26 February 2008
The penultimate installment of Legacy of the Force gets off to a slow start, has far too much material that doesn't drive the plot, but is nevertheless one of the more interesting chapters in the series.
The first half of the book is rather plodding. A large part is written as a police procedural, with Ben out to gather forensic evidence necessary to convince his family (and prove to himself) that Jacen killed his mother, Mara. While unnecessary for the reader - we knew Jacen was the killer before we even read the fifth chapter, Sacrifice - a solid presentation of the facts is required for the Skywalker and Solo families, who, as a Mandalorian healer remarks to Jaina, have "been hoping that [Jacen will] see the light and [won't] have to do the dirty work."
Unfortunately for the series as a whole, there's been far too much material on the Mandalorians, material largely irrelevant to the main plot, and that's especially so in this volume. The editors at Del Rey should have suggested a side-project for Traviss where she could have developed the material more fully and without having to try to find ways to justify its inclusion here. The ostensible purpose for the Mandos in this volume is Jaina's search for a method or means of capturing or killing her twin brother Jacen. She goes to one of the galaxy's most feared Jedi hunters, Boba Fett, who fits her in armor, shows her how to use a metal blade, but most importantly teaches her the need to be someone else: "A nasty Jaina. A crafty, cheating Jaina. A bounty-hunting Jaina." The training itself doesn't require that many pages. What does is concluding the drama of Boba Fett and tying up loose ends from Traviss' Republic Commando series, both of which happen to fit neatly into the thematic foundation of the book, if not necessarily the plot. The revelations include Boba's poignant sacrifice for his wife, a Jedi disclosing his true identity, Jaina's calling, Mara's murderer, and a Sith's coming out.
Once all the preliminaries are out of the way, the second act is a page-turner featuring one of the most unusual space battles of the series, in which not one but two new players and two new fleets join the fray. The Galactic Alliance is riven mid-battle by a defection, and the planet being targeted becomes the planet from which a new alliance forms up against Jacen, driving him home to Coruscant to make what will most likely be his last stand in the final volume, Invincible.
The extended epilogue tidies up the Mandalorian saga with the most sincere and genuine writing of the series. This is perhaps the only Star Wars novel that ever got me choked up. And not once, but twice within the last 20 pages. The hardened mercenary unburdens himself, opens his heart and finds himself accepted, taking the first step to winning back the love and the family he had quietly cherished for more than 50 years. The Jedi deserter Gotab has at last a chance to explain himself to a fellow Jedi, to stop hiding and at last be welcomed within his adopted community for what he is, and not what he has pretended to be. Jaina learns to look outside herself, finding a reason and a will to do what 's necessary to take care of her evil twin brother. And in the last two pages, Traviss delivers the most understated and touching scene from the Star Wars Extended Universe, a quiet ending with Ben and Luke in the still of the Endor night. Read it and weep.