Monthly Archives: May 2013

Traitor, by Matthew Stover

traitorThis threshold is mine.  I claim it for my own.  Bring on your thousands, one at a time or all in a rush.  I don’t give a damn.  None shall pass.
-Ganner Rhysode, Jedi Knight


The character of Vergere has been a bit of a strange enigma.  This alien works with the Yuuzhan Vong, originally as a familiar of an assassin, and later climbing to the attention of the Warmaster Tsavong Lah.  She was responsible for the capture of Jacen Solo during Star By Star.  But she has also provided her tears to Mara Jade Skywalker, curing her of the disease (or at least pushing it into submission at that time) that had threatened her life in spite of her Jedi skills.  She aided Jacen before she betrayed him.  And other novels indicate a history for Vergere that makes it difficult to believe that she could be here, now, and working like this (see Rogue Planet and Cloak of Deception).  Well, at least some of that mystery has begun to be revealed.

Traitor fills in a very big loose end in the present New Jedi Order storyline:  whatever happened to Jacen Solo?  Most characters believed him killed (including his own sister).  Readers, on the other hand, probably didn’t buy that for a minute (never believe a death without a body).  And these readers are proven right, although Jacen probably wished otherwise.  He opens up in the device the Vong call “the Embrace of Pain”, a device that the Vong believe make them stronger, and proves the weakness of other races who don’t handle that kind of pain all that well.  A visit from Vergere doesn’t set his mind at ease, either-she casually cuts off his connection to the Force, but not before he comes to a realization that she is herself powerful in the Force.

In time, Jacen finds a way (with Vergere’s help?) to deal with the agony of the Embrace; what he does not know, however, is that our good buddy Nom Anor and Vergere have a plan for Jacen.  Reflecting the growing opinion of the Vong that Jaina is an avatar of their trickster goddess, Nom Anor proposes to teach Jacen the Vong way, make him come to accept it, and groom him as the avatar of Yun-Yammka, their warrior god, and twin of Yun-Harla, the trickster.  And one of the big highlights of that plan is to have Jacen willingly sacrifice his own sister in the Great Sacrifice of the Twins.  Of course, Vergere’s motives remain shadowy….

Traitor is written in a significantly different style than most Star Wars books.  While most of them take a fully objective third person view, this one in many ways feels as if it is addressing the reader.  This can backfire, but I found it worked very well here.  Jacen’s undergoing an ordeal unlike that of any other, and with some big questions about the Force, why the Vong don’t show up within it, and the final fate of Coruscant (and perhaps, its population).  And yet, with each ordeal, Jacen is forced to accept some truths that may shake the foundation of the Jedi Knights.

Vergere’s a character I’ve wanted to learn more about once she started popping up in the Republic Era novels.  There’s a bunch of open questions, but Traitor makes serious headway into others.  The big trick is trying to figure out if she’s trying to help Jacen, or set him up for the fall.  Stover kept me guessing until the end (and to be honest, I’m still not 100 percent certain!  She plays a double game better than anyone I’ve seen in Star Wars!)

Another big advantage of Traitor is a much smaller cast list.  The last few books have had very large casts, with just about all the main characters and a good hunk of secondary characters.  But we really only have two major players on this one:  Vergere and Jacen, with two others sprinkled around.  As such, we get more of a focus on just what is happening than in most of the other books in this series.

Fans of Jacen Solo, and his journey to understand the Force better, will likely enjoy this book; while some of the things introduced might make some readers a little leery, I felt they made sense.  While the book doesn’t contribute much in the greater scheme of the New Jedi Order, it contributes bunches to Jacen and perhaps the Jedi as a whole. Traitor is well worth a read.

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The Woad to Wuin, by Peter David

woadNo, I’m not so ambitious as to endeavor to take on the entirety of the Steppes in one grand orgy of violence.  Rather, I was thinking of attacking a dozen at a time and achieving my goal that way.
So you would embark on a twelve Steppe program, then.  A canny choice…
-Peacelord Apropos and Suliman the Magnificent (of Steppe Thirty-Nine)


Sometimes, you can’t even get away from it all in peace.  Sometimes, you just get to set out on The Woad to Wuin.  Wait, that’s not quite right, is it…?

Apropos has gone into hiding with the spell weaver Sharee after the events in Sir Apropos of Nothing; however, due to events only somewhat beyond his control (and a part of the most twisted parody of Lord of the Rings that it’s been my pleasure to read), he parts company with her and sets up shop in a tavern.  Strangely enough, he seems to enjoy it (well, as much as Apropos enjoys anything; readers of the last book will remember that his attitude towards life can’t be considered “sunny”).  Things start going south on him, though, when a Visionary stops by at his tavern.  This Visionary is one of a unique bunch of people; one of the fellows who writes those powerful prophecies that always seem to come true, even though they’re horribly obscure.  This fellow, though, is unusual because he’s a bit more literal.  Against his better judgment, and perhaps not completely seriously, Apropos gets a reading.

That’s when things start happening with appalling swiftness.  Before he knows it, he’s fleeing for his life, reunited with Sharee, and pursued by Lord Beliquose-a man who speaks in only one volume, LOUD-and his…well, something called Bicce.  Near dying, he falls unconscious in a wasteland…and wakes up to what must be a dream.  A dream in which he is a warlord (well, Peacelord; there’s a good reason for that title).  A dream in which he is grinding the land of Wuin under his heel.  But it’s apparent quickly that it is real, and he has no idea how that happened, or what to do about it.  Well, not right away, anyway.

The character of Apropos hasn’t changed too much; he’s not fond of the concept of Destiny, and is caught up in events that he really doesn’t have a stake in…unless, of course, you count getting killed.  The opening of the book is somewhat bent, but I’ve been known to have a twisted sense of humor too, and the Lord of the Rings riff qualified perfectly.  I was waiting for something really painful to happen to Apropos at the end of that sequence (I am NOT going into detail here; use your imagination, but remember that my warnings concerning Sir Apropos of Nothing hold true here, if not moreso).

The parts of this book that really stand out for me is after Apropos awakens to what appears to be a very different reality.  The character undergoes a startling transformation in personality from Apropos, the loser, to Apropos, the Peacelord of Wuin-to something else, due to discoveries made in the process.  I found it entirely believable given what we already knew of Apropos, and (perhaps) it wouldn’t be hard to believe that the same transformation could occur to anybody.

We also get to meet a couple of characters from the last book as well.  While Entipy doesn’t make a personal appearance, we do get to see a kind-of avatar of her (I’m being kind).  Sharee, of course, is back, and pops in and out of the general plot, and generally trying to make Apropos think about things he’d rather not.  And a certain wandering king pops up, who represents the big red flag to our protagonist.

The finale comes with a number of unexpected twists (well, some of them; I only could guess at one of them), and hints at more “adventures” to follow-much to the dismay, undoubtedly, of Apropos. The Woad to Wuin was a fun read, and I think I enjoyed it a bit more than the last book-probably because it didn’t have to cover all the same ground on who Apropos is.  This one took us into the plot pretty quickly; and when you add David’s skill at mixing humor and seriousness into a story, you come up with a pretty good book.  If you like Sir Apropos of Nothing-or even felt kind of neutral for it-you may want to give Apropos a second chance.  If for no other reason than to watch the character squirm at finding himself a conqueror.  It’s good fun.

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