01/11/2011. Contributed by Tomas L. Martin
pub: Del Rey/Ballantine Books/Lucas Books. 328 page hardback. Price: $27.00 (US), $33.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-345-50908-6 (pub: Arrow/Random House. 354 page paperback. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-099-54274-2) .
check out websites: www.delreybooks.com, www.starwars.com, www.rbooks.co.uk and www.AaronAllston.com
It’s book four in the ‘Fate Of The Jedi’ sequence and we’re beginning to reach the meat of this arc’s storyline. Following the shocking events of the previous nine book ‘Legacy Of The Force’ arc in which Han and Leia Solo’s son Jacen turned to the dark side, so far this new set of tie-in novels has been rather subdued by comparison, mostly dealing with the aftermath of Jacen’s ill-fated rule over the Republic.
In the previous book of this sequence, ‘Abyss’, Luke Skywalker and his son Ben fought against a new group of Sith, a clan of dark side users that have emerged from a forgotten backwater planet of the galaxy. They managed to defeat them, but one Sith apprentice escaped to Dathomir, the home of the Dathomiri witches first scene in Dave Wolverton’s ‘The Courtship Of Princess Leia’.
In ‘Backlash’, our main protagonists, first Luke and Ben then Leia, Han and Jacen’s daughter Allana find their way to Dathomir, where the politics of the witches is thrown into chaos by the arrival of the Sith apprentice. With the loyalties of the Force-using witches split between the light and dark side, Luke and Leia must help the Raining Leaves tribe defeat the dark side witches and their pet rancors, giant monsters like the one kept captive in Jabba’s palace in ‘Return Of The Jedi’.
This central conflict begins with intrigue and suspicion as the Raining Leaves try to work out who among them has turned to the dark side and it climaxes into a lengthy and exhilarating battle on the slopes of a Dathomir hill. Allston has always been a good writer of action and dialogue and that continues here, as well as his typical deft use of humour.
In addition to the main plotline, there’s a cute sub-plot as Allana, a very young girl, is left alone on the Millennium Falcon with C-3PO and R2D2. But when R2D2 goes missing, precocious Allana evades C-3PO and has an adventure of her own to rescue her robot friend. There’s some excellent characterisation in this sub-plot and I felt like the tie-in novels were really beginning to show us the kind of character Allana will grow up to be – moral, but cheeky and dismissive of the rules, just like her grandfather, Han Solo.
‘Abyss’ also continues to explore the mismatch that is Admiral Natasi Daala as head of the Republic on Coruscant. A former Imperial and suspicious of everything that moves, everything she does seems to make life more complicated for her and the Jedi and, although she is not portrayed as evil, it will be intriguing to see where this story arc leads as she is a terrible leader. The betrayal of the Imperial Moffs continues to grow, too, with Jag Fel struggling to keep the Imperial Remnant true to the Republic and the possibility of a new intergalactic war becomes stronger book by book.
Aaron Allston is a fine tie-in writer with an excellent sense of comic timing and a good grasp on the mythology of the ‘Star Wars’ universe. Following his heart attack and quadruple bypass in 2009, many including this reviewer feared we would be losing his talents. It is good to see his writing skills remain undiminished and I, for one, hope we enjoy his stories for many books to come.
Tomas L. Martin
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