Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith (a review)

Hey everybody,
Last week, I finished reading Shadow of the Sith, a new novel in the sequel-era of Star Wars that seems to pull together a lot of the story whisps that we’ve been getting pretty much since 2015 and The Force Awakens.

The book begins with a young couple, Miramir and Dathan, escaping from some nebulous threat with their young daughter Rey. Pirates attack, but they are saved by the New Republic. However, the New Republic squadron that helped them is unable to provide further shelter, so they are sent on their way to a former Alliance collaborator. Meanwhile, we meet Ochi of Bestoon, the Jedi hunter from Episode IX, who is trying to find the lost Sith planet of Exegol to heal himself. His chance comes when some Sith cultists arrive, telling him to bring them “the girl”, and giving him a Sith dagger that seems to be somewhat sentient.

While Ochi is recruiting muscle, he is overheard by Lando Calrissian, who decides he must help the family as he has been unable to rescue his own missing daughter, Kadara. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker travels with Lor San Tekka to Yoturba to investigate a possible Jedi Temple site, and discovers some fragments of kyber crystal along with a damaged Sith holocron. Luke has been plagued for weeks with visions of a dark wasteland planet, so travels to Tython where he has the strongest vision yet – indeed, it is only through his father’s spiritual intervention that he is able to return to reality. Lando arrives and recruits Luke’s help in tracking down the family, so they head to the New Republic base where they find out the family was given directions to the former collaborator. 

However, Ochi almost beats them to it, but fortunately Miramir is able to hijack a ship and flee. Luke is attacked by a mysterious figure in a mask wielding a scimitar-shaped lightsaber, the blade of Darth Noctyss, who is clearly after the fragments of kyber crystal he has recovered. With the family gone, Luke and Lando travel to an acquaintance of the Jedi Master, a former Acolyte of the Beyond who is able to track ships through hyperspace. Komat is able to track the family to a refuelling station, but Ochi, with the help of the Corporate Sector Authority troopers, also gets to them. Turns out, Dathan has come up with a plan to deal with the pursuit once and for all – stealing Ochi’s own ship being part one. Thanks to Lando and Komat’s help, they are able to get away. Luke has left to track down his attacker, Kiza, and finds her in a ruined Trade Federation core ship. The mask she wears is possessed by an ancient Sith lord, and imbues her with power as the Sith aims to be reborn. During their fight, Luke believes both Kiza and the mask to have been destroyed and so returns to Lando in time to help the family to flee.

Miramir and Dathan return to Jakku, where they strike a deal with Unkar Plutt to look after Rey while they attempt to deal with their pursuers once and for all. Luke, Lando and Komat are confronted by the spectre of the ancient Sith lord using Kiza’s corpse to attempt to find a way to Exegol to be reborn, but Luke is able to destroy the mask and defeat it once and for all. Lando learns that the family have possibly travelled to Jakku, so follows them. However, Ochi has got there first, and already killed both the parents in orbit. Believing them to have hidden Rey on Pasaana, thanks to some beads Miramir dies holding, Ochi travels to the desert planet but, filled with the power of the Sith dagger, his judgment is clouded and he is swallowed by the quicksand there.

Luke and Lando bury Miramir and Dathan on a former smuggler’s hideout world, then travel to Pasaana where they find Ochi’s ship but the trail has seemingly gone cold. Lando decides to stay on-world to continue his search both for Rey and his own daughter, while Luke continues to build his Jedi Temple on Ossus.


There is a hell of a lot going on in this book, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it so much. It does have a fairly narrow focus, with just Luke and Lando chasing after Rey’s parents, with some hijinks from Ochi along the way, but otherwise it’s not exactly a galaxy spanning epic in the vein of some of the Bantam books from years ago. But the story is dense, and there are so many call-backs (and call-forwards, if such a thing is, well, a thing) that I can’t help but love it.

First off, it does feel a bit like Rey’s parents are a bit of a mcguffin for the whole thing, and there’s no real character behind them. They’re obviously fleeing from something nefarious, but we don’t really get to know what. It is inferred that the Sith cultists from Exegol want him back, possibly because he is a loose end in Palpatine’s return, maybe because he could potentially lead people to Exegol, but it is never explicit, and after a while it begins to wear thin. I feel like I would have wanted more meat on those bones, but never mind. We do get the flashback scenes, where Rey is saying goodbye to her parents, and then reaching for the sky and their departing ship, which nicely serves to link into the sequel films in that way.

I think the main tie-in comes with Ochi from Episode IX, and of course, the droid D-O. The final chapters feel like everything is being tied into a neat little bow so that Ochi’s ship is waiting to be discovered, Lando is now living on Pasaana, etc. There isn’t really a timeline specific point for the book, much like all of the new novels, but we do know this book takes place before Bloodline. Given that the Rey flashback scenes take place here, and we’re told that she’s six years old, this places it thirteen years before The Force Awakens, or seventeen years after Return of the Jedi. So we can fix it in 21ABY, if we’re using the old calendar. In case you find it easier (like me!) to refer back to what happened during the Legends timeline, this book takes place after the Hand of Thrawn duology, but before Survivor’s Quest.

Anyway!

A lot of this book made me want to re-watch The Rise of Skywalker, I have to admit. The way it deftly sets things up so that a lot of the plot threads are woven into something more like a cohesive narrative is really quite nice. I really liked the addition of the Corporate Sector Authority, and the fact their soldiers are still called Espos made me smile. I like the fact that Lor San Tekka is given a little bit more of a role to play, although we still need something that deals with the Church of the Force, I feel! I would love there to be something that would pull together these sorts of spiritual elements, like the Guardians of the Whills and whatnot. But even while we get more blanks filled in with books like this, the post-Original Trilogy era still feels wide open and a mystery, which is more than a little annoying. I want more of the full galactic picture, you know? It feels like the focus is too narrow these days, and nobody wants to give us novels like the old Legends stuff that gave us an idea of what the galaxy was like. But I could go on about this all day.

I do also like the callbacks to those interludes from the Aftermath trilogy. While the books didn’t really inspire me, I think I most enjoyed seeing those interludes, as we did get more of that galactic scale from them. It’s where we first got to see the Acolytes of the Beyond (the acknowledgements actually refers to Kiza being Chuck Wendig’s character, I’d clearly forgotten the specifics there!) so I did like the fact that was drawn on. We get more on the role that Yupe Tashu played in the earlier trilogy, as well, which further helps to join things together. Star Wars has always striven to be one long narrative, and it’s something that really irritates me recently about the new canon stuff being all over the place, and almost existing in a vacuum. I think we had a tiny bit in Resistance Reborn, and now we’ve got this as well, so slowly things are beginning to cross-reference and give us that feel of it all being one big story.

Of course, there are still so many problems with the sequel trilogy, the book cannot remedy that. In fact, I was quite dismayed by the way Disney is handling the source material here, when Luke is fighting Kiza and says something along the lines of nobody is ever too far gone over to the Dark Side of the Force. I mean, what does Yoda say? “Forever will it dominate your destiny”? Is this the House of Mouse telling us that it’s all sunshine and rainbows after all? It’s just one line, sure, and I can kinda see Luke would maybe think that after redeeming his father, but as we’ve discussed already, he did that seventeen years prior to this novel. It’s not like he’s all that optimistic still, surely?

Definitely have to deduct a star for that slip up. 

But otherwise, this book is pretty much the sort of thing I want from Star Wars. We’re getting a good space adventure with Luke and Lando, we’ve got the Sith working in the shadows to their own ends, and we’ve got some serious effort to draw elements from earlier books together and join up those dots. As a bonus, we even get some Ben Solo being undervalued action – I’m not saying I can totally see why he’d turn out a wrong ‘un, but it does make it easy to see how Luke’s treatment of Ben would leave the padawan susceptible to Snoke’s manipulations. 

Possibly the best new Star Wars novel since Bloodline. I liked it a lot!

The Great Prequel Re-Read, part six

Continuing the Prequel re-read today, let’s start with Hero of Cartao. It’s a short novella from the pen of Timothy Zahn no less, and deals with the Separatist invasion of the planet Cartao. The planet has an industrial facility called Spaarti Creations, which is notable for the alien species who work there, who are able to make pretty much anything to order. They’re pressed into service by Kinman Doriana to make cloning tanks to help bolster the clone troopers, because apparently Kamino’s process is taking too long. Whether the Trade Federation actually got wind of this or not is unclear, but they soon arrive on-world as well and take over the plant. A lot of fighting ensues, but both sides don’t want to damage the plant itself. However, a Republic cruiser is eventually sent to help the beleaguered Republic fighters, and crashes straight into the factory.

This story basically exists to explain why the Emperor had Spaarti cloning tanks in his facility on Wayland, after the revelation that the clones were good, and made in Kamino. I’ve mentioned this briefly before, but when Tim Zahn was writing his original Thrawn trilogy, it was theorized that the Clone Wars pitted evil clonemasters against the Republic, and Palpatine was able to capitalize upon this to ensure his election to Supreme Chancellor. With the reversal that the clones we see are actually fighting on the side of the Republic, some retconning was required!

That said, the story isn’t bad in and of itself, it just seems a bit by the numbers at times. It’s fascinating to see Kinman Doriana again, of course, as he thinks he is playing both sides by serving both Sidious and Palpatine, without knowing they’re the same person. There’s an element here that suggests he thinks he’s pulling the wool over Palpatine’s eyes, which is kinda interesting. A significant part of the story deals with the droid siege of the factory complex, and the atmosphere of an occupied planet is really well-written, I think.

It’s by no means an important story, even when taken as the explanation for the Spaarti cylinders. I suppose it’s nice to have, but it wasn’t a huge burning question that I had, that is now answered!

From Cartao, let’s now head to Praesitlyn. Yes, we must!

Jedi Trial is the fifth novel in the original Clone Wars multimedia project, which began with Shatterpoint. In case you didn’t read my earlier blog on that book, between 2002-2005, Del Rey aimed to tell the story of the clone wars in real time, publishing these books while Revenge of the Sith was filming. Written by real-life veterans of war, it tells the story of Anakin’s progression from padawan to Jedi Knight, during a mission to the strategic comms centre of Praesitlyn. With Obi-Wan off doing other stuff, Anakin is cooling his heels at the temple when Nejaa Halcyon asks for him to join him on his mission. Nejaa, himself something of a rogue Jedi, is of course the Jedi grandfather of Corran Horn, who was one of the great stalwarts of the old expanded universe, and star of any book written by Michael Stackpole. Nejaa and Anakin both have secret wives, and they bond over their shared transgressions against the Jedi Code.

The leader of the droids on this instance is Pors Tonith, of the Intergalactic Banking Clan. The ground forces on Praesitlyn take up the main chunk of the story, however, which is probably because of the authors’ experience in similar fields. We get to go through military strategy where it actually makes sense (even if the situation doesn’t), and the exhaustive detail over stuff like military supply is, well, exhausting.

When you read this as a military sci-fi novel with Star Wars characters, it’s kinda fascinating. When you read it as a Star Wars novel that promises to show Anakin front and centre, possibly facing off against Asajj Ventress given how prominent she is on the cover, you’re going to be disappointed to the point where it’s just criminal. Before or since, we’ve never had a Star Wars novel tell us how important the quartermaster is to the army. The level of detail, which I keep banging on about, is off the charts impressive. But this isn’t what Star Wars is about. At least, not for me.

Nejaa and Anakin arrive to relieve the Praesitlyn Defense Force, and find barely anybody left. Anakin is in his element during combat, and performs exceptionally in both rescuing some hostages and capturing Pors Tonith. In the later space battle, his Force-aided skills allow him to cheat death, and the Council has no choice but to agree that his actions are worthy of becoming a Jedi Knight.

Somewhere in here there is a good idea for a story, which showcases Anakin’s ability when he is unfettered from Obi-Wan’s caution. Indeed, I don’t think there has been a story where I’ve actually liked Anakin Skywalker as a character, because authors are forever trying to foreshadow his turn into Darth Vader. But Anakin here is actually a pretty competent military commander, and his command of the Force is almost instinctive, as though he really is some kinda living prophecy. There’s a lot of derring-do, of course, but I don’t think it has ever been explained so clearly before that Anakin behaves like this because he knows he can do it. It might seem like suicide for him to lead a charge on the Separatists’ position, but he knows he will be successful, so of course he does it. It’s an interesting take on Anakin, and reminds me somewhat of how Horus Lupercal is portrayed in Horus Rising – no effort to foreshadow the monster he will become, instead we have a genuinely likeable guy.

Unfortunately, the story ignores Anakin for about half of the page count. Instead, we get Odie and Erk, the unlikely romance plotline that I really, really wish had been stripped out of the book. We also barely get any Asajj Ventress, only when Pors Tonith reports in to her. Why is she featured so prominently on the cover? Grr.

Overall, the book is just bad. I’ve read it three times now, and each time it has been, well, a trial to get through. I remember one Christmas-time, reading only the interesting bits and skipping over the other stuff – I basically read it in half a day, because the bad far outweighed the good. Like I said, somewhere in here there is a good story, but for a book that deals with Anakin’s Jedi trials, I was expecting far more Jedi stuff as we got to learn all about how the Council decides who is ready to graduate from Jedi school. The fact that the Prequels have been institutionalising the Jedi to make us believe the Trials are basically a formal test, it turns out that it’s actually much closer to what Luke has to do in Return of the Jedi, and it amounts to basically doing really well as a Jedi without supervision.

Every time I think about this book, I want to like it, because I want it to be good. And every time, bloody Odie and Erk drag me down and infuriate me over everything that’s bad about it. While it’s arguably a better Star Wars book than Shatterpoint, because it gives us more of the actual war and so on, I think the Clone Wars novels series in general is just a bit of a let-down. In Shatterpoint, we learnt that there haven’t really been any major offensives in the conflict, but instead we’ve had a lot of shadow operations as Jedi have attempted to negotiate planetary governments staying in the Republic, or destabilising those who have joined the Separatists. However, given that this is a galactic conflict, we should imagine that there are massive theatres of contested space. Instead, we get these kinds of stories where major characters are sent to tiny backwater worlds where the book stays on one world for the most part. It’s a complaint that I’ve made before, I know, but we just don’t get that kind of galactic sweep that we have in stuff like Zahn’s books – or, for that matter, in the movies themselves.

Anyway, I think I’ve talked this one to death. Anyone else notice how I spend far too much time talking about the books I don’t like?! Up next is Yoda: Dark Rendezvous, and I seem to remember that I do like this one!

Star Wars: The Approaching Storm

Well, guys, I finished it!

The Approaching Storm is one of those Star Wars books that I know I don’t really like, but nevertheless I find myself willing to reread it more easily than the more truly dull books.

The seemingly insignificant planet Ansion is tied by many treaties to its more powerful neighbours. President of the Commerce Guild Shu Mai hatches a plan to have Ansion secede from the Republic, which would mean the planet’s neighbours would also be compelled to do so, creating the start of the Separatist movement. Shu Mai asserts that nobody would notice if Ansion did leave the Republic, yet within a page or two we learn that actually yes, many people are also aware of the network of treaties and alliances that bind Ansion and others, and the Jedi have dispatched both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luminara Unduli, and their padawans, to mediate this “border dispute”.

The planet of Ansion exists in tension between the city dwellers, many of whom wish to secede to open up free trade, and the nomads who roam the open prairies, who wish to remain in the Republic to keep the protection afforded to them by the many Republic acts in favour of ethnic groups. The Jedi offer a bargain to the city folk, to stay in the Republic if a treaty can be negotiated with the nomads. And so the Jedi embark across the prairie to find the Overclan, to whom the rest of the nomads generally listen.

Eventually they find the Borokii nomads, and a treaty is negotiated, and the Jedi are able to keep Ansion in the Republic, and all is well.


So, why did I give this book a 2-star rating on Goodreads? Well, I like my Star Wars books to have the sort of planet-hopping adventures with actual consequences or significant changes taking place. There’s nothing wrong with a book that is set on just one world, of course, provided the story is actually good, and stuff happens. However, TAS achieves very little, if anything, of consequence. We get some attempts to foreshadow Anakin turning into Darth Vader, while cognisant that he’s just a teenager, and the book actually marks the first appearance of Shu Mai and, indeed, Count Dooku himself. I think the book was marketed as a lead-in to Attack of the Clones while actually the only real impact it makes on the film is to explain Mace’s remark about Obi-Wan and Anakin returning from a border dispute on Ansion.

The book gives us Luminara Unduli and her padawan Barriss Offee, though, and these two are really very interesting. Their inclusion was meant, I believe, to act as a counterpoint to the relationship of Obi-Wan and Anakin, plus the added bonus of being able to say “I know them!” when they have that brief two second scene in the arena on Geonosis. However, as representative of what Jedi are supposed to be like, I think it’s really interesting to see the two of them throughout the book.

I also really like seeing Shu Mai predominantly acting as the villain of the piece. She’s a bit like the shadowy puppet master, even though we know she reports to Dooku etc.

Many of the bits I like about the book come in throwaway sentences, unfortunately. One such is a discussion of how diplomacy works when there are millions of languages in the galaxy. As it happens, the Jedi take a kind of short language course as they travelled to Ansion, allowing them to converse with the natives out on the prairie without the need for a protocol droid. It’s interesting, because we don’t normally get this kind of detail in Star Wars books.

Most of this book is spent with the four Jedi crossing the grasslands, and we get a variety of scenelets that allow us a glimpse into the planet. In terms of novel writing, I can’t help but admire the breadth of scope we get here, seeing all manner of minutiae from across the rolling plains. But as a Star Wars novel, against the backdrop of galactic secession that we know will form the backdrop to the clone wars, I really don’t care why a certain grazer has six legs, or a certain other grazer has three eyes arranged vertically rather than horizontally. It’s interesting on one level, but I don’t want a Star Wars book to be on that level, if I’m honest.

Thinking about this now, I want this book instead to dive into who Count Dooku is, why he’s the leader of the group of industrialists who want to leave the Republic, and why Padme thinks he would try to kill her. I want more galactic intrigue, too – not this bumbling low-level stuff we get here. Fine, if Ansion is the best we have, then let’s still send four Jedi there to mediate – but let’s show it for what it is, and have all eyes on Ansion. Let’s find out what Bail Organa thinks about the situation, or whoever is in charge over on Corellia or Kuat.

And the biggest thing, let Ansion secede. The Jedi should fail, and this book becomes more than just a throwaway Obi-Wan and Anakin story, but instead it actually shows the beginning of the Separatist crisis, which is already about to kick off as the opening crawl flies up the screen.

However, instead we have a zoological gazetteer of Ansion that is vaguely tied in to the GFFA. Which is a shame.

Anyway, let’s try not to get too down on things. We have that great romance coming next (cough), it’s time for Attack of the Clones!

Star Wars: Outbound Flight

Outbound Flight

Continuing the Great Prequel Re-Read, yesterday I finished reading Outbound Flight, by Timothy Zahn. The storyline was expanded out of a paragraph included in Dark Force Rising, where Luke is researching the Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth and learns he was part of the Outbound Flight expedition.

The book takes place before the outbreak of the Clone Wars, in 27BBY, and focuses on the efforts of Jedi Master Jorus C’baoth to launch the Outbound Flight venture, an attempt to reach a new galaxy for colonisation. Six dreadnoughts, tethered together around a central storage core that carries enough provisions to last for generations, on a mission of exploration. The project has languished for many years for a variety of reasons, but following a successful negotiation between the Barlok and the Corporate Alliance, C’baoth is able to ride the wave of popularity to force his project through. It turns out that C’baoth has foreseen dark days ahead for the Jedi (it is hinted that he has foreseen Order 66) and so wishes to take as many Jedi with him as possible. He eventually gets 16, along with a number of techs and families who wish to leave the corruption of the Republic behind and start a new life in the Unknown Regions or beyond.

However, the Council don’t especially trust C’baoth, and so assign Obi-Wan Kenobi to keep tabs on him, both during the mission to Barlok and the initial test flight for Outbound Flight. Kenobi is quite concerned by some of the practices C’baoth introduces on the dreadnoughts, such as practicing the Jedi mind-meld technique, and training Force sensitive children much older than the infants normally trained by the Jedi. He eventually wishes to remain aboard for the full project, which is anticipated to return to the Republic within 10-15 years, but Supreme Chancellor Palpatine himself intervenes to ensure Obi-Wan and Anakin return to Republic space before Outbound Flight heads into the Unknown Regions.

Kenobi isn’t the only one concerned with C’baoth however, and many of the families and workers aboard the vessel grow increasingly disaffected by what they perceive to be C’baoth’s tyranny. C’baoth is convinced that his insight from the Force makes him the one able to know what is best for those non-Force-sensitives, but many see this as crossing the line into Jedi rule.

Meanwhile, a smuggler group that includes a very young Jorj Car’das find themselves on the edge of Wild Space, where they are apprehended by a Chiss task force led by Commander Thrawn. The Chiss keep them as uneasy guests for months on end, and Thrawn and Car’das form an unlikely friendship as they each learn the others’ language. Thrawn is part of the Expansionary Defence Force, whose remit is to patrol the space around the Chiss Ascendancy to watch for potential intruders, but never to act as an aggressor. However Thrawn, who subscribes to the maxim that the best defence is a good offence, is able to use Car’das to effectively neutralise the threat of the Vagaari raiders who have been coming ever-closer to the Ascendancy.

During his patrols, he comes across a Trade Federation/Techno Union battleforce lying in wait for somebody, and with meets with Kinman Doriana, who has assembled the warships in that region specifically to destroy Outbound Flight when it arrives. Doriana, working for Darth Sidious, believes Outbound Flight could jeopardise the Republic, and specifically Sidious’ plans for a new order, by coming into contact with an extra-galactic group referred to as Far Outsiders. Sidious had foreseen these invaders cutting a swathe across the galaxy, and intended to stall this until he had more firm control over the galaxy. Thrawn meets with Doriana, after the Chiss have effectively neutralised their task force, and realises Thrawn would be more than capable of destroying Outbound Flight. He introduces Thrawn to Sidious, who approves of the Chiss joining the conspiracy, and so the trap is set.

Car’das travels to the Vagaari last-known position and succeeds in tempting them to a strike against the Chiss, but they are diverted to the area of space where Outbound Flight is being held. Thrawn is able to manipulate the Jedi into using the Force to attack the minds of the Vagaari, before he then uses Doriana’s droid starfighters to disable Outbound Flight. Finally, he uses radiation bombs on Outbound Flight to ensure all crews aboard the six dreadnoughts are killed. However, a small group of dissidents against C’baoth’s “tyranny” were being held in the storage core, and survive this bombing. When the Chaf family arrive in an attempt to claim Outbound Flight and its technology for their own, these survivors are able to escape, only to crash-land on an unknown planet.


I was surprised by this book. I remember reading it when it came out, back in 2006, but my memory of the plot is just so hazy that it was like reading a new book! I do recall some aspects from the start, but the action with the Chiss, specifically Car’das and Thrawn, and the denouement as Outbound Flight is destroyed, was like uncharted territory! Which is just as well, in some respects, because the beginning on Barlok and Coruscant almost feels like it was shoehorned in as a compulsory element to force Anakin and Obi-Wan to have a role in yet another story.

Once we leave Barlok behind, and particularly once Obi-Wan and Anakin leave, things take a bit of a turn as we focus in on Zahn’s trio of Thrawn (and Car’das), C’baoth, and Kinman Doriana. Doriana was first introduced by Zahn in Vision of the Future, but has somehow become a firm part of Palpatine’s inner circle in my mind, so it’s nice to see the man himself again here. Part of the Trade Federation task force, there was an element of cognitive dissonance at first for me, as we have Thrawn on the Springhawk (which is familiar from the Ascendancy trilogy) attacking C’baoth and Outbound Flight (which has been a part of the lore since Dark Force Rising), while Kinman Doriana watches from the bridge of a Trade Federation battleship… worlds truly collide!

I always appreciate seeing more of Palpatine’s direct underlings like Sate Pestage and Kinman Doriana, so I did like getting to see him work to further Darth Sidious’ plots. It’s interesting that Doriana doesn’t know that Palpatine and Sidious are the same person, but he serves both individually. I believe it was some time during the Clone Wars that he eventually caught up to speed.

Jorus C’baoth behaves almost exactly as we would expect him to, from the behaviour of his mad clone in the original Thrawn trilogy. It’s almost too on-point, however, and you have to wonder how he was able to get away with being so overbearing during a time when he would have been in fairly regular contact with the likes of Mace and Yoda. I suppose it’s similar to Dooku, though (can you imagine getting the pair of them together?!) C’baoth’s actions aboard Outbound Flight, however, become increasingly reprehensible, though, and I was left wondering just how he could justify these to anybody, when he is quite clearly taking over the whole enterprise and ruling over the others aboard. Towards the end he is said to have fallen to the dark side, but it seems that he spends most of the novel on that path, anyway. Although it’s entirely possible also that he is simply meant as a different kind of Jedi, separate from the serene space monks that we otherwise get during the prequels. Hm.

The Chiss storylines I was particularly surprised by, because of how they fit in with the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy. I hadn’t realised that Admiral Ar’alani had a presence in the EU that went quite as far back as this! I think the only thing that felt a bit wrong was how the Chiss ships are able to get into hyperspace with no mention being made of the sky-walkers. As these parts were invariably being told from Car’das’s point of view, I suppose it’s easy to assume he just wasn’t paying enough attention, or maybe was too focused on Thrawn, or maybe even the caregiver was instructed to keep that side of things especially hidden from the humans on the bridge. Whatever. It’s a tiny niggle in a storyline that otherwise I did enjoy a great deal. Though much as with C’baoth, I did find myself exasperated by how short-sighted the Chiss are, but I suppose Thrawn has to shine…

All in all, a good book, though one that I wouldn’t say is particularly necessary to read during the Prequel re-read, per se. It fits in far more closely with Zahn’s later EU work, especially Survivor’s Quest, which was written to tie in with this book while it was still in the planning stages. But I’ll get to that book later in the year… It’s a shame that Anakin and Obi-Wan were shoved into the mix, because their storyline could pretty much be excised without losing anything from the main plot, but I’m not the first to point out that it’s probably a bad editorial choice.

Up next, we have The Approaching Storm!

Star Wars: Darth Maul Shadow Hunter

Following, to some extent, hot on the heels of the last book in the prequel timeline, Darth Maul Shadow Hunter takes place in the roughly 48 hours before The Phantom Menace begins. Darth Sidious has positioned Nute Gunray and his Neinoidian brethren at the head of the Trade Federation and, in retaliation for the Republic’s taxation of the Free Trade Zones, has told them to blockade Naboo, whose Senator Palpatine was one of the biggest supporters of taxation.

The problem that arises here is that Gunray’s deputy viceroy, Hath Monchar, has gone missing, clearly with the idea of selling the information about the impending blockade to the highest bidder, so Sidious sends his murderous apprentice to kill him. The Neimoidians, however, engage a bounty hunter to attempt to reel the wayward Monchar back in, and so we begin the manhunt.

On Coruscant, we meet down-on-his-luck information broker Lorn Pavan, and his protocol droid “business partner” I-Five. Desperate for money, the two meet with Monchar and agree to pay half a million credits for a holocron with the Neimoidian’s info. I-Five commits a bank fraud to finance the deal, but Darth Maul beats them to it and kills the Neimoidian, but fails to retrieve the holocron crystal due to the intervention of the bounty hunter Mawhi Lihnn. She blows up the domicile, forcing Maul to flee, but when Pavan arrives for the meeting, he is able to retrieve the crystal from the wreckage.

The manhunt goes up a notch then, as Maul is on the trail of Pavan. Meanwhile, Jedi padawan Darsha Assant is assigned to escort the Black Sun informant Oolth from the Crimson Corridor, a particularly rough area of the city, as her Jedi trials. She fails to do this, and Oolth is presumed dead when the two are attacked by hawk-bats. She returns to her master Anoon Bondara, who suggests they go to check before reporting it to the Council, but in the course of their investigation they discover the swirling maelstrom in the Force that is Darth Maul, and go to investigate. The two rescue Pavan and I-Five, and Anoon Bondara gives his life to allow for Darsha and the two information merchants to flee into the depths of the city.

The chase is on through the bowels of Coruscant, as the trio evade subhuman cannibals and Force-immune monsters before they arrive back in the Crimson Corridor, whereupon they are able to use a street gang’s secret method of getting up-levels and arrive in a disused power plant. Darth Maul, tired of continually chasing his quarry, hacks into the security cams to get ahead of them, and arrives at the power plant at the same time. He and Darsha duel, while I-Five uses a carbonite freezing chamber to allow for him and Pavan to survive the ensuing explosion that Darsha engineers, sacrificing herself in the process. Maul, using the Force to make sure, believes everyone to have died, and reports in to his master.

When they’ve thawed out, Pavan calls in a favour to get himself a ship to follow Maul to an orbital skyhook. He also asks for I-Five to be delivered to the Jedi Temple, but unfortunately his associate takes the opportunity to steal the droid. Meanwhile, Pavan travels to the skyhook and is able to retake the holocron due to having a Force-nullifying skin nodule from the earlier encounter in the labyrinth under the surface. Pavan flees into the public area of the skyhook, and runs straight into Senator Palpatine, who takes the holocron from him and offers him help. However, there is no escape from Darth Maul, and Pavan is killed.


I grew up with this book, more so than with Cloak of Deception as that one came out later. I used to love it so much, as it’s such an enjoyable adventure across the planet of Coruscant, being pretty much entirely set on the capital world. However, re-reading the book for the first time in years this past week, it surprised me a little just how it has slipped down in my estimation. Cloak of Deception will, I think, forever be a 5-star book, but this one has dropped to just the 3-stars now.

I still like it, don’t get me wrong, but I think that the story doesn’t feel particularly like Star Wars. I mean, sure, it makes all the right noises, but it’s like more of a noir-type detective story that’s set in New York or something, or maybe even something like a Batman story. But with Darth Maul as the villain. The mean streets of the Crimson Corridor are straight out of Gotham, or Hell’s Kitchen, and it kinda surprised me this time around just how tacked-on the GFFA is.

Something that struck me this time around was the fact we never follow up with the Neimoidians towards the end. Sidious calls them at the start, realises something is amiss with Monchar not being there, so sends Maul to look into it. The next time we see Sidious and the Neimoidians is in episode one, when they tell him about the Jedi ambassadors. I feel like we need some kind of closure there, even if it’s “your wayward colleague has been dealt with by the Sith – never lie to me again, Viceroy” or something. But I realise that this is a very minor thing!!

Lorn Pavan is an interesting protagonist, with a very interesting reason for disliking Jedi, but does suffer a bit of the Marty Sue complex – indeed, he’s even described by an alien bartender in glowing terms, which is just awkward. I-Five has always reminded me of Bender from Futurama, which I find hilarious when I think back on it. He is an interesting idea, and almost the precursor for Lando’s L3 in Solo, being free-thinking and all. I’m glad he crops up again in later stories, and I think I might actually add in the Medstar duology to my reading list as a result.

Darsha Assant is another interesting idea, a Jedi padawan failing her mission completely, but her growth along the rest of the story is really interesting to watch. I get the feeling that she passed her tests, after all. I’m not exactly annoyed with her, but what she represents. It’s fairly well-documented online and beyond how Episode I destroyed a lot of the mystique of the Force by bringing in midi-chlorians. Now, stuff like Darsha’s story here, at least how it starts, really abuse this further, as the Jedi trials become basically a final exam before graduating from university, and it’s just utterly ridiculous to me. I get that there wasn’t really anything in the established canon at this point to support my ideas of what the Jedi were, but the prequel trilogy really does a good job of making them a corporation (with Yoda as CEO), and material like this book just continue to reduce the situation down to something too worldly.

Another problem with the novel, I think, is it’s reliance on the movies. I’ve rambled about this before, but while Tatooine is a nothing dustball far away from anywhere, here it seems to be the planet in the universe where everybody plans to run away to – and while I get that he’s an information broker, Lorn Pavan’s knowledge of the geography of the planet is phenomenal indeed. We also have people surviving explosions by encasing themselves in carbonite. Hutt gangsters (because no other species will do), Gamorreans are the bodyguard species of choice, and so on. Obi-Wan Kenobi is really shoehorned into the story as being the one assigned to investigate Darsha’s disappearance, because clearly there are no other Jedi on Coruscant. It rather serves to shrink the universe, but that’s just my perspective, I guess.

All in all, it’s not a bad read. It’s not the best Star Wars story, but it’s a very straightforward book, and I don’t think it tries to be anything more than it is. It does stretch credulity a little, when the book takes place over roughly 48 hours, and the blockade is in place at the end of the story anyway, so you do finish the book wondering why Sidious was so worried about a potential leak if the timeframe was that short anyway. Surely he could adapt and just send the Federation out two days earlier than planned to blockade the planet? If there was some mention of the politics to justify that, it might have been a bit more believable.

But I do like to nit-pick here, and this is a book that I’ve read many times, so I’ve thought about these things a lot!

Up next is the big one, it’s the movie itself!!

Star Wars: The Fallen Star (a review)

The final book in the first phase of The High Republic, The Fallen Star picks up with Marchion Ro’s plan to completely wipe out the Jedi, and undermine the Republic throughout the Outer Rim. Synchronous raids across seemingly insignificant planets drive a host of injured refugees to Starlight Beacon, which is currently in orbit at Eiram assisting with a relief project there. A further Nihil attack against a remote Jedi temple is seen as proof of the uncoordinated death throes of the Nihil organisation, which was believed destroyed following the Republic Fair.

However, Marchion Ro has secretly dispatched a team of saboteurs to Starlight Beacon, and soon the full extent of the Nihil is shown as the space station is blasted in two, with catastrophic results. While Avar Kriss had pursued the Nihil and believed herself to have found The Eye, Lourna Dee, Stellan Gios took over the mantle of Marshal of Starlight Beacon. However, he is almost entirely unprepared for the catastrophe that befalls them all, even when Elzar Mann returns from his exile to help with the relief effort.

As if the physical damage to the station wasn’t enough, the Nihil have also released at least one of the leveler creatures aboard, which causes significant problems for the Jedi as they find themselves unable to concentrate and growing in fear. The creature kills three Jedi Knights, and the disaster continues to take its toll on our heroes, with Stellan paying the ultimate price when the Beacon crashes on the surface.


I have been enjoying the High Republic series so far, but I did feel as though this book fell a bit flat. It is almost exclusively set on Starlight Beacon, which feels less like the plush advert for Republic splendour that it seemed to be in Light of the Jedi, and instead more like the Death Star, only somehow less exciting. The disaster-movie atmosphere, though, was great –just when we think our heroes are going to pull through, something else goes horribly wrong and stuff. I’m not a sadist, but I did like the fact that it really came across like a huge disaster, much more so than the Hyperspace Disaster that kicked off the series, actually.

Of course, this hyper-focus on the Beacon really felt like it worked to the novel’s detriment, as it felt quite claustrophobic, and I did feel the same as those trapped aboard in the cargo bay, trying to get off. Stellan, the man of action from the second book, is now struck down with the weight of responsibility and, when he does encounter the leveler briefly, it sends him catatonic for a portion of the book. I was surprised by that decision, although it did give Elzar the nudge he needed to take on some responsibility. That all being said, however, I did find myself wishing that Avar was back – she headlined the first book, and then seemed to just disappear in the subsequent instalments. Maybe she has been featured in other books, as I haven’t yet taken the time to discover those, but I thought it a bit strange that she wasn’t more heavily featured, as I really liked her character.

There’s a navigator called Geode, who is basically a rock. Weird, but it’s a huge and weird galaxy, so fair enough. I was surprised at how far this was taken, though, given that it seems everybody except Elzar accepts him as being a sentient being, who gives “a stony expression” or whose “silence said it all” and stuff. It was bordering on silly, though I guess on the whole it was kinda funny. Among those pilots trapped in the cargo bay, there’s a petty and venal guy who tries to rile his fellows up against the Jedi, intending to blast their way through the cargo bay doors etc. I hated him, and it took me a while to realise that actually, I hated him because the situation was written so well – of course, there’s always that one guy who thinks they know what’s best and ends up getting the group in trouble. It’s classic disaster movie stuff.

However, we get very little else besides the goings on on board the space station, and it does get a bit boring after a while. I read half of this book in one day when I was on the train to London and back, but then took a week to finish it as it just felt like a bit of a chore. I think we could have done with getting a bit more variety, even if it was from following some of the people in the top half of the station with Avar. It all just seems to get a bit boring after a while, for all that it’s a disaster book and should be exciting as we root for the heroes to pull through.

I also wasn’t a fan of the ending. We only followed three saboteurs aboard the Beacon, yet Marchion Ro sent seven? And the final pages that feature his address to the galaxy… I’m struggling to keep up, but I just don’t understand why he wants to eliminate the Jedi. I don’t get it, as the Nihil are a raiding force – is he trying to keep the Republic out of the Rim to ensure free raiding forever? He seems to want to rule the galaxy, but that seemed to come out of nowhere. I don’t understand him, he seems to be doing all this for the sake of being the antagonist – we haven’t yet got the twirl of the moustache with an evil sneer, but it’s not far off.

Now, I seem to be falling into something of a hater on Claudia Gray, which I’m not actively trying to do, but I’ve not really been a big fan of a lot of her books now. I mean, Bloodline is still one of my all-time favourite Star Wars books, and so whenever I read a book by her, I’m always that little bit disappointed that it doesn’t match up. I think it might be in part due to the hype she gets in the Facebook group that I’m in, though I think I have seen more general disinterest in this book, to be fair.

I think a lot of my complaints aren’t necessarily to be aimed at Claudia though, as it strikes me this is how LFL wants to tell stories right now – minimal exposition, maximum action. Who cares why anybody does anything, so long as what they are doing is exciting to watch/read?! Marchion Ro might be a cardboard villain because he isn’t allowed to be developed this early, given that we’ve been told of two more phases of the High Republic still to come.

I went into this one expecting it to be the conclusion to the trilogy, but it ended up more like the start of something. If we’d had maybe a hundred more pages of exposition at the start, then kicked off the series with this, it might have landed better. It’s not terrible, it’s just a bit unsatisfying.

Okay, so maybe I’m getting a bit too harsh here… I know that I’ve only read the three main novels in this series so far, and there are still the three YA novels, and three middle-grade novels, before we even start on the comic books. Maybe I’m missing out on something that would actually link things together… we shall see, I guess!!

Star Wars: Thrawn – Ascendancy: Lesser Evil (a review)

Hey everybody,

At the end of February, I finished the third book in the Ascendancy trilogy, Lesser Evil. What a monster of a book that was! I thought the second book was a sprawling epic, but this one really took that idea and ran with it!

The book picks up almost immediately after the end of Greater Good, and we see Jixtus almost come out into the open this time, as he brings news of a dangerous alliance between some of the Chiss families, first to the Mitth, and then to the Clarr – a calculated move, as one of those families purported to be in alliance is the Dasklo family, deadly rivals of the Clarr, and so the wedge is driven further as internecine family politics begin to take over everywhere, including the navy.

Thrawn, always above family politics and forever putting his service to the Chiss Ascendancy first, does what he thinks he needs to do in order to end what he clearly sees is an attempt to drive his species to a disastrous civil war.

I’m finding it almost impossible to adequately provide a summary of the plot here, because there’s just so much of it, so let’s cut to the chase – spoilers ahead! Thrawn gathers his allies, Ar’alani etc, to Sunrise for a final showdown against Jixtus, and initially it seems the Chiss have indeed defeated themselves. However, Thrawn uses a gravity well projector to keep the Grysk ships in-system and trap them, which allows the comparatively lighter Chiss warships to virtually destroy the aliens. The Grysks self-destruct before being caught, as they are paranoid about anybody finding out about them. However, despite the fact that Thrawn was able to devise a plan to thwart this attempt on Chiss supremacy, it is decided that he is to be exiled, and draw all of the political heat from his colleagues.

Of course, the exile is a ruse for a fact-finding mission, as Thrawn has discovered a group of Neimoidians who have entered this region of space, fleeing the fallout of the Clone Wars and the emergence of the Empire. Thrawn determines to find out more about the Empire, and on it goes, roll credits.

This was a hell of a book, and the level of political in-fighting and back-and-forth was off the charts at times, as I was trying to keep up with which families were represented on which ships, etc! Sometimes, the level of selfish idiocy in the upper echelons of the Chiss did begin to astound me, particularly the actions of the Clarr patriarch! Thurfian seems to have moderated himself a little, now that he’s the Mitth patriarch, although I have read the entire trilogy and still don’t buy the reasoning for his wanting to bring down Thrawn.

There was a whole side quest with Thalias and gaining more understanding of the sky-walker program that I found really interesting, although some of it did seem a little bit like an info-dump just before the end, like it had been planned to be peppered more throughout the trilogy as a whole, but got forgotten and had to be wedged in somewhere. It was interesting, though, and while there was a part of me that felt it an unnecessary inclusion, the fact that Thalias meets Thrawn’s sister, and she has no desire to meet him because it would be pointless as she doesn’t know who he is, I did find quite emotional. Like, that’s a genuine reaction that I could imagine someone in her position having.

On a side note, the fact that Chiss core names appear to begin with the ending of their family name, so Thurfian from Mitth, for example, I did find quite silly at times. It was more pronounced in the last book, with the Xodlak family, I suppose, but I found it interesting that, if you’re at a family gathering, everybody’s name will begin the same way. Starting with a Th- might not be so distracting as starting with a Lak- of course, but it did make me wonder if a family could ever grow so large that they might conceivably run out of names?

I loved the inclusion of the Neimoidians at the end – a throwaway mention only, but it opened up a whole vista of possibility for me! I love the idea that other species who were caught up as perpetrators of the Clone Wars, like the Muun and the Koorivar, might also be going into exile at this time, and what that might mean.

Thrawn’s exile tiles very nicely into the next Thrawn trilogy, of course, which I’ve previously read (here, here and here!) It’s also worth mentioning that the plotline of Admiral Ar’alani pursuing any possible Grysk hideouts isn’t wrapped up until this trilogy, which I thought was quite interesting, especially as I’d forgotten about it until I’d finished reading this book!

Overall, I really enjoyed this trilogy, and I think I benefited a great deal by reading them back to back as I have. If I had tried to read them when they came out, I would most likely have forgotten a lot of details, because these books are literally dripping in the small stuff. It all very much needs a close reading to get the most out of it, I would say.

Star Wars: Thrawn – Ascendancy: Greater Good (a review)

Hey everybody,
Earlier this week, I finished reading the second novel in the Thrawn Ascendancy series. You can check out my thoughts on the first book here. The second book in the Ascendancy trilogy is quite the sprawling epic, I have to say! It definitely takes a more leisurely pace than the first book, and I think it does seem to suffer a little bit under its own weight.

We start the novel with Admiral Ar’alani in charge of the task force clearing out remaining Nikardun bases, alongside Senior Captains Thrawn and Lakinda. Thrawn has been tasked with a separate mission though, involving refugees on Rapacc, which brings us back to some elements from the first novel, although it seems that this is all tangled up in Thurfian’s plot to take Thrawn down. The refugees are led by the Magys, who has demanded her people join her in some ritual mass-suicide as a result of the attack on their world, but Thrawn tries to convince her otherwise, taking her to her home planet to see if the world really is beyond saving. Lakinda is asked to find Thrawn and help, but both ships come under attack at the planet, although of course Thrawn is able to ensure both Chiss ships escape unharmed. Without a clear idea of what was going on, Admiral Ar’alani takes over mapping the planet to assess the devastation while Thrawn continues his mission, which involves the Vagaari pirates.

There is a whole other plot that involves the alien Haplif and his attempts to bring down the Chiss Ascendancy for Jixtus, which is a really slow burn and is built through both present-day and Memory chapters. Haplif and his crew convince the Xodlak family they have control of a nyix mine, the metal from which the Chiss make their warship hulls. The Xodlak see this as their chance to gain more political power, and so declare a family emergency, recalling all of their personnel – including Lakinda – for the task. Things come to a head with two other families that have also had the aliens playing their con game, but Thrawn has naturally discovered the ruse and is trying to diffuse the situation. He is able to destroy the mine without the families losing face.

As I said, it was a very sprawling book, and I think it could have used a bit more space, particularly towards the end. The story seems to be fairly well balanced between the various elements, even if there seems to have been a lot of time spent with Haplif and his scheme. However, there is a significant lack of Thrawn for the middle act, and when he does re-appear, things seemed a little bit rushed, to me, to get to the end. Though interestingly, it was around the 350-page mark (the book is 410 pages long) where suddenly the light is seen at the end of the tunnel, when it all seems to coalesce and I finally understood how all the elements fit together, so maybe the crashing realisation that I came to at that point led to me feeling that!

As I said, a lot of the story seemed to involve Haplif and the Agbui scheme, including the Memories, and it did strike me as being a bit odd how the pace really seemed to slacken when compared with the first book. This shadow war is in direct contrast to the plotline with General Yiv in the first book, though, and I suppose it will by necessity feel different. It was an interesting book, I have to say, but I think there is a very different feel to the first one, and if you go into this thinking it’s going to continue the story of the first, it will feel very different.

I mentioned last time how this didn’t feel like Star Wars, and the fact this time we don’t even have a minor appearance from Anakin Skywalker to anchor it into the GFFA does seem to cut this book adrift. It feels so divorced from Star Wars as we know it, and yet it’s still a very compelling story. I find this quite fascinating, because I’m reading this as a Star Wars novel, but it hardly feels like a Star Wars novel. Does that make sense?

There is also the continuation of the plotlines about trying to take Thrawn down. Thurfian’s plot against him still feels a bit daft, but Samakro, his first officer, has more of a legitimate grievance as he was removed from command of the Springhawk to place Thrawn there. Samakro also seems to have it in for Thalias, thinking her a spy for Thurfian and he is convinced she’s going to confuse the command structure in favour of family politics, despite so much evidence to the contrary. It definitely feels like it’s there simply to provide conflict, and doesn’t really have a believable basis. But it’s a minor complaint in an otherwise really good series.

January 2022 retrospective

Hey everybody,
January has been pretty damn productive, I have to say! I’m very impressed with myself, even if the month did feel like it lasted for about a decade. For starters, I’ve made a really good start with my new year, new army, getting two full squads of Tau Pathfinders painted, along with their associated drones. That’s been a really big boost, as far as I’m concerned, because I think I’ve shown that I can get a lot of models finished in a fairly quick turnaround. As with all these sorts of things, it’s often slower while sorting out the colour scheme, so now that I’ve got that sorted out, I think I should be able to keep the pace and have a half-decent army painted by the time Easter rolls around!

For February, I’m planning to paint up some Fire Warriors, again with their associated drones, so we shall see where I get to there.

I had my first game with the new Genestealer Cults book as well, and it was quite the uphill struggle, I have to say! The last time I had a game with these guys, it was 8th edition and I had no idea what I was up to, but the army was predominantly unpainted – this time, everything was painted, and it made such a difference to the visual style, I have to say. I had no idea about the stratagems, and I think potentially only used one or two the whole game – I was otherwise using Command Re-Roll all the time! I think I made a mistake with going all-Neophytes in my troops, though, and using the Hybrid Metamorphs for close combat seemed a bit of a waste as they really weren’t as good as I had been expecting. I think I’ve been clinging to the Metamorph bomb idea from last edition, but as I said last time, it’s something that I wanted to try, just to see what would happen.

I should clarify that the Metamorphs aren’t necessarily bad per se, they just didn’t seem to work well at the lower points limit. I think at a higher points game, they could still be useful as a bodyguard-type unit. We shall see!

For the next time, though, I’m making some swaps – so removing the Metamorphs and the truck, and taking the bikes and a group of Acolyte Hybrids. It seems there are some interesting things that you can do with the Atalan Jackals, so I’m excited to see what will happen there. I’ve made some notes, though, so have a better idea of what I can get up to with the army. Hopefully this is something that I will be doing more of as time goes on, and I try to improve as a player – I’m not talking tournament-dedicated or anything, but I definitely want to be a better player, and hopefully provide a better sort of game for my opponent. I’ll probably be talking more about this in the coming weeks, anyway.

I’ve begun the long and arduous process of going through my various piles of shame as well, in an attempt to properly thin the ranks once more. I’m sure there’ll be more to say on this in the fullness of time, of course, but I’ve discovered that I have almost 900 points of AdMech and 1300 points of Black Legion, which is quite a surprise! I have big chunks of Sisters and Tyranids, among others, which will all need to be looked at quite carefully in the coming months, as I really feel like I’m drowning in plastic at the minute. I have some projects that I haven’t touched either at all, or else for years, which is making me wonder if I’ll ever get round to them.

I think I need to be much more careful with my hobby spends and my hobby time, as the family grows and whatnot. I am somewhere in the area of having my hobby feeling a bit less enjoyable right now, like something I have to do, so it would definitely be an idea to give this some serious thought. There’s also so much coming out that I’m looking forward to…

I’ve also been chipping away at the scenery piece that I’ve got on the table, and it’s coming along quite nicely, I think! I have been through all of my Sector Mechanicus terrain pieces to see what’s going on. There is a lot still to do, but in all honesty I’m not focusing on this stuff right now, it’s all been about the Tau Pathfinders!!

It’s not been all about 40k though. I’ve been reading the Thrawn Ascendancy series, and have made it through the first two books of the trilogy so far. I’ve already written up some thoughts on the first book, which you can read here, and after finishing the second book last night, I’ll get my next instalment out sometime this week. I had the third book for Christmas, so will move on to that one next, I think.

A bit disappointingly, I’ve not been playing any Arkham Horror LCG for weeks, now! I played In Too Deep at the end of November, but for two months now it’s just been untouched! Meanwhile, the Edge of the Earth campaign that has been sleeved and is ready to go. I definitely need to get my act together, although I am clinging to the idea that I wasn’t really playing The Circle Undone until March, so there’s hope!

I am enjoying The Innsmouth Conspiracy, and I am looking forward to getting my teeth into The Edge of the Earth when the time comes! But everything has been so much about 40k so far, so I guess I need to just ride that wave!

Star Wars: The Rising Storm (a review)

The second novel* in The High Republic series, The Rising Storm picks up pretty much straight after the first book, as we follow the preparations for The Republic Fair on Valo, in the Outer Rim. Another of Chancellor Lina Soh’s “Great Works”, the Fair is intended to showcase the very best of the Republic, acting as something of an expo I guess, with the added benefit of bringing the Togruta species into the Republic fold.

The early part of the novel has a lot of shuffling-of-pieces, as we see the Nihil leadership move forward and posture among themselves, Marchion Ro in particular taking further steps for a grand plan to attack the Republic. We also see the Cyclor Shipyards, and the research vessel Innovator is going through various tests prior to the Fair when a rogue tempest of the Nihil attack, to be fought off by the Jedi.

For the most part of the book, we then get an extended view of preparations for the Fair, including the arrival of the Togruta monarch and so on. Everything is rather wonderful, and we get to really delve into some of the returning characters from the first book, such as Elzar Mann and Stellan Gios, before suddenly the Nihil attack! It is quite dramatic as well, and the manner of the attack, with an orbital element and reaver-like ground assault (including smoke clouds and sonic disruptions) feels like an utterly ferocious strike at the Republic and the Jedi.

While the Nihil are eventually repelled, they still claim a victory and rogue elements decide to press the advantage by planning another attack, but fall prey to a disinformation campaign and are routed. The Jedi learn that the Nihil are basing themselves on Grizal, and mount their own attack, at which point the Nihil organisation seems to be tearing itself apart. In order to escape, Marchion Ro releases a beast known as “the Leveler” which can turn people into husks, and flees on his ship.


I really enjoyed this book – perhaps not as much as I enjoyed the first one, for sure, but nevertheless it felt like a really great second act. So many trilogies seem to go a bit dead in the middle, but I think here we’ve broadened out just enough to allow more character to appear from the established cast, while maintaining the momentum in the Republic vs Nihil war. Actually, the whole war is an interesting one, because it often seems like nothing more than marauders and pirates testing the fringes, and not a really large-scale military threat. That’s why the attack on the Fair worked, because it wasn’t a case of the Nihil going up against a Republic fleet or somesuch. The scale is different to, say, the Clone Wars, and I really like it.

The Jedi are developed a lot in this book, and I like how different they feel to their counterparts in the Prequels. They don’t quite seem to be the cloistered monks, but rather the type of official mediators and security services of the Republic, and have a much more public face. You definitely get the impression that the Jedi are off-limits when the time of the Prequels comes about. It’ll be interesting to see how, if at all, that change comes about. There are perhaps glimpses here, as Elzar Mann uses Dark Side power to stop the Nihil attack at one point – maybe they decide to retreat to avoid any kind of fall?

Some of the criticisms of this book that I’ve seen online (mainly on the SW book club Facebook group) come leveled at the fact that nothing seems to happen in the book, that it is boring, etc. I think, on the contrary, so much happens that it’s difficult to provide a satisfying synopsis of it without going on for days! We get a lot of minutiae when it comes to the Fair, which I think works quite well because after a number of chapters where the action moves around a bit, we’re almost lulled into a sense of security before BOOM – the Nihil attack and all hell breaks loose! The subsequent attack takes place over several chapters, though purportedly only takes place over the course of maybe an afternoon. So much is going on, that it’s difficult to cover it all quickly, but the pacing is really quite good and no single aspect of the attack feels like it has been short-changed. I was then surprised that the end was still a long way off, because a lot more action then follows!

Bell Zettifar has his reunion with Loden Greatstorm, who has been testing his bonds in the Nihil prison, and manages to escape, only for their reunion to be short-lived as he falls victim to the Leveler. That was a genuinely emotional moment for me, and I felt almost like I’d been punched. That’s some good storytelling, right there – it really got me!

We’re getting what now appears to be the Disney trope of adding in more gay characters to the books, with a fairly significant plot thread involving the Chancellor’s son, and a more throwaway element involving the former Jedi padawan Ty Yorrick and the daughter of her client, who ends up as a bit of a catalyst for the final confrontation on Grizal. As far as Kitrep Soh’s awkward relationship with Jom Lariin goes, I thought it seemed a bit rushed at first, but turned out to be very satisfying and worked really well within the wider story without feeling shoehorned in. It’s great to have these kinds of plot threads, where two guys can be attracted to each other and have an arc which forms a strong part of the actual story, rather than it being a case of LOOK EVERYBODY, THIS GUY’S GAY! as it often felt in the Aftermath books. Ty Yorrick is a much more complicated character, who didn’t really get much airtime to properly see develop. Maybe she’ll form a large part of the third novel, coming out in January? There’s a suggestion of something there, which feels much more how we’re used to seeing this kind of stuff in years gone by. We’re definitely getting there, which is the main thing!

Of all the new canon books that I’ve read so far, I think this is up there with the small clutch of novels that I think would benefit from a second reading. Indeed, I think I would enjoy a second reading, though I think I’d probably do so as part of a general High Republic re-read. Very good development, but I definitely want to go wider with this time frame, and see more of the galaxy.

The third book, The Fallen Star, is written by Claudia Gray, who I’ve definitely had some ups and downs with! Let’s hope we get something along the lines of Bloodline, and less Lost Stars! It’s coming out in January, and I hope to pick it up pretty much as soon as possible and get reading.


* I know there are a bunch of other YA novels etc, but this is the second in what I’m thinking of as the main storyline, based on purely the adult novels. Not “adult” in that sense, though…