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Servant Of The Empire

by Raymond E. Feist & Janny Wurts

Book two of three.  This book has all the elements of its predecessor, 'Daughter of the Empire' combined with much stronger links to the other books of the Riftwar saga.  The subtle plotting and political manouvring is as cunning and well thought out as before but this time there is the added bonus of the point of view of Kevin, a Midkemian slave, whose ideas force the Tsurani to reevaluate their inflexible codes of honour. 

Plus, for the voyeuristic reader, Kevin and Mara do it like rabbits throughout the whole book.  In fact, it seems to be their answer to every situation; they're scared, so they have sex, they're happy, so they have sex, they're angry, so they have sex (and so on).  Don't get me wrong, it sounds like a damn good way of dealing with life if you ask me, but I doubt its feasibility. 

The scenes linking the novel with the Riftwar books are the best because we get a whole new perspective on things like Pug's furious destruction of the Great Arena and the dispatching of Tsurani warriors to fight with their former enemies at Sethanon.  All in all an excellent book, even better than the first one.

Followed by 'Mistress of the Empire'.

5 out of 5

 

Star Bores

by Steve Barlow & Steve Skidmore

As you've probably guessed, this is a parody of Star Wars.  But wait!  You actually get two parodies for the price of one in that this book contains 'Star Bores' and also 'Star Bores: The Prequel'. 

Generally speaking, this book is more amusing than it is funny, lacking the really sharp satirical content that would set it apart.  I did, however, like the idea that the Jello Knights are basically a group of intergalactic vagrants who allow the Republic to fall through sheer incompetence.  I was also amused by the character of Count Dookula, who is constantly becoming confused as to which Christopher Lee character he is (ie Dooku, Dracula, Saruman, Scaramanga etc) and is decidedly unhappy when, after 200 movies, it actually looks like he might triumph over the heroes. 

Then there's the Padme Amidala knock-off, an overweight nymphomaniac called Prodme Allova.  This book is worth a read for a bit of fun but don't expect anything too deep or clever.

3 out of 5

 

Star Trek: Dark Victory

by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Book two of three.  Kirk's wife is mysteriously poisoned and a secret branch of the Federation has plans to use him against his mirror universe counterpart, Tiberius.  However, Kirk decides to set out on a quest of his own to find Tiberius and a cure for his wife. 

This book is a disappointment after 'Spectre', but is nonetheless an interesting new Trek story, particularly note worthy for how it shows Kirk trying to deal with his new life.

Followed by 'Preserver'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Trek: Preserver

by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Book three of three.  The Kirk/Mirror Universe trilogy continues its downward slide with this largely disappointing finale.  The story of the secret organisation within the Federation is interesting, but the resurrection of the Preservers from a not-particularly-good episode of the Original Series was quite uninspiring. 

I also found Kirk and Tiberius getting almost friendly, ridiculous, and Tiberius' moral turn around at the end of the book even more so. 

Finally, the fate of Teilani gives the entire book and the previous one a feeling of pointlessness.

2 out of 5

 

Star Trek: Spectre

by William Shatner, Judith Reeves-Stevens & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

Book one of three.  This book is ideal for anyone who has watched too much Star Trek, as it carefully stitches together parts of the various series', weaving them around a fascinating new story about the so-called Mirror Universe. 

First, you have to understand that Captain Kirk has been resurrected in the TNG/DS9/Voyager era, once you've accepted that you can get on and enjoy the story.  Kirk becomes involved with the mirror-Janeway and a Vulcan who is the daughter of mirror-Spock, discovering a plot by the mirror-baddies to steal Federation technology.  Meanwhile, Picard and the Enterprise crew discover the long-missing U.S.S Voyager, or at least, they think they do. 

The most interesting element of this book is seeing the mirror versions of familiar characters, particularly mirror-Picard.  Fans of the old Star Trek crew will be overjoyed by the scene which has Kirk (resurrected), Spock (still alive), McCoy (still alive, but mostly bionic!) and Scotty (trapped in a transporter for decades then released in TNG) together again in the face of danger.

Followed by 'Dark Victory'.

5 out of 5

 

Star Trek: Triangle

by Sondra Marshak & Myrna Culbreath

Book 49, set after the events of 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' (novelised by Gene Roddenberry).  The Enterprise is tasked with transporting a Federation Ambassador through a region of space where countless ships have previously disappeared.  Whilst en route it encounters Federation Free Agent Sola Thane, whose relationships with Captain Kirk and Spock could prove to be the deciding factor is a battle for the freedom of individuals across the galaxy.

Put simply, this is not a good book.  There are numerous minor reasons, which I'll get to in a moment, but there is one enormous reason which overshadows all others.  The entire premise and plot of this book hinges on a scene very early on in which Kirk and Spock both fall completely in love with Sola Thane and she does likewise with both of them, all within literal seconds of meeting for the first time.  And this isn't casual attraction either, this is a love so deep and overwhelming that all three of them subsequently show willing to sacrifice their lives for it.  There's no development or growth of feelings between the characters, it just literally goes from meeting for the first time to total bone-deep devotion.  It is so ludicrous that nothing the book can do from that point on could ever redeem it and, as if realising that, the authors instead choose to lean into it really heavily.  Perhaps the writers have never actually been in love as adults, because the version of it shown here is the make-believe, no-basis-in-reality kind that a child believes in.

The big one aside, this book's other failings include poor characterisations of Kirk and Spock, who act more like their campy TV series incarnations than the more mature and developed characters they become in the movies.  We also get some weird and bague antagonists who feel like they must have appeared in a previous book I'd not read because they receive absolutely no set-up here; we're just supposed to accept them as being the big threat to the galaxy all of a sudden.

Another thing I really disliked was that the other familiar faces of the Enterprise crew get absolutely nothing to do.  Uhura, Scotty, Chekov and Sulu may as well have not been aboard at all.  The only one who does get something to do and is, in fact, the only element of this book I actually liked, is Doctor McCoy.  He provides a blessedly rational and recognisable element to a book where nothing else fits that description.

1 out of 5

 

Star Trek: Voyager - Battle Lines

by Dave Galanter & Greg Brodeur

Voyager Book 18.  The crew of the USS Voyager are ambushed by an alien race who compel them to become part of the Edesian Navy and fight in their ongoing war with the neighbouring Gimlon.  The plight of the ship and its crew becomes far more complicated when a third of the crew, led by Commander Chakotay and Tom Paris, becomes separated behind enemy lines.

"Janeway is my favourite Captain!" said no sane person ever.  Whilst I have watched a great deal of 'Star Trek: Voyager', it was always my least favourite of the TV series (until 'Enterprise' came along, that is) and its Captain and crew were always the least compelling.  These factors meant that it took me a while to get into this book, with the familiar faces from the TV series seeming even more like cardboard cutouts than ever.  However, slowly it began to win me over.

I think the turning point for me was when Chakotay and his contingent are separated from Voyager.  At first I was worried that I'd end up reading just another tedious imprisonment storyline but events soon twist around.  I really enjoyed seeing how the captive and injured Federation crewmembers utilise their dedication and versatility to turn the tables against their enemies and strike a significant blow against the antagonists.

For me, there are two big letdowns in this book.  The first is that the relationship between the Edesians and the Gimlons never develops the complexity that I initially hoped for, meaning that Captain Janeway's moral connundrums about who she should be fighting for or against are resolved relatively easily.  The other letdown for me was the fact that the Gimlon's secret weapon starts out as a really interesting concept but then is basically just used as a Death Star.  Star Wars has already used that idea too many times (I'm looking at you 'The Force Awakens') and I certainly didn't need to see it in a Star Trek story.

So, this turned out to be a surprisingly enjoyable book which actually made me remember 'Star Trek: Voyager' rather more fondly than I have for a long time.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Clone Wars - Last Stand On Jabiim

by Haden Blackman & John Ostrander

(Art by Brian Ching, Victor Llamas, Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

The third book of the series, set 22 BBY.  One of the best of the Clone Wars graphic novels, this book tells the story of the fighting on the rain-soaked planet Jabiim.  The war depicted in this book is a lot more visceral and murky than much of Star Wars, showing the truth of most military campaigns; they're dirty, uncomfortable and often fruitless. 

One of my favourite elements of this book is the way the Jabiimi talk about Jedi, cutting people in half, stealing children and riding giant four-legged monsters (at which point an AT-AT lumbers over the horizon). 

When Obi-Wan is apparently killed in battle (well, he obviously isn't, but still...) Anakin goes off the rails, using the old Force-choke for the first time.  He then finds himself partnered with the Tusken Jedi A'Sharad Hett, dredging up memories of his killing the Tusken women and children in Episode II.  A great read this.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Clone Wars - When They Were Brothers

by Haden Blackman & Miles Lane

(Art by Brian Ching and Nicola Scott)

19 BBY.  This book, the seventh graphic novel in the Clone Wars series, collects the five issues of the comic 'Star Wars: Obsession', as well as the follow-up created specifically for 2005's Free Comic Book Day (it's alright, I don't know either).  The story revolves around Obi-Wan's determined belief that the Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress is still alive (despite being thrown off a roof by Anakin in 'Clone Wars: On The Fields Of Battle') and his efforts to find her. 

This is one of the best Clone Wars stories, providing an excellent link between the stories that have gone before and Episode III.  There is so much here for fans to enjoy; Black Sun agents, the final fate of the double-hard Durge, Anakin and Padme spending some quality time together on Naboo, the return of the ARC Trooper Alpha and a big battle in which many familiar Jedi go toe to toe with Count Dooku, General Grievous and, of course, Ventress. 

The only down side is the fact that the final part of the story, the Free Comic Book Day bit, is the non-event that you'd expect from something that was given away free.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Crimson Empire

by Mike Richardson & Randy Stradley

(Art by Paul Gulacy and P. Craig Russel)

11 ABY.  Linking in with the events of Tom Veitch's Dark Empire trilogy of graphic novels, this book is simply one of the best Star Wars comics available.  It focuses on Kir Kanos, one of the last two of the Emperor's personal Guard, and his quest for revenge on the other survivor, Carnor Jax, who betrayed Palpatine. 

Kanos' quest brings him into alliance with Mirith Sinn of the New Republic, but their growing respect and affection conflicts strongly with their duties and loyalties.  Meanwhile, Jax is turning the might of the Empire towards the hunt for Kanos, leading to several spectacularly presented battles scenes (in which we see Rogue Squadron and Wedge Antilles' Super Star Destroyer Lusankya in action). 

Finally, in true Star Wars tradition, it comes down to a duel between Kanos and Jax.  A brilliant book and perfect for any Star Wars fan.

Followed by 'Crimson Empire II: Council of Blood'.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Crimson Empire II - Council Of Blood

by Mike Richardson & Randy Stradley

(Art by Paul Gulacy and Randy Emberlin)

11 ABY.  Kir Kanos takes on the identity of a bounty hunter in order to seek revenge on the members of the Imperial Ruling Council who had helped Carnor Jax betray the Emperor.  Meanwhile, Mirith Sinn investigates Grappa the Hutt's connection to the Black Sun crime syndicate. 

This sequel is a disappointment in many ways, lacking the action, style and Star Warsness of its predecessor.  Understandably, the writers wanted to avoid making a clone (Ha! That's a pun you'd get if you'd read the book) of 'Crimson Empire', but I feel they went too far in another direction and lost what made that other book great. 

Ofsetting the book's failings ever so slightly is the fact that we actually get an early look at Nom Anor's machinations in preparation for the Yuuzhan Vong invasion.

Followed by 'Crimson Empire III: Empire Lost'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Crimson Empire III - Empire Lost

by Mike Richardson & Randy Stradley

(Art by Paul Gulacy)

13 ABY.  Kir Kanos and Mirith Sinn have gone their separate ways, he returning to bounty hunting and she becoming the head of security for New Republic Chief of State Leia Organa Solo.  However, their paths will cross once more when they become embroiled in the plots of Ennix Devian, a sadistic assassin who is attempting to lead an Imperial resurgence.

In this book, the characters of the Crimson Empire series become more heavily involved with the major players of the Star Wars saga and the story as a whole is much grander, taking place on the galactic stage in a way in which the previous volumes didn't.  So, here we get to see things like that Feena D'Asta has a great deal of influence with Gilad Pellaeon (nominal head of the Empire at this point), that Kanos has earned the attention of Boba Fett and that Mirith now guards Han and Leia's children.  We also get further expansion of Nom Anor's political machinations, forming a much better bridge between his appearances in 'Council of Blood' and the later New Jedi Order books.

Unfortunately, where this book falls down is in its characterisations of some of the better-known Star Wars characters who appear here.  They've clearly been included to link the Crimson Empire saga into the larger Star Wars mythos, but are actually counterproductive due to the unfamiliar way they're portrayed.  One of these characters is Boba Fett.  I was very excited to see him (I'm a big fan), but the talkative pacifistic version we're shown is so at odds with the hunter's general portrayal that I kept expecting them to reveal that it was an impostor. However, far worse is the characterisation of Luke Skywalker.  Here he's depicted as suspicious, prejudiced and unforgiving; definitely not the same man who actually came up with the concept of 'Perhaps I can save Darth Vader'.

On a lesser but still annoying note, it bothered me that Mirith Sinn resents Luke and Leia because Vader killed her husband.  Not only does she now work closely with Leia, but she was also an active part of the Rebel Alliance.  You can't tell me that her actual knowledge of Luke and Leia's heroism is outweighed by some spurious inherited-guilt thing.

Overall, a definite improvement over volume two, but sadly fails somewhat in its aims to take the series into the big leagues of the Expanded Universe.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Dark Times - The Path To Nowhere

by Welles Hartley & Mick Harrison

(Art by Douglas Wheatley)

The first book in a series set immediately after 'Revenge Of The Sith' in 19 BBY.  The Jedi are on the brink of destruction, the galaxy has been conquered by the Empire and the times are truly dark.  This book focuses on Jedi Dass Jennir and the Separatist Bomo Greenbark and their quest to find Bomo's wife and daughter who were enslaved by the Empire.  In order to find their prize Dass and Bomo have to join forces with a motley crew of smugglers and Dass in particular is forced by expedience into darker and darker acts. 

At first I was worried that this story would be another Jedi-walking-the-line-between-light-and-dark story a la the tales of Quinlan Vos.  However, Dass' slide towards the darkness is actually a mere shadow of the overarching sense of the galaxy sliding into darkness. 

Understand that this is not like the Star Wars stories you've seen before; not only is there no happy ending here, there is an ending that is truly horrific.  A brave new direction for the franchise, but one that might not sit too comfortably for some.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 2

by Jason Aaron & Kieron Gillen

(Art by Mike Deodato, Salvador Larroca, Mike Norton and Max Fiumara)

The second (and last) Vader omnibus set between 'A New Hope' and 'The Empire Strikes Back'.  Here Vader has to face down an entire Rebel army single-handed, bring the mining planet of Shu-torun to heel and eliminate his rivals for the favour of the Emperor, all the while continuing his hunt for Luke Skywalker.

This book has three main story arcs, the first of which is the crossover event 'Vader Down', which sees the titular Sith Lord grounded, isolated and outnumbered by the Rebels.  This was by far the best part of the book, as we see Vader's fury unleashed and we get a real sense of just what an unstoppable force he is.  Even the presence of the main Star Wars heroes (Luke, Han and Leia) isn't enough to swing the battle in the Rebels' favour.  We also get a few great scenes in which the psychopathic droids Triple-Zero and Bee-Tee face off against their heroic counterparts Threepio and Artoo.

The second and third story arcs, 'The Shu-torun War' and 'End of Games', are not nearly as strong and whilst they do showcase Vader's more calculating side, his presence is not nearly as forceful (pardon the pun) as it was at the beginning of the book.  That said, there is a great scene where the Emperor finds out all the secret stuff Vader's been doing to subvert the Imperial command structure and, rather than being angry, he is delighted with his apprentice's deviousness.  You get a genuine sense that Vader has now become the Sith Apprentice that Palpatine always hoped for.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi - Force Storm

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

Dawn of the Jedi book one, set 25,793 BBY.  On the planet Tython a number of young Je'daii have a vision of a mysterious dark figure; a figure who soon arrives in the Tython system as a herald of destruction.

This book's biggest challenge, and where it falls down, is trying to introduce its new setting from scratch.  The idea of stories in a Star Wars era where there are no Jedi, no Sith, no Republic and no Empire is a big pill to swallow and, despite the writers' best efforts, it doesn't go down well.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of promise here but it's promise that won't have been delivered by the time you reach the end of the book.  If you're the sort who has no problem reading a book whose goal is basically to set up the following ones, then you'll have nothing to complain about here.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi - Force War

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

25,792 BBY.  The third and final book of the Dawn of the Jedi series.  The story skips forward a year from 'Prisoner of Bogan' and we're thrown straight into the titular war, in which the Je'daii and their allies are fighting against the innumerable hordes of the Rakatan Infinite Empire.

Disney's takeover of the Star Wars franchise (and their redistribution of the publishing rights to Marvel, which they also own) meant that this series was cancelled early.  To my surprise, Ostrander and Duursema do a pretty impressive job in creating an epic conclusion to the ideas set up in the previous two books.

As before it is the darker characters Xesh and Daegen Lok who are by far the most interesting and their story arcs here are brilliantly executed.  I particularly liked seeing Lok as the warleader he prophesied himself to be in the last book.

The only real downside is that, despite the writers' excellent efforts, it is still noticable that these stories were originally planned to go on for longer.  So, although we get most of the loose ends tied up, they're done in a rather hurried sort of way that'll leave you with questions like 'What happens between Trill and Sek'nos?', 'How do the Je'daii become the Jedi?' or (if you've played 'The Old Republic') 'When does Rajivari fall to the dark side?'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Dawn Of The Jedi - Prisoner Of Bogan

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

The second book of the Dawn of the Jedi series, set 25,793 BBY.  Exiled to the dark moon Bogan, the Force Hound Xesh encounters the insane Dark Je'daii Daegen Lok.  They decided to ally their dark side powers to escape but soon find themselves pursued by both the Je'daii and a dangerous figure from Xesh's past.

The biggest problem with the first book of the series 'Force Storm' was that without the Sith, the Jedi, the Empire or the Republic, the setting was very new and hard to reconcile with the larger Star Wars mythos.  Whilst this book does still suffer a little from that, the concept has had a bit of time to settle in and the story presented here (with duels, starfighters and crimelords) is much more in keeping with the familiar Star Wars themes.

I particularly enjoyed the focus on the interaction between Xesh and Lok, both dark side warriors but with very different styles.  Xesh was raised amid brutality and trained as a killer, whilst Lok is slightly deranged and has chosen the dark path in order to combat his frightening visions of the future.  Unfortunately, for all that I enjoyed the depiction of these main characters, it has to be acknowledged that not a lot happens in this book and by the end of it the status quo has basically been restored, which feels like a missed opportunity.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Death Star

by Michael Reaves & Steve Perry

1 BBY.  This book tells the stories of some of the individuals who lived and worked on the Death Star as it neared completion and and what happened to them when it met it's fiery end at Luke Skywalker's hands.  The best thing about this book is the fact that we get to see the Imperial perspective of 'A New Hope' and of particular interest are the thoughts of moviedom's greatest villain, Darth Vader. 

However, there is a downside; pretty much everything else. There have been dozens of stories about the Death Star, its construction, the capture of its plans and its demise. This book was the perfect opportunity to tie them all together into a definitive history of the Star Wars galaxy's greatest weapon, much the same way A. C. Crispin pulled together all the threads of Han Solo's past in the Han Solo Trilogy. That opportunity is not only missed, it is studiously avoided. Instead of drawing on the wealth of existing background story, Reaves and Perry use it as a chance to create another bunch of mundane nobodies, much as they did with the MedStar Duology.

The authors (one of whom I usually like and one of whom I don't) don't even bother to develop the preexisting characters that they do use. We learn nothing new of Grand Moff Tarkin or Admiral Motti, except that they're ambitious and they're on the Death Star. In fact the only significant thing about any of the characters featured is that their boring lives take place on the Death Star.

Basically a waste; of its potential and of my time/money.

Followed by Timothy Zahn's 'Scoundrels'.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Empire - In The Shadows Of Their Fathers

by Thomas Andrews & Scott Allie

(Art by Adriana Melo, Joe Corroney and Michel LaCombe)

The sixth book in the Empire series, set eight months after Episode IV.  Luke, Leia and a Rebel team travel to the planet Jabiim to convince it to join the Alliance, but find the situation far more complicated than they imagined.  The title of this book refers to Luke and resistance leader Nolan Gilmunn and is about how they inherit the conflict between their fathers.  The conflict in question happens in 'Star Wars: Clone Wars - Last Stand On Jabiim' by Haden Blackman and John Ostrander and I think it's important for you to have read that story to really appreciate the interplay here. 

Darth Vader also plays a role here, in the excellent but understated prologue in which he shows a (slightly) more diplomatic side and then later he arrives on Jabiim.  I was a little disappointed that more wasn't made of Vader's connection to Jabiim, but there you go. 

This is a pretty good book, but ironically finds itself in the shadow of its much better Clone Wars predecessor.  Also, I have to admit to being very tired of Luke and Leia's Rebel adventures, that period in Star Wars history has reached saturation point in my opinion.

Followed by 'Empire: The Wrong Side of the War' by Welles Hartley and John Jackson Miller.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Galaxies - The Ruins Of Dantooine

by Voronica Whitney-Robinson & Haden Blackman

1 ABY.  I'll start by saying that I was sour towards this book before I even read it, because those plonkers at Lucasfilm cancelled a Clone Wars novel in favour of it.  My mood didn't improve with reading.  Frankly, this book is little more than an overblown advert for the 'Galaxies' computer game and I think that is a terrible abuse of fans, luring them into buying an item just so you can advertise another (more expensive, I might add) item. 

The core story is a quite pointless planet hopping adventure for a very transparent character named Finn Darktrin (the revelation about him at the end is about as surprising as the fact the sun came up this morning) and a simpleton woman called Dusque Mistflier, who has to have every single event explained to her. 

By far the worst thing about the book is the way it seems to be a catalogue of items to be found in the game.  The planets they visit are described like they probably are in the game's manual, every location has to include a zoological break down of what creatures might be encountered there and there's even a scene where Finn and Dusque stand around taking about a series of weapons and their specifications. 

It's not all bad (thank the Force, or whatever else takes your fancy), the prologue being actually quite good in that it shows Naboo as occupied by the Empire as well as a feared Imperial Inquisitor being made to seem pretty meek compared to the might of Darth Vader.  Cameos are always good in a Star Wars book and here we get some by Vader, Luke, Leia, Lando, Han, Chewbacca, the Droids, Wedge and Nym (from the 'Starfighter' and 'Jedi Starfighter' computer games).  However, rather than being a device for tying the fiction franchise together, the cameos here seem more like they're crammed in just to give the book some credibility.  They fail.

Followed by Alan Dean Foster's 'Splinter of the Mind's Eye'.

1 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Jedi Trial

by David Sherman & Dan Cragg

22 BBY.  This fifth novel in the Clone Wars cycle changes the pace dramatically.  The story is the battle of the important world of Praesitlyn and, interestingly, the battle spans the entire book.  The authors' experience of the armed forces makes for some good combat scenes in which there's plenty of dirt, blood and confusion. 

Generally speaking, this is a far more epic story than the fairly small-scale ones that have featured in the other Clone Wars novels, which fits nicely into the Star Wars saga.  Sadly, however, events seem rushed and characters inadequately explored, particularly in the case of the romance between the stupidly-named couple Odie and Erk, giving the book and overwhelming sense of shallowness. 

What I disliked most was the mercenary leader who knowingly throws his troops into impossible confrontations (outgunned and outnumbered) and then is portrayed by the authors as some sort of tactical genius.  Perhaps we should be worried for the American armed forces (rather than just worried about them! - whoa, little bit of politics!)

Followed by Karen Traviss' 'The Clone Wars'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - Alliance

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Omar Francia and Alan Robinson)

137 ABY.  Legacy book four.  As with volume two ('Shards') this book leaves Cade Skywalker's tale behind and reveals details of the wider conflict across the galaxy.  Here we see the Galactic Alliance Remnant, under the indomitable Admiral Gar Stazi, as they launch a strike against the Mon Calamari shipyards in an attempt to capture a new advanced Star Destroyer.  Then we follow two Imperial Knights as they infiltrate Mon Calamari, where the Sith are exacting a terrible vengeance.  Finally we have a story of Darth Wyyrlok undertaking a quest to confront an ancient Sith Lord in an attempt to save Darth Krayt's life.

I really enjoyed these vignettes of the galactic conflict which acts as the setting for the Legacy series, particularly since I'm not actually much of a Cade fan.  One of the most interesting characters here is Admiral Stazi, who has such powerful personality that you can't help believing that his outnumbered and outmatched fleet really do have a hope of liberating the galaxy.  There's also a great new character in the form of Imperial Knight Treis Sinde, a veteran Knight whose rogueish tendencies reminded me strongly of Qui-Gon Jinn.

Having used a particular word in that last sentence, it's well worth noting that this book also sees the return of the enternally-cool Rogue Squadron too.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - Broken

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

The first book of the most innovative Star Wars story ever, this story begins 126 years after 'Return of the Jedi'.  The galaxy has changed dramatically in the century since the times of Han, Luke and Leia.  The Empire rules the galaxy again, this time led and policed by a vast new Sith Order.  However, a rebel Empire exists under the command of Emperor Roan Fel.  Meanwhile the Jedi Order is once again scattered and it's most lauded apprentice, Cade Skywalker, has became a ruthless pirate. 

Naturally, Cade is the main character here and it is him that both the 'Legacy' and the 'Broken' of the title refer to.  Worn down by the weight of the Skywalker legacy, he is torn between his Jedi upbringing and the ruthless life he has chosen for himself.  My favourite bit of this book is where Cade, on the verge of shooting up with 'death sticks' has a heated argument with Luke Skywalker's ghost (a la Ben Kenobi). 

Action fans won't be disappointed as this book is packed with fierce Jedi versus Sith action.  However, what I enjoyed the most was simply exploring the new ideas of the distant Star Wars future, from the Yuuzhan Vong armour-wearing Darth Krayt to the Imperial Knights (think a cross between the Jedi and the Emperor's Red Guard).  Also worth a special mention is Darth Talon, a relentless assassin who's kind of like a sexy female Darth Maul.

Followed by 'Legacy: Shards'.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - Claws Of The Dragon

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

137 ABY.  The third book of the series sees Cade infiltrate Coruscant in the hopes of rescuing Jedi Hosk Trey'lis.  He is soon captured by the Sith, however, and begins his induction into their ranks.  Meanwhile, Cade's friends gather and formulate a plan to rescue him. 

I enjoyed this book a great deal, as we see a new aspect of Cade's struggle with the dark side, not to mention his friends overcoming their distrust of him.  Sadly, however, the book's strong story is somewhat overpowered by a series of revelations about characters we thought we knew.  The most significant of this is finding out who Darth Krayt used to be. 

This makes for the book's best moment when Krayt (before he was Krayt) battles Obi-Wan Kenobi outside a certain moisture farm on Tatooine.  The downside of this awesome scene is that it makes much of the rest of the book look less good by comparison.  Overall, very good but not perfect.

Followed by 'Legacy: Alliance'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - Extremes

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

Book ten, set 138 ABY.  Lashing out against the alliance of their enemies, the Sith put in motion a genocidal plan to cow the galaxy by wiping all life from entire worlds.  As the Jedi, Imperial Knights and Galactic Alliance rush to counter the Sith, Cade Skywalker begins hunting the Sith scientist responsible for the genocide.

Throughout the series up to this point the various protagonists have been subject to varied and conflicting motivations but here we finally get to see them all fighting the proverbial good fight.  Similarly, we also get to see just how evil the Sith are in a way that has rarely been covered in the Star Wars mythos.  The other positive to all this is that Cade has definitely left his annoying mopey phase behind and has truly accepted the mission of saving the galaxy, albeit in his own inimitable way.

If there's a downside to this book it's the cliffhanger ending but really that just serves to whet your appetite for the all-out war which is sure to follow in the next book, appropriately titled 'Legacy: War'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - Monster

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema, Dave Ross and Dan Parsons)

137 ABY.  Book nine of the series sees Cade Skywalker braving the nightmarish planet Wayland, despoiled by the Sith and the Yuuzhan Vong, to rescue his beloved and confront Sith Lord Darth Maladi.  Meanwhile the Galactic Alliance Remnant, the Jedi Order and Roan Fel's Imperial Knights fight as allies against the Sith for the first time.

I'm not a big fan of Cade Skywalker since he spends so much time indecisively moping throughout this series, but in this book we get one of the important crux points of his life where he finally has to confront the decision of whether to choose the light side or the dark.

Far more enjoyable to read, however, are the scenes which focus on the larger war against the Sith.  I particularly enjoyed the three-way interaction between Sigel Dare, a stick-up-the-arse Imperial Knight, Treis Sinde, the Imperial Knight errant from 'Storms', and Jedi Master Asaak Dan.  These scenes highlighted the differences and the similarities between the Jedi and the Imperial Knights, as well as showing their competing feelings of respect and rivalry.  This theme is revisted later in the book when the Jedi and their Imperial analogues both fight to protect Roan Fel on Agamar.

The Battle of Agamar is a brilliant bit of Star Wars action, cover the lightsaber-filled fighting on the ground, as well as showing the battle in space through the eyes of Gunn Yage, an Imperial pilot who is starting to resent serving under the Sith.

Overall a good book which moves us leaps and bounds towards the conclusion of the series.

Followed by 'Legacy: Extremes'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - Shards

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Adam DeKraker, Travel Foreman, Colin Wilson, Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

137 ABY.  The second book of the series lives up to its title by being a collection of shorter tales, mostly written solo by Ostrander, from across the new galactic landscape of the Legacy era.  The first takes us back into the prologue of 'Broken' and reveals the machinations behind the Sith's usurping of the throne and Roan Fel's escape.  The second tale jumps us back to the future to tell the story of a squad of Stormtroopers forced by the Sith to fight against their brethren loyal to Fel.  This is by far the best story on offer here, being about the bond between soldiers on the front lines and featuring a nicely sinister Sith called Darth Maleval. 

The next story follows the hunt for Cade Skywalker by the Empire.  There is also a subplot involving a meeting between Fel's agents and the remnant of the Galactic Alliance (the Legacy era's Rebel Alliance), but it never really develops to any depth.  The best element of this story is the introduction of Imperial agent Morrigan Corde, who has an interesting relationship with Cade.  The penultimate story has Emperor Roan Fel doing battle with a Sith assassin in an old-fashioned comic book mosh-up.  The final story reaquaints us with Cade himself as he is forced to confront his emotional demons in order to complete his Jedi training. 

These stories are all entertaining as far as they go, but due to their length none of them develop to the same depth and quality as the story in 'Broken'.  This book is worth reading, if only for the return of fan favourite Jedi K'kruhk and his gift to Cade ("I, too, hav a gift for you - this is Artoo Detoo.").

Followed by 'Legacy: Claws of the Dragon'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - Storms

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema, Omar Francia and Dan Parsons)

Book  seven, set 137 ABY.  Following the events of 'Vector: Volume Two' the galaxy is in turmoil as the repercussions of Darth Krayt's disappearance begin to set in.

This book begins fantastically, returning us to Mon Calamari where Imperial Knight Treis Sinde and the Mon Calamari Knights are fighting a guerilla war against the Sith, who are led by Darth Azard and the cruel scientist Vul Isen.  This part of the story is very much a classic Star Wars fable in which a Knight errant stands against a hideous monster to protect innocents.

The book then moves its focus to Admiral Gar Stazi's fleet as it attempts to capitalise both on his powerful new flagship, the Alliance, and the turmoil of a leaderless Sith Empire.  This is great stuff for fans of the military side of Star Wars, featuring space battles and the heroes of Rogue Squadron.

The last thord of the book is somewhat less enjoyable as the focus returns to Cade Skywalker.  He seems to have lost the potent decisiveness that he had going into 'Vector' and has gone back to being the mopey deadbeat that made him this series' biggest drawback in the earlier books.  If anything, he becomes even more of a dick and manages to ruin the lives of everyone around him.

So, some very good but balanced out by a fair chunk of Cade being insufferable.

Followed by 'Legacy: Tatooine'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - Tatooine

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema, Kajo Baldisimo and Dan Parsons)

Book eight, set 137 ABY.  On the run, Cade Skywalker and his shipmates land on Tatooine for repairs (doesn't everyone?).  Amid the deserts and the heat of the twin suns, Cade is caught up by both family secrets and a crew of Black Sun assassins.

Sooner or later every major Star Wars character goes to Tatooine.  There was a time when this would have annoyed me about this book but now I can accept that it allows Cade to confront a place that was formative both for his ancestors Anakin and Luke, as well as Darth Krayt.  More important than that, however, is that we finally get to see how Cade and hotshot Imperial pilot Gunn Yage, both children of Morrigan Corde/Nyna Calixte, interact with one another.  It turns out to be suitably Star Wars-esque in that Cade makes a number of sexual advances.  There's just something about their own secret sisters that Skywalker men can't resist.

The very end of this book was actually my favourite bit in that it features the otherwise unrelated story of Hondo Karr, a man who has been by turns a Mandalorian warrior, a Sith-stabbing Imperial Stormtrooper and a pilot of Rogue Squadron.  Here we learn about his past and his secret personal mission of vengeance.  The only disappointing aspect is that his storyline never goes beyond this book, so we never get to find out if he brings the false Mandalore to justice and never get to see him in action in his cool black and gold Mandalorian armour.

Followed by 'Legacy: Monster'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - The Hidden Temple

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

Book five, set 137 ABY.  Here we're returned to the story of Cade Skywalker.  Following 'Claws of the Dragon', Cade has added Sith teachings to his Jedi training but chooses to focus on his life as a bounty hunter and pirate rather than following one of the Force philosophies.  However, after an encounter with a member of his family, he resolves to take the fight to the Sith.  There follows a journey to the Hidden Temple of the Jedi Order, where its few and scattered members can regroup in safety.  Once there the question is raised whether Cade, the Jedi and the Imperial Knights should form an alliance to assassinate Darth Krayt.

Overall this isn't nearly as much of a leap-forward storywise as 'Claws of the Dragon' was and its a little too dialogue-heavy for my tastes, with every character stopping to have some sort of heart-to-heart with every other one.  However, I did enjoy seeing Cade's new ruthless determination, which is a vast improvement over his former moping.

I also enjoyed seeing how the Jedi react to the Imperial Knights, a group of stiffs who manage to be even more sanctimonious than the Jedi whilst also being far more arrogant.  On top of this is the return of familiar faces such as K'kruhk and (not seen since the Clone Wars comics) T'ra Saa.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy - War

by John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

138 ABY.  The eleventh and final volume of the first run of the 'Legacy' series does exactly what it says on the tin.  Here the reborn Darth Krayt launches a massive strike against his enemies, who in turn take the fight to the Sith in an all-out assault on Coruscant.

If you like Star Wars action then this book is every bit the action-packed epic conclusion that this series warrants, with almost every character from the last ten books drawn into the final cataclysmic conflict.  Those involved include Cade and crew, the Jedi, the Imperial Knights, the Sith, the Galactic Alliance Remnant, Rogue Squadron, Skull Squadron, Joker Squad, the Moff Council and even R2-D2 (he's seen his fair share of adventures!).

There's not too much I can say without spoiling plot points, but Ostrander and Duursema do an excellent job of completing the story arcs of all of their main characters, with Cade naturally being the primary one.  A great conclusion to the series.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy Volume II - Book 1: Prisoner Of The Floating World

by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman

(Art by Gabriel Hardman)

138 ABY.  As the Galactic Triumvirate, consisting of Jedi Master K'kruhk, Admiral Gar Stazi and Empress Marasiah Fel, attempt to rebuild the galaxy's infrastructure in peacetime, a new Sith Lord makes his play for power and takes an Imperial Knight captive.  His rescue must then be undertaken by a motley crew consisting of a junior Knight, a refugee mechanic, an assassin droid and the heir to an unwanted family legacy: Ania Solo.

I was in two minds going into the reading of this book.  On the one hand I felt there were definitely more stories to be told in this era of the Star Wars mythos, but on the other I'm pretty tired of books which are a bit too dilligent in focusing on non-Jedi characters, as if that in itself is a plot point.

The writers do a good job of creating and introducing an interesting core group of characters and I particularly liked AG-37, an assassin droid who has been around so long that not only does he remember the original Jedi and Han Solo, but he's also developed an oddly compassionate personality of his own.  I was also intrigued by the new villain, Darth Wredd, who manages to raise himself above the nondescript lightsaber-bait of many of the Sith from the original Legacy series.

Of course, the flagship character is Ania Solo, great granddaughter to Han and Leia (and therefore some relation to both Cade Skywalker and Empress Fel).  I actually found her situation oddly reminiscent of Rey from 'The Force Awakens', although this book was released first, of course.  She's living on a backwater planet, running a junkyard and dreaming of getting out among the galaxy and it is receiving a mysterious lightsaber that changes her destiny.  See what I mean?  Anyway, she's actually a far better character than I expected and is very much in touch with the Solo side of her heritage, liking to shoot first and ask questions later (if at all).

Not a bad book at all but, being the first book, you get the definite sense that the series hasn't quite got up to speed yet.

Followed by 'Book 2: Outcasts of the Broken Ring'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy Volume II - Book 2: Outcasts Of The Broken Ring

by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman

(Art by Brian Albert Thies)

138 ABY.  Ania Solo and her friends are hailed as heroes for saving Imperial Knight Yalta Val, but she and Jao Assam become fugitives once more when they decide to disobey Empress Fel's orders and set off in pursuit of Darth Wredd.  Their search leads them to the remains of the Mon Calamari shipyards, orbiting the dead world of Dac, where they discover a Sith plot to enslave refugees.

Now that the characters have had time to bed in a bit, I found this book much more enjoyable than the first one of the series.  In particular I enjoyed the fact that we get to see a few more consequences of the events of the original Legacy run, as well as seeing what the Sith have been up to since they went into hiding.

The biggest downside to this book, however, is how contrived Ania and Jao's fugitive status is.  One minute they're heroes who just saved the day by breaking all the rules and the next they break a few more rules and suddenly have a death mark hanging over them.  I get that having the two of them on the run adds to the drama of the story, but the way the writers get us there is just silly.

Followed by 'Book 3: Wanted: Ania Solo'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy Volume II - Book 3: Wanted: Ania Solo

by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman

(Art by Gabrian Hardman)

139 ABY.  Ania encounters a figure from her past but soon finds herself taken prisoner and accused of murdering an Imperial Knight.  As she matches wits with a vicious bounty hunter on a hellish planet, Ania's friends race to both rescue her and prove her innocence.

Whilst I once again enjoyed seeing the impulsive Ania Solo and her mixed bag of allies in action, I also once again found that the premise of this story was too contrived.  As before Ania goes from being a famous hero to being a fugitive almost on the flip of a coin and I found it very odd that even her friends become suspicious of her past, despite actually knowing her.  It seemed like the writers were trying to crowbar some tension into the story whether it fit or not.

I also felt that the idea of the Galactic Triumvirate putting together a kangaroo court was a bit off the wall, especially considering one of them is a Jedi.  It just didn't sit right with what we know of the Triumvirate's leadership.

On the up side, AG-37 has easily become my favourite character, with a surprisingly dry wit and easy charm for an assassin droid.  Here we learn that his connection to Ania runs deeper than we may have expected, as a replay of his memory banks shows an image of a certain smuggler and his Wookiee companion.

Followed by 'Book 4: Empire Of One'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Legacy Volume II - Book 4: Empire Of One

by Corinna Bechko & Gabriel Hardman

(Art by Brian Albert Thies and Gabriel Hardman)

139 ABY.  The fourth and final book of the series, being the furthest point of the Expanded Universe timeline before it was rebooted by Evil Disney.  Disgraced Imperial Knight Jao Assam is freed from custody by Sith Lord Darth Wredd, who begins putting the final stage of his grand plan into action.  Given command of a squad of Trandoshan Stormtroopers, Ania and her friends set off in pursuit of Wredd in order to save their friend from him.

I have always been a fan of the darker characters of the Star Wars universe and I was pleased that in this book we get to learn the entirety of Darth Wredd's history, as well as seeing him unleashed against his Sith rivals.  There's certainly a great deal more depth to the character than most of the others who have appeared in either of the Legacy series.

This book's biggest downside is just how obvious it is that the writers were told that they had to wrap everything up before Dark Horse' licence ended.  This means that it all feels a little rushed and under-explored, ultimately leaving the reader wanting.

However, in its favour, this book does have the final battle between the One Sith and an army of Imperial Knights, which is very cool.  Also, I was pleased to see that Ania remains true to her Solo heritage and is very much a trigger-happy scoundrel right up until the end.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Mara Jade - By The Emperor's Hand

by Timothy Zahn & Michael A. Stackpole

(Art by Carlos Ezquerra)

4 ABY.  The story of how Mara Jade goes from being the Emperor's most trusted assassin to being an interplanetary vagrant.  When Zahn and Stackpole bring their two best female characters together (Mara and Ysanne Isard) then this book is great. 

Sadly, however, the storyline in which Mara goes after Black Nebula is pretty poor and the Nebula has none of the sinister promise that Black Sun and Xizor did.  So much more could've been done with this excellent character by these two excellent authors that you will be disappointed.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: MedStar I - Battle Surgeons

by Michael Reaves & Steve Perry

20 BBY.  People expecting a Star Wars epic here will be disappointed.  People expecting battles and lightsaber duels will be disappointed.  People expecting this book to combine elements of the authors' previous Star Wars novels ('Darth Maul - Shadow Hunter' and 'Shadows of the Empire') will also be disappointed.  Basically, anyone with any expectations for this book will be disappointed. 

The story is about a group of battle surgeons (duh!) on Drongar during the Clone Wars, to whom very little happens and whose characters develop very little.  Don't get me wrong, this book is well written, but at no point does it justify the fact that it was written, telling us nothing new about the war, the Force or the only two recognisable characters (Barriss Offee and I-5YQ). 

Some Star Wars books are essential reading but this one is certainly not.  Also (like 'Shatterpoint', which was an 'Apocalypse Now' rip-off), the fact that 'Battle Surgeons' is clearly just 'M.A.S.H' with Star Wars packaging cheapens not just the book, but the franchise in general. 

Followed by 'MedStar II - Jedi Healer'.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: MedStar II - Jedi Healer

by Michael Reaves & Steve Perry

20 BBY.  This book is a much better attempt by the authors than its predecessor.  The relationship between Jos and Tolk is actually made interesting and given some genuine romantic tension; Den and I-5YQ's discussions actually lead somewhere; Barriss actually behaves like a Jedi, exploring the Force and the line between light and dark. 

Also, the nebulous tension caused by the spy in the first book is made into a more interesting and immediate threat here, as are the machinations of the Black Sun operative. 

Although the book still lacks the epic scale I would expect of a Star Wars book, as well as failing to capitalise on the potential links between the authors' previous Star Wars books, it is a much better read all round.  The biggest downside is that you'll probably have to read 'Battle Surgeons' first.

Followed by Sean Stewart's 'Yoda: Dark Rendezvous'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Mission From Mount Yoda

by Paul Davids & Hollace Davids

5 ABY.  The fourth book of the younger reader series commonly referred to as the Jedi Prince series.  Here the heroes of the New Republic launch the titular mission from the titular mountain base in order to rescue archaeologists on the devastated toxic planet of Duro.  Meanwhile the Grand Moffs and the Prophets of the Dark Side compete for control of the Empire.

This is actually one of the better books of what is, generally, a terrible series of young adult stories, with a somewhat more coherent and believable plot.  Unfortunately the writing is still very bad, the dialogue awful and some of the concepts introduced ludicrous.  I could just about accept that the New Republic has set up a base on Dagobah and named it Mount Yoda, but things like the fact that it has a school called Dagobah Tech just made me want to sigh in despair.

So, despite being better than the other books of the series, it's still not a good book and is an embarrassing addition to the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Prophets Of The Dark Side

by Paul Davids & Hollace Davids

5 ABY.  The sixth and final book of the so-called Jedi Prince series.  In this book Luke Skywalker and Ken (the Jedi Prince himself) attempt to protect the secrets of the Lost City of the Jedi from the sinister Prophets of the Dark Side.

This book, unsurprisingly, has all of the faults that plague this series as a whole.  The writing is simplistic, the dialogue is terrible and the plot is just bizarre.  For instance, this book features a Jedi Prince (Prince of what?) attempting to bond with his estranged father, who is a three-eyed mutant, but not the same three-eyed mutant from the start of the series.  A different three-eyed mutant, you see?  Weird.

Looking back now, Star Wars writers like Abel G. Pena, Jason Fry and Daniel Wallace have gone to great lengths to rehabilitate these stories into the wider Star Wars mythos, but taking them as they are, they're just not very good.

Followed by William C. Dietz's 'Dark Forces: Rebel Agent'.

1 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Queen Of The Empire

by Paul Davids & Hollace Davids

5 ABY, the fifth book of the Jedi Prince series.  Han and Leia decide to elope to Hologram Fun World, managed by their old friend Lando, but the Princess soon finds herself targeted once more by the vengeful Zorba the Hutt and by the enamoured Emperor Trioculus, who wants to turn her to the dark side and make her his Queen.

This book is very much better than all the other books of the series, which is to say that it's an okay, if occasionally boring, book.  But even mediocrity is better than most of what the Davids' have churned out.

What makes this book different from the others is that it adopts a style more akin to the cartoon series of the 1980s, telling an episodic adventure-of-the-week rather than trying (and failing) to be an epic galaxy-changing saga.  The primary way it does this is by almost entirely getting rid of Prince Ken and his ridiculous and tedious arc, instead focusing on Han and Leia as they stumble into another misadventure.

The high point of a truly terrible Star Wars series.

Followed by 'Prophets of the Dark Side'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Rebellion - My Brother, My Enemy

by Rob Williams & Thomas Andrews

(Art by Brandon Badeaux and Michel Lacome)

0 ABY.  The first book in a new series set amid the height of the Rebellion's struggle.  First off, I was a little frustrated by the fact that, despite being touted as a new series, it really is just a continuation of the 'Empire' series.  In fact, you really need to have read 'Empire: The Wrong Side Of The War' by Welles Hartley and John Jackson Miller to fully understand the events portrayed here.  The cynic in me just screams 'marketing scam' when someone tries to sell me the same product with a different label. 

However, with all that said, this is still a good book.  It continues the story of Imperial officer Janek Sunber, who is a childhood friend of Luke Skywalker.  We get a good amount of introspection from both Janek and Luke as they question their own life choices and those of the other.  In keeping with the post-Episode III trend, the plot here is a darker one than those seen in the 'Empire' books and also a more mature one. 

I was also glad to see the continued expansion of Deena Shan's character, as she loses her naievete.  Plus, the art is great, especially a double page spread showing Vader surveying the Imperial fleet from the bridge of the Executor as it ambushes the Rebels.

Followed by 'Rebellion: The Ahakista Gambit' by Brandon Badeaux and Rob Williams.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Rebellion - The Ahakista Gambit

by Brandon Badeaux & Rob Williams

(Art by Michel Lacombe)

0 ABY.  The second book of the 'Rebellion' series (which is really just a rebranding of the 'Empire' series) focuses on Wyl Tarson, a peripheral character from the previous volume.  Wyl is a Rebel Alliance spy in the employ of the crimelord Raze, but his cover has been blown and Raze has implanted a bomb in Wyl's head.  He is then tasked with assembling a team of Rebel agents to assault an Imperial facility on Ahakista, all the while serving Raze's purposes. 

This is something like a Star Wars version of the Dirty Dozen, with Wyl's team being made up of the Rebel Alliance's washouts.  Sadly, this book has nothing on the classic WW2 movie.  Whilst it was good to see the return of characters such as Darca Nyl and Rasha Bex, the other characters here are cliched and predictable.  Even the duel between a Dark Jedi and Darth Vader failed to capture my interest.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Shadow Games

by Michael Reaves & Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

1 BBY.  Smuggler and rogue Dash Rendar finds himself employed as a bodyguard of the beautiful and enigmatic holostar Javul Charn.  However, there is more to Charn's story than a simple overzealous fan and he becomes embroiled in the plots of Black Sun and the nascent Rebel Alliance.

For all his swagger in 'Shadows of the Empire', Dash presents an oddly uninspiring protagonist for this book, lacking the derring-do of Han Solo or the lazy charm of Lando Calrissian.  He's just sort of 'okay'.  Things aren't helped when Han is, rather awkwardly, shoe-horned into the story and shows just how much more interesting the book might have been with him as the main character.

Overall this is a pefectly enjoyable adventure through the Star Wars underworld, but not one which raises the bar in any way (check out Timothy Zahn's 'Scoundrels' for that).

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Tales Of The Jedi - Dark Lords Of The Sith

by Tom Veitch & Kevin J. Anderson

(Art by Chris Gossett, Art Wetherell, Mike Barreiro and Jordi Ensign)

Set 3,997 years before 'A New Hope', this is one of the best Star Wars graphic novels available.  It tells the story of two great Jedi Knights, Ulic Qel-Droma and Exar Kun, whose passions and ambitions (respectively) lead them to the dark side of the Force and, ultimately, to revive the Sith Order. 

Ulic's is the more tragic story as it is his desire to eliminate the dark side that sets him on the path to his own destruction, but I enjoyed Kun's story more simply because Kun has that same sort of dark charisma that Darth Vader has. 

This book is an important read for any Star Wars fan, but particularly for those who want to know more about the Sith or have always wondered where the temples on Yavin 4, in Episode IV, came from.

Followed by 'Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War' by Anderson.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Crash Course

by Henry Gilroy & Gary Scheppke

(Art by the Fillbach Brothers)

22 BBY.  To investigate a Separatist spy ring Anakin and Ahsoka have to go undercover in the high-stakes world of competition podracing.

Obviously, podracing is a familiar part of Anakin's story and it was interesting here to see him passing on his knowledge about the sport to his Padawan, who takes to it with surprising gusto.  I particularly enjoyed one scene in which Anakin pretty much quotes Qui-Gon Jinn.

It was also interesting to see Ahsoka coming within an inch or two of kissing a fellow podracer her own age.  It just goes to show that, as well as a Jedi warrior, she is still a teenager, with all the conflicted emotions that entails.

There's no great depth to this book but it's an enjoyable romp which revives the feel of one of Episode I's best scenes.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Hero Of The Confederacy

by Henry Gilroy & Steven Melching

(Art by Brian Koschak and Dan Parsons)

22 BBY.  Obi-Wan, Anakin and Ahsoka attempt to bring the planet Valahari into the war on the side of the Republic but find their efforts thwarted by Count Dooku's schemes.  Anakin is then forced to go head to head with Tofen Vane, son of Valahari's rulers and one of the greatest starpilots in the galaxy.

For the Jedi this is a fairly familiar story, wherein they get framed for being bad and have to deal with good people joining the enemy.  These themes were enjoyable the first half dozen times they were used but by now, with so many Clone Wars stories rehashing it, it's just samey.

What is interesting in this book, however, is Count Dooku's role.  It turns out that he is an old family friend of the Vanes and even had a thing for Viscountess Elodore back when he was a Jedi Knight.  Here, after assassinating her husband, he proposes marriage to Lady Vane.  In a scene featuring a conversation between Dooku and Darth Sidious we see that here Dooku may be attempting to fullfil a frustrated desire from his Jedi days rather than simply scheming for the good of the Confederacy.  This is a very rare glimpse into Dooku's emotional state and a hint of the reasons why he may have chosen to abandon the Jedi Order in the first place.

Overall nothing special, but worth reading specifically for what you'll learn about one of the more enigmatic Sith Lords.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - The Sith Hunters

by Henry Gilroy & Steven Melching

(Art by Vicente Ibanez and Vicenc Villagrasa)

20 BBY.  Set immediately after the end of Season Four of 'The Clone Wars' animated TV series, this book picks up the story of Sith brothers Darth Maul and Savage Opress, loosed upon the galaxy after their confrontation with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Asajj Ventress.  In response to their brutal excesses, the Jedi Order send a strike team led by Obi-Wan and Master Plo Koon to hunt down the dark siders.

This book is exactly what I want from a Star Wars story; Jedi versus Sith with no holds barred.  What I particularly liked was the insight we get into Maul and Savage that we never really see in the TV series.  We get to learn the specifics of how Maul went from falling down the hole on Naboo to living as a fruitcake on a junk planet (where Savage finds him) but, better than that, we get to see how Maul and Savage measure each other and judge one another's methods.  I particularly liked the scene in which Savage and Maul probe each other for details of their respective Sith masters (Tyranus and Sidious, respectively).

The only real downsides to this book are that the new Jedi it introduces are clearly there to be expendable and that we know that there won't be any conclusive final showdown between the Jedi and the Sith, since that can clearly only happen in the TV series.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The Glove Of Darth Vader

by Paul Davids & Hollace Davids

5 ABY.  The first book of a somewhat notorious series of young adult books often referred to as the Jedi Prince series.  In this book a new warlord, Trioculus, claims to be Emperor Palpatine's son and seeks to gain control of the Empire by fulfilling a prophecy which requires him to find the indestructible glove of Darth Vader.  Meanwhile the heroes of the New Republic form the Senate Planetary Intelligence Network.

This book, and the series as a whole, is exactly where both young adult books and Star Wars tie-ins can go wrong.  Containing a dubious plot and terrible dialogue, the writers seem determined to throw every whacky idea they have at the wall and see what sticks.  I mean, although it has been somewhat redeemed by Abel G. Pena's retcons, the idea that Darth Vader's right glove is not only indestructible but is the key to controlling the Empire is ludicrous.

I'm something of a pedant and a completist, but even I kept this book in a drawer away from my other Star Wars books for years.

1 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

by Michael Reaves & Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

17 BBY.  Although billed as a standalone novel, this book is more accurately the conclusion of the Coruscant Nights series set in the Dark Time following the events of Episode III.  Here, when a leader of the resistance against the Empire is captured by Darth Vader, Jedi Jax Pavan and his allies must mount a winner-take-all rescue attempt.

I enjoyed the way in which we get a bit of exploration of Whiplash as an organisation here, seeing the seeds of what will one day become the Rebel Alliance.  All the while the authors do a great job of setting the dark tone of the seemingly impossible fight against Palpatine and his Empire.

My favourite part of the book, however, was the section where, without it needing to be overtly expressed, we begin to see Jax slide towards the dark side.  This reaches a crux point where I genuinely wondered whether he would callously sacrifice the life of an ally in order to achieve his goals.

Sadly, despite those great bits, there is too much letting this book down.  First and foremost are a pair of characters who have long-since outlived their worth; Den Dhur and I-Five.  In this book Den's role is simply to worry out loud about everything that's happening at all times.  At the other end of the scale we have a droid who Reaves seems intent on gradually transforming into a god.  I-Five has already achieved sentience and become an over-powered war machine, but here he effectively becomes immortal, develops Force-sensitivity and becomes a real boy (no, seriously).  It's ridiculous.

Also letting the book down are the shoe-horned inclusions of Mandalore and Dathomir.  The latter of which Jax visits on a random impulse right in the middle of doing something else entirely.  It's more or less just name-dropping to no discernable benefit.

Followed by Paul S. Kemp's 'Lords of the Sith'.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The Lost City Of The Jedi

by Paul Davids & Hollace Davids

5 ABY.  The second book of the so-called Jedi Prince series introduces the Jedi Prince himself.  A vision of Obi-Wan Kenobi leads Luke Skywalker to discover the titular lost city beneath the jungles of Yavin 4.  Living in the lost city is Ken, a Force-strong boy with a mysterious past.

This book proves that 'The Glove of Darth Vader' was no fluke and that the Davidses are willing to run with any idea they have, no matter how bizarre.  Here the heavy pill we have to swallow is the concept that in Episode IV, when Luke and the Rebels are taking off to attack the Death Star, there is a technologically advanced city beneath their feet in which a Jedi Prince is happily growing up surrounded by droid caretakers.  And that this kid was put there by Obi-Wan.  And that the droids are called Zeebo, Chip and Dee-Jay.  And everyone's okay with that.

As with the other books of the series, the writing is poor and the plot far too Saturday-morning-cartoon to be taken seriously.  On top of that the book sits very uncomfortably among the larger Expanded Universe since Luke later founds a Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 and yet never mentions the Jedi City beneath them to his students.

Followed by 'Zorba the Hutt's Revenge'.

1 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Force Heretic: Refugee

by Sean Williams & Shane Dix

Book sixteen of the NJO, set 28 ABY.  This book features two main storylines; one follows Luke and a group of Jedi into Chiss (that's Grand Admiral Thrawn's species) space in search of the living world Zonama Sekot and the other has Han and Leia returning to the planet Bakura with a Galactic Alliance task force. 

The latter means we get to see what's changed on Bakura since 'The Truce At Bakura' as well as the plots the Vong will use to weaken the Bakurans and their former enemies, the Ssi-ruuk.  It made an interesting change to have an NJO battlescene that didn't feature the Vong too.  I'll admit I'm sick to death of Tahiri's internal conflict and the relationship between Jag and Jaina is more than a bit insipid.  The better story here is the one following Luke, Mara and the other Jedi.  We finally get to see Csilla, homeworld of the enigmatic Chiss, and also we get a glimpse of how Chiss politics often conflicts with their code of honour.  And there's a welcome return for Baron Soontir Fel too. 

The sub-plot about Nom Anor's rise among the Shamed Ones drags in places, but suggests that this excellent villain may have a larger part to play in later novels.

Followed by 'Force Heretic: Reunion'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Force Heretic: Remnant

by Sean Williams & Shane Dix

Book fifteen of the NJO, set 28 ABY.  The first and best of the Force Heretic trilogy, this novel charts the beginning of two very different missions.  Luke decides to take a team of Jedi in search of the long-lost planet Zonama Sekot, which he believes may be the key to defeating the Yuuzhan Vong.  Han and Leia are given command of a task force and set off to reestablish communications with worlds cut off by the Vong invasion.  There is also a sub-story in which a fleeing Nom Anor finds an unlikely place among the Shamed Ones deep in the bowels of Yuuzhan'tar. 

This book has several excellent scenes, my two favourites being the arrival of the Jedi in Imperial space amid a great battle and Jaina's discovery that the Yevethans (the genocidal aliens, much like the Vong, from the Black Fleet trilogy) have faced the Vong with cataclysmic consequences. 

I was very glad to see Gilad Pellaeon back in action but less gladened by the hints that a long boring sub-plot about Tahiri's loyalties was in the offing.  Williams and Dix are a talented team and their style lends itself excellently to Star Wars' mixture of action, philosophy and politics.

Followed by 'Force Heretic: Refugee'.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The New Jedi Order - Force Heretic: Reunion

by Sean Williams & Shane Dix

Book seventeen of the NJO and the conclusion to the Force Heretic trilogy, set 28 ABY.  Luke's Jedi team reaches the near mythical planet Zonama Sekot, whilst elsewhere the Galactic Alliance has to ally with the Imperial Remnant to protect a vital communications relay. 

Once again, this book is basically two storylines and once again Luke's one is better.  We discover more about the remarkable world of Zonama Sekot (first revealed in Greg Bear's prequel-era novel 'Rogue Planet') and see how its flight through hyperspace into the Unknown Regions has changed its people and Sekot, its planetary consciousness.  It is here that we have this book's finest moment, when Luke and Jacen discover that it was on this world decades earlier that Anakin Skywalker first used the dark side to kill.  This is a true revelation for Luke and Jacen and, I think, very important to their character development. 

The second story is not as good, but includes a dramatic battle which is commanded by Gilad Pellaeon, a character who is honourable yet ruthless and who I can't get enough of.  Tahiri's internal conflict is finally resolved too, which is good, because it was really starting to bore me.  Finally, it's good to see Nom Anor showing his true sinister genius rather than just being the lackey that some of the NJO books reduced him to.

Followed by 'The Final Prophecy' by Greg Keyes.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: The Protocol Offensive

by Anthony Daniels, Ryder Windham & Brian Daley

(Art by Igor Kordey)

10 BBY.  A very short story, it stars the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO as they attempt to solve a murder mystery and save a planet from civil war. 

An enjoyable little story that is probably the best Artoo and Threepio-orientated story so far released.  And in case you haven't realised it, C-3PO's dialogue was written by the man who brought the character to life in the films, the actor Anthony Daniels.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Vector - Volume One

by John Jackson Miller & Mick Harrison

(Art by Scott Hepburn, Joe Pimentel, Dan Parsons, Douglas Wheatley and Dave Ross)

A crossover story which serves as Volume 5 of the Knights of the Old Republic series, 3,963 BBY, and Volume 3 of the Dark Times series, 19 BBY.  This story focuses on the terrible power of an ancient Sith amulet as chance takes it through the lives of the fugitive Jedi Zayne Carrick and his allies before it resurfaces millennia later to be discovered by Darth Vader.

The foreword to this book has editor Randy Stradley quite catagorically explaining that the concept for this book began as an attempt to get a slice of some of the money that readers spend on the crossover events that Marvel and DC do with increasing regularity.  Although he then says that he hopes we enjoy it for its story, the feeling of shoe-horned marketing ploy never really wears off.  The biggest problem, of course, is that there is nearly four thousand years between the KotOR setting and the Dark Times.  This means that, for all of the efforts of the writers, the two parts to this book never really feel like they're linked; at least, not any more linked than any other Star Wars stories.

Taken as two separate stories, the first one is by far the better.  It introduces us to one of 'Vector's most important characters in the form of Jedi Knight Celeste Morne.  Morne is a fully trained Jedi but one who is not a part of the Jedi Order.  She has instead been trained by the secret Jedi Covenant and her training is therefore filled with the ruthless drive and anti-Sith paranoia that characterises the Covenant.  Her relationship with Zayne is a fascinating one as her belief that he is a Padawan-murdering Sith-to-be is shaken by her witnessing his acts of selfless compassion.

The second part of the book, set in the Dark Times, is less inspiring.  It has a promising premise, in which Vader follows the rumours of great Sith power and then finds a potential apprentice but that premise never delivers and in the end Vader just sort of decides to wander off.  The story has somewhat more important repercussions for the crew of the Uhumele, but it still lacks the punch it should've had.

Overall, not a bad book, but not the epic crossover that it was trying to be.  Still, when will you get another chance to see an image of Zayne Carrick, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Cade Skywalker all stood side by side?

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Vector - Volume Two

by Rob Williams, John Ostrander & Jan Duursema

(Art by Dustin Weaver, Jan Duursema and Dan Parsons)

The continuation of the Vector crossover story, this book covers it across the timeframe of the Rebellion series, 0 ABY, and the Legacy series, 137 ABY.  In those series it acts as Volume 4 and  Volume 6, respectively.

In the first part of the story Celeste Morne has been driven to the brink of insanity by two decades on a lifeless moon with only the undead spirit of Sith Lord Karness Muur for company, when the heroes of the Rebel Alliance are lured to the moon.  As with the Dark Times chapter of 'Vector: Volume One', this part of the story has some potential, with Luke encountering his first fully-fledged Jedi since Obi-Wan, but never really delivers on it.  Luke's interaction with Morne is pretty short and pointless, and ends almost on a note of 'Well, I'll certainly never talk or think about that experience ever again' on Luke's part.  This is the biggest problem with the Rebellion era; you can't actually have any of the main characters involved in life-changing events because it would throw off the continuity with the movies. 

Also, Vader's involvement in this storyline is a bit weird.  He basically tricks the Rebels into going to Celeste's moon just to see what will happen.  There's no clear reason why he would set such a vague trap for the Rebels when he knows there's a very real chance of setting free either a fully-trained Jedi or a power-mad Sith spirit.

However, there is a great scene where Muur has a vision of what Luke could become if controlled by the power of the Sith talisman and in that image of Sith-Luke there are clear echoes of his appearance in Tom Veitch's 'Dark Empire' where he does indeed fall to the dark side (albeit as the apprentice of a very different Sith Lord).

Far better than the Rebellion chapter, however, is the conclusion of the Vector storyline amid the events of the Legacy series.  Here Cade Skywalker enlists Morne's help in his mission to assassinate Darth Krayt; a plan which already includes a team made up of a Jedi Knight and three Imperial Knights.  This story builds to an all-lightsaber-action finale in which Cade's team take on Krayt and his most powerful Sith head-on.

As well as offering the conclusion of Celeste Morne's tale, this storyline also includes events that are truly core to the Legacy series, rather than being a bit of a sideline as they seemed with the KotoR, Dark Times and Rebellion series.  I think the best bit of the book is where it is revealed that, for all his dark tendencies, Cade is not in any way tempted by the power of the Muur Talisman, something which even the likes of Azlyn Rae and Shado Vao can't claim.

So, as with the previous volume, a mix of good and bad that never quite lives up to its intended purpose of linking the plots of the various Star Wars comics series of the time together.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - Requiem For A Rogue

by Michael A. Stackpole, Jan Strnad and Mike W. Barr

(Art by Gary Erskine)

4 ABY.  Probably the worst X-Wing graphic novel, this is a fairly uninspiring tale for the Rogues.  Somehow this book even manages to make the inclusion of a Sith temple and two dark side adepts seem mundane. 

It is marginally redeemed by the prologue (featuring the Rogues, aka 'Red Squadron', shortly before the events of 'A New Hope') and by the introduction by John Fass Morton, who played one of the Rogues (Dack) in 'The Empire Strikes Back'.

Followed by 'In the Empire's Service'.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - The Phantom Affair

by Michael A. Stackpole & Darko Macan

(Art by Edvin Biukovic, John Nadeau, Jordi Ensign and Gary Erskine)

4 ABY.  The first of the eight X-Wing graphic novels and one of the best; this story is about the Rogues attempting to gain possession of a cloaking device by bidding against the Imperial representative, Loka Hask.  Through a brilliant flashback sequence, we learn that Hask is responsible for the atrocity that led Wedge to join the Rebellion in the first place, raising the tension nicely. 

When it's revealed that the local scientists have also developed a powerful superweapon, it becomes a race to see who can get hold of it first.

Followed by 'Battleground: Tatooine'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: X-Wing Rogue Squadron - The Warrior Princess

by Michael A. Stackpole and Scott Tolson

(Art by John Nadeau and Jordi Ensign)

4 ABY.  Stackpole and Tolson use the fate of Tsar Nicolas and his family to bring us one of the most interesting concepts in the Star Wars franchise; Anastasia in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.  This blending of history and space opera makes this another great graphic novel and the book that got me hooked on the adventures of Rogue Squadron's X-Wing jockeys.

Followed by 'Requiem for a Rogue'.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Crisis At Crystal Reef

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book fourteen, set 24 ABY, the final part of the Black Sun sub-series and the last book of the series as a whole.  Black Sun is on the brink of taking control of the New Republic and Anja Gallandro, in the grip of drug (sorry, 'spice') addiction, has fled from Yavin 4 and her young Jedi friends. 

The Jedi set off in search of her but in the course of their search a threat to Nien Numb (the funny looking alien in the Millennium Falcon with Lando in 'Return of the Jedi'), administrator of Kessel's spice mines, is uncovered and Jaina and Lowbacca must face an army of Black Sun enforcers.  Meanwhile the other Jedi travel to Mon Calamari and end up searching for a spice cache deep beneath it's oceans. 

Once again, an interesting look at the planets in question, Mon Calamari and Kessel, but nothing to stand up and dance about.  Cameo appearance by the Jedi Knight Cilghal, though.

Followed by R. A. Salvatore's 'The New Jedi Order: Vector Prime'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Darkest Knight

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

The fifth book of the series, set 23 ABY.  An excellent book which takes us to the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk (no, I don't know how you pronounce three 'y's either!).  We learn alot more about Lowbacca and his past here, much as we learned about Tenel Ka in 'Lightsabers'. 

The secondary story of the book has Zekk, the Darkest Knight of the title, leading his first mission for the Shadow Academy, a mission that draws him into direct conflict with his old friends.  Zekk is by far my favourite character in the YJK series and here he must truly confront his split loyalty. 

Another great element to this book involves the young Jedi taking on the vicious Nightsisters in the forests of Kashyyyk (Kash-eek, maybe?).

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Jedi Under Siege'.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Delusions Of Grandeur

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book nine, set 24 ABY.  The young Jedi attempt to find Tyko Thul who, like his brother Bornan, has mysteriously disappeared. 

There's not really alot to this book but it is redeemed by appearances by the classic bounty hunters Boba Fett, Dengar and IG-88, as well as a return to Mechis III, the Droid world featured in Anderson's short story about IG-88 for the 'Tales of the Bounty Hunters' anthology. 

It was also interesting to see Lusa (the horse-girl from Vonda McIntyre's 'The Crystal Star') as she is after years of anti-human indoctrination by the Diversity Alliance.  Nolaa Tarkona continues to show she is a sinister piece of work as she puts an end to the Imperial Guardsman who escaped at the end of 'Jedi Under Siege'.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Jedi Bounty'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Diversity Alliance

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book eight, set 24 ABY.  The young Jedi Raynar Thul's father, Bornan Thul, has disappeared under odd circumstances and he asks Jacen, Jaina and the other Jedi-in-training to help him in his search. 

I liked the fact that their search takes them to Kuar, a planet from 'The Sith War' comics series, it's another one of those little things that helps bind the franchise together, as is the reappearance of IG-88, one of the bounty hunters from 'The Empire Strikes Back'.  Zekk's career as a bounty hunter leads him into perilous encounters with the ever-so-cool Boba Fett and he begins to uncover a sinister plot by the human-hating Diversity Alliance.  This shadow of a threat adds a great deal of tension to the book and, indeed, to the series, making it alot more fun to read. 

Beware of the gruesome scene involving one of the villains actually eating a prisoner alive, though.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Delusions of Grandeur'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Jedi Bounty

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book ten, set 24 ABY.  The young Jedi travel to Ryloth to rescue Lowbacca from the Diversity Alliance.  However, the human-hating organisation captures them and has no intention of allowing them to disturb their plans to seduce Lowie into their organisation. 

I enjoyed the detailed look at Ryloth (home of the Twi'leks) we get in this book but generally, there is nothing remarkable here.  A fair next step in the series, but far from groundbreaking. 

To be honest, though, I've never like scenes where the heroes are imprisoned for long periods of time and this is basically the main body of the book.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: The Emperor's Plague'.

2 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Jedi Shadow

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

23 ABY.  An omnibus containing the first three books of the YJK series; 'Heirs of the Force', 'Shadow Academy' and 'The Lost Ones'.  The stories are well written and the two new characters Lowbacca and Tenel Ka are, in fact, far more interesting than Jacen and Jaina, the kids of Han and Leia (if you didn't know). 

'Heirs of the Force' is a good stable beginning to the series, developing the bonds between the main characters as they face an Imperial pilot in the jungles, but the story as a whole is rather boring.  'Shadow Academy' is far more interesting as it reveals that the insidious Second Imperium has tasked the Dark Jedi Brakiss with creating elite dark warriors to fight the Jedi.  Brakiss' attempts to turn Jacen, Jaina and Lowbacca and their resistance makes for compelling reading.  However, it is the secondary story in which Luke and Tenel Ka must go undercover on Dathomir that holds far greater interest.  'The Lost Ones' is, in my humble (Ha!) opinion, the best of the three stories as it introduces the troubled urchin Zekk, whose life in the darkness of Coruscant leads him away from his friends, Jacen and Jaina, and towards the dark side. 

A good book to get you into the YJK series, which is essential reading for any Star Wars fan young or old.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Lightsabers'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Jedi Under Siege

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book six, set 23 ABY, and the final part of the Shadow Academy sub-series.  Without a doubt the best book in the series and a fairly strong contender for one of my favourite in the Star Wars franchise.  The Second Imperium and the Shadow Academy are about to unleash their fury and their forces against the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 and only the young Jedi stand in their way. 

The book is basically one big battle, beginning when the Shadow Academy appears above Yavin 4 and Imperial infiltrators bring down the moon's shields and progressing on various fronts.  Jacen copilots for the freighter captain Peckhum, Jaina steals a TIE-Fighter to fly against the Imperials, Tenel Ka and Lowbacca confront Stormtroopers and Nightsisters and the Academy's young Jedi battle their dark counterparts in the jungles of Yavin 4. 

This isn't an emotional exploration of the characters (although Zekk's divided loyalties make a good sub-plot), that's covered in the series' other books.  Make no mistake, this is action and strategy all the way and, frankly, I loved it.  Nice to see Lando and Admiral Ackbar in action again too.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Shards of Alderaan'.

5 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Lightsabers

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

The fourth book of the series, set 23 ABY.  Here Jacen, Jaina, Tenel Ka and Lowbacca are tasked by Luke Skywalker with building their own lightsabers as the next stage in their Jedi training. 

One of this book's best elements is that it shows that even these goody-goody young Jedi are not above pride and the mistakes it causes.  We also get a good look at Hapes in this book, something not seen in any other Star Wars novel to date.  It is, however, a slightly sugar coated Hapes, obviously because the cruel selfish infanticidal Hapes mentioned in 'The Courtship of Princess Leia' isn't suitable for younger readers. 

The best thing about this book is Zekk's training at the Shadow Academy, in which he must confront his rival Vilas in a fight to the death.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Darkest Knight'

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Return To Ord Mantell

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book twelve, set 24 ABY.  The start of a new sub-series within the YJK series has Black Sun, the criminal organisation from 'Shadows of the Empire' beginning to rear it head.  On Ord Mantell (the planet with the bounty hunter that Han mentions in 'The Empire Strikes Back') Han is confronted by a ghost from his past in the form of Anja Gallandro, daughter of Gallandro the gunslinger from the Han Solo Adventures trilogy (classics!). 

In general, the story is nothing remarkable but the inclusion of Anja, as well as cameos by the Jedi Knights Kyp Durron and Streen make this book worth the read.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Trouble on Cloud City'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Shards Of Alderaan

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book seven, set 24 ABY, and the first book in the Diversity Alliance sub-series.  Jacen, Jaina and their friends travel to the Graveyard of Alderaan (that's all the rubble left from when the Death Star blew it up) in order to find a gift for Leia's birthday; although, bizarrely, they completely forget the fact that Luke and Leia are twins, so it's his birthday too (poor fella probably sat in his room singing 'happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...'). 

It is in the Graveyard that they encounter a deadly enemy from the past in a welcome return to the character second only to Darth Vader in coolness; Boba Fett. 

The book isn't anything spectacular and is very disappointing after 'Jedi Under Siege', but it does begin to hint at larger events to be covered in later books.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Diversity Alliance'.

3 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - The Emperor's Plague

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book eleven, set 24 ABY, and the conclusion of the Diversity Alliance sub-series.  This book involves the two opposing forces, the genocidal Diversity Alliance and the New Republic, racing to reach a remote asteroid where the Emperor hid a vast supply of deadly biological weapons.  There is another plot, in which Luke and the Jedi Knight Cilghal lead a group of New Republic ambassadors to Ryloth to investigate the Alliance's base and this plot is every bit as tense and exciting as the main one. 

IG-88 is back in action here and Boba Fett's part in the story will surprise you with how it reveals the hunter's true code of conduct.  A good end to the sub-series, but not a patch on 'Jedi Under Siege'.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Return to Ord Mantell'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Young Jedi Knights - Trouble On Cloud City

by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta

Book thirteen, set 24 ABY.  A slighty ridiculous plot device, in which the young Jedi stumble across a Black Sun plot whilst testing a theme park for Lando Calrissian, is thankfully overshadowed by the exciting story of murder and intrigue set on the wonderfully described Cloud City. 

The tensions between the characters is particularly interesting here, of special note being the fact that Jaina and Tenel Ka are jealous of Anja Gallandro's affect on Zekk and Jacen, a very believable situation for teenagers, as well as Tenel Ka's reaction when she believes she has lost Jacen.  That brings me onto the book's best scene in which Jacen falls from a speeding Cloud Car and falls down into Bespin's bottomless atmosphere; I won't spoil it by telling you how he gets out of that particular certain-death scenario.

Followed by 'Young Jedi Knights: Crisis at Crystal Reef'.

4 out of 5

 

Star Wars: Zorba The Hutt's Revenge

by Paul Davids & Hollace Davids

The third book of the series known as the Jedi Prince series, set 1 ABY.  Released from decades in prison, Zorba the Hutt finds that in his absence his son, Jabba, has been killed by Princess Leia Organa.  How vows vengeance but soon comes head to head with Trioculus, current leader of the Galactic Empire, who intends to force the Princess to become his Queen.

This series of books are utter drivel and are exactly what gave the Star Wars Expanded Universe enough of a bad name that evil Disney could get away with rebooting the canon.  Here we get all the awfulness that we've seen in the other books, including ridiculous dialogue, bizarre concepts and holes in continuity that baffle the mind.

It must be said, however, that this book has an advantage over the rest of the series in that it's actually quite interesting to see the villain-versus-villain storyline featuring Zorba and Trioculus.  However all this means is that rather than being utterly abysmal, this book is just really bad.

Followed by 'Mission from Mount Yoda'.

2 out of 5

 

Starman: A Starry Knight

by James Robinson & David Goyer

(Art by Peter Snejbjerg, Steve Yeowell, Keith Champagne and Wade von Grawbadger)

Jack Knight, Starman, sets off into space on a quest to find Will Payton, another Starman and brother to Jack's beloved.  He is accompanied by Mikaal Tomas and a hologram simulacrum of his father Ted Knight, both also former Starmen.  Along the way he encounters the supervillain Solomon Grundy, is thrown into the far future to fight alongside Star Boy, falls into the past to encounter a young Jor-El on Krypton and finally helps Adam Strange to secure a peace treaty on the planet Rann.

I knew basically nothing about the character of Starman or, more specifically, about the Jack Knight incarnation before reading this book and was therefore expecting it to be largely inaccessible to me (I got it for free, so I couldn't not read it though).  However, the story here contains enough information, largely through the Shade's narration, to fill in enough backstory for me to be able to engage with the story on an even footing.  So if, like me, you're unfamiliar with the character, don't necessarily avoid this book.

Once I was onboard with Jack and the premise, what follows is a thoroughly enjoyable episodic space opera with more than a hint of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers about it.  Each peril that the travellers face is a diversion from the main plotline, but never feels like it completely interrupts the journey.  So, we get to take in strange worlds, a bit of time-hopping and encounter various cosmic DC characters.  If the old sci-fi serials are not your thing, then this won't be either, but I grew up on stuff like that.

4 out of 5

 

Superman: Sacrifice

by Greg Rucka, Mark Verheiden & Gail Simone

(Art by Ed Benes, John Byrne, Karl Kerschl, Rags Morales, David Lopez, Ron Randall, Derec Donovan, Georges Jeanty, Tom Derenick, Tony Daniel, Alex Lei, Rob Lea, Mariah Benes, Nelson, Bit, Mark Propst, Dexter Vines, Rob Petrecca, Cam Smith, Sean Parsons and Marlo Alquiza)

Part of the 'Countdown to Infinite Crisis' series.  As this book begins the people of Metropolis are beginning to consider the dangers of their favourite hero out of control, which is only exacerbated by his devastating battle with Blackrock.  Superman is then caught in a series of vivid delusions in which he witnesses old enemies brutally murdering Lois, causing a violent reaction. 

Eventually the Justice League confronts Supes with the truth; during his delusions he was actually beating Batman to the brink of death.  It is discovered that the Man of Steel is under the influence of Max Lord and soon Wonder Woman is forced into a titanic conflict with her friend (a section of the story which is also printed in 'The OMAC Project', for some reason) before being forced to kill Lord. 

This book is brilliant in the way its story forces a wedge between the previously unshakeable DC trinity.  Superman can no longer be trusted, Wonder Woman has become a murderer and Batman falls deeper and deeper into distrust and paranoia. 

Despite not being a Superman fan at all, I really enjoyed this book, not least for the return of the Eradicator in the final chapter.

4 out of 5