just let them be happy. Please?
Speaking of splitting up families… Jacen, you are awful for kidnapping Allana. I know she’s your daughter too but hiding her in a box and stealing her from Tenel Ka? NOT COOL. On the other hand, at least Leia and Han know that they are grandparents now.
Luke and Ben finally seem much more functional in this book, both as individual characters and with their relationship. While obviously Mara’s death is difficult to recover from, it’s nice to see them helping each other move forward. It’s also nice to see Ben’s sense of humor again because that’s been missing for a lot of books now.
Before we dive into the meat of the actual book, I really want to talk about something that’s mostly just mentioned in passing but that I think it’s pretty kriffing important. I love that Karen Traviss casually mentions that two of the Mandalorian men in this book are a gay couple AND NO ONE MAKES A BIG DEAL OUT OF IT. It’s perfect and I love it and I couldn’t care less if anyone doesn’t like it because Star Wars could use some more diversity. So there. (Editor’s Note: For those who weren’t around before the canon change, this was a big freaking deal. BIG FREAKING DEAL.)
I don’t know if it’s because Fury helped calm me down or what but I didn’t feel the urge to break dozens of dishes after finishing this book. There are certainly things that make me angry but I’m not in a rage. What I didn’t like about this book is almost completely confined to the Pellaeon and Tahiri plotline. I despise that Tahiri’s been turned into some blonde evil drone who just does Caedus’s bidding and I firmly believe that she is one of the characters who has suffered the most from characterization derailment in the post-NJO world. It’s ridiculous and I am officially adding her to my list of characters who I firmly believe were replaced by Skrull imposters. Pellaeon dying is another thing that ticks me off because he’s been one of the consistently best characters in the Expanded Universe since its start. This wasn’t a fair end to him although I guess that’s sort of the point. Unfortunately. (Editor’s Note: Alas Poor Pelly: you were too good for this world.)
I continue to not really care about Boba Fett and all the stuff with Sintas Vel. Congratulations on getting your ex-wife back, I guess? On the other hand, I do care about (say it with me now) Venku and Bardan. I can’t help being so invested in the Skirata clan! I just want to hug them all and wish them happy lives.
I have mixed feelings about Jaina going to Mandalore for training. On the one hand, I can understand the argument that some people have made about it being stupid for her to go to her father’s nemesis for help. On the other hand, I can definitely see the logic in going to someone who can train you to fight differently and unexpectedly. Plus, the Mandalorians do have a long history of fighting Jedi so they’re bound to know a few tricks. Jacen has his giant bag of unorthodox Force tricks so it’s only fair at Jaina gets a giant back of actual fighting tricks. However, asking a bunch of Mandalorians, including one ex-Jedi turned Mando, if she should kill her brother is really just a poor choice. Pro tip: Ask a broader range of people and then ignore them all and just capture him so he can eventually be redeemed. Oh wait…
Something that consistently struck me throughout the book was how people continuously remarked on how sane Jacen seemed despite clearly turning evil. In the back of my mind, I kept hearing that line from Shatterpoint where Depa Billaba tells Mace Windu how “Nothing is more dangerous than a Jedi who’s finally sane.” It’s just an incredibly offsetting sentiment.
Ben’s police investigator approach to looking into Mara’s death is well done and it’s nice to see everyone finally realize that it wasn’t Alema. Captain Shevu continues to be a great influence on Ben’s life even though I think he’s stupid for staying in the secret police. I just want to yell at him to GET OUT once they solve Mara’s murder because this will only end badly.
Finally, I’ve noticed that Expanded Universe authors tend to just send Han and Leia off on a mission to find a new safe haven when they apparently don’t know what else to do with them. It’s actually getting to be somewhat comical at this point.
Oh look. It’s another book that makes me mad and then breaks my heart.
Denning’s decision to start each chapter with one of Jacen’s corny jokes from the Young Jedi Knights books absolutely breaks my heart. I want to cry a little every time I read one because it makes me look at the dorky teenager who loved animals and was all smiles and ask “WHAT HAPPENED?” It makes his death at the end hurt even more. It’s not okay and neither is Jacen’s death. I still have yet to understand why they all just completely gave up on the idea of redeeming him. This is Jacen Solo and once they realize that he’s Sith, they just give up? That’s not the Star Wars and the Solo/Skywalker family that I know and love.
Mostly, this book is frustrating because it feels like one giant battle. Well, to be fair, it’s basically two giant battles with a brief interlude for some REALLY uncomfortable scenes with Ben and Tahiri. I haven’t cringed that hard at a scene since Dark Nest. I’m cringing now just thinking about it. I can’t even type out what happened because of cringing. Have I mentioned lately how angry her character derailment makes me?
This book and series have just emotionally exhausted me so it’s difficult to properly rant about everything. Aside from Jacen’s death, I think that all of the nanovirus stuff is beyond stupid. I wouldn’t mind a retcon/magical fix it virus that gets rid of it so that Fett and Mirta can go back to Mandalore. Tenel Ka giving Allana to Han and Leia is also a bad idea because I’m fairly sure the Solos have been proven to be the worst parents ever. I also found Prince Isolder’s death to be pointless. I’d also love to know what the heck Luke was up to this book. His meditation offense just feels dumb. SO MUCH ABOUT THIS BOOK IS DUMB AND/OR MAKES ME ANGRY.
Also, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that this is not how shatterpoints actually work. I’m fairly sure that they’re supposed to be more metaphorical and apply to people or situations, not actual points that you can hit to make things shatter. If it’s been rectonned since so that it’s both? That is way less cool and I dislike it so have a disapproving Obi-Wan gif.
What I did like was the introduction of Taryn and Trista Zel. Best part of the book by far. For almost any other character, it would be ridiculous to have some hidden cousins but for Tenel Ka and her Hapan family? It’s all so logical. And now I’m bitter about the cancellation of Blood Oath all over again. Maybe one day, we’ll get this book. Maybe. Probably not. I can’t help that I love my sassy Hapans. (Editor’s Note: Still bitter.)
I’m still angry about everything to do with Jacen. I’m just going to break some more dishes and drink away my feelings or something. (Editor’s Note: I did not break any dishes.)
Next up are a trio of books that I’ve never read before! I’m actually excited and rather looking forward to getting to experience some new-to-me Star Wars books at the end of this very long road.
Originally posted to Tosche Station on May 10, 2013.