28 August 2007
Fast paced and on plot, Inferno is the tightest and most engaging novel in the LotF series. Were it not for the lobotomized villain and the contrived ending, it might have been near perfect.
As this sixth volume opens, Jacen prepares to launch a decisive strike against the Confederation fleet. To do this, he must rely on the Jedi, and to rely on them he needs leverage to insure their cooperation. And so under the guise of protecting children, he sends a Galactic Alliance Guard squadron to hold the Jedi Academy hostage, after which things begin to spin out of control, including author Troy Denning's depiction of Jacen. Once a thinking man's villain, he has been transformed into a megalomaniacal, hostage-taking, child-killing, planet-destroying madman. At some point in the story you wonder what happened - who's this Darth Caedus guy and where did _he_ come from?
Where Caedus is laughable, Luke is again human, rescued from the sidelines where he spent the previous five volumes as an inefficient and ineffective politician and parent. Now center stage, he leads the Jedi out from under Jacen's nominal control, helps forge a new political alliance to try and contain his increasingly bizarre nephew, and personally takes the fight directly to Caedus. Sadly, this knock-down, drag-out concludes in a contrivance that can only have been intended to string out the series. Battered, bruised, and with a knife stuck between his shoulder blades, Jacen lays waiting for a death blow, one Ben is ready to deliver. Luke stops him, though, and the two walk away to wait for a moment when "the time is right." Thousands or millions more will die because Luke didn't act when he had the chance, a decision that will no doubt be the source of great lament and self-recrimination in forthcoming volumes.
While it may seem that there is no plot left to develop - Jacen having been abandoned by the Jedi, his political allies, and even his wife - a preview of the seventh installment finds Caedus scheming to bring the Hapan fleet back into the fight against the Confederation. While it is unlikely this plan will be any more successful than his others, it is the arrival of Alema Rar at the end of Inferno bearing a message from the ancient Sith home world of Korriban that portends a more dramatic show down between the forces of light and dark.