But you back down from the fight, Master Skywalker. You block and defend and never return the blow. Meanwhile the blades directed against you multiply. And you have begun to lose, Master Skywalker. One opportunity lost! And there lies Daeshara’cor in death. Another slip in your defense, and Corran Horn is slandered as the destroyer of Ithor and driven to seclusion. Again an attack is neglected, and Wurth Skidder joins Daeshara’cor in death. And now a flurry of failures as a million blades swing at you, and there go Dorsk 82, and Seyyerin Itoklo, and Swilja Fenn, and who can count those we do not know of yet, or who will die tomorrow? When will you attack, Master Skywalker?
-Kyp Durron, Jedi Knight
It’s Jedi hunting season. The Yuuzhan Vong have made an offer to spare worlds, if only those worlds deliver to them the heads of any Jedi Knights they can get their hands on. Unsurprisingly, in a New Republic well known for turning upon its heroes, there are a bunch of people willing to do just that-including an organization calling itself the Peace Brigade, which has hatched a plan to deliver a whole bunch of Jedi to the Vong-by stopping in at Yavin 4, at the Jedi Academy.
Meanwhile, the Jedi Knights are beginning to splinter. Kyp Durron heads a faction of Jedi tired of waiting for the axe to fall on them, and are advocating an extremely pro-active stance against the Vong. Luke Skywalker, on the other hand, continues to counsel helping where they can, acting as the shield for the New Republic. Among the Jedi caught in the middle are the Solo siblings, Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin. The three shrewdly guess the next move of the Vong (or the Brigade) in that the Academy is their next target, and tell their suspicions to Luke. Luke sends for Talon Karrde, the former smuggler who had been so helpful against Grand Admiral Thrawn. However, Anakin proves to be a bit more impatient…and heads to Yavin himself.
While Balance Point was a story of Solos, with an emphasis on Jacen’s moral questions, this one is purely Anakin’s. Conquest continues the process of a Jedi who-at sixteen-has seen more action than most Jedi might in their lives. He also finds himself in the process of this story in the unusual position of being the adult minded individual among some of the students; among those students are Valin Horn, son of the Jedi Corran Horn, and Tahiri Veila, Anakin’s best friend.
The Vong aren’t as omnipresent in this book as they have been in previous books. Yavin is hardly a major target for the Vong offensive, important only in the fact that a number of Jedi students are learning there. This isn’t to say they aren’t present-they are, and we get further insights as to their character and motives-some of which throws a slight element of self-preservation into the mix-as well as some other strategies, represented by their Shapers. And watch for Vua Rapuung-he’s a fellow who stands as a good example of the typical Vong warrior…even though he himself is anything but typical.
I do have one quibble with the ongoing storyline, though. As unpleasant as it is to agree with an extremist, Kyp Durron has a good point-the Jedi have been reacting more than acting against the Vong. While Kyp is nuts if he thinks that the Jedi alone can win this war, I think Luke has been far too passive in this whole thing. My opinions are slightly colored, probably, by the movie The Phantom Menace, where we got to see the Jedi in their prime; I get the idea that the Old Republic Jedi wouldn’t just contemplate-they’d act. Of course, the next movies may prove me wrong entirely….
The title Conquest is pretty misleading, as there’s precious little conquering going on (unless, of course, you count conquest over a person’s very soul-but I won’t go into any further details, since that might spoil some of the book). Conquest is instead bringing the scope of the New Jedi Order from the battles for planets to the challenge of rescue and survival on a more immediate level. And equally significantly, there is very little presence from who I would consider the Star Wars core characters (Han, Leia, Luke). While hardly the first book without their presence, it continues the slow trend of passing the torch to the sons and daughters of the Heroes of the Rebellion. Even Luke admits early in this book that it won’t be him or Kyp or any of the older Jedi who will bring this conflict to a conclusion, but one of the new ones.
Conquest is recommended for readers who have continued to follow the New Jedi Order saga, especially for fans of the Solo siblings. For folks more interested in the continuing war, you don’t really need to read this one. But to be fair, you’re missing out on the continuing growth of Anakin Solo as a person if you do.