Sunday, May 20, 2007

Legacy Of The Force: "Bloodlines", "Tempest", "Exile" (Arrow Books)

Following on from the explosive opening chapter “Betrayal”, the Legacy Of The Force series manages to keep up the pace through these next three superb instalments.

"Bloodlines" (Karen Traviss) sees the return of everyone’s favourite bounty hunter, Boba Fett, who’s personal quest to halt the aging process caused by his being a clone and his desire to find his former wife and daughter brings him into contact with Han Solo and Princess Leia – though this time it is under better circumstances than the events that led to his notoriety in the first place. While it’s clear that Han hasn’t forgotten about being frozen in carbonite, he has a bigger fish to fry in the form of his cousin, Thrackan Sal-Solo who has been fomenting the civil war between Corellia (Han’s home-world) and the Galactic Alliance. His family continues to be torn between duty and morals, and the Solo-Skywalker clan begins to blur the lines between the two sides. Han has perhaps his most violent turn during this book, which while completely out of character to anyone who is only familiar with the movies, for those who have read the New Jedi Order series, it does not seem so excessive.

Jacen continues down his path towards the Dark Side, surreptitiously influencing Ben Skywalker as he goes, delving further into the workings of his own Defence League (which aren’t too dissimilar to the Brown Shirts, if you think about it). Equally noticeable is his (topical) use of torture at one point, which sets in motion his ultimate fall as well as dangerous potential dealings with Fett.

"Tempest" (Troy Denning) follows immediately after Bloodlines, with a little more focus on Jacen and Tenel Ka’s relationship and their still-secret daughter. It is unfortunate that author Troy Denning thought it would be a good idea to give the girl a “cute” lisp, as there is absolutely no excuse for this. Ever. Otherwise, the book sees the increased influence of Lumiya, Dark Lady of the Sith on Jacen. Luke Skywalker and his wife continue to be irritatingly ignorant about what’s going on – there are a couple of instances when they really should have been able to guess what was actually going on, but were blinded by previous feelings for Jacen – even though said feelings have been continually strained throughout this series. A good deal of space battle refreshes this series, which the political intrigue and conspiracy surrounding the rebellious Correllians and their allies adds more depth and breadth to how far this series could go.

Finally (for the moment), "Exile" (Aaron Alston) finishes of the first half of the series with pretty much more of the same fast-paced space opera-style adventure. Ben Skywalker is sent on his first solo mission, to the Sith homeworld (where he acquires an evil amulet, a cool sentient ship and a young female companion, who will likely prove pivotal in some moral dilemma in a future instalment of the series). It's interesting to see his growth as a character as he must weigh in his mind what he believes he should do and what he believes Jacen wants him to do. It is becoming apparent that Ben is not as completely devoted to his teacher as in the previous instalments. Han and Leia’s relationship with their son worsens as he pushes not only them, but also his twin sister further away from him. His fall into the Dark Side is very almost complete. They also find themselves in an increasingly precarious position straddling both sides of the imminent galactic civil war.

Overall, the novels continue to draw the reader along, answering some questions at the same time as posing more, leaving hints and suggestions for possible future developments, but never revealing too much – as it should be in a serialised story arc. There is a greater synergy between the authors, too, as the books blend together seamlessly, not noticeably written by different authors. It has become the case that the best way to identify which author is by the secondary characters that play parts in the novels. The pace never wanes, and I found that I burned my way through these books much faster than almost any other book I've read (except, perhaps, Terry Pratchett's work).

A healthy sprinkling of humour throughout, more real characters than before, with genuine faults and no excessive hero-devices means the characters are all easier to relate to, making the reader more invested in their future. This bodes well for the second half of the series.The only annoying thing is the wait before the rest of the series comes out…

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