Star Wars: Light of the Jedi (a review)

Hey everybody,
Happy Star Wars day! Yes, we’re just about still on May 4th here in the UK, so what better way to celebrate than with a look at the first novel in the High Republic series, Light of the Jedi? What better way, indeed.

The High Republic era is a new departure for Star Wars storytelling, taking place in the centuries prior to The Phantom Menace. Crucially, this time period is now the oldest canon storytelling there is – forget about Knights of the Old Republic, forget about Tales of the Jedi, forget about the Darth Bane trilogy. None of that happened. The oldest we go now is here, 232 years before the Battle of Yavin. It’s a point that I need to reiterate, as it’s something that I constantly had to remind myself of while reading it.

The story is basically quite straightforward, following a group of marauders from the Outer Rim, the Nihil, who are able to travel through hyperspace using random “paths” as opposed to the established hyperlanes. It turns out that these paths are divined by an elderly member of the San Tekka clan, who is somehow able to see her way through hyperspace from one destination to another. She is kept alive for the express purpose of furthering the reaving of the Nihil, and her efforts are put to such devious uses by Marchion Ro, the so-called Eye of the Nihil.

During a raid, one of the Nihil ships gets in the way of the freighter Legacy Run, and the two collide; the Legacy Run, already an old vessel, breaks apart, and random parts of the ship come out of hyperspace, mostly over the agri-world of Hetzal Prime. A group of Jedi are nearby, seeing to the final preparations for the opening of the Starlight Beacon, an effort by Supreme Chancellor Lina Soh to reach out to the Outer Rim Territories and provide aid and cultural support. The Jedi begin a rescue operation to make sure the people of Hetzal Prime are safe, and launch an investigation into what happened.

The basic plot plays out much as you’d expect, with political infighting among the Nihil as Marchion Ro consolidates his power, and the Jedi managing to save the day with getting to the bottom of what happened, helping to defeat a portion of the Nihil fleet (though everyone involved thinks the Nihil were wiped out in their entirety). In some respects, it’s quite a “safe” plotline – there’s a disaster, but the Jedi help to save they day, although the big baddie hasn’t been completely vanquished so that we have fodder for more in the series. It’s a tried-and-tested formula for Star Wars (and others) to use.

I think what impressed me most about this book was the feel of it, though. It was a constant gripe for me about the Darth Bane novels taking place 1000 years before A New Hope, and yet they felt no different in time to the prequel trilogy. Light of the Jedi feels like it is a story that is set decades before The Phantom Menace, maybe even the centuries that it actually purports to be. The Outer Rim is an unknown, frontier section of the galaxy, and there are still people going out there as prospectors, to escape the drudgery of the Core and strike out on their own. The Starlight Beacon is an attempt to make the Territories feel a part of the Republic, something that – even though Shmi basically says as much in Episode I – I’d never thought would be needed.

The importance of hyperspace, and the idea of finding new routes to connect worlds, is a big part of the story, and I was a little bit overjoyed when it turned out that the San Tekkas are involved here. Lor San Tekka is, of course, quite an enigmatic figure in the lore, considering such a brief appearance at the start of Episode VII, and clearly his family has something of a celebrity standing in the galaxy, based on their history of hyperspace prospecting. The scions of the dynasty here are Marlowe and Vellis, a gay couple that doesn’t entirely feel forced into the narrative – I mean, why wouldn’t they be? They live on Naboo, in the Lake Country, so there are tantalizing glimpses here of a link to Padmé, and thus Leia – something so small, for sure, but I really hope that we can explore this link in greater depth as the canon is fleshed out further.

The Jedi are sort of informally led by Avar Kriss, the blonde front-and-centre on the cover. She’s an intriguing character, said to experience the Force as a song. Her friend Elzar Mann sees it as a bottomless ocean. The way that the Jedi are said to feel, and use, the Force throughout the book does put that sort of distance between this and the movies, as it feels like an age of experimentation and so on. The Jedi Council is a thing, and the Temple on Coruscant is there, but it just feels older, somehow. Elzar Mann is renowned among the Jedi for his unorthodox uses of the Force, as he attempts to discover new ways and techniques. It’s a bit vague, though he is credited with coming up with the Jedi Mind Trick (referred to as the Mind Touch in the book). It’s intriguing, as it seems like the Jedi are still learning the depths of their powers.

However, it’s not all new though. Yarael Poof has a fairly big role as a diplomat in the book, and both Oppo Rancisis and Yoda have speaking parts. Of course, Yoda would be a sprightly 600 year old here, and he’s currently on a sabbatical from the Temple, so I guess things are wide open on what we can expect to see here as the series continues!


As the first book in the multi-platform High Republic series, I thought this was a truly great introduction to the era. There is a lot going on, and it’s very interesting to see how things are different, and yet not that far away from the Star Wars that we know. We do have some establishment of what’s going on in the galaxy, but I think this has a lot of potential to be grown as time goes on. There are novels across the adult, young adult and younger readers branches, as well as an ongoing comics series that I’m aware of so far, and they apparently all intersect with one another to varying degrees. The YA novel Into the Dark features the padawan Raeth Silas, who is mentioned in passing by his master Jora Malli in this book. The Jedi “prodigy” Vernestra Rwoh shows up for the Starlight Beacon dedication ceremony, fresh from her adventures in A Test of Courage, the middle grade novel. All of these books came out in January, and it seems to be the case that July is the next major cavalcade of novels is due, including the sequel to this, The Rising Storm.

I cannot wait!

April retrospective

Hey everybody,
It’s the end of another month, and we’re already a third of the way through the year! After quite an eventful March, I feel as though my April doesn’t really measure up! Lots of real-world stuff going on, sadly, but as this blog is being published, I’m coming to the end of a very relaxing week away, which is hopefully going to help propel me to new heights in May! Well, we can but hope!

While perhaps not as much has happened in April, I think what I have been able to do has been pretty big! I want to start with Warhammer, because why not – indeed, most of this blog is probably going to be taken up with plastic crack! After a few years of having the game, I have finally made it round to trying out Warhammer Underworlds, and I think I’ve become obsessed…

In these coronavirus times, I’m still playing games with myself, so stuff like this and Warcry has suffered a bit, but nevertheless, I can say that I wholeheartedly love the idea and the playstyle and I cannot wait to play against a real person! The only warband that I have painted is still the Thorns of the Briar Queen from the Nightvault set, though I have recently made efforts to get the Godsworn Hunt warband painted as well, having made a start back when Contrasts were new and all. Very small progress, but progress nonetheless.

I definitely think I’m obsessed, though!

I’ve also been making some very decent progress with the Ossiarch Bonereapers! In my latest New Army Update blog, I showed off some Immortis Guard, as well as the plans for the Endless Spells and Arch-Kavalos Zandtos. Well, the Spells are finished, and while everything is just done to tabletop standard, I do like how these things have turned out! I must say, I struggled with each one to think of a good colour scheme for them – I wanted something different to the ghostly-green of the box art, but I never knew what! In the end, I went for ghostly-blue, in the main,as a nod to the Mortisan Boneshaper.

The army is definitely coming along, though. I’m trying to not get too distracted with Underworlds and other projects, so that it won’t be too long before I’ll have a fourth update blog with yet more finished miniatures! Although it is exciting to think that I’m only one model away from having that 1000-point list fully painted!

Of course, the Ossiarch Bonereapers are due for their own Underworlds warband to come out soon, talk about worlds colliding! So that’s definitely something to look forward to.

While we’re talking about new miniatures…

The next Broken Realms book is going to be accompanied by a slew of huge model releases, it seems, not least of which is a new Lord Kroak for the Seraphon, and this fabulous thing for Slaanesh! If I was excited for the plastic Keeper of Secrets back in 2019, I don’t even know where to start with this beauty! Slaanesh is, of course, my favourite, and I keep talking about how much I want to have a Slaanesh army. Well, given that they’re quite possibly now the most-supported of the four Ruinous Powers, it seems like I need to make a start with these glorious things! I do need to try and control myself at times, of course, but when things like this come along, I just don’t know what to do…

The Keeper is a big model, but these things look huge, due to the wings and everything. I really didn’t see this coming, but I definitely want at least one!

Moving away from the Mortal Realms now, I’ve been reading quite a bit of the Horus Heresy this month – mainly catching up on some of those books that I had left out up to this point.

Prospero Burns is the 15th novel in the series, and tells the story of the Burning of Prospero from the point of view of the VI Legion. Now, the book is by Dan Abnett, one of the Black Library’s greatest, and it deals with one of the most critical moments in the Heresy that has already had a fantastic novel covering those events. What’s not to like? Well, it’s Space Wolves, and if there’s one Legion I just cannot enjoy, it’s these. In all fairness to him, Dan does a great job and the story feels very much like a sort of Viking Saga. It’s told from the point of view of Kasper Hawser, who functions a bit like a Remembrancer for the Legion. He’s a noted academic from Terra, and we get to see some of his backstory investigating sites and the like. He seems to have a particular specialism in the Imperium’s past during Old Night, which was particularly intriguing. However, during one of these academic investigations, he is seemingly turned into a sleeper agent by the Thousand Sons, and sent to Fenris to live alongside the Space Wolves Legion, acting as an early warning system for Magnus to ensure Leman Russ is never sent against him.

What? Why would Magnus even think such a thing? Well, he is perhaps the only psyker on a level with the Emperor Himself, so maybe he had a premonition. Anyway, the Wolves keep Hawser in stasis when they discover his identity, before deciding to study him as he studied them, in an attempt to discover more of his intentions. We revisit a lot of ground covered by Graham McNeil’s book, including the Council of Nikea, where Hawser’s role as spy is revealed to him by Russ. Hawser and the Wolves attempt to discover what exactly is going on, and it eventually transpires that he was in fact possessed by a daemon of Chaos, with the purpose of ensuring the mutual annihilation of both Thousand Sons and Space Wolves. The Thousand Sons’ psychic potential had no room in the plans of the Ruinous Powers, and the Wolves are the only Legion to pose a real threat to Horus and his Sons. Makes sense, no?

The Burning of Prospero happens as we all know, with Russ and the Wolves decimating the Thousand Sons, and Magnus fleeing with his Legion into the Warp to the Planet of the Sorcerers. Hawser agrees to go back into stasis so that he cannot be used against Russ again.

I don’t know what it is, but I just dislike the Space Wolves, particularly in how they’re handled in the fiction. I get it, they’re Space Vikings, and everything is wolf this and wolf that, with pelts all over the place, and the battle brothers drinking mead and eating raw meat with their special fangs. If Chaos’ plan had worked, and the two Legions had destroyed each other, I don’t think I’d have been all that concerned with the loss of the VI Legion. Dan Abnett does a wonderful job of creating some truly atmospheric scenes, and we get a very interesting look at the Legion like nothing we’ve had before, but I found myself most often feeling that they worked particularly well when read as some kind of Viking story, and not as Warhammer.

But that’s just me!

I suppose it’s difficult to get away from the fact that the book just feels a bit superfluous, and really we could just have A Thousand Sons and miss this one completely, and the whole Heresy story wouldn’t suffer for it. I think this gets worse as the series moves along – I’m actually about to start on book 30, and I believe it gets a bit rough at times as the books range wider and wider, with more and more superfluous entries in the series. Prospero Burns was an interesting book in some respects, showing us marines in a different light, and it actually gave me the strange feeling of actually being a bit like a serious, grown-up novel, at times. No mere bolter porn, for sure! But ultimately, I just wasn’t that into it, and it really felt like a chore to get through it.

To help me get through it, I actually started to read something else, with a kind of reward system going on. Bad, isn’t it? Never thought I’d say that about Dan Abnett, but honestly I think it’s really just my own personal hang-ups about the Legion, and not the quality of the writing, that are colouring this review.

I read this book alongside my fellow bloggers Jenn and Dave, although I think I started a bit early and finished first, but you can now check out Inquisitor Jenn’s thoughts on the book here!

I also read book sixteen, Age of Darkness. The second anthology in the series, I thought this one much better than the first, Tales of Heresy. Perhaps because more has happened by this point in the series, and so there is more for the short stories to tie into? At any rate, there are nine stories here, written by all manner of Black Library alums, including Dan Abnett who wrote Little Horus – the story of how Horus Aximand of the Sons of Horus Legion had his face cut off. Delightful! The stories all feel quite important, though I think that might be due to having read so far into the series now, coming back to this book has helped me make sense of how a lot of them fit into the overall series to date.

I thought Liar’s Due, by James Swallow, was a good story. Different, in that it dealt with a lone Alpha Legion operative as he sows discord throughout the normal people of the Imperium. It really shows how the XX Legion wage their wars, through intrigue and subterfuge, without needing to fire a shot themselves. Savage Weapons is a story that I’ve read before, by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. It deals with a parlay gone wrong between Lion el’Jonson and Konrad Curze, and is I think the first time in the Horus Heresy that we get to seriously see the Night Lords (though I could be wrong there!) It is set during the events of the Thramas Crusade, which is notable for being an attempt to keep the Dark Angels from Terra by having the Night Lords run amok in Ultima Segmentum. The story is mainly told by ADB in this and Prince of Crows, one that I’m looking forward to reading at some point soon!

Little Horus and The Last Remembrancer directly link to the 29th novel, Vengeful Spirit, which I have covered in its own blog here. That is definitely worth the read, and I am still impressed with the breadth of that book!

Darth Bane Trilogy

It’s not been all Warhammer, though, as I’ve finally drawn to a conclusion with the Darth Bane trilogy! Not my favourite, by any stretch of the imagination – you can read my rambling thoughts on the final book, and the trilogy as a whole, here!

I’ve finally started to read the hardcover sensation that is Light of the Jedi, as well – the inaugural novel in the High Republic series. Be sure to check back for my review when that goes up!

It seems to be an exciting time for Star Wars, with the announcement of the “special event series”, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Originally slated to be a movie along the lines of Rogue One, it was announced as a series in 2019 but put on hold due to “script problems” a year later. With the announcement of the cast, though, we’re well on the way to getting this series in 2022, I believe, and I’m really intrigued to see what it’s all about. The Mandalorian has really shown just how good Star Wars on the small screen can be, and while I don’t know what the significance of “a special event series” will be, I would like to think that we’re in for something really special.

I just hope Obi-Wan and Vader never actually meet…

Lots going on right now to be excited for, though! The Cassian Andor spin-off series has already been filming since December, although we don’t have a release date yet. The Book of Boba Fett is set for release in December this year, though, and the third season of The Mandalorian will be out sometime after that, maybe this time next year? Definitely a lot to look forward to, at any rate!! I do wonder if we’ll get many more movies, with the way the TV series have been a success for Disney+ so far. I suppose it does hearken back to what I was talking about with WandaVision though, in that the series can show a lot more of the slow moments, whereas the movies seem to have to deal with just one big adventure. The upcoming Rogue Squadron movie is probably going to be something along these lines, I’d guess…

Oh yes, and I turned 7 on 21 April!

Anyway, I’m rambling here! Time to wrap things up. It’s been a slower month for sure, and I haven’t had the time for as much as I’d have liked, but things are definitely ticking along with the hobby, and you can definitely look forward to more Underworlds content as it continues to take over my life!!

The Darth Bane Trilogy

Hey everybody,
I recently finished up reading the third and final book in the Darth Bane trilogy, Dynasty of Evil, and while I’ve usually discussed these books in my end-of-month retrospective blogs, today I thought I’d talk about the final installment, and the trilogy as a whole, in a dedicated post. Let’s dive in!

Dynasty of Evil is the third and final part of the Darth Bane trilogy, and I’ll say this right now: I’m so glad it’s over.

Far from the desolate forests of Ambria, Bane and Zannah are now living in luxury in a mansion on Ciutric IV (I had to look this up, but it’s the setting for X-Wing: Isard’s Revenge – points for that, Drew, at least!) There, Bane poses as a rich merchant with an interest in Sith artifacts, and comes across mention of one Darth Andeddu, who apparently discovered the secret to eternal life. Tired and dismayed that Zannah hasn’t yet challenged him for the title of Sith Lord as befits the Rule of Two, he decides to find Andeddu’s holocron and make himself immortal, to ensure the survival of the Sith.

Meanwhile, on the remote mining world of Doan, a Jedi has been killed while on the hunt for certain Sith amulets. Fearing his death will bring the Council to Doan, the royal family there send Princess Serra to Coruscant to tidy up the situation. Serra is the daughter of the healer Caleb, and discovers how her father died while on the capital world. This leads her down the path of retribution, where she engages the services of the Iktotchi bounty hunter known simply as The Huntress to find Bane and bring him to her.

The Sith amulets have drawn the interest of the Dark Jedi Set Harth, who recovers the artifacts and returns to his penthouse on Nal Hutta. Bane sends Zannah to investigate while he goes off to the Deep Core world Prakith in search of the holocron. Zannah finds Set and decides he’ll do as her apprentice, giving her the impetus to finally challenge Bane. On Prakith, Bane discovers the holocron in a fortress still devoted to the ancient Sith Master, and wrests the knowledge of eternal life forcibly from within while on the journey home. The effort of doing so leaves him exhausted enough that The Huntress is able to overpower him and bring him to Serra on Doan.

Zannah and Set return to Ciutric to find Bane gone, and so they also travel to Doan so that she can defeat her erstwhile Master. However, all hell breaks loose in the prison caverns of Doan; Set abandons Zannah after never really being convinced that the life of a Sith was for him anyway, while Bane and Zannah’s duel is cut short by the imploding caverns. Bane escapes with The Huntress, who is convinced her destiny lies with him, and they travel to Ambria, where Zannah catches up with him. They duel again, but the climax of that duel is somewhat inconclusive…

There is a lot going on here, although the novel’s pacing does leave it feeling like the main bulk of the action takes place on Doan. The set-up bounces between Ciutric, Prakith, Doan, Coruscant and Nal Hutta, before having the protracted sequences in the prison complex, and then that final denouement. Bane going on the trail of yet another holocron was a bit like an action sequence out of a video game. He goes there, kills everyone, takes the holocron, and leaves. All in the space of a chapter. Little to no thought is given to developing Prakith or the cult of Andeddu, more’s the pity.

We’re ten years on from the last book, and Bane is now in his 40s and, inexplicably, old. I suppose the subtext is that the Dark Side ages a person prematurely, but in a galaxy where I thought it was supposed to be a bit like Lord of the Rings (I’m sure at one point it was decided that average human lifespans were in the region of 120 years), having a 40-something with tremors seems a little… off…

I need to talk about the whole character of the book though. Once again, it feels very much like bad fanfiction. Bane and Zannah, posing as brother and sister, live in a fabulous mansion with untold wealth, and it all feels a bit too convenient, somehow. You know how, in the sort of bad fanfiction stories you’d read on the 90s internet, the authors would make their leading characters simply amazing, and they’d have the wealth to not need a day job, and they’d live in mansions without any thought to realism, and be just gorgeous and perfect? I don’t think Zannah is described as gorgeous so much in this book, but we do still get the descriptions of Bane’s rippling muscles and whatnot, and it just doesn’t seem to ring true, somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written my share of fanfic on this very blog, but I suppose I’ve never been under any illusions as to what I was doing! I’ve paid money for this book, and it’s just bad.

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit too harsh on this. Let’s try to pick over the bones a bit more.

Set Harth is a Dark Jedi. He’s tired of the stifling ways of the Jedi Temple, and decides he’d much rather use his Force abilities to live the playboy lifestyle of endless parties and silk shirts open to the midriff. That’s fine – in fact, I’m surprised it hasn’t been thought of before. He hunts down Sith amulets to increase his power, quite why I’m not sure, but it fits somehow with him wanting quick and easy results. The fact he doesn’t seem to do anything with that power notwithstanding, it was interesting to see a Jedi leave the Order and pursue a life dedicated entirely to hedonism. I wonder if he’s one of the Lost Twenty? His storyline with Zannah was one of the more convincing aspects of the book, and I like the fact that he not only makes it out alive by saving his own skin, but he also ends up with Andeddu’s holocron.

Is he a Dark Jedi, really? It’s explained in the book as something of a rogue Jedi, neither Jedi nor Sith. But he never really does anything in the same league as, say, Lumiya or Asajj Ventress. He’s just a bit of a selfish fop who prefers to go to parties than to safeguard peace and justice. I don’t get why he lives on Nal Hutta, because the planet is already under the control of the Hutts and so has presumably been terraformed into the noxious bog-planet that we know and love. Disconcertingly, at one point it is said that he lives on Nar Shaddaa, which would make more sense, although I’m not sure there’s much luxury on the Smuggler’s Moon – but this is 1000 years before A New Hope, remember, so that small point would have helped to distance the novel from the Prequels, a recurring failing for the trilogy otherwise.

The Huntress is a curious one. She’s an Iktotchi, a species with some precognitive ability, which she uses to track her quarry across the galaxy. Okay, I’m buying it so far. She’s able to plan to capture Bane, discovering his identity through her skills (somehow), and then bam! About two-thirds of the way through the book, she’s using the Force. It’s a bit like Mara Jade, going from struggling to do anything in the wake of Palpatine’s destruction, to being a full Jedi Master under the guidance of Luke Skywalker. I have no problem with that, because it hearkens back to the idea that anybody can use the Force with enough training, because the Force is prevalent in all life. Sadly, though, midichlorians are a thing, and I’m not sure the idea of awakening dormant abilities would entirely work, but who knows. Bane takes The Huntress as an apprentice, and gives her the new name of Darth Cognus. When Zannah defeats Bane (or does she?), she takes Cognus on as her own apprentice. Cognus has a long and storied career of her own, mainly chronicled in articles on the now-defunct Hyperspace website. So it was a nice touch to see this backstory fully developed and worked into the chronology.

Darth Bane Trilogy

I think there are two things that I find really problematic about the trilogy. The first has been well-documented since I covered the first book, and that is just how badly-written it is, with flat, one-dimensional characters and no effort to distance itself from the Prequel era despite being set 970+ years before the events of The Phantom Menace. The second is just how pointless the whole thing seems. Darth Bane was developed by George Lucas in the backstory for Episode I, as the founder of the Sith Rule of Two. He’d then made a couple of appearances, and it seems like Drew Karpyshyn was tasked to bring these elements, such as they were, into novel form.

Somewhere in here, there is an interesting story. The disaffected student of the Dark Side, wanting more than Lord Kaan was offering with his Brotherhood of Darkness, engineers the destruction of the Sith Lords he sees as the pretenders, and determines through his own study of ancient texts that the way forward for the Sith is not to share power, but rather to focus it in a single Master, who will train an apprentice to one day take over the mantle. This way, the Sith can work to bring about the destruction of the Jedi and their own eventual triumph. Darth Bane does this, setting himself up in the centre of a network of spies and such, engineering minor border disputes that lays the groundwork for the Separatist movement. He also furthers his knowledge of the Dark Side through the acquisition of Sith artifacts, and visits places of previous Dark Side power from the ancient past.

It’s a story that I can get behind, but the execution is just so poor that I can’t begin to say how disappointed I am with the trilogy. I think this disappointment is further fueled by the fact that the SW book page that I follow on FaceBook is almost rabid in its love for the trilogy. I was surprised at the negative reaction I got when I made a post there, hoping the second book would be better than the first!

It’s such a shame, because Karpyshyn is obviously not a bad writer – he was lead writer on that most beloved of Star Wars games, Knights of the Old Republic, and I don’t recall being this disappointed with his The Old Republic novels Revan and Annihilation. I’ll have to revisit those books at some point, and see if they’re in the same league…

There are so many missed opportunities with this series. While I suppose it was inevitable that Path of Destruction would re-tell the story of Jedi vs Sith, I wish we had been given more context for that conflict because I’m still none the wiser, and reliant on Wookieepedia articles to make sense of this period of time. Rule of Two could have been better, and indeed in some respects was perhaps the best of the trilogy in a weird reversal of the usual “bridge syndrome” trilogies can fall prey to. Dynasty of Evil seems to leave the door open for more Bane, as it is left unclear whether Zannah was in fact victorious, or if Bane succeeded in transferring his essence as per the teachings of Darth Andeddu. Maybe the title refers to the notion that every subsequent Sith Lord in Bane’s model actually has the essence of Darth Bane inside of them? I guess we’ll never know, because these books are now Legends, and while possible to be retained within the new canon timeline because nothing is taking place at this time, I really hope they are left alone.

March retrospective

Hey everybody!
I’m really enjoying these end-of-the-month round-ups that I’ve been putting out so far, hopefully they’ve been interesting to read, too!

I want to start off with talking about WandaVision, which I have finished and which I enjoyed immensely! From such a weird start, the show progressed incredibly well, with such a wonderful pacing as the mystery unfolds. In particular, I love the fact that we get so many quiet moments in this show, which is fundamentally about family life (albeit the ideal family life that Wanda wants). These kind of glimpses into character are of the sort that we’d never see on the big screen. Marvel have stated that the TV shows that they have on the books are intended to cover those characters who will very likely never get their own film; however, given the incredibe storytelling we’ve seen here, it makes me wonder if that will hold true, or whether they’ll instead branch out into further shows that explore the bigger movie characters in time.

It was a really great show, with an explosive finale that I for one really appreciated for actually staying true to the hints and suggestions of what exactly West View was all about. I think almost from the start it’s been fairly clear that this has all been Wanda’s creation, borne of her despair from losing Vision during the events of the Infinity War.

I do like the fact that we finally get to see Wanda embracing her comic book heritage with the costume and the name Scarlet Witch bestowed. In the tradition of Marvel movies, we get a mid-credits scene that shows Wanda in her astral form learning more about her powers, which indicates great things in store for her appearance in the upcoming Doctor Strange movie.

I haven’t just been stuck in front of the TV, though!

I’ve been able to play quite a few games this month, which has been incredible given the lack of much gaming so far this year! After a very false start with The Circle Undone, I have finally been able to play through the whole cycle now – and what a great run it was! You can check up my write-ups on the games here, here and here. I’ve also started on a much looser idea for a “campaign”, starting with playing Return to Night of the Zealot. My idea here is to play some of the standalone scenarios like Curse of the Rougarou and Murder at the Excelsior Hotel. Of course, I need to create a new investigator deck now, but I think it could be fun – and it’ll be nice to see what I’ve been missing all these years!

In addition to Arkham Horror LCG, I’ve played two games of Warcry! Still playing against myself, sadly, because we’re unable to meet up with friends indoors for the time being, but it’s been a decent way to get to grips with the game, and I’ve played these types of things solo before, controlling both sides of the board and making the best decisions for each, but having the one side that I wanted to actually win.

I’ve had two games with the Cypher Lords, and I do enjoy the way that they play. The first game, I was playing against them, and it was the sort of game that came right down to the wire before they were defeated by the Bloodbound, my warband of choice at that game – the Wrathmaster, with one wound remaining, rolled three critical hits to thoroughly beat the Thrallmaster into a pulp. The second game, playing as the Cypher Lords, I was completely outclassed by the Unmade and the Thrallmaster was again soundly decimated by the Blissful One attacking back to back. Absolutely incredible stuff, I have to say! I definitely need to crack on with painting the terrain for this game, though I have had a hard time deciding on a scheme.

I also want to crack on with getting the Catacombs box built up and investigated…

Following on from my March Plans blog, I’ve now at least built up both the Shardspeaker and the Psychomancer – what an incredible pair of models! The Psychomancer in particular has greatly impressed me, as soon as I get some more Chaos Black spray, I’m sure I’ll be starting work on these.

I’ve been building up some more Ossiarch Bonereapers models, and have made quite a bit of progress here – I’ll be getting another army update blog posted up at some point over the Easter weekend, anyway, so stay tuned for that!

As well as the miniatures side of the hobby, I’ve also been reading more novels set in the war-torn hellscape of the far future. After putting it off for years, I’ve read Fallen Angels, which ended up a much better read than I’d been expecting. I’ve also finished the Ravenor trilogy with Ravenor Rogue, which sadly did not really live up to the rest of the trilogy! Never mind. I’m trying to get back into the Horus Heresy, after Fallen Angels – I’ve started to read the beast that is Vengeful Spirit, and I hope to move through the series a bit more this year, though I have said that a lot with these books, and only read one a year for quite some time now!

I’ve also read the second Darth Bane novel, Rule of Two, which was better than the first one, though I still don’t honestly see what so many people see in this series. The book helped me to see the whole Sith Academy thing in a different light – it was one of my major bugbears about Path of Destruction, as you may recall, the ridiculous idea of having a school for essentially evil kids, but here we have Bane draw attention to the fact that this was one of Lord Kaan’s great failures.

The book is definitely more an exploration of Zannah’s journey this time, although the middle of the book jumps ten years so we don’t have to go through years of her learning how to use the Dark Side. Instead, we have her going on missions for Bane where she is essentially working to topple the Republic by using radical groups on Serenno, the homeworld of Count Dooku. We even have a Chancellor Valorum that makes an appearance, which all just serves to heighten the links to the Prequel era as opposed to work in any real temporal distance. I’ve said it before, of course, but the book is set 1000 years before A New Hope, but it feels like it’s merely a year or two before The Phantom Menace.

At any rate, while Zannah is working to topple the Republic, Bane is trying to figure out how to make a holocron, which seems to take him the course of the book and he still doesn’t figure it out. I’m not properly up on holocron lore, but there does seem to be some conflicting accounts of how prevalent they are in the galaxy. Coupled with this, while raiding Freedon Nadd’s tomb on Dxun, Bane gets covered with weird crustaceans called orbalisks, which render him pretty impervious to any attack (we saw this in the short story Bane of the Sith, of course). However, during the climax on Tython, he is almost killed by the creatures when his Sith lightning is turned back on himself. Zannah manages to save his life, though does tell him that she will kill him when she has no further use for him.

Somewhere in there, there is a really good story. I’m just not struck on Drew Karpyshyn’s style. It feels very simplistic, and a little too much like bad fan fiction at times. Zannah is described as just gorgeous and so on, much like Githany in the last book. It all just feels a bit non-Star Wars-y. Just not really my cup of blue milk, as they say! The actual storytelling, and the temporal feel aside, I think it’s a definite step-up since the earlier book, and I am somewhat looking forward to finishing the trilogy soon.

Hobby Goals 2021 – quarter one check-in!
So we’re three months into the year now, and I think it’s a good time for a check-in as regards my 2021 hobby goals! To start with, I wanted to get the Sisters army underway, but up to this point I haven’t actually done anything with these models. At one point, I actually considered moving away from them, as it happens. However, whenever I think about them for any length of time, it’s a project that  really feel excited for, and I want to get it off the ground. I’m not sure if I should try to pare down my goals here though, and think about getting just a couple of units done. Doing this might get me into the swing of things though, and perhaps I might yet get that 500-point list painted up after all! I guess we’ll see. But Sisters definitely remain on the menu for now!

I also haven’t done anything more with my Drukhari since the Incubi back in January. I have plans for the Grotesques here, for sure, and I think I’ll take stock of the situation again once I’ve got those guys finished up!

The Codex is now out of course, though I’ve not picked it up yet… I should try harder!

Working on my Imperium forces now, I’m not sure about the Blood Angels, or the Deathwatch, but I have already thinned-out some of the AdMech models that I’d not quite gotten round to painting yet, thinking I might keep a small force of them just to have some fun with. They are just lovely models, after all. I think the Tempestus Scions might be for the chop, though – I just don’t know where I’m going with the army, and it’s been that way for so long, I think it might just be time to call it a day and focus myself elsewhere.

I still haven’t done anything with Tyranids yet, either, and the Genestealer Cults are a force similar to the Sisters in that I’ve thought maybe they could be something to move away from. Whenever I think about them, at all, I just feel the need to paint up some more Neophytes, or something. I definitely want to have a Genestealer Cult force, so I really need to plot that out.

All in all, then, it’s really not been a very productive quarter, when compared with my hobby goals! However, I’ve produced quite a lot of minis for my new Ossiarch Bonereapers army, which is quite something to be pleased about. I’ve been able to get some more Necrons done, and the Incubi as mentioned before. Things are definitely going well, I think, so it’s nothing to worry about just yet! Maybe at the halfway point there will be a bit more ticked off from here, anyway!

Star Wars: Battlefront II – Inferno Squad (a review)

It’s been a while, but I feel as though I need to keep up with the reviews of the books that I’ve made my way through recently! Star Wars Battlefront 2: Inferno Squad is a tie-in to the video game and not really anything to do with the first Battlefront novel, aside from the fact that it also ties-in to a video game. That kinda threw me for a while, I must admit! The second novel takes place in the immediate aftermath of the Death Star explosion, and has quite a few tie-ins to Rogue One as a result.

We follow the TIE fighter pilot Iden Versio, the daughter of ISB Inspector Garrick Versio, as she returns from Yavin to the Empire, and to her father, who is forming an elite team of operatives that will work to prevent corruption within the upper ranks of the Empire, and root out information leaks such as those that led to the destruction of the Death Star. The team consists of Iden herself as leader, her friend Gideon Hask, Del Meeko and Seyn Marana – experts in their fields, which include mechanical engineering and naval intelligence.

The novel then follows the team as they go from their first mission, which serves to form the backdrop of the team being simply excellent, to the main meat of the story – infiltrating a group of survivors from Saw Gerrera’s Partisans, who call themselves the Dreamers. Each member of the team splits up and infiltrates the group in a separate way, with Iden herself posing as an Imperial defector.

The Dreamers have gained some inside information on the Empire, which allows them to choose the targets for their insurgency activities with unerring accuracy. Inferno Squad’s task is to discover how they have gained this information, and then destroy the rebels utterly. Building trust with the Dreamers, they go on several missions and eventually learn that their leader is the son of Senator Mina Bonderi, Senator for Onderon during the Clone Wars. He has been getting his information from his step daughter, who works for the Empire. He hands the information chip to Iden, who only stuns him before the rest of the team kill the surviving members of the rebel cell.


I really enjoyed this book, as it felt a lot like an easy read adventure story. In a lot of ways, it has everything that classic Star Wars novels of the past have: adventure, intrigue, mystery and some epic battle scenes. I thought the mystery of the Dreamers’ leader was nicely done, with the payoff working nicely within the context – Lux Bonteri was in the Onderon arc of Clone Wars season five, but he was hardly a major character that would resonate through the ages. Here, Christie Golden has given him a continued storyline that fits really well with his character, and reminds me of similar instances of Prequel-era characters making the transition to the Classic-era. My yardstick for this has always been Captain Panaka being made a Moff, and I think having others like this come through the Rise of the Empire with different roles in a credible manner is always just wonderful.

The plot feels a little formulaic, as we see the team formed, they go on their first mission which is pretty much flawless, then the main business begins and things get a bit more tough. All the way through, however, we’re not brow-beaten into believing that the team is amazing, but rather we’re shown how they are experts in their respective fields. There are of course some slightly cringeworthy moments, but then, Star Wars has always been a little bit cheesy. I think this is the first time I’ve read a book by Christie Golden, who wrote some books in the now-Legends Fate of the Jedi series, although I don’t think I ever made it that far in the timeline (they’re up in the attic for now, anyway!).

It was a very enjoyable read, and while I probably won’t be putting it in my all-time top ten, it’s along the sort of lines of Resistance Reborn and Black Spire, which were similarly enjoyable books, if somewhat forgettable. Is that too harsh? Maybe. I suppose it doesn’t feel like it was all that important, but had plenty of tie-ins to the rest of the universe that made for a fun read. I suppose what I mean by this is, it doesn’t try too hard to be anything more than a Star Wars story within its context. It isn’t trying to re-write history, or put its main character(s) right up there in Tarkin’s or Palpatine’s inner circle. It is definitely an interesting book, in that it tells a story about elite Imperials who are fighting to maintain order in the galaxy, and shows that there were some good people working within that system to do what they thought was right. Really enjoyable, and worth taking the time to hunt it down!

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Black Spire (a review)

I finished reading Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire last night, in what was possibly a record for me right now, as I’d managed to read a novel in less than a week! If I’m honest, I wasn’t entirely enjoying this book, but I knew I wanted to have it finished in time for Easter.

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The book is almost a sequel to Phasma, as the central character is once more the Resistance spy Vi Moradi. Working on General Leia’s instructions, she heads out to the remote world of Batuu shortly after the Battle of Crait, in an effort to establish a base and recruitment ground there. As a partner, she is given her erstwhile nemesis from the earlier novel, Captain Cardinal, now having begun his rehabilitation and going by his given name, Archex.

The duo crash-lands on the planet, and have their supplies stolen by the local gangster’s thugs, and so Vi gets herself a job at the local scrapyard, sorting junk, in an effort to earn enough money to buy it all back. The first part of the novel is really quite schmaltzy, as everything goes well for her, and all of the locals are either positive or, at worst, indifferent to her. We get to see the locals at Black Spire Outpost, and tour the local sights in a manner
that underlines how the book basically ties into the experience at the Disney Resorts in Anaheim and Orlando.

However, the First Order is tipped off to her presence on the planet, and send Lieutenant Wulfgar Kath down to capture her. Vi’s efforts to recruit the locals to the Resistance do not go down too well at first, but over time, as the oppression of the First Order makes itself known, the tide begins to turn. While the Outpost never formally comes out in open support of the Resistance, they are nevertheless able to establish their base in some ancient ruins, and some of the local farmers begin to drift in as part-time recruits, at least.

As I said at the beginning, I didn’t really enjoy this book. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it an awful lot more than Phasma, but I felt like the fact everything just went so well for Vi made it feel like it was pitched at a younger age range, as condescending as that might sound. I was trying to get this point across when I discussed it with the other half; Star Wars rarely has things going right for people, and so I’ve come to expect there to be some conflict, and a lot of stumbles and road blocks. However, once we’ve dealt with the crash, Vi meets some really helpful locals, who are almost sickeningly altruistic, and my preconceptions about what Star Wars is led me to expect a pay-off that never came. Once I was over that initial reaction (well, it took me to get to roughly the middle of the book before I could get to that stage!) I don’t think I disliked the book as much – it read so much better as a young-adult novel than a more adult novel, if that makes sense.

Along similar lines, this book also suffers from quite a lot of “movies-only” syndrome, whereby a lot of the references only refer back to the movies, often inappropriately. For instance, the Outpost cantina serves a bewildering variety of drinks, a couple of which have really bizarre names: the Fuzzy Tauntaun and Dagobah Slug Slinger spring to mind here. Sure, they’re fun and no doubt they’re sold in the theme park, but within the context of the universe, Dagobah is supposed to be a planet only a select few people know about, while Hoth is so far off the beaten track that Tauntauns may well have no meaning to the wider galactic public. It’s such a nitpicky point, I’m almost abashed at bringing it up, but it’s something that I always find myself railing against when I’m reading, because it goes against that suspension of disbelief.

My only other gripe with this book, then, was the way that the First Order is portrayed – but I don’t think that was anything to do with the author, so much as the way the organization has appeared since 2015’s The Force Awakens. We still don’t have any real substance for them as a group – they’re there as the antagonist, and there are hundreds of tiny little moments of playground-style bullyings and venalities, but there doesn’t seem to be a purpose to them other than being a group for our intrepid band of heroes to go up against. Sure, back in 1977, all we knew about the Empire was that they were the bad guys, but Tarkin’s talk of the Imperial Senate gave them a gravitas – we knew that the Empire was the established government, albeit a tyrannical regime that needed to be fought against. We’re now well into the sequel universe but we’ve still not seen anything beyond the shady “there was once an Empire, they retreated into the Unknown Regions, then the First Order appeared, but it was really Palpatine’s ploy all along”. It’s a problem that I’ve whinged about before, of course, but I feel like we now desperately need more of those gaps filling between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. We need to see more of what went on in the Unknown Regions; we need to find out what those secret storehouses on Jakku were all about, and we need to get more info about the New Republic, and how that all fits together. The Hosnian incident, referred to a couple of times in the book, lacks a lot of punch, I think, due to the fact we don’t know enough about that side of the galaxy.

But as I say, that’s a problem with Star Wars in general right now, and not specifically with this book!

Black Spire Outpost has obviously changed since I last checked in there, during the new Thrawn trilogy, and seems to be thriving as a result. There are several interesting mentions, including Hondo Ohnaka apparently taking up residence there, but also the scrap merchant that Vi works for, Savi, who is said to be a friend of Lor San Tekka, and his workers all seem to have some affiliation, however loose, with the Church of the Force idea. I’d like to see that explored more, and get some real meat on those bones! Vi finds a couple of items amid the junk that seem to be really potent Jedi artifacts (is one of them a holocron?) that makes me wonder where Savi is getting his junk from.

The novel ends with the First Order arriving in force at Batuu, with none other than Kylo Ren in orbit in a Star Destroyer. Now, I feel like this is very strongly setting up a sequel, though I believe it’s also tied quite strongly to the theme park experience, so maybe there’s something there that I’m missing. However, combined with the stuff about Savi, I feel like there’s more story left to be told. Despite not being the biggest fan of the book, I’d still like to see if there is more that we can expect to see here!

Star Wars: Resistance Reborn (a review)

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Hey everybody,
I’m continuing to catch up with all things Star Wars right now, and hot on the heels of my last blog, talking about the amazing Darth Plagueis, I’ve jumped forward in the timeline (and across canon) to the latest book to be released, Resistance Reborn! Part of the Journey to The Rise of Skywalker publishing programme, Resistance Reborn picks up close on the heels of The Last Jedi, with the Resistance having barely survived the Battle of Crait and needing to find both allies and a new home.

The book mainly follows Poe Dameron as he attempts to atone for his mutiny aboard the Raddis during Episode VIII. He comes across as maybe a little too guilty, as if the event is somehow more important than it seemed in the movie (though this could equally have been a problem with the movie, if I’m honest). Poe meets with Maz Kanata, who refuses to help the Resistance openly, but gives him word that the First Order have made a list of undesirables and are actively pursuing the names on it, locking them up before they can do any further harm. Poe sends his other pilots from Black Squadron to find other possible leaders to help rebuild, with Snap Wexley returning home to Akiva to bring along his mother Norra, and her husband Wedge Antilles.

Leia manages to convince her former colleague Yendor to aid them, and the survivors head to Ryloth to regroup. There, they are given the news that the list of undesirables has been stolen by a criminal group known as the Collective, and is to be auctioned off at the birthday party of notorious crime lord Hasadar Shu’s wife, on Corellia. Two teams are dispatched to Corellia, one headed by Poe to obtain the list, with the other led by Wedge in an attempt to steal ships from the shipyards there. A third team is dispatched to the planet Bracca, to obtain more ships from the junkyard world.

We’ve also been following the lives of First Order records clerk Winshur Bratt and his two underlings, one of whom stole the list of undesirables in order to pass it to the Collective. These plot threads intersect as the plot moves forward, as we see the oppression of the First Order leads to both of the underlings defecting in their separate ways. At the party, Poe is soon outbid on the list, but the First Order arrive and start shooting the place up (including killing the crime boss, himself). Poe rescues Shu’s wife Nifera, who in return gives up the list to the Resistance. Along the way, Wedge manages to rescue several high-level political prisoners being held at the shipyards, including none other than former senator, Ransolm Casterfo.

Resistance Reborn

The book is quite short, just shy of 300 pages, and so the plot kicks along at a pretty sharp pace. Some reviews that I’ve read on goodreads complain that the Resistance is in much the same place at the end of the novel as at the start, which isn’t entirely without foundation, although one could argue that they have a lot more materiel than they had in the closing scenes of The Last Jedi. More starfighters, some more recruits, a list of folks to go rescue. That doesn’t mean that the book doesn’t suffer from a kind of Bridge Syndrome, as if it were the central book of a trilogy that merely exists to stop those books being a duology.

It’s a really good story, don’t get me wrong, and I definitely enjoyed reading it. It pulls from a lot of the new canon, most heavily from the Aftermath trilogy and Bloodline, which helps to make the new canon feel like a much more homogenous place to be. One of my major gripes so far about the Disney stuff has been just how standalone everything feels. Having callbacks to earlier stuff, and minor recurring characters, helps to make something more of these stories. It’s something that I really enjoyed, anyway.

I suppose where it somewhat falls down, for me, is that we don’t get that sense of plot advancement, because we can’t know too much prior to the release of The Rise of Skywalker. I’m really hoping that his ludicrous level of secrecy about the state of the galaxy is going to be lifted once Episode IX has been released, and we can start to learn more about the First Order, Snoke, and all the rest of it. The First Order exists, at the moment, purely to be the bad guys, and there is next to no substance about them that we can tangibly cling on to. Sure, the Empire must have felt much the same back in the 1970s and 80s, but the way that Obi-Wan talks about the Clone Wars and Vader in those films gives them that sense of historical perspective that the First Order doesn’t yet have. Leia comes close to it in The Force Awakens, when she talks about Snoke seducing Ben to the Dark Side, but I honestly feel adrift when watching the movies right now, because we have so little to go on. There are snippets from the likes of Aftermath and Bloodline, but so much is just guesswork and hearsay, that requires too much work on the part of the viewer to put together into a cohesive narrative. I get that JJ and the rest want to create a sense of mystery and suspense, I really do, but having been building this since 2015, it’s wearing really thin right now, and I am more than ready for some actual answers. We need that cohesive narrative to make sense of how we got from the forest moon of Endor to the desolate sands of Jakku.

Huh, that was quite a rant there, wasn’t it?

Moving on!

Wedge is back in this one, and both Orrimaarko (Prune Face) and General Riekkan! I was really quite chuffed when I was reading those parts, even though I had it in the back of my mind that Dennis Lawson has said he doesn’t want to reprise his role as Wedge, and Bruce Boa sadly passed away a few years ago. I really wanted this book to show us Lando returning to the fold, but no such luck – so I’m guessing that will be something that is dealt with in the actual film. Well, that’s fair enough. Maz Kanata was criminally under-used, once more, though I’m choosing to think there might be something coming for her in IX, as Lupita Nyong’o is confirmed as returning. Maybe she’s best when lightly sprinkled into a story, rather than her backstory delved into too much.

I don’t know for sure, but I get the impression that the scenes with the Black Squadron pilots draw heavily from the Poe Dameron comic series, so I feel as though I need to get round to them at some point. For the time being, though, a quick Wookieepedia search has shown that Suralinda Javos, at least, is a recurring character from the comic book. Definitely need to catch up more there. Interestingly, we have a lot of Poe and Finn moments, where Poe is squeezing Finn’s arm. It should be nothing, but the fact it is called out so often makes me wonder if the idea of the two of them getting together might actually be where this bromance is going, after all!

Rey is in the novel, though she is another character who is criminally under-used. In fact, she might as well have not been there – I think it was only because she was on the Falcon at the end of VIII that she was included here at all. There was something about her character that felt off to me, too. She is portrayed, basically, as a timid mouse – not the sort of person we saw doing all that crazy stuff in the movie. Indeed, even at the start of her journey in VII, she has something about her, to have survived in the wilderness alone for so long. Hm.

I guess I’m really being fussy here, because this book was the sort of novel that I’ve been wanting from the Disney expanded universe for a few years, now. Something that plainly inhabits that same world, that doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Something that tells a story with the big movie characters, even if sometimes things felt a little off. It’s definitely recommended, and I think it serves up a better “journey to the next movie” story than Phasma did…

Star Wars: Darth Plagueis (a review)

Oh my goodness, what a book!

I recently finished reading one of the last, and arguably one of the most important novels from the Legends canon. It was an absolute joy to read, and I really cannot believe that it has taken me so long to get round to reading it! Long-time Star Wars fans might be aware that the book was originally slated to be released in 2008, but it wasn’t published until 2012, putting it among the final few novels to be published prior to the Disney take-over.

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The novel follows the life of Darth Plagueis as he kills his own master, Darth Tenebrous, and begins his quest for immortality through the manipulation of the midi-chlorians. As Hego Damask, the CEO of Damask Holdings, he goes about life as a wealthy financier, bankrolling the Trade Federation’s exploitation of Naboo’s natural plasma reserves. In so doing, he befriends Palpatine, and discovers a latent power for the Dark Side within the youngster. He encourages Palpatine to kill his entire family, and thereafter apprentices him as Darth Sidious.

Eliminating political rivals, Palpatine climbs the political ladder to become the Senator for Naboo. Political shenanigans abound, as Palpatine and Damask both set about initiating the Grand Plan for the Sith to take their vengeance on the galaxy (specifically, the Jedi). Along the way, Palpatine is given a Zabrak infant on Dathomir, whom he trains on Mustafar to be a living weapon for their vengeance. Damask makes contact with the cloners of Kamino, and begins to investigate the possibility of creating a cloned army.

As the novel moves on, it becomes as much a biography of Palpatine as it does of Damask, as the latter becomes consumed by his research into midi-chlorians and immortality. We see Palpatine court a friendship with the Jedi Master Dooku, engineer the fall of Naboo’s King Veruna, to be replaced by Padmé Amidala, as well as the assassination of Pax Teem, the Senator for Malastare. When Damask returns to public life, he renews an acquaintance with the Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, and plant the suggestion that the Republic may need an army to ward against the increasing privations in the Outer Rim.

Towards the end, the book runs concurrently with several other books and comics, such as Cloak of Deception, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, and latterly, The Phantom Menace. At the novel’s climax, Palpatine kills Damask, revealing that he had been manipulating his former master for years. With Dooku as a potential ally in the upcoming war, and his eye firmly on Anakin Skywalker, Palpatine begins his own plans for taking over the galaxy.


This book is amazing. James Luceno is one of my all-time favourite Star Wars authors, as has been well-chronicled here on this blog, and I do particularly enjoy his prequel-era novels from the Legends canon. I don’t really know why I had put off reading this for so long, but I suppose other books have come under my glance, and whatnot. Luceno is definitely steeped in Star Wars lore, and is able to weave a story around the existing body of literature with ease. References bogged down his first novel for the franchise, Agents of Chaos: Hero’s Trial, but over the years since then he has shown himself to be adept at wielding the mythos like no other.

That said, the book is definitely much more interesting when it can be its own animal. The first two-thirds are an absolute joy, as we see Plagueis established as both a Sith Lord and his alter-ego, Hego Damask. The politics of the Republic are one of the more interesting aspects of the lore, to me, so it was fascinating to see how things worked at this point. As the story wore on, and we got to the point where it needed to weave in and out of pre-existing material, however, things did tend to get a little more muddy, almost forced, due to the fact that Luceno was trying to use characters who had already been written about – ironically, I think this was at its worst when he was trying to weave Palpatine and Valorum into his own Cloak of Deception.

Cloak of Deception, incidentally, is one of my all-time favourite Star Wars novels, and I will doubtless be writing up some thoughts on that book sometime soon!

Attempts to tie up loose ends, and weld the narrative firmly into the established events around The Phantom Menace aside, things certainly gather momentum as the book moves on. The middle portion, where Palpatine is moving up the political ranks and trying to learn more about the Dark Side, did often feel a little bit like it was dragging, but nevertheless I think it was good to let the plot breathe in this way. The story of the apprenticeship of such a seminal character as Emperor Palpatine should not be treated lightly, after all! I do wish that this was maybe a duology, and we could actually have expanded upon certain parts. For sure, the book jumps ahead a few years twice, to eliminate some of the more mundane stuff, but I thought there were a couple of missed opportunities for further exploring the characters in the wider universe. I mean, we’re likely to never see Darth Plagueis in another book, as this one pretty much tells his entire life story, and the same is true for Palpatine, so it would have been interesting, to me, for the story to have been properly expanded upon.

Something that almost seems to have been glossed over, or just mentioned in passing at first, is the creation of Anakin Skywalker within the Force. I suppose it’s possible that George Lucas wanted this to have been kept deliberately vague (Lucas, for those who don’t know, had a significant amount of input into this novel, making it as close to G-canon as any other book had come up to this point). Somewhere between the end of Part Two and the start of Part Three, Sidious and Plagueis both undertake a Sith ritual that shifts the balance of the Dark Side, almost like they’re firing the starter pistol to let the Jedi know that they’re coming for them. It’s intended to be a grand scheme to show that the Dark Side really is ascendant in the galaxy. When Palpatine then learns of the existence of Anakin, he mentally back-tracks and learns that the boy was born around this time, and it is theorized that Anakin could have been a product of the Force “fighting back”. It’s interesting, because since Revenge of the Sith, I think most fans had been of the mindset that Plagueis’ experiments with midi-chlorians had actually caused the birth of Anakin, but it turns out that he genuinely is a product of the Force itself.

Interesting…

There are a lot of call-backs to the Darth Bane trilogy, and often Luceno will reference all manner of Darths as part of the history of the Sith. It’s interesting to note that Plagueis sees himself as the last of the line of the Bane tradition, but even when the Rule of Two was still in force with his master, Darth Tenebrous, there were still Dark Acolytes being trained to use the Force, as Tenebrous seemed to need a failsafe against the loss of Plagueis as an apprentice. I suppose this meant the revelation of Palpatine training Darth Maul in secret on Mustafar was slightly less jarring. I suppose this problem of three Sith lords being around at the same time could have been solved by having Sidious kill Plagueis before the timeline of The Phantom Menace, but for whatever reason, it was decided to place the death of Plagueis at the eve of the Battle of Naboo.

Supreme Leader Snoke

I mean, that assumes that Plagueis died, of course. Since The Force Awakens debuted in 2015, fans have been theorizing that Snoke is in fact Plagueis, pointing to the wounds on his face (particularly his mouth) as being in a good fit. I’m not personally a fan of this idea, not least because Plagueis is said to have been using the Force to heal himself, and intended to return to the galaxy as co-Chancellor with Sidious, and be revealed to have fully healed. If he had survived Sidious’ attack, then surely the interval of 50+ years would have seen him not only return from the dead, but continue that process? The mangled mess that is Supreme Leader Snoke is, I feel, a new character – at least, I bloody hope so!

Anyway!

Darth Plagueis is a cracking book. Even if it is, after all, no longer canon, it is still well worth reading, even today!

Star Wars: Thrawn – Treason (a review)

Hey everybody,
So I’m trying to catch up here with all of the books that I’ve read so far this autumn (although there haven’t been all that many, truth be told!) and today it’s time for the conclusion to the new Thrawn trilogy, Treason!

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After the events of the second book, I had decent hopes for the third. Any book with the Emperor on the cover has got to be worth reading, right?

The novel takes place sometime after a raid on the TIE Defender assembly line on Lothal by Hera Syndulla and Kanan Jarrus, which I believe was featured in an episode of Rebels. Thrawn is desperate to secure funding for the project, but unfortunately Director Krennic’s Stardust project is eating up Imperial resources, and Tarkin informs the Grand Admiral that there isn’t enough to go around. Stardust has been put back a little by the problem of grallocs – larger cousins to mynocks – attacking the shipping points, so to settle the problem of funding, Tarkin suggests a wager – if Thrawn can solve Krennic’s problem within one week, the Defender project will receive funding. If not, any additional funds will be plowed straight into Stardust. Tarkin and Grand Admiral Savit both approve the plan, and Tarkin, who has designs to take over the Stardust project one day, quietly tells Savit to help Thrawn however he can.

Krennic leaves Thrawn with his aide, Ronan, to effectively try to ensure the problem is resolved, but outside of the week stipulated by Tarkin. This felt a bit weird to me, if I’m honest, as it seemed like quite the flimsy premise for a book, although in retrospect I suppose it was quite indicative of how irresponsible the upper echelons of the Imperial military can be…

There is a lot of politicking between the moffs and grand admirals that pepper the book, with each trying to claim credit over the other. Krennic admits to Ronan that he wants to claim the credit for solving the gralloc problem for himself, which is perhaps symptomatic of the man himself, as we see him in Rogue One: Catalyst pretty much using Galen Erso’s scientific prowess to bolster his own position.

Meanwhile, however, Thrawn manages to deduce that the grallocs are not eating ships, but that the attacks appear to be a ruse to steal their cargo. The Chimera follows one such lost ship’s vector, and the Imperials find the ship and its crew murdered on an abandoned space station.

The Imperials have attracted the attention of a Chiss patrol ship under the command of Admiral Ar’alani, under whom is serving none other than Eli Vanto. While their reunion is far from friendly, Thrawn and the Chiss begin to work together to get to the bottom of the larger threat, that of the Grysks. Backtracking further along the ship’s vector, they find a cloaked warship at an asteroid base and engage in a brief skirmish, destroying the Grysks and discovering a young Chiss navigator named Un’hee being used by them. Ar’alani believes that Un’hee can allow the Chiss to discover the location of the Grysks’ base, and destroy the alien threat once and for all. Despite Ronan’s protests that the Grysks have nothing to do with the grallocs, and calling Thrawn’s loyalty into question, Thrawn believes that the Grysks pose a very real threat to the Empire, having already penetrated far into Imperial space, and so continues on with Ar’alani.

Vanto is given the task of sifting through data on the missing Stardust supply ships, and deduces that the contents of 28 of these ships had enough parts to make a total of eight complete turbolaser batteries. Suspicion falls on Governor Haveland, the governor in charge of the sector, and Thrawn dispatches Vanto and Ronan to the Aloxor system in an attempt to find out what Haveland is up to.

The mission uncovers that local smugglers are moving goods through the system on orders of Grand Admiral Savit. Vanto and Ronan are almost captured as spies, but rescued by an ISB operative sent by Colonel Yularen as a favour to Thrawn. They learn that the smugglers are moving the gas used as bait for the grallocs, adding a further dimension to the proceedings.

Meanwhile, Thrawn and Ar’alani track the Grysks to a communications hub, and manage to defeat the aliens and rescue some of the original pirates behind the Imperial thefts. Thrawn and Ar’alani manage to destroy the Grysk threat, before Thrawn then travels to the Sev Tok system to rendezvous with Savit. There, he confronts the corrupt Grand Admiral with proof of his illicit dealings, all encrypted on a data card that uses an encryption key reserved for sole use by the grand admirals. Savit, under pressure, admits that Stardust has been bleeding the Imperial navy dry, and his principle concern was to ensure vital supplies could find their way to the navy. Savit attempts to defeat Thrawn, but the nature of his treason loses him command of his men, and Thrawn prevails.

Ronan’s report to Krennic and Tarkin is that Thrawn failed to eliminate the grallocs in time. Tarkin promises to divert funding to Thrawn once Stardust has been completed. Thrawn determines to return to Lothal, and Tarkin assigns Captain Pellaeon to the Chimera to assist him.

The new Thrawn trilogy has been a bit uneven, for me. While each book has its good parts and bad, there is always that nagging feeling at the back of my mind, that this isn’t the Thrawn trilogy that I know and love so much. That said, the trilogy did get better as it moved along, reaching a high point with the second book, and then seeing a slight falling-off in the third (in my opinion).

See, Treason is based on a bet that Thrawn cannot solve the gralloc problem for Krennic within a week. That feels like such a flimsy premise for a story, especially when you look at how that story unfolds, with the fight against the Grysks. As I said earlier, it does reveal perhaps more than I’d first thought about the upper echelons of the Empire, and how a lot of this stuff is like a game for them. But it just felt a little bit off, somehow.

Thrawn is much as we know him to be, once more, which was heartening after the Thrawn-at-school that we had in the first book. Eli Vanto is back, so we get to see a bit of what has been going on with him, though I felt the payoff between him and Thrawn felt a little bit lacking, somehow. Vanto seems to have embraced his life among the Chiss a little too limply, for me. I don’t know – I kept expecting more from that part of the story, and didn’t really get it in the end.

There is a lot going on in this book, and for that, I really liked it. The stuff with the Chiss added an extra layer to the story, which made this book feel like more than just the general Empire vs Rebels stuff we’re used to seeing for this timeframe. The sub-plot with Vanto and Ronan was almost like a return to the Zahn books of old, as we see the fringe through his eyes like nobody else seems able to capture. I do like Thrawn, but maybe we could get more Zahn books in the vein of Scoundrels? Far-flung, dusty worlds with battered and worn cantinas, street-toughs and crime bosses are all realised in a very Zahn-esque way, and I do love it!

Seeing Krennic and the Stardust project once more was a bit of a surprise, as it has almost begun to feel like he might be the sort of character we’ll never really get to now that his story has basically been told through Catalyst and Rogue One, so that was nice.

All in all, I think Treason was a decent end to the series, managing to continue the story, wrapping up some aspects while – potentially – setting up the future. Thrawn is now with Pellaeon on the Chimera, do we think that Disney means to make the Thrawn Trilogy canon, after all? Who the hell knows…

What we do know, however, is that Zahn will be back with The Ascendancy Trilogy, starting next May…

Star Wars: Battlefront – Twilight Company (a review)

Hey everybody!
It may have taken some time, but I’ve finally finished Battlefront: Twilight Company last night, so I thought I’d come here and ramble about my thoughts just ahead of Celebration 2019 – where, it is rumoured, we’ll finally get to hear some long-awaited news of Episode IX!

This book was really good. I need to get that out there right away. I’ve been feeling a little less-than-impressed with the new canon over the last few months, I was really chuffed to finally find a book that I actually thought was a decent read pretty much all the way through. A lot of reviews mention that it does drag a little in the middle, but the story that it tells overall is so interesting that, by the end of it, I could forgive that.

I was so impressed, I made an 8-minute video rambling about it!

So the story follows the titular Twilight Company as they fight a rear-guard action in the Mid Rim, which in itself is quite fascinating. (Not for the first time, I’ve found myself wondering how a story with the Big Three would look set in this particular event). On the planet Haidoral Prime, during an open recruit for the Company, the Imperial Governor there, Everi Chalis, surrenders to the Alliance with the promise of information about Imperial military logistics, possibly the sort of information that could help to swing the tide of the war back in the Rebels’ favour. Her defection doesn’t go unnoticed, and Prelate Verge, a former protege of Count Vidian, is tasked to find her, so brings Captain Tabor Seitaron out of his teaching post at Carida in order to assist in the hunt.

Twilight Company’s luck goes from bad to worse with Chalis along for the ride, and the soldiers are convinced that she is some sort of bad-luck charm. However, once she has presented her information to the Captain of the Company, arrangements are made to take her to Hoth and the Alliance High Command. However, it really does go from bad to worse while at the secret base on the ice planet, as not long after Chalis has made her presentation to High Command, the Empire arrives and the Battle of Hoth begins!

Chalis is convinced that Vader is on the planet chasing her down, but when the Millennium Falcon manages to escape the Dark Lord’s clutches, Vader turns his attention on Chalis and crushes her throat in an attempt to find the location of the rebels. Chalis and the others only manage to escape with their lives because they don’t know where Leia and the others have fled to.

However, during the battle, the Company Captain is killed, and Twilight Company is left in a sort of limbo while they try to gain news of their next orders. It’s at this point that the book seems to slow down a bit, though I suppose it could be seen as reflective of the fact the Company itself is wandering aimlessly until Chalis, getting over the fact that she was never that important to the top brass in the Empire, comes up with a plan to re-energize them all: disable the shipyards of Kuat. To do this, she plots to make a series of surgical strikes at different planets along the Rimma Trade Route, forcing the Empire to redeploy resources that would be used in defense of the shipyards.

These strikes go perfectly well until they reach Sullust. Captain Seitaron has managed to pick apart Chalis’ plan to the point where he could guess she would hit Sullust or Malastare, and so they arrive in-system with a Star Destroyer, shooting down the rebels’ ship and stranding them on the planet. The rebels team up with local resistance cells, one of the leaders of which is none other than Nien Nunb, and manage to hold off the Imperials while Chalis, who everyone believes to be pursuing her own personal vendetta at this point, manages to get herself aboard the Star Destroyer and kill Verge as well as disabling the ship with an ion bomb. Seitaron calls a retreat, and the rebels manage to claim a victory.

I really enjoyed this book, in case it wasn’t clear!

There was, somehow, a feeling of returning to the Star Wars I grew up with. I said in my video ramble that it reminded me a lot of the X-Wing novels, which were about the regular troops doing regular troop stuff, and there is something really interesting about that. For starters, everybody in the book is fair game to be killed off, and there was one death in particular at the end that I found myself quite surprised by. There are a lot of call-backs to the lore of yore, such as references to Cartao (Timothy Zahn’s short story ‘Hero of Cartao’) as well as very obscure tie-ins to the movies, like Twilight Company hitting the planet Xagobah (the homeworld of the podracer Neva Kee from Episode I). I’ve sometimes felt myself a bit lost with this new canon, but as it happens, I found this book made me feel right back at home in the GFFA.

It does have that lag in the middle, as I mentioned, and I did feel myself cringing a little during some of the Hoth scenes, as it felt a little bit like it was being shoe-horned into the movie setting during the confrontation with Vader. At the very beginning of the book, there was also a vague sense of this being a book based off a game, with the sort of mission-style narrative that can sometimes feel far too join-the-dots and generic. However, that sense quickly left me, and we’re left with this really good book – apparently, it’s the author’s first!

If I ever get around to writing a novel, I hope it will turn out this good!