Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dark Tide II: Ruin: The Review





Welcome to Dark Tide II: Ruin.  The second book in the Dark Tide Duology and third book of the NJO.  Why do I spell that out you might ask?  Because Zyra promises me that these books are going to get better by the 5th or 6th book.  So, we are about halfway there.


First thing out the gate, we are introduced to Yuuzhan Vong Commander Shedao Shai and his underling, Deign Lian who first appeared in the epilogue of the last book.  They are Vong, they are bad, they plan to kill everyone, they talk and strategize a lot and basically think they cannot lose and…I think that is all you need to know. 

The first interesting thing that happens, Han and Leia-wise, is in Chapter 3 when we find the Solo children all home in their Coruscant apartment for a visit, apparently in response to an urgent message from their father.  The trio speak for awhile about Jaina being in the Rogue Squadron and other things.  Anakin is off away from his siblings and the conversation quickly comes around to him and how he is still struggling with the death of Chewbacca.  I’ll quote some:

It had not escaped him (Jacen) that Anakin had not actually spoken the name "Chewbacca." The Wookiee's death had hurt them all, terribly and deeply. He had always been a part of their lives, and when he was taken away, they saw how vastly and to what depth he had been involved with them. His death opened up a gaping wound that, for Jacen, had not yet begun to heal.

All three of them fell silent, turning inward. Anakin looked out the viewport again, but his eyes were focused too distantly to be watching any one thing. Jaina folded her arms across her chest and flounced down on the couch next to Jacen. Her brows furrowed, and Jacen could almost read the memories of Chewbacca radiating off her. For himself, he remembered the softness of the Wookiee's fur and the gentle strength in his arms, his sense of humor and his infinite patience with human children possessed of Force powers. "Hey, it's so quiet down there ..." Jacen looked up at the stairs and saw a man standing there, but it took him a heartbeat to realize it was his father. The voice had helped, but the hitch at the end, and the raw nature of it, surprised him. His father's clothes hung looser, and his flesh was tinged with a gray pallor instead of the rich bronze from being kissed by so many suns. Han Solo had swept his hair back out of his eyes, but wore it longer than Jacen could ever remember. The length hid some of the gray, but not all of it, especially at the temples.

The greatest discontinuity with his father, though, was the way his initial comment tailed off. Jacen had to have heard him utter the same line a hundred times, usually when things were grim, when the family needed tension broken. His father would smile, open his arms, and say, "It's so quiet, did somebody die?" That you can't say that, Father, tells me how bad it really is.

Okay.  I said interesting, not good.  Han proceeds to offer his children a drink.  Personally I felt very icky during this scene. Even if the kids are considered old enough to drink here by GFFA standards (are they?  The twins are only 16), something about it was sad and disturbing.  You know, like most of the NJO has been thus far?  Anyhoo, the children decline to drink and thankfully, Han follows suit.  There’s some awkwardness and then Jaina prompts the conversation to continue:

Jaina looked up at her father. "The message sounded pretty, urgent. What's going on?"

Han took a deep breath, then let it out in a long sigh. He; seated himself in a chair, then motioned to Jacen that he should be seated, too. Han then glanced at Anakin and made to wave him over to the couch, but Anakin couldn't see the gesture.

Han waited a moment for Anakin to move, then, when he did not, just sat forward and rested his elbows on his knees. "Look, I don't know how to tell you this. It's not easy ..." He stared down at his clasped hands, rubbing one over the other. "Losing Chewie ..." His voice failed for a moment, then he swallowed hard.

"It's okay, Dad, we know." Jaina gave her father a brave smile, "We all loved Chewie, too."

Han ran his hand down his face. "Losing him, you know, made me think what else I had that I could lose. That scared me the way I've never been scared before. I mean, me, Han Solo, scared."

Anakin's chin rose. "Not an easy thing to admit for anyone."

Their father nodded once, curtly. The gesture was accompanied by a flash of anger and grief that drilled into Jacen.

Jacen moved to stand at his father's right hand, awkwardly patting him on the shoulder. "We understand, Dad, we really do."

But his father had already shut him out. "Yeah, well, there's nothing to understand."

Jacen sighed. We may beat the Yuuzhan Vong, but will my family survive the battle? 

Okay.  So, I don’t really know what Han’s original intention was drawing his children home.  He obviously didn’t have it in him to say all that he probably wanted to say.  Overall I think this would be very in character for him, speaking about his feelings probably isn’t a strong suit for him.  That he wanted his children home, wanted to see them all together and safe, that is also something very believable.  Although he just did not feel 100% to me here, a lot of it was reasonable for the circumstances and his state of mind, imo.  Regardless, it’s just so damn hard to ‘watch’.

Leia is in the next chapter but it is all discussion about how the New Republic doesn’t think they need the Jedi (because the Jedi have done no better against the Vong then anyone else and also because if the Jedi 'save the galaxy again, it'll look like a power play or something) and Borsk Feyl’la (current head of the NR) is still an ass, he even belittles Alderaan’s destruction to Leia:  

Leia shook her head. "The Yuuzhan Vong are much worse than the Empire ever was."  

 "From your perspective, Leia. The Empire dealt with nonhumans as dispassionately as you describe these Yuuzhan Vong doing with humans. Now you know what we faced."  


 She let one quick guffaw contract her belly, then gave the Bothan a smile full of teeth. "They destroyed my homeworld, Borsk."  


 "Ah, yes, we are yet again reminded ..." 

 
Yeah.  Kind of an ass.  And I do like to see anytime that Leia actually acknowledges that her homeworld was destroyed and she was perhaps affected by it, since it is a fairly rare occurrence in my opinion.

Okay, so regardless of all that, all that you really need to know here is that Leia is heading to Bastion to try and get the Imperial Remnant (lead by Palleon) to fight alongside the New Republic against the Vong.  And Borsk is happy with that thinking if she succeeds she'll be seen as an Imperial sympathizer and if she doesn't she'll look like she had made a bad judgement call in trying to deal with them in the first place.  Also, her friend Senator Elegos A'Kla, meanwhile, is planning to let himself get captured in order to try and reason with Vong.   

In fact, Leia does get to find herself within 'strong arms' here:

Leia had hugged him and relished feeling his strong arms around her. "You don't have to go, Elegos. There are other ways."  

Well, I didn't say it was Han's arms now did I?  No, that was a little poignant scene of Leia saying goodbye to Elegos.  Leia and Han are never in the same room much less the same planet during this entire book.  Sorry.

On the way to meet with the Imperial Remnant, Leia and Danni Quee talk and Leia actually thinks back on her life in politics and her subsequent retirement:

"Oh, I don't know. In politics we have black holes, pulsars, things that give off more heat than light." Leia smiled up at Danni. "I can't remember a time when politics was not part of my life. I'm fortunate that I took to it well. I will admit, though, retirement was fun, and I look forward to it again."

The meeting between Leia and Palleon is wholly uneventful.  Other than they see Leia's call for help as a trap.  Excuse me?  Don't they know that only the good guys fall for traps?  They don't even have Admiral Ackbar to say it right! "It's a TRAP!"  But this is how it goes:

Pellaeon glanced back at the two military men. "Your request has not gone unanticipated, Consul. These men have told me, at various times, that any military cooperation with the New Republic would be a trap. You would lure our ships away from our home and destroy them, then finish your conquest of Imperial space. They had not anticipated this very scenario, but their cautions are not easily dismissed. To them, this threat is a sham."  

 Leia smiled coldly at the two men. "Your intelligence forces must already know that my daughter, my sixteen-year-old daughter, has joined Rogue Squadron. She did so at Dubrillion, and your sources would have told you that the squadron has just replaced over half its personnel. If I did not think the Yuuzhan Vong were a grave threat, do you think I would allow my child to have joined the military?" 


Colonel Harrak ran a finger around between his neck and the uniform's collar. "Your children are Jedi."  

 "And as I said, the Jedi have little edge against the Yuuzhan Vong."  


 Pellaeon raised a finger, cutting off Harrak's reply. "All right, Consul. I will review the material you have brought. I am not unsympathetic to your plight, and I, as well as many others in the Empire, do feel a responsibility for the people of the New Republic. They may have rejected us, but we have not rejected them. If we are able, we will help."  


 Leia nodded. "I can't ask for more than that." 

So the Imperials are kind of onboard, thanks to Leia.

Luke Skywalker, meanwhile, is with his Jedi and there is dissention in the ranks, mainly lead by Kyp Durron.  Basically they don’t agree on how to proceed with the fight against the Vong and they are mad as hell the New Republic has all but written them off.  Luke doles out assignments and I guess that’s about it there. 


Jacen and Jaina visit for a bit aboard the Ralroost.  They discuss how their parents had the Empire and now they have the Vong.  Jacen is still soul-searching and trying to find himself.  Jaina is happy being in the Rogues and Jacen seems to envy her a bit. 


I had forgotten how ‘lost’ Jacen sounds during all of this.  But the twins, at least at this point, are still friends and still relying on each other.  Jaina also gets teased a little about a cute pilot and she blushes.  So the kids really are starting to become little adults. 


Anakin uncovers a rogue Jedi named Daeshara'cor, who was infatuated with Miko Reglia, a Jedi killed by the Vong.  Daeshara'cor has been researching old plans for the two Death Stars, the Sun Crusher or the Eye of Palpatine with apparent intentions to obliterate the Vong for vengeance which of course would be of the Dark Side.  But you know what is really of the Dark Side?  When Luke says: My dear and Mara says: Husband mine.  ::gags::



Anyhoo, Luke plans on asking help from Chalco, a vagrant boy that is written eerily like a young Han Solo.  When Mara questions Luke about getting help from him, Luke even says this:

The Jedi Master gave her a sidelong glance. "Daeshara'cor's mother was a dancer who traveled very extensively. As a youngster Daeshara'cor spent a lot of time in docking bays in spaceports. She knows her way around, and we're going to need help catching her. If Han were himself, I'd ask him to help. As it is, we'll have to trust this one (meaning Chalco)."
  

So, the next interesting thing to happen is a little conversation between Anakin and Chalco:

Chalco nodded. "Your father's Han Solo, right?"

"Yes."

"I saw him a couple of times recently. Kinda torn up about his partner's death."

Anakin nodded slowly, fighting against the automatic - and now familiar - pangs of guilt over Chewbacca's death. "It hit him very hard."

"They must have been good friends." Chalco let a half laugh shake. "Never had much truck with Wookiees myself. Don't know that I've ever been that close to anyone."

"They'd been through a lot together. Chewie was a constant in my dad's life, and in mine. He was always there and, now he's not." A jolt of pain ripped through Anakin, choking him. The vast gulf Chewie's death had left in his life opened up before him.

He tried to speak, but couldn't. He held a hand up for a second, then swiped at a tear. "Sorry," he croaked.

Chalco shifted his shoulders stiffly. "Look, kid, I, ah, may not have had a close friend like that, you know, but I can understand the hurting. You get used to people being around. Seeing them at a spaceport, having them in the next cell, that kind of thing. And, you know, one day you wake up and they've been paroled or something. You never know if you're going to see them or the credits they lost to you playing sabacc. I mean, look, I'm not good expressing myself here, but ..."

Anakin nodded and felt relief roll off the man. "Thanks, I understand. When you get to know someone, you can be hurt if they go away suddenly. The hurt is really big and really strong. Chewie, well, he was always there, smiling, joking, never complaining when I climbed all over him or messed up something he was doing. He was just a rock, and when that goes away ..."

"But he wasn't the only rock in your life, kid." Chalco nodded off toward the Cathedral of Winds. "You have your uncle and your mother and your father."

"Well, you saw my father. He's been, um, distant." Anakin sighed. "My mom has had things to do. She's been supportive, but we've been apart. Uncle Luke, he's been great, but he has a lot to do. It's okay, though, because this is an adult thing and that's what I need to be learning to handle."

"Don't grow up too fast, kid." The short man shrugged ruefully. "But you gotta grow up. You don't, you become like me. Maybe growing up fast isn't all that bad."

Poor Anakin.  It’s just really, quite literally downhill for him from here on out, isn’t it?  You don’t know?  Well, it is.  And didn't Chalco sound like Han?  How about just giving us the real Han instead of introducing a whole new one?? 

Later, Anakin gets captured by the rogue Jedi and Chalco comes to rescue him.  Threatened by the rogue Jedi, Chalco even says “I’m not the one who’s going to hurt, sister.”  Only to then find out that his brilliant plan was totally flawed.  Totally Han Solo-like.  Did anyone else feel like that?  Someone had to have.  

Moving on.  There’s a little bit where Jacen and Jaina are flying a mission together and although NR command knew that one of their ships was going to be detonated to look like it blew up, the pilots were not clued in on it and in the immediate aftermath it was assumed by all that Jacen had died.  Through the Force Jaina is quite sure that her brother isn’t dead but she is upset by the entire thing, regardless.  Later, she is thinking on it and part of her line of thinking is that they should’ve told her because of who she is.  And then we have this:

That thought led her to explore the idea that the New Republic owed her anything. My parents might have a debt that needs to be paid off but it's not mine. The only way the New Republic will owe me anything is if I earn something from it. So far, in comparison to what my parents have done, I have done nothing.

Colonel Darklighter leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped together. "I didn't speak to you earlier by design, and while I might have saved you some pain, I thought a little now would be better than a lot later. When I came into the squadron I was your age, and I had a burden: Biggs Darklighter was my cousin, so the Darklighter reputation landed firmly on me. Like you, I was young enough to believe I could do anything. I was lucky enough that those in the squadron accepted me, helped me along, and enabled me to uphold my family's honor.

"You have a much greater burden, and one that has shifted slightly. You've been born to privilege, whereas I was a moisture farmer's brat. My parents were no one; yours saved a galaxy, and continue to serve it. In that service they made enemies, and you're smart enough to know that once your mother left power, her enemies set about weakening her image, and that of the Jedi."

Jaina nodded. "I've met people who figure me for a spoiled Jedi brat. I work hard to prove them wrong."

"That's very apparent, and those of us in the squadron are very happy you're with us. There are others on this ship, however, and in the service, who don't have the view of you that I do." He sighed. "Part of what happened here was to show them that we play no favorites. There isn't a single person here who didn't feel for the death of your brother, and none of them would have liked to have been in your boots when the Lost Hope exploded. All of them know how much you must have been hurting. And when they learned that your superiors had purposely not let you know - not let any of us in Rogue Squadron know - what was happening, they realized they've got more in common with us than they imagined. They realized that the problem of the Yuuzhan Vong is serious enough that the New Republic isn't playing favorites: not for Rogue Squadron, not for the Jedi, not for any Solos."

The young pilot closed her eyes and rubbed one hand over her forehead. As he explained it, everything made sense. Jaina discovered she'd inherited from her parents the narrow belief that it was her role, her family's role, to be saving the galaxy. The fact was that their actions were crucial, but it was the hundreds of thousands of sapient beings that made up the Rebellion that had been able to capitalize on and maintain the victories others won. Blowing up the Death Star certainly eliminated threats to the galaxy, but it hadn't liberated a single Imperial planet. That had taken lots of others working hard.

And they needed to be shown that hard work is going to be vital here. She opened her eyes and looked up at her commander. "Colonel, I - Boy, this is humbling, and I guess I didn't realize I needed to be humbled."

Gavin laughed heartily, then nodded. "You didn't need it as much as others might have thought you needed it. You're not the first pilot in this unit to be taken down a notch or two, and remember, all of us were treated similarly. Rogue Squadron is the best unit in the New Republic, but now our comrades know we're all on equal footing when it comes to how we are treated."

He held up a finger. "One more thing that I hope you'll take away from this. In my time with Rogue Squadron I've seen a lot of people die. I've lost a lot of friends, people I was close with, and some I was very close to. What Admiral Kre'fey managed to do is remind all of us, through the persons of your brother and Corran, that none of us are immune to death out here. He reminded us that we may be called upon to make sacrifices we don't want to make, and that's good. If we go out there thinking we're invulnerable, we'll get stupid. Stupid people die, and all too often, they take friends with them."

"Yes, sir, thank you, sir." Jaina had already seen, in the simulations she'd flown after Garqi, that she was flying sharper than before. She had more of an edge, and she knew she'd need it against the Yuuzhan Vong.

I totally love Jaina as a character and I don’t think it’s only because she is the one that actually gets to live and isn’t all mopey, confused Jedi all the time (well, I guess that could be partly it).  But she’s just a joy to read for me, from her flying and finding herself here in Rogue Squadron – it’s the one bright point in this book for sure, I think.  And I like her struggles with her relationship with her mother, as I think Zyra has mentioned, all (most) daughters have these same issues and I can see Leia and Jaina becoming friends much later on.  I really think they wrote her as having the best of both of her parents.  It’s really kinda unfair when you think about it.  It’s almost like Arnold and Danny in Twins, you know?  She got all the good genes.  Although Anakin is very likeable and sweet, but you know – he dies, so there’s that.

Jacen Solo, along with some others, travels to Garqi in order to destroy another Vong base. During their fight they discover that some floral spores or something breaks down the Vong armor.  The leader orders the garden where the spores are to be destroyed so that the Vong don’t discover this and the NR can have an edge.  The Vong do end up discovering and then plan to destroy the main source of the spores on the planet of Ithor. 


All during this time, since I haven’t mentioned it, Leia’s friend (Elegos) that got himself captured, is being pretty much tortured by the Vong in something called the “Embrace of Pain”.  His Vong torturer, Shedao Shai realizes that Elegos is a friend of Corran Horn, the Jedi who killed Shai's kinsmen on Bimmiel in the previous book. We’ll find out later what he does with that information.  It is a scene that I did remember vividly from this book. 

But before I get too far with plot type stuff, let me get to another good part.  So the Rogue Squadron is in a dog fight with the Vong and looking like they are about to die when these other “clawcraft” ships show up and summarily turn the tide of battle.  Jaina is astonished and doesn’t know what is going on.  The leader of the new squad sounds a bit confident (arrogant) and cocky, but their flying capabilities back his attitude up.  And well, here’s the first introduction to Jaina’s longtime love interest going forward from here on out (Jagged Fel):

"Don't worry, Rogues, we have you now. We'll get you home safely."

The patronizing tone in Spike Leader's voice made Jaina grit her teeth. "Who are you?"

We're simply the best combat pilots in the galaxy." A momentary spark of static burst through the comm channel. "We are a Chiss House phalanx, on loan to the New Republic by my father, General Baron Soontir Fel."

I happen to be a big Jaina/Jag fan so I was happy to see him show up here.  I hadn’t quite remembered the circumstances of their first meeting but it was about the only thing that I would consider a memorable part of this book.  I’ll quote more of their first meeting below.  I always told Zyra that I thought the Jaina/Jag relationship was kind of similar to Leia/Han.  But with Jaina being Han and Jag being Leia.  He’s Imperial and a bit uptight.  Jaina is definitely the free spirit of the two.  IDK if anyone else reading this likes him or not or cares, but I’ll quote a few things, because: hey, I’m not getting paid to do this and I happen to like him.  :-)

So, in preparing for the upcoming battle for Ithor everybody starts coming together – which is usually a really terrible sign for anybody in the GFFA, but nobody really seems to ever figure that out.  Anyhoo, the Jedi and X-wing squadrons are there.  The Imperial Remnant (lead by Grand Admiral Gilad Pellaeon), the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force with their leader, Colonel Jagged Fel. Senators from the Republic, including Chief of State Borsk Fey'lya along with Leia Organa Solo. 


So A LOT of the major players are there and they are having some kind of reception, I guess to welcome the Imperial Remnant and thank them for helping.  Jaina is there and she is sulking because she was invited as a Jedi and a Solo and not because of being in Rogue Squadron.  Jaina also contemplates this new squad and its leader.  She’s flown some sims against his team and notices that he was the one to take her out every time.  The squad is made up of Chiss, blue-skinned people with red eyes (Thrawn was Chiss).  And anyway, here’s Jaina’s first look at Jag:

Any comment Ganner might have been about to offer died as a new and strong presence sent ripples out through the Force. Jaina knew from having been around people like her father and Wedge Antilles that these ripples didn't come from any conscious use of the Force; some people just so brimmed with life and confidence that they shone like a magnesium flare in darkest night. She rose up on tiptoes to see who it was, then felt a shock run through her. 

At the head of a dozen blue-skinned Chiss came a human walking along with a crisp formality to his step. Taller than she was, but not as tall as Ganner, he had a wiry muscularity about him that his black uniform could not hide. His black hair had been cut short, which showed off a white lock that traced the line of a scar that started at his right eyebrow and ran back into his hair. His pale green eyes seemed tinged with a chill that matched his manner. Only the red stripes along his pants legs and cuffing his sleeves seemed at odds with his solemnity.

Jag goes down the reception line.

As he moved down the line, gasps and hubbub began to rise in the crowd. It increased as he bowed before Wedge, then smiled and allowed the older man to enfold him in a hug. Before Jaina could figure out what was happening there, the Chiss leader greeted Admiral Pellaeon. Ignoring the Remnant moffs, the young man then stepped off the front of the dais.

He's coming straight at me!

He drew himself up before her, straight of limb and muscularly taut, then snapped his head and upper body forward in a bow that was not as deep as that given the others, but was nonetheless respectful. "I am Jagged Fel." He straightened, and she started to blush as his green-eyed gaze raked her over. "A Jedi, too. Fascinating."

Jaina blinked. "Too?"

"In addition to being a superior pilot. You are a difficult kill."

She wasn't sure why, but she smiled at him. "You meant that as a compliment."

Jag Fel nodded. "Among the Chiss it is high praise indeed. I was only a bit better than you at your age."

"Which was what, about two years ago?" Ganner asked mockingly.

Neither Fel's expression nor his sense in the Force betrayed any embarrassment at Ganner's question. "Yes, just before I took command of my squadron."

Wedge Antilles stepped down from the dais and approached them. "Colonel Fel."

"Yes, Uncle?"

"You should return to the dais and greet those people you bypassed." Wedge nodded toward Borsk Fey'lya and his confederates. "They're fairly important."

Fel shook his head. "They're politicians."

Okay, so if you didn’t know, Jag is Wedge Antilles’ nephew, Wedge’s sister is Jag’s mother.  Jag goes on a bit about his distaste/distrust of politicians.  The discussion becomes a little heated and Leia steps in:

Leia Organa Solo stepped forward, holding a hand out to forestall any rebuttal by the New Republic's Bothan leader. "We want that help. From you, from the Remnant, from all the peoples of the New Republic. Working together is the only way we will defeat the Yuuzhan Vong and save Ithor."

People began applauding her mother's words, and Jaina joined them. With public agreement, the politicians retreated a bit, and it would have been easy to imagine the situation had been solved. Still, Jaina found herself haunted by what Fey'lya and the others had said. The vehemence in their words had previously been directed at her mother, with similar accusations of her desire to take power away from nonhumans. And whispers about the Jedi, blaming them for the loss of Garqi and Dubrillion, somehow suggesting the Jedi brought the Yuuzhan Vong down on the New Republic. They make me wonder if we're not being positioned to take the blame if Ithor falls.

Jag Fel turned and looked at her, and Jaina wondered if, somehow, he were reading her mind. She met his stare unflinchingly. "We will save Ithor."

He nodded. "We will win the battle for Ithor. Its salvation, well ..." He spared a glance for the knot of New Republic politicians. "Its salvation is in other hands and, I am afraid, is beyond our ability to control."

Okay, so I hope you all didn’t mind some Jaina/Jag love.  Technically, Leia was in this part and technically since Jaina is their daughter anything about her counts as Han/Leia goodness so, I think I’m alright here.  There’s a few chapters here.  Mara calls Luke “husband mine” and Corran and Mirax get a little departing love scene and a kiss.  Nice for them, I guess…

Elegos’ shuttle is coming back (remember Leia’s friend that had the brilliant idea to surrender himself to the Vong to talk them into peace) and it’s wonky.  His voice is being projected over the comm. but they can’t sense any lifeforms with scans (not even the Jedi can sense anything). 


Anyway, Jaina is watching them examine the shuttle pod and Jag comes up and they have a lengthy conversation.  I won’t quote the whole thing (it’s Chapter 28), but here’s a portion:

Jaina turned and looked at him. "In theory you're only two years older than me, but you're talking like you're old enough to be my dad."

He nodded once. "Forgive me. I was judging you based on your accomplishments, not your age."

She blinked and felt anger spike. "What is that supposed to mean?"

The flesh around Fel's eyes hardened. "You are a Jedi. You are a superior pilot in an elite squadron. The dedication and skill required for these things are well known. I made the mistake of assuming too much about you."

Jaina frowned. "I'm reading your tracking data, but still don't have a lock on your target."

Jag Fel sighed. "In Chiss society, there is no adolescence. Chiss children mature early and are given adult responsibilities very quickly. Those of us humans living with them were raised as they were raised. Intellectually I knew things were not the same here in the New Republic, but-"

"You think I'm a child?" Jaina gave him an icy glare. "You think I'm soft or something?"

Fel broke eye contact, and she noticed a blush rising on his cheeks. He raised a hand to ward off her comments, then shook his head. In doing that he peeled off a decade or two and seemed, to her, for the first time to be someone his own age.

"Not soft, no, not at all. You have determination and courage, but you lack-"

"Lack what?"

He frowned and glanced out at the shuttle. "You're not grim."

It goes on but I really just liked this part.  Kinda sad when you think about it, because no – even with the death of Chewie and what’s going on with her dad and the Vong invasion, Jaina is not grim…yet.  The conversation goes on and the pair talk about celebrating the small things in life:

Fel raised his chin, and Jaina could feel his defenses repairing themselves. "Among the Chiss, celebration is saved until the job is done."

"Even if it is never-ending?"

"If it isn't ended, the celebration is false."

"No, it's necessary." She looked at him, at his strong profile, at the determination on his face, and felt a shiver run down her spine. That he was handsome there was no disputing, and the cockiness, which was backed by fantastic skill as a pilot, had its charm. She admired the way he'd stood up to the New Republic's politicians - most of whom disgusted her because of the way they treated her mother. Even the Imperial formality was attractive in a quaint sort of way.

I wonder if my mother saw my father that same way?

The second that thought occurred to her she pulled her hand back from Fel's shoulder abruptly. Oh, no, I am not going to let myself fall for some guy who thinks grim is the normal state of being. Not the time or place to even be thinking about it.

Fel glanced over when she pulled her hand away, then half smiled. "The Chiss, despite the impression I might have given you, are a thoughtful people. Deliberate, calculating, but not above a flight of fantasy or two. They are not averse to wondering where they would be, had life been different. Whom they would have met, how they would have met, what would have become of them."

"And you mention this because?"

"Because ..." He hesitated, then looked out at the deck. "I was wondering what Uncle Wedge would have thought of my older brother."

Jaina smiled and looked out at the deck. "The only problem with those flights of fancy are that life never works as cleanly as we'd like. Sometimes a meeting is just a meeting. Other times it's a prelude."

Fel laughed lightly. "Had I said that, you would have accused me of talking as if I were your father's age again."

"I might well have, but probably not." She didn't glance at him, but did look at his reflection. "The nice thing about being an adolescent is being able to make mature decisions when you need them and being able to just flow along with life when you don't."

Okay, so let’s get back to what’s happening here.  Remember the Vong, Shai that had Leia’s friend Elegos?  I had told you that Shai figured out that Elegos was a friend of Corran Horns and that he was going to do something with that information.  Well what he did was kill Elegos and send his body parts to Corran to piss him off. That’s the package that Jaina and Jag are watching and waiting for them to open.  Turns out the package would only open to Corran’s DNA.  They figure this out and Corran and Wedge go inside the shuttle and find Elegos.  I’ll share Corran’s reaction, but we can just say here that Corran is pretty appalled and pissed off and he vows revenge and plans to kill Shai.  The way Corran finds Elegos, well this is the part that I vividly remembered.  It just sounds pretty horrific to find someone you know in this state. 

"Sithspawn!" Corran felt his guts liquefy as he dropped to his knees. "Oh ... oh, no ... no."

The opened case revealed a work of art that clearly had been the result of many hours lovingly lavished on it. A fully articulated skeleton sat cross-legged, each bone washed with gold. The sternum, and the smooth caps at the ends of long bones, were gleamed with platinum. Scintillating violet gems burned in the hollows of the eye sockets. Amethysts had been powdered and layered onto the sides of the skull, flaring back in the exact pattern of Elegos's stripes.

The teeth, polished white, grinned coldly in the lipless mouth.

The Caamasi skeleton sat there, the head canted down to stare at the villip nestled in the triangle described by its legs. That ball of tissue hardened into mismatched features. The voice that emerged from it came equally harsh and halting. Its command of Basic was fine, but shaping its mouth around the sounds appeared to be difficult.

"I am Shedao Shai. You were at Bimmiel. You slew two of my kinsmen and left them to be gnawed by vermin. You stole the bones of my ancestor. These bones here I present to you so you may know the proper way to venerate fallen Yuuzhan Vong warriors."

The voice softened almost imperceptibly. "I regret that your actions forced me to slay Elegos. I want you to know I did it myself, with my bare hands. As I strangled him, I read in his eyes betrayal, but only at the first. Before he died, he understood the necessity of his death. You must understand it, as well."

Have I mentioned that this Vong are pretty nasty, scary creatures?

Alright.  We are nearing the end here, which is the Battle of Ithor.  In this battle a few characters on the New Republic's side and on the Vong's are killed, including Daeshara'cor (the rogue Jedi that Luke and Anakin were chasing down, well she joins up in the fight and is mortally wounded while saving Anakin – just what Anakin needed, right?), and Anni Capstan, a close personal friend and like Jaina's wingman (literally her wingman in the Rogues, not like at a bar or something).


Corran Horn meets up with Shedao Shai via a villip and they both decide that the New Republic and the Yuuzhan Vong will temporarily call off the war and then Corran and Shai will fight on Ithor over who gets the planet. The truce is agreed upon.  Anakin does get to visit with Daeshara'cor in a medical unit before she dies and she does tell him that it wasn't his fault that she nor Chewbacca had died right before she passes away into the Force.  In fact, I think I’ll share that because Leia is in it for like a second:

Anakin shrugged his mother's hands off his shoulders as he stared through the medical bay's viewport. In the wardroom, covered with a white sheet to her throat, Daeshara'cor lay on a bed, barely moving. He could tell she was still breathing, but her breaths came shallow and hurried.

Leia spoke in a soft voice. "You don't have to go in there."

I don't want to, but I must. Anakin sniffed and nodded to his mother. "She's ... she asked for me. I have to."

"Do you want me to go with you?"

He swallowed hard against the lump choking him. "No, I can do this. Just, um ..."

"I'll wait here."

"Thank you." Anakin brushed away a tear and entered the medical bay. Droids busied themselves with other patients. He moved over to the left side of the bed and rested his hand on Daeshara'cor's hidden wrist.

She started for a second, then opened her eyes. Her surprised expression changed into one of happiness, though it lingered for only a second or two. Weariness washed from her, and Anakin could feel the spark of her life dimming. "Anakin."

"Hi. How are you?" Anakin squeezed his eyes shut for a moment. "Stupid, stupid ..."

Daeshara'cor slipped her left hand from beneath his grip and the sheet, then brushed a tear from his cheek. "It's okay. The venom-"

Anakin sniffed. "Corran was bitten. They saved him."

"Human chemistry ... different from a Twi'lek's." She lowered her hand and grabbed his, squeezing as hard as she could, which felt terribly weak to him. "There is nothing they can do. I'm dying."

"No! Not fair - you can't!" Anakin snarled as hot tears splashed down his cheeks. "Not you, not like-"

"Chewbacca?"

Anakin's knees buckled, and he started to go down but found a chair beneath his butt. He covered his face with his hands and felt Daeshara'cor stroking his hair. "I made a mistake and he died. I made a mistake and you are dying."

"There is no death ... there is only the Force."

He looked up through tear-blurred eyes. "It still hurts."

"I know." She managed a weak smile. "Anakin, you have to know ... even though I am dying ... I would not change things ... neither would Chewbacca."

"How can you say-"

She stroked his cheek, her fingers feeling cold against his skin. "He died ... I die ... in service to life. You saved me from the darkness. I saved you ... not in recompense, but so you can continue serving life, the Force."

He reached up and covered her hand with his. "I will never be as good a servant as you or Chewie."

Daeshara'cor smiled again, maintaining it though the corners of her mouth quivered. "You already are, Anakin, and will be greater. As you heal, you will be stronger than anyone can imagine. We arc proud of you, so proud ..."

Her voice faded, along with her smile, as life drained from her. Anakin pressed her hand harder against his face, but found her touch fleeting and faint. As he watched, she became lighter, then translucent, and finally disappeared as the sheet that had covered her collapsed.

Poor Anakin.  I get kinda tired of typing that.  I do like that he and Leia exchange just a few words but she knows what he wants/needs and that he still does still need his mother.  So, there’s that…

When the fight between Corran and Shai arrives, Luke and Deign Lian (Vong) are there to witness the fight. Corran defeats Shai and the Vong are told to leave as was the bargain. However, Lian, who is now the Vong Leader thanks to Shai's death (which I think was actually his plan), orders the entire planet of Ithor to be destroyed as was the original plan.  The New Republic freaks out, destroying Lian and all the Vong on their worldship.  After all of that is over, of course, the Jedi are blamed by the New Republic senate for Ithor's destruction, especially Corran Horn, who is now referred to as the "killer of Ithor". Following all of the backlash, Corran plans to lay low on his home planet of Corellia for awhile with his family. 

And let’s see, Jag decides to stay and have his group fight alongside of the Rogues.  Jaina is having a hard time dealing with the loss of her friend, Anni as she realizes that she never really knew her in that way that you might work alongside someone and care about them but never really get to know them.  Anakin helps Jaina with her grief as he shares his loss, too.  And that’s about it, I guess.

Overall not one of my favorite books.  Han is barely in it and when he is, he is…well, you saw him.  Leia is in it a little bit more but only as a supporting character and she never once mentions or thinks about Han, so there’s that wonderful tidbit.  The kids are focal points.  Jacen I don’t enjoy as much.  Anakin is just tragic but Jaina I do enjoy and she’s in here quite a bit as well as the introduction of Jag.  I guess that would be my favorite part of this book. 

All that being said, I’d go with a 1 Star – Han and Leia factor wise.  I’m interested to see what others think, though.

Thanks for reading!  Next up: Agents of Chaos Duology

18 comments:

  1. I'm really going to have to start reading NJO so I can keep up with these reviews. Sounds a little overwrought with all the Han losing his mind post-Chewie stuff but since
    I just finished Crucible, which had such a kind and good-hearted ending for the Big Three (yay, Troy Denning, you seem like an aces kind of guy) - so at least I know all this bad resolves to the Big Three being a older, sadder and wiser (aren't we all?) but still finding happiness and resolved to stick together -- I'm going to have to start looking back at these.

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  2. Ah, nicely done. It is tough to do these when the book sucks. I almost thought Han wasn't as bad as I remembered when he had that little scene with his kids, and it sounded like he was going to open up, and then he got mad instead and that was the end of that. Clearly he is still a mess. At this point I do sort of wonder why nobody is trying to help him but then maybe they have and he just gets angry.

    I definitely felt for Anakin in this book, and it was kind of nice to see all of the kids thinking about Chewie. You're so right that it's just kind of tragic thinking about what happens to Anakin soon.

    You get a high five for referencing Twins ;) And pretty true. Jaina is all badass, her twin, well, we kind of know how that turns out later.

    I hadn't remembered that Jag had such a memorable introduction. He certainly didn't just show up, did he? I had also forgotten that he's Wedge's nephew. I like that she senses something special about him right away, and that she wonders if that is how her mother felt about her father.

    I liked the little moment with Anakin and Leia, and that he still kind of needs his mom sometimes.

    Ugh, 2 more books until they reconcile. This is not fun to re-read.

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  3. I don't know if I can read these books when they're so painfully sparse on my favorite couple. But, I loved reading about Jaina's thoughts. That bit about wondering how her mother felt about her father is for some reason so touchingly sweet and romantic.

    You have more patience than I ever will. Thanks for the write up!

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  4. You know, I always get a lot of grief about my strong "dislike" for Jagged and my inexplicable love for a nonexisting ship(refer to my username). I'll be nice and leave it at that, but *shudders . . . Jagged. Fel.

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    1. You won't get grief from me. I think mostly I like the idea of Jag/Jaina. You know? One of their kids at least finding happiness in the end?? I'm not all that mesmerized or in love with Jag as a character, but more the idea of Jaina being happy. If that makes sense. So ship away with Kyp or Zek. Makes no matter to me. :-)

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  5. Yeah, this book ranks amongst the worst for Han/Leia in the EU. Leia just comes off as a cold politician, Han is a drunk, and of course Mara is this beautiful flawless Jedi who the Solo kids worship over their own parents. Blah.

    Question, do you guys plan to go back and do some of the EU that came out after your started book club, like Razor's Edge, Honor Amongst Thieves and Scoundrels? I was just re-reading Razor's Edge and forgot how awesome this book is for Han/Leia. It's like professional fanfic - which shouldn't be a surprise since Martha Wells was a Han/Leia fanfic writer for years before she went professional.

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    1. Did Martha Wells write under the name Martha Wilson (Wells)? If so, her fanfic is awesome and old school. (I loved her Arandu series. It was such a fun and believable characterization of Han.) I never got into the EU but thanks to this blog I am building a list of what selectively read.

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    2. Yup that was her! She wrote mostly pre-ANH Han, so it was interesting Jen Heddle (another Han/Leia fanfic writer) tapped her to do a Leia book. But she did a great job with Han/Leia UST. That fresher scene was HOT!

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    3. Waaaaaiiit... there is a fresher scene in Razor's Edge? Oh my, I have to get this book too!

      Have you read any of the Martha Wilson (Wells) fanfic that features Han and Leia together? It's pretty awesome sauce, and very sympathetic to Leia so I can totally see it. That said I haven't read any of her profic books! Definitely time to remedy that!

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    4. We haven't discussed going back to the ones we missed. It's a possibility, I guess. If we ever finish the rest of NJO. Because you know, there's only like a dozen books still left in this series alone...

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    5. Yeah I agree it is possible we might go back. We had discussed that it is unlikely we will go forward with books that follow NJO. I don't know that I want to re-read the Legacy of the Force series. Fate of the Jedi was better for the Solos only because we didn't spend the whole series watching their family be ripped apart, but still. Oh but we did both like Dark Nest Trilogy, so we will probably do that one. And I'm sure we can convince ourselves to at least cover Crucible and maybe Millennium Falcon. Razor's Edge is pretty great.

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    6. Yeah Legacy of the Force gets pretty depressing...BUT there is still some awesome Han/Leia stuff in there. Troy Denning loves his Han/Leia. There's that bit of Leia joking she's going to clap leg irons on Han while playing pirate, Leia dressed up scantily clad in disguise and telling Jaina how much Han loves it when she roleplays, and a bunch more but I can't remember right now. God bless Troy Denning - I tweeted him the other day about how much I loved his H/L!

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  6. Biggest issue with this book? boring.

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    1. True story. 90% of the time I pick up an EU book, I flip through to look for how much time Han and Leia spend together in it. Of course in this one, the answer is none. And of course I was correct in knowing that I would not enjoy it.

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  7. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for taking the time to slog through these books and post about them. I bailed out of EU fiction shortly after CoPL but I'm now reading a few, very selectively. This helps a lot. Says a lot when the EU is infinitely preferable to the current canon, eh!?

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  8. Where can I find those Martha Wells fanfics?

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    1. Web archive of the Corellian Embassy: https://web.archive.org/web/20031216115451/http://www.rtis.com/nat/user/golledge/indexmsw.htm

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