Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review: Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Conviction by Aaron Allson


SPOILER FREE SECTION

The seventh of nine books in the Fate of the Jedi series, Conviction by Aaron Allston brings the funny in what is a book jam packed with sub-plots and characters. 

Allston did yeoman's work in this book, not only did he tell a good story but he advanced  almost all of the plot lines that have been previously established in this series.  For those who may have missed a book or two in the series, here is my quick and dirty list of what I would say are the major sub-plots running through Fate of the Jedi.
  1. Luke and Ben's Quest
  2. CoS Daala
  3. Jedi Order on Coruscant
  4. Tahiri's Trial
  5. News Media
  6. Slave Uprisings
  7. Allana Solo
  8. Lecersen-Treen Conspiracy
  9. Crazy Jedi
  10. Abeloth
  11. Lost Tribe of the Sith
Now clearly many of these sub-plots overlap, but it speaks to Allston's skill as an author that he is able to keep all these moving parts together in the flow of a book without it feeling disjointed.  There is a particularly deft way that we see the news media storyline transitioned to a new reporter and the plot interacts with Luke and Ben instead of with the Slave Uprisings.  The best analogy I can think of in terms of this book is like a symphony, there are a lot of instruments playing in the symphony and if they play the right notes together it sounds wonderful, if they do not hit the right notes or play them in the right order it can sound dreadful. 

If you are a fan of Allston's previous work such as the X-Wing series then you should certainly like this book, the caveat being that it is a much more "grounded" book in that there isn't a lot of action taking place in space which is one of the things that Allston handles really well.  If you haven't started reading the FotJ series yet, do not start here, there is too much going on by this book to just jump in.  Start from the beginning its worth it. 

Keep reading below for my Spoiler-filled thoughts on the book.

THERE BE SPOILERS BELOW

Dramatis Personae

Luke Skywalker; Jedi Grand Master (human male)
Ben Skywalker; Jedi Knight (human male)
Vestara Khai; Sith apprentice (human female)
Leia Organa Solo; Jedi Knight (human female)
Han Solo; pilot (human male)
Allana Solo; child (human female)
Tahiri Veila; defendant (human female)
Natasi Daala; Chief of State, Galactic Alliance (human female)
Jaina Solo; Jedi Knight (human female)
Wynn Dorvan; government aide (human male)
Valin Horn; Jedi Knight (human male)
Jysella Horn; Jedi Knight (human female)
Corran Horn; Jedi Master (human male)
Drikl Lecersen; Moff (human male)
Haydnat Treen; Senator (human female)
Seha Dorvald; Jedi Knight (human female)

As discussed above, I see FotJ breaking down into a number of sub-plots, (1) Luke and Ben's Quest, (2)CoS Daala, (3) Jedi Order on Coruscant, (4) Tahiri's Trial, (5) News Media, (6) Slave Uprisings, (7) Allana Solo, (8) Lecersen-Treen Conspiracy, (9) Crazy Jedi, (10) Abeloth, (11) Lost Tribe of the Sith.  I am going to briefly touch upon each of these sub-plots as a way of discussing what I enjoyed and didn't enjoy in Conviction. 

(1) Luke and Ben's Quest:

Unabashedly my favorite thing in the entire FotJ series is the interaction between Luke and Ben.  There is a sense of closeness, humor, love and understanding in their relationship that really comes through in their interaction.  It is a stark contrast too were the two began in the Legacy of the Force series to this series, but it makes logical sense based on their shared tragedies and experiences. 

The quest that the two are on has certainly transformed from retracing Jacen Solo's sojourn to hunting Abeloth, but to me that is fine as long as I get to keep reading Luke-Ben interaction, they could be picking tomatoes for all I care. 

A couple things that I am not sure about is how the Dathomiri Blood Trail became Luke's go to Force move, we see him using it again in this book.   I also wonder about the portrayal of Luke in this book, the way he is plotting and planning when events unfold it seems like he is coming off as almost all knowing in this series. 

I will say I was not expecting a return to Nam Chorios in this series.  This was an incredible way to integrate previous EU material and provide excellent closure for the Luke/Callista relationship.  Force Storms, Theran Listeners, Taselda, Tsils, and drochs, what a fun ride this was.  

(2) CoS Daala:

So maybe many fans were right and Daala was a horrible choice as a character to use for CoS at the end of the Legacy series heading into this series.  I thoroughly dislike her and her characterization seems a little inconsistent.  I can't tell if I am suppose to believe she is a little unhinged evil or if she really believes she is doing good and is just using the ends to justify the means. 

The worst kept secret of all is that Daala was going to be removed from office, thought he way they handled it was interesting.  I wasn't expecting the conspiracy and Jedi Order to end up working together, unknowingly on the Jedi's hand. 

I really enjoyed the Daala in prison scenes, especially the verbal fencing that she did with Tahiri.

Of course one of the big developments in the book that people are talking about is Boba FettDaala's close relationship with Fett and her use of Mandalorians as a group that she could trust this made sense for who she would hire to help get her out.  I just hope that they don't make Fett and/or the Mandalorians into Daala's lapdogs. 

(3) Jedi Order on Coruscant

Between internal strife, crazy Jedi, sieges and a couple leadership transitions, the Jedi Order has seen better days.  Now one would think that Jedi Master's would be able to sense the deception and ulterior motives of Senator Treen and General Jaxton.  The cool thing is that the temporary GA ruling Triumvirate is making me feel like we are in ancient Rome. 

I like the fact that we are getting away from the dangerously close to the Dark side Corran Horn, but sadly it appears that Abeloth's spell wasn't broken over the Horn-pops (Horn kids frozen in Carbonite). It is also nice to see Master Sebatyne hissing less when she talks (I'm looking at you Troy Denning).

I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jedi Knight Seha Dorvald, or as I like to call her, Ben's potential love interest #1, with Vestara being BPLI #2.  Seha was a bit character introduced in LotF as a young Jedi spying for Jacen Solo/Caedus who helped Ben run away from the Temple to Ziost were he finds Ship.  Seha is only 4-5 years older then Ben and with the red hair, you have to wonder if her character is being kept active for possible future romantic entanglements.

(4) Tahiri's Trial

I suppose we could all see this one coming a mile away.  I enjoyed the prison scenes much more then the courtroom scenes with Tahiri.  She is one of my favorite characters, so I am certainly happy that she has lived to fight another day.  It has me wondering what her next move is going to be though.  

(5) News Media

Kandra Nilitz is the reporter featured in this book, the character isn't particularly memorable and is more of a plot device to get Valin and Jysella Horn off Coruscant and later aid Luke, Ben and Vestara.  She is no Madhi Vaandt.

(6) Slave Uprisings

I love Klatooine.  It's Scooby Doo in space, ok not really, but I still like alien Space-Dog-People.  This was one of the stronger sub-plots in the book because it revolved around Leia, Han and Allana and later brought in Tenel Ka.  The dramatic tension of whether or not Tenel, Allana, or even C-3P0 would die actually had me worried that someone was going to bite the dust in this one.  

(7) Allana Solo

So the whole Allana becomes Amelia and is a war orphan thing, has a bit of the Clark Kent/Superman how stupid is Metropolis feel to it.  At least the Lost Tribe figured this out pretty quickly.  We will see if this potential revelation and the search for the Jedi Queen  will play a larger role in the conclusion of this series or is merely carrying water for a future set of novels. 

What I appreciate most about Allston and some of the other authors in this series is that we are taking time to develop Allana as a character.  Slowly building her up and ingratiating her with the audience.  It will be interesting to see how big of a role Allana will play in the EU going forward as it seems like she will become one of the key figures when she is an adult.

(8) Lecersen-Treen Conspiracy

 If I had the time and money I would so be in the 501st Legion, so I love the fact that Allston is using Cosplay in his book.  It is a subtle yet awesome tip of the hat to fans in my opinion.  I am glad that the ground work for the conspiracy that was laid early in the series is seeing some payoff.  I was a bit worried because it was briefly touched upon and then ignored for so long. 

(9) Crazy Jedi

I am all set with crazy Jedi. Though I am really curious about how the Valin/Jysella story was wrapped up off stage in this book.  I am going to have to re-read it and try to digest this one again.  

(10) Abeloth

Tip to the Sith, supremely powerful, extremely tough to kill ancient evil creature wants to come over for dinner, do not let her in.  I don't like the Abeloth character in general, but I liked her better in this book.  Frankly I just want her to get killed off as I am more interested in the LTotS.  

(11) Lost Tribe of the Sith

The next book in the series Ascension should be fun as Abeloth is coming to Kesh and it looks like all heck is about to break loose. I am really enjoying the LTotS as its a fairly original take on the go to bad guy of the Star Wars universe.  Hopefully the Sith put up more of a fight then the Theran Listeners did.


CONCLUSION:


Fate of the Jedi: Conviction by Aaron Allston made me remember Planet of Twilight and Callista Ming very fondly in this book.  A great performance by a writer for a book that with so many moving parts could have been a real train wreck.  I give Conviction 8 out of 10. 


In closing, the quote of the book:


"Join me, Han, and we can rule the galaxy as wife and husband."~Leia Organa Solo

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