Friday, November 09, 2007

Legacy Of The Force: "Inferno" by Troy Denning & "Fury" by Aaron Alston (Arrow Books)

The galactic civil war continues, as Jacen Solo continues to strengthen his grip on power and increasingly emulates of his grandfather.

The latest two instalments of the Legacy Of The Force series bring us yet more of the story of Jacen Solo’s fall further and further towards the dark side, cementing him very firmly in the enemy’s camp, pitted against everyone who at one time loved him: Luke, Leia, Han, his sister Jaina and also his lover and fellow Jedi, Tenel Ka.

Troy Denning’s “Inferno” is not the best volume in this series. That’s not to say it’s badly written or fails to provide sufficient Star Wars-universe action, but it left me with an unsatisfied feeling after I finally finished the last page. The start of the novel is very slow – from the funeral at the beginning (when Luke, to me, just comes across as gullible beyond belief), until the big set-piece battles at the planets Kuat and Balmorra, when the pace is picked up and the story becomes considerably more attention-grabbing.

The novel is very fast-paced, which perhaps gives it a little bit of a rushed feeling, as it clearly has the feel of a stop-gap before bigger events further down the line blow things wide open (what these events are, though, I have no idea yet).

This is the first novel with Jacen’s inner-monologue being taken over by his Sith personality, Darth Caedus. Oddly, and slightly annoyingly, given the “evil” reputation of the Sith, Caedus comes across like Jacen’s mischievous twin. He’s certainly no Vader at this point. With luck this was just him getting comfortable with his new identity. I do find it strange that he bothered to come up with a new name for himself now – no one knows who Darth Caedus is! Absolutely no one, so it seemed a little pointless.

The ending of the novel, again, felt a little rushed, which disappointed given the massive destruction caused by Jacen (read the book, not going to spoil it for you). The conflict between Ben, Luke and Jacen was pretty satisfying, but at the same time irritating in the lack of consistency. At one point in the novel, Luke pins and effectively paralyses Jacen, completely dominating his movements. Then in the final battle, Luke seems to be nowhere near powerful enough to do such a thing. Slight problem with continuity. That, actually, is something that’s been bugging me about the novels for some time – Luke Skywalker is meant to be the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, but at times it seems like he’s less powerful than others; perhaps through his Buddhist-like abhorrence of violence, perhaps because the authors don’t want to make him God-like but go a little too far bringing him back to earth. This series better end with the mother of all displays of Jedi power-displays.

Despite these minor shortcomings, I powered my way through it, and couldn’t wait for the next instalment, “Fury”.

Fury” (by Aaron Alston - released December 6th) starts off strongly, with Caedus’s character developing more into a deranged, twisted and paranoid schizophrenic. This works wonderfully with Alston’s sense of humour, which we are treated to early on in the book, as well as throughout, deftly handled to avoid farce. Alston’s writing style is more fluid and readable than Dennings (so, it’s insanely readable).

The novel begins with clean-up following Jacen/Caedus’s brutal attack from the end of “Inferno”, and then moves to Jacen’s desperate attempts to hold on to the one thing that tethers him back to his life before, when he had love in his life: his Daughter, Alanna. By kidnapping her, though, he creates for himself a barrier to doing his job properly – she becomes a distraction, making him second-guess himself and make selfish decisions that often leave him in rather precarious positions.

Luke starts to come out of the depressive fug he’s been in for the past two novels since his wife, Mara, died at Jacen’s hands. Ben, Luke’s son, continues to believe Jacen’s to blame, but everyone else (rather densely) can’t bring themselves to believe that.

In all, this is a faster-paced and more fulfilling novel than “Inferno”, but still has a filler-feeling to it. It’s in no way a bad novel, but it feels very much like a chapter in the middle of a very long book, a small lull in the action before the last third of the story takes us on a wilder ride. This is not surprising given the fact that there are only two more volumes left in the series. Now that the stage has been set for whatever the series climax will be, things are starting to feel like they’re being spun out, rather than any more character development or plot thickening. This is because, since the fifth volume in the series (“Sacrifice”), it’s been pretty clear what’s going to happen from now.

We’ll have to see how things change with “Revelation” and “Invincible”, the last two volumes in the Legacy Of The Force series. With any luck, things will be amped up to the max, and we’ll start to get some proper Star Wars action to get our pulses racing once again.

Both novels are still worth reading, but you will be left wanting the next two novels right now, just so we can know what's going to become of the main protagonists. Personally, I think someone's either going to come to a very sticky end, or we're going to have a Return Of The Jedi moment, with someone being redeemed...