Thursday, December 2, 2010

Spoiler Free Review: Fate of the Jedi Vortex

Troy Denning's latest addition to the FotJ series, entitled Vortex, is a fast paced slug fest that carries on the major story lines of the previous novels and turns a couple of the story lines on their head.

Sub-plot 1: Luke/Ben/Vestara/Lost Tribe/Abeloth

Troy Denning has done a superb job capturing the love and good humor that exists between the two Skywalkers.  A absolutely loved the sense of humor that Luke showed in this novel in particular and the series in general.  The death of Mara and fear for his son made the portrayal of Luke in the Legacy of the Force series darker and more serious.  This series presenting him in a different light is a breath of fresh air.

The character of Vestara introduces an interesting dynamic into the mix.  She is Sith, cannot be trusted, yet as a reader there is still something likable about the character.  The dramatic tension of her redemption or rejection of the light, is something that has been well played so far.  It echos the Skywalker's habit of redeeming those who fall to the Darkside, and the outcome is not pre-determined.  This is a nice bit of mystery that I would assume they keep playing with until the final book in the series.

The alliance with the Sith and the investigation of the entity known as Abeloth, make some interesting debate among fans.  Would Luke Skywalker who has just lost his wife to his Sith Lord nephew be so pragmatic that he allies with Sith?  This storyline has to be played carefully or it becomes a little too unbelievable that Luke would keep working with the Sith when they don't seem to be contributing much.

Abeloth will be discussed more in my review that includes spoilers, this is a weird character, and I am not sure how I feel about her.

Sub-plot 2: Daala vs. Jedi:

Finally we have a little movement in the Daala/Jedi standoff.  I think Denning does a very nice job with Corran Horn in this novel, with one of his pet characters Saba Sebatyne, and at least in the first half of the novel with Acting Grand Master Kenth Hamner.

Hamner is a man caught between two worlds, as a military officer in the New Republic and a Jedi he feels a sense of duty to both the GA and the Jedi.  This characterization fits well with how the character has been portrayed since the NJO.  However, towards the end of the book, Hamner takes some actions that raise some really interesting questions and leave me a little confused.

Sub-plot 3: Slavery:

The sub-plot of slavery was added to the series after it was originally conceived to add some more body and depth to the story telling.  The introduction of Perre Needmo the news anchor and his roving reporter Madhi Vaandt, were interesting enough tangents.  But leaves the bigger question of what exactly is causing all of these simultaneous slave uprisings.  Who is behind it? and Who is behind "Freedom Flight?"

Sub-plot 4: Tahiri's Trial:

I absolutely loved the Tahiri storyline in the last novel.  In this one, it was good, but left me a little confused as to what exactly is going on with Tahiri and her lawyer Eramuth Bwuat'u.  It certainly appears based on the cover of the next novel Conviction, that Tahiri will take center stage in the next book.  This story line didn't seem to advance greatly in this novel, and felt like it was just there to remind you what was going on and set it up for her taking a big role in the next book. 


Overall, this is a very strong novel, which reshuffles the decks, foreshadows some of what is to come, but leaves the mystery of Abeloth largely intact.  The only real criticism I have is that it was basically told dirt side the entire time.  Except for the first chapter there was very little action in space.  There was some atmospheric vehicular action, but most of the story was characters interacting face to face as opposed to through a transparisteel canopy. 

I give it 8.5 out of 10 Lightsabers.

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