Jun 26, 2012

[Books] Star Wars: Betrayal (Legacy of the Force Book 1)

The transition of the Star Wars novels to the Ballantine Books imprint under Del Ray also included a shift to larger-scale, serialized story telling as what we saw with the New Jedi Order series of 19 full novels and related short stories / novellas. Legacy of the Force was the next big story arc, and one that I waited a bit before getting involved with.

On the one hand, I wanted to make sure that I first finished the New Jedi Order series. On the other, I also wanted to make sure that I had all 9 books in the Legacy of the Force before starting to read - it's sort of a thing. And note, I started gathering these books before I acquired my Amazon Kindle 3, so the ebook option was not something that I was aggressively pursuing just yet.

I appreciate how challenging it is to manage the work of several different authors into a single cohesive narrative flow like what they've done here. It's hard enough for one writer to wrangle together even just a trilogy of books. So what more when you bring together a team to work on a 9-book series that affects many different characters, plot points and other critical incidents that will send ripples throughout the established continuity?

If anything though, I'm glad that they opted to limit the story to just 9-books instead of how expansive the last big series had gotten. As much as I enjoyed the last series, it was a tad long even for me and towards the end it felt too much like it had a bit too much fluff filling in the gaps. Let's hope this next series goes better.

Synopsis: Star Wars: Betrayal is the first book in the Legacy of the Force series set at least 5 years after the events depicted in the Dark Nest trilogy of books. This first book was written by Aaron Allston, who has written several other Star Wars novels in the past including the X-Wing books that depicted Wraith Squadron.

The series begins by setting the stage with the present status quo. Luke Skywalker has managed to re-organize the Jedi Order after the events of the Yuuzhan Vong war into a relatively solid organization that helps foster the development of the abilities of Force users and also providing support to the Galactic Alliance. His son with Mara Jade, Ben Skywalker, is now apprenticed to Jacen Solo despite the fact that Jacen is not yet a Jedi Master. But as always, trouble seems to be brewing.

The Corellia and a few other worlds continue to chafe under the new Galactic Alliance's rule, which leaves certain Galactic Alliance figures like Han Solo (who is also a Corellian) somewhat uncomfortable with the current state of affairs. And more and more Han is beginning to suspect that the Alliance is up to something that bodes ill for Corellia and feels too much like something the old Empire would do. And as he tries to get to the bottom of things, the Galactic Alliance with the support of the Jedi Order is trying to determine how to neutralize the potential threat a reactivated Centerpoint Station might pose if Corellia gets its way.

The book takes place at a time when the next generation are already coming into their own. After surviving the horrors of the Yuuzhan Vong, the once-young Jedi aren't young anymore - in fact they're past the point when Luke, Leia and Han were struggling against the Empire when you really think about it. And that does present for some interesting potential for conflict.

Jacen Solo
Jacen Solo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Now respect for potential spoilers aside, let's accept that this story arc is most infamously known for the one that brings Jacen fully to the Dark Side. It's not even a question of if - it's a question of how and when. And it's a pretty good questions. For longer-term readers of the Star Wars novels (or at least those who read the New Jedi Order), we've all seen the darker path Jacen started taken after his initial capture by the Yuuzhan Vong and his training of sorts under the guidance of the mysterious Vergere. He was made to experience the "torture" of the Yuuzhan Vong and learn how they as a race gained strength from pain. And this already seemed like a concept that felt too close to the Dark Side on its own. So it came as no surprise to find this story fully realized as the tale that would bring him down that path.

But this is also a setup novel, one that still needs to establish the various players and put the pieces where they need to be. This means enduring yet another story that centers around how annoying Thrackan Sal-Solo is and how a large government is somewhat ponderously slow in dealing with rising threats. We have the Solos trying to figure out what both sides are up to and the Jedi being, well, Jedi. And given this is Allston writing, we also get to explore a few tropes like revisiting the world of Adumar, a planet that had previously featured in his Wraith Squadron books.

Because it is a setup novel, at times the action seems a tad slow compared to other books. And if we look back at how they kicked off the New Jedi Order, this booked lacked that kind of a big opening number feeling as the conflict begins. Instead we're back to the slow build-up of things leading to the coming storm ahead. It still has a nicely coherent story of course, but it just isn't designed to stand on its own.

Star Wars: Betrayal is still a pretty solid book but I think we could have stepped up the pace of things a wee bit leading to the eventual conflict that they want to establish at the heart of this larger story arc. I do like the promise of more presented in Jacen's conflicted thoughts as we are shown just how one can fall to the Dark - and it's exactly black and white either. Thus the book gets a respectable 3.5 surprise maneuvers by starfighters in the Corellia system out of a possible 5.

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