STAR WARS Overview: Rise of Empire, pt. II
  Overview    August 21, 2015     Matt Jaeger

 

Your basic Dwarf+Giant Overview is a comprehensive survey of an author or series. It is not an in-depth analysis, nor is it a summary. Think of it as a buying or reading guide, telling you what’s out there, what’s essential, what to avoid and so forth.

 

Editor’s intro: This is the third post in our Star Wars novels Overview. For brief introductory notes, please see Star Wars Overview: The Old Republic.

*** Indicates the Best.

** Indicates Good.

* Indicates not the best, but still Star Wars, so not bad either.

 

 

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The Clone Wars: No Prisoners **

This book really explores the Jedi principle of non-attachment, in Jedi and non Jedi alike.  The most interesting addition to the Star Wars lore is the addition of non-Jedi Light Force users and outside sects still related to the Jedi.  Here, it is Master Altis Djinn and his Altisian Jedi.  Master Altis allows his Jedi to take on as many Padawans as they feel they can handle (violating the Temple’s rule of one at a time), and even trains non-Force sensitives in his philosophy.  Most importantly, he allows his Jedi to fall in love and even marry, something that rocks Ahsoka’s world when she meets them.  Anakin’s head practically explodes.

Throughout the book, Anakin’s double life is reflected in the attachments of the non-Jedi around him and how those attachments affect their decisions.  All of this is set against the backdrop of Altis and his people, who believe attachment can strengthen a Jedi if handled correctly.  It’s a real study of Jedi principles and how Anakin’s forced double-life will eventually lead him down the path to the Dark Side.

 

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Republic Commando: Triple Zero ***

I always love the Republic Commando books, which are told exclusively from the perspective of the people NOT in charge and NOT on the Jedi council.  Here we get to meet two of the clones’ training officers, Kal Skirata and Vau Walon.  Very different men who, up until now, we’ve only heard about.  Seeds planted in Hard Contact sprout in a very satisfying way here, particularly for Jedi Etain Tur-Mukan.  And while not too heavy-handed about it, this book really drives home the toll that the war has taken on the soul of the Jedi and of the Republic at large as the clones of Omega and Delta company, men who have no rights, no citizenship, and an accelerated life span, begin questioning their purpose and their treatment as they experiment with the idea of being average humans.

 

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Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth **

Part one of the two part Clone Wars Gambit series, this book is a pretty straightforward spy novel, starring everyone’s two favorite Clone War Jedi, Obi-Wan and Anakin.  The narrative shifts perspective often, including to that of Yoda, Dooku, and even Darth Sidious, and for those of you who’ve been reading these reviews, you know I love getting the Sith perspective in a story.

Author Karen Miller plants some seeds plot-wise that, in my opinion, take more liberty with Obi-Wan’s backstory than they should. However, she does an excellent job of building the friction points between Obi-Wan and Anakin, and seamlessly allowing them to acknowledge and work past them, showing the reader why they have such a strong friendship, and deepening the meaning behind the events of A New Hope.

 

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Clone Wars Gambit: Siege **

First off, be prepared: the liberties taken by the author with Obi-Wan’s backstory bear fruit here (one in particular).  In some ways, I really enjoyed the new dimensions these additions offered to the people around Obi-Wan and Anakin.  However, combined with events in “The Clone Wars” series, I think it was overkill.

During the story, due to exhaustion and guilt, Obi-Wan’s self-control breaks down, and we get to see a much more human version of the Jedi, which causes both a rift and a new understanding between Obi-Wan and Anakin.

Overall for this series, the bond between Obi-Wan and Anakin is explored, tested, and strengthened, setting up the events that take place in the near future.

 

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Republic Commando: True Colors ***

Set three months after Triple Zero, Delta Squad is back to regular duty, but Kal Skirata’s little adopted family is going further and further afield as they deal with the fallout from the events on Coruscant.  With this book, while the famous Jedi are referenced, it’s once again the men and women in the field who are the main characters of this story.  The moral conundrum of the clones reaches a breaking point and sides are chosen, dividing the special forces soldiers, a civilian, Kal Skirata, and even the two Jedi he’s picked up along the way.  The action and intrigue is, as always, very entertaining, and the actions each character takes to make themselves right with the clone conundrum is very satisfying, revealing their “true colors.”

At the end there is an epilogue that hints at the future for Kal Skirata and his men, as well as Etain and Darman’s unborn son.  Told from the perspective of Darth Vader, it is a tantalizing tease to their future.

 

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MedStar Book 1: Battle Surgeons ***

This is yet another viewpoint from the ground, which I love because it brings the tragedy of the war home. Also, each story gives a little peek into the machinations of Darth Sidious behind the scenes.  One book alone doesn’t give a comprehensive view, but as you read more and more, you get a clear picture, and frankly deep respect, for his cleverness, as well as an understanding of why the Republic could only fall.

For those who have read earlier books, you will see some familiar names here, Barriss Offee and I-5YQ.  Both have some great storylines, and it’s really nice to see inside Barriss’s brain a little bit. She always struck me as a bit of an uptight know-it-all, but reading her perspective humanizes her, and gives some great clues into what happens to her storyline in the Clone Wars series.

The other characters are all very compelling, and though the action sequences are brief, the drama stays high, all with an underlying mystery of who the character called “The Spy” truly is.

 

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MedStar Book 2: Jedi Healer ***

Book 2 continues right from the end of Book 1.  As always happens, people stretched to the breaking point eventually break, and each character has his or her breakdown.  Some are happy.  Den’s ongoing quest to get I-5 drunk is just way too much fun, and eventually proves a statement Han Solo makes in A New Hope concerning Wookies.  But not all are happy. As Barriss continues to flirt with the Dark Side, and all three factions in the war work without full knowledge of each other, things deteriorate quickly.

There are a few “Easter Eggs,” for lack of a better term.  Readers familiar with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books will enjoy seeing a few familiar drinks in the cantina.  It messes with the suspension of disbelief, so hard core fans will probably be angry, but if you just relax and chill out, it’s a fun inside joke.

 

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Yoda: Dark Rendezvous ***

For Yoda fans, this book is so much fun.  It explores the history and relationship between Yoda and Dooku, a relationship that encompasses much pain but also much love.  The secondary story is that of two young Jedi, one a Padawan and one an apprentice struggling to find a master and make up for her weak connection to the Force.

Yoda is at the crux of both storylines, and we get to see just about every side he has, mischievous, serious, goofy, angry, wise, and naive.  All the while, the reader flows in and out of his POV as the story progresses.  I had moments of actual out loud laughter during this book, as well as real concern for the two younglings and hope Yoda could bring Dooku back, even though anyone who’s seen the movies knows that can’t happen.  An extremely well written and fun book.

 

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Labyrinth of Evil ***

This book runs up to the opening scene of Revenge of the Sith, with Obi Wan and Anakin hot on the tail of Darth Sidious.  Overall, this is a really fun book, I read it twice and both times flew through it.  But because it deals a lot with the intrigue of Darth Sidious, the plot can get pretty convoluted (no one but him really knows what is going on).

The action is exciting, and breaks up some of the more mundane “detective” aspects of Obi Wan and Anakin’s investigation.  The book also lays the groundwork for Anakin’s eventual turn quite well.  Knowing what is coming, it is both immensely fun and immensely frustrating to watch Sidious move all the pieces into position for his ultimate move.

 

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Republic Commando: Order 66 ***

I read this book all in one day, so it was pretty good (and I had the day off).  If you’ve been reading the Republic Commando Series, you are probably as invested in theses characters as I am.  As usual, the group picks up more stragglers along the way, and Kal Buir gets most of his “family” to Mandalore.  But as is always true in Star Wars, and definitely in the Clone Wars, not everyone gets a happy ending, and a couple of my favorite characters had truly tragic endings.  It’s good, but painful as well.  Highly recommended.

 

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Kenobi ***

I really liked this one, despite some serious flaws.  The written meditations are a lazy way of doing exposition, and the beginning is slooowwww.  But, once it gets going it really gets going.  This book bridged the gap in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s existence in the Clone Wars with who he is in A New Hope beautifully.  The audience sees a broken but not beaten Kenobi, haunted by his failures and what he believes he did to Anakin.  The ending is very satisfactory, if a bit neat, and sets up his existence on Tatooine.  As an added bonus, the reader gets a regular peek into the mind of a Tusken Raider.  Enjoy.

 

 

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Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader *

This book is okay. The greatest things it adds to the lexicon is an exploration of Anakin’s final turn to Darth Vader, and why a man who doesn’t even have full range of motion can still be a great and powerful fighter.  These are by far the best aspects of the book.

Shryne’s storyline seems a rehash of old themes from the Clone Wars.  Starstone really comes into her own in this book, and her finding her identity in this new reality parallels Vader’s, to a degree. It is the better of the two Jedis’ tales.

The books are starting to bring in Kenobi’s conversations with Qui-Gon Jinn via meditation, but it really feels like an easy plot device.  Hopefully there will be much less of it in the future.

 

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Imperial Commando: The 501st ***

Okay, to start out, this was supposed to be the second to last book, but its follow up was cancelled, so be prepared for a very unsatisfying ending.  Order 66 would have been a better ending.  That said, it is a great book in its own right.  On to the review:
This book was great.  I think everyone realizes by now how much I enjoy the Republic/Imperial Commando books, and this does not disappoint.  Starting just a few weeks after Order 66, it follows Skirata’s crew as they are setting up their final bug out location and working to save clone troopers from slavery.  However, Skirata and his soldiers have an enmity for the Jedi (stemming from their actions during the Clone Wars) rivaled only by the Empire itself.  This leads to problems right away.  Finally, a looming reemergence of Death Watch and a nearby Imperial Garrison raise the stakes even higher.

 

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Coruscant Nights: Jedi Twilight ***

The Coruscant Nights trilogy is very noir, which I enjoyed immensely. Michael Reaves brings back characters from Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter and the MedStar books.  With plenty of action and a lot of intrigue, if you enjoyed the MedStar books, these will not disappoint.

Den and I5YQ have the same banter as always, but now that stakes are even higher as I5YQ searches for Lorn Pavan’s son, Jax.  Jax is really the main focus of the entire trilogy. He is forced to become wise beyond his years in a very short time as he tries to live the Jedi code without an Order and without alerting Vader to his existence.

I really enjoyed this book.  That is all.

 

 

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Coruscant Nights: Street of Shadows **

This one takes the noir even further.  There’s the femme fatale, a love story, a mysterious murder that Jax’s new private detective team must investigate, and even a police prefect he has to keep off his back.

One warning: the author, Michael Reaves, really confuses the time period of the Clone Wars, setting them twenty years in the past.  He does this several times here and again in the third book of the series.  I have no idea how this error made it past the editors, but it does confuse the storyline.  If you can just let that go, this is a very enjoyable book.  But for you hardliners out there, it’s going to piss you off.

 

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Coruscant Nights: Patterns of Force **

In this last book, the timeline screw up is still alive and well, but not as prominent.  The addition of Kaj, a young Force-sensitive with incredible power and very little self control adds a whole new dynamic to the team.  The exploration of I5YQ’s sentience is manifested fully here, and I appreciated that. It’s a quality not mentioned or explored in the movies, even with all the personality of C3PO and R2D2.

While not as good as the first book in the trilogy, it is far better than the second.  Unfortunately, I saw the big “reveal” at the end coming around half way through.  But the action is good and Kaj kicks some serious butt throughout.

 

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The Last Jedi ***

This is the best of books concerning Jax Pavan and his crew.  A lot of seeds planted in the Coruscant Nights trilogy bear fruit here, and Reaves is ruthless in his treatment of characters.

Den is his usual comedic relief self, but Jax, I-5, the prefect, and the major members of whiplash all go through huge overhauls in their characters, and while the book is dense with plot, it doesn’t feel contrived.

What action there is explodes and sets up a future for what will become the rebellion.  I don’t want to give away any plot points, but my favorite portion of the book is when Jax seriously open up his horizons, which offers him new abilities.  Of course, he has to flirt with his own dark nature to do it.

 

 

 

On to Rise of Empire, pt. III . . .

 

 

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