About the Author:
Aaron Allston was a New York Times bestselling author and also a longtime game designer. In 2006 he was inducted into the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame. He died in February 2014.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4.3 out of 5
Star Wars: Fate Of The Jedi - Backlash
Book four of nine, set 43 ABY. Following on from Troy Denning's 'Abyss', Luke and Ben Skywalker chase the young Sith Vestara Khai to the planet Dathomir. Meanwhile political turmoil continues to engulf the Galactic Alliance and a slave uprising destabilises the Outer Rim.
The problem with 'Fate of the Jedi' is that entirely too much of it is filler and that is once again the case here. We could easily have done without the slave uprising plotline or the scenes where Allana Solo gets into mischief. Similarly, the scenes featuring the plotting on Coruscant aren't as clever or interesting as the authors clearly intended them to be.
However, Allston is a master of Star Wars storytelling and does a great job of giving us one storyline we do want to see: Jedi versus Sith. The inclusion of the Witches of Dathomir into that dynamic only makes it more interesting and the cliffhanger at the end had me eager to press on.
Followed by Christie Golden's 'Fate of the Jedi: Allies'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Fate Of The Jedi - Conviction
The seventh book of the series, set 44 ABY. The Jedi Order finally decides to move against oppressive Chief of State Natasi Daala whilst Luke and Ben Skywalker continue to pursue the dark entity known as Abeloth.
Finally the story threads of this series advance a little with this book, as we finally see the Jedi actually do something proactive. Also, we get some movement on Tahiri's storyline, something which was rapidly becoming tedious.
I continue to enjoy the characters of Luke and Ben Skywalker, but their constant bouncing from planet to planet has started to become annoying and here the author chooses to take them to Nam Chorios, the main planet in one of the less enjoyable Star Wars novels, 'Planet of Twilight'.
Sadly, this series has become bogged down in filler and boring subplots to the point that, despite Allston's great writing skills, you could skip this book and probably not notice.
Followed by Christie Golden's 'Fate of the Jedi: Ascension'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Fate Of The Jedi - Outcast
Set in 43 ABY, this is the first book of a nine-part series. When a young Jedi goes on a rampage, a rift forms between the Jedi Order and the Galactic Alliance which leads Luke Skywalker to accept banishment and undertake a mission with his son, Ben, to discover the cause of Darth Caedus' fall to the dark side. Meanwhile, Han and Leia are called to Kessel to help Lando save the planet from a cataclysm.
By this point Allston is thoroughly at home in the Star Wars universe and his writing flows easily as a result, never getting hung up on difficult concepts like the Force. He also manages to do a great job of weaving his story into the wider Expanded Universe, with continuity nods to keep fans like me happy (I was particularly surprised and pleased to see Maarek Stele, the protagonist of the 'TIE Fighter' computer game, turn up).
Although it has been heavily criticised, I actually enjoyed Luke and Ben's pilgrimage, their dynamic as father and son only made more interesting by the fact that one is a young but experienced Jedi whilst the other is the Grand Master of the Order.
The largest criticism which has been levelled at this series is that not a lot happens and, sadly, that criticism is fair. Here the only plot thread that reaches any kind of resolution is the Kessel on and, to be frank, that wasn't very interesting in the first place. Overall, this book isn't strong enough to stand on its own and it should be.
Followed by Christie Golden's 'Fate of the Jedi: Omen'.
3 out of 5
Star Wars: Legacy Of The Force - Betrayal
Allston kicks off this nine-part series, set 40 ABY, which will also feature the talents of Karen Traviss and Troy Denning. It is four years after the end of Denning's Dark Nest trilogy and the Galactic Alliance is facing insurrection from the planets of the Corellian system. As conflict breaks out between the GA and the Corellians, popular Star Wars heroes find themselves on opposite sides of the battle, fighting against friends and family.
As you'd expect with Allston, there's some brilliant battle scenes which focus on starfighter combat. As well as familiar faces such as Han, Wedge and Jaina, Allston introduces an up and coming fighter ace; Wedge's daughter Syal, who shows great character potential. Meanwhile Jacen Solo and his apprentice (they're almost like the traditional Master/Padawan team now) Ben Skywalker investigate a dark presence which is trying to influence the coming war. Jacen and Ben in action make for great reading, particularly their adventures on Adumar and Centerpoint Station.
So generally, this book is another Allston triumph. But then the author springs something on us that will simply blow you away; the Sith are about to return and the new Dark Lord is in a position to ruin the lives of all our favourite heroes. An excellent start to the series.
Followed by Traviss' 'Legacy of the Force: Bloodlines'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Legacy Of The Force - Exile
The fourth book of the series, set 40 ABY, sees the conflict between the Galactic Alliance and the Corellians spread to engulf the galaxy in a new civil war. As Jacen Solo continues to gain power (and abuse it), Luke commits the Jedi to hunting down Lumiya and her pawn Alema Rar.
Something I really liked about this book was seeing familiar faces pooling their talents once more. Among those who gather aboard the Errant Venture are Wedge, Iella, Han, Leia, Corran, Mirax, Luke, Mara and Myri Antilles. As with Syal in 'Betrayal', Allston has turned Wedge's other daughter into a fascinating new character with lots of future potential, albeit as a spy rather than a pilot.
Although the main story presented here is the progression of the war, there is a great substory which follows the first solo adventure of Ben Skywalker. Determined to find out if he's worthy of being a Sith, Jacen and Lumiya manipulate Ben into undertaking an unauthorised mission to the Sith world of Ziost. There we get some great insight into Ben himself as he's torn between Jacen's amoral pragmatism and the morality and compassion imparted by his parents, Luke and Mara.
The only thing that disappointed me with this book was that Allston decides not to actually describe the space battle at the end, merely sketching it out in a post-battle footnote type paragraph. This seems a waste of one of the author's best talents.
Followed by Karen Traviss' 'Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: Legacy Of The Force - Fury
The seventh book of the series, set 40 ABY, is my favourite so far. As the new Sith Lord Darth Caedus (aka Jacen Solo) kidnaps his own daughter and attempts to crush those who would oppose him, the Jedi and their allies are finally galvanized into action.
This is what I really enjoyed about this book, the fact that rather than all the indecision of the earlier books in the series, the heroes of the Star Wars galaxy decide to take proactive steps against the ruthless monster who was once one of them. Several character issues which have been at an impasse also get advanced here, such as Jaina's relationship with Jag Fel and Luke's debilitating grief.
Another great element of this book is reading Jacen's feelings about Allana, his daughter. His undying love for Allana reveals that he has not completely lost his humanity and may, in fact, be able to find redemption (up until now I've wanted nothing more than to see Luke behead the insufferable git).
As well as all these great character-based elements, there's also a fair bit of other stuff going on too, with the final battle at Centerpoint Station being the best of it.
Followed by Karen Traviss' 'Legacy of the Force: Revelation'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Enemy Lines: Rebel Dream
The eleventh book of the NJO series, set 27 ABY. Allston uses his first forray into the NJO to both continue the stories of the main characters, but also to update the situation of his Wraiths and how they are coping with the war against the Vong. The scattering remnants of the New Republic converge on Borleias and attempt to fight a desperate rearguard action under the command of General Wedge Antilles.
Allston brings his unique humour back to the Star Wars universe and, in the depressingly dark NJO books, it provides a welcome respite from death and defeat. The author's imaginative ability to create unconventional stratagems also proves to be a good addition to the series as it makes the simple victories against the Vong believable after a string of defeats.
Once more, this isn't a pillar of the EU but it is a worthy continuation of the NJO story.
Followed by 'The New Jedi Order: Enemy Lines - Rebel Stand'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Enemy Lines: Rebel Stand
Book twelve of the NJO, set 27 ABY. Very similar in style to 'Rebel Dream', 'Rebel Stand' continues the story of the futile defence of the planet Borleias.
The matching of wits between Wedge and Czulkang Lah (former Warmaster and father to Tsavong Lah) makes for a strong vein of miltary tension as each commander tries to outwit and outguess each other. However, the best part of this book is the mission to occupied Coruscant. The Wraiths, along with Luke, Mara and Tahiri sneak onto the former capital world and witness it's rapid change at the hands of the Vong. Whilst the Wraiths begin preparing insurgents, the Jedi are led by Luke's dark visions into confrontation with Lord Nyax, a Dark Jedi of immense power.
Nyax is a brillant new take on a dark avatar; having once been Irek Ismaren (from Barbara Hambly's 'Children of the Jedi') he has been cybernetically altered into a giant with lightsabers implanted into his body and he has had his mind wiped, driven now only by a desire to dominate. The only thing more exciting in this book than seeing Nyax fight the Jedi is seeing Nyax as he slaughters an entire hunting party of Vong!
Followed by Matthew Woodring Stover's 'The New Jedi Order: Traitor'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - Iron Fist
Book six of the series, set in 7 ABY. Wraith Squadron's characters continue to develop as they begin their commando raids against the psychotic Warlord Zsinj. Allston also shows that like the other 'X-Wing' author, Michael A. Stackpole, he is capable of inventing wonderfully unorthodox stratagems that make the battle scenes all the more interesting and surprising.
The strong vein of humour continues unabated and is taken up a notch by the arrival of Lieutenant Kettch, a stuffed Ewok toy that is the basis of several amusing practical jokes and eventually becomes an important member of the squadron!
I'll reveal that a core member of the squadron does die, and that death sequence is handled expertly by Allston, who leaves you with a sense of having lost a companion of your own.
Followed by 'X-Wing: Solo Command'.
5 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - Mercy Kill
The tenth X-Wing novel is set in 43 ABY, following the events of the 'Fate of the Jedi' series. In a period of relative peace, retired intelligence operative Face Loran is tasked with investigating General Stavin Thaal who is suspected of being part of the Lecersen Conspiracy, an Imperial plot to seize control of the galaxy. To achieve his objectives he recruits a new generation of agents, along with a few veterans, and sets them to work, unsanctioned and unsupported.
'Mercy Kill' is a solid action-espionnage thriller from one of the Star Wars Expanded Universe's most readable contributors. It's also a good opportunity to explore one of Allston's stranger but more compelling characters, the hyper-intelligent Gamorrean (the pig men from Jabba's Palace) Voort saBinring. Voort has changed a great deal since the early days of the Wraiths, his character having become broken and jaded by the loss of too many friends to war. There's a particularly poignant scene in which he confronts a Yuuzhan Vong member of his team and admits his hatred of his teammate's entire race, an echo of real-world veterans who never quite forgive their former enemies.
Unfortunately this is not an X-Wing novel, despite the title. The reason I say that is because the starfighter combat element that made the X-Wing books so popular to begin with is almost entirely absent. In fact, there are only four X-Wings in the entire book by my count and the first of those doesn't turn up until halfway through. Also, apart from Voort and Face, none of the original Wraiths are present and instead we get a few junior versions, such as the daughters of Wedge Antilles and Kell Tainer. Even the so-called veterans are characters who didn't appear until the 'New Jedi Order' series. On top of this is the fact that the villain of the piece is simply a nondescript, albeit corrupt, military officer; nowhere near as good an antagonist as Ysanne Isard or Warlord Zsinj.
Overall this is an entirely enjoyable Star Wars adventure, but I can't help but feel disappointed that this was the author's last offering to the franchise before he died. Allston was one of the greats of the Expanded Universe and I'm sure he had a better book in him.
Followed by Troy Denning's 'Crucible'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - Solo Command
Book seven, 7 ABY. The humour, clever tactics and interesting character developments continue to improve and diversify as Wraith Squadron join Rogue Squadron in the front line against Warlord Zsinj, under the command of General Han Solo!
In almost all over the other Star Wars novels available, we see Han rejecting the military and chain of command in order to do something suitably heroic, but here we see him as a leader who does not hold himself above his subordinates and is a very capable commander. It's such a rarity to actually see some character development in Han (it's Luke and Leia who get most of the attention) that this book stands out as a major part of the Star Wars saga. This is certainly the best of Allston's 'X-Wing' books and is the perfect prequel (or prelude) to 'The Courtship of Princess Leia' by Dave Wolverton. "Kiss my wookiee!"
5 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - Starfighters Of Adumar
The eighth book of the X-Wing series, set 13 ABY, simultaneous to the events of Barbara Hambly's 'Planet of Twilight'. Rogue Squadron's greatest heroes (Wedge Antilles, Tycho Celchu, Wes Janson and 'Hobbie' Klivian) are manipulated into travelling to the distant world of Adumar to secure it's weapons factories in the name of the New Republic. However, they are in contention with the Empire's 181st Squadron, they have to deal with a duplicitous New Republic ambassador and, above all, they are appalled by Adumari society which throws away life simply for prestige.
Although the Star Wars' core characters are Han, Luke and Leia, with Wedge, Tycho, Janson and Hobbie you get a very strong sense of reading about old friends who're so familiar. Tycho brings his calm professionalism, Hobbie brings his dry wit and Janson continues the hilarious brand of childish humour from Allston's previous X-Wing books. Ultimately, though, this book is about Wedge's coming of age. Here he takes on the roles of diplomat as well as General and resolves his confused personal life when he and Iella Wessiri are reunited on Adumar.
All in all, this isn't a groundbreaking or historical pillar of a Star Wars novel, but it is fun to read and is an essential progression for fans of the four Rogues.
Followed by Vonda McIntyre 's 'The Crystal Star'.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: X-Wing - Wraith Squadron
The fifth book of the series, following on from Michael A. Stackpole's 'The Bacta War' and set in 7 ABY. Wedge Antilles begins the task of creating a new squadron of infiltrators and commandos using only pilots who are one step away from being thrown out of the New Republic military.
The story follows a similar plan to Stackpole's 'Rogue Squadron', but with two major differences; Allston's interesting new characters and his use of humour. The new characters range from an alien with multiple personalities to a genetically engineered Gamorrean and each has a unique back story which we find out as the story progresses. The uniqueness of the new characters is by far an improvement over Stackpole's squadron, members of which are at times totally generic, but Allston does fall down in his use of Kell Tainer, who is basically a Corran Horn wannabe.
As I say, this book's other strong factor is its use of humour and between practical jokes staged by Wes Janson and the witty dialogue between Face and Phanan, I can almost guarantee you'll chuckle out loud.
Followed by 'X-Wing: Iron Fist'.
5 out of 5