I don’t wish to offend, but it’s a mystery to me that you managed to defeat the Empire.
We have our moments. The Republic’s utter lack of direction is actually a clever ploy to confuse our enemies.
And that works?
Not that I’ve noticed, no.
-A conversation between Jagged Fel and Kyp Durron
Well, I’m going to presume you’ve read Star by Star, cause if you haven’t, I’m about to ruin a few things for you. Be warned.
When last we left our heroes, they’d just been rather forcibly evicted from Coruscant, and a terrible tragedy has befallen the Solos (again!?). Worse, yet, Jaina Solo and her merry band of Jedi from the last book are attempting to get back to the Republic after said tragedy-and she’s beginning to walk down a road all too familiar to those with Skywalker blood….
Dark Journey begins in the aftermath of the shattering events of Star by Star, and it centers primarily on Jaina Solo, who really hasn’t had much “screen time” in the New Jedi Order. Her brothers have been the ones on center stage, as it were; between Jacen’s waffling as to how to deal with the Force, and Anakin’s desire to “make up” for Chewbacca’s death, Jaina’s kind of just been in the background. But with this book, she is most certainly the central character, as she deals with the aforementioned tragedy of the last book, as well as another blow that occurs this book (which I am highly dubious about, and I’m sure most readers will feel the same). In a stolen Yuuzhan Vong ship, she and the remnants of the Jedi team led by Anakin in the last book manage to reach Coruscant at the tail end of its fall; lacking anywhere else to go, they make their way to the Hapes Cluster, where Jaina gets entangled in the medieval style intrigue that goes on there. However, she has her own plans, driven by a desire for (dare I say it?) revenge.
Reappearing in this book is the character of Jagged Fel, possibly the best non-Jedi starfighter pilot around, as he follows his father’s orders to seek out any weaknesses in strategy or tactics that may be exploited. I find him to be a fairly interesting character in that he’s almost too military, and not really up on social niceties. Of course, he was raised and trained by aliens, so it’s probably forgivable. Also reappearing are the royal family of the Hapes Cluster; in fact, Prince Isolder and his mother, Ta’a Chume, are significant characters in this book. And, to use his own words, “the blister that lets you know your boots don’t fit”, also known as Kyp Durron, is also in this book, although he appears to be mellowing somewhat. (Don’t let the last sentence fool you: the goals are the same, only the methods are evolving!)
I’ve always liked Elaine Cunningham’s books. When she was writing books for the Forgotten Realms Harpers series, I thought her books were the best of the lot; I consistently ranked them up with Salvatore’s books. So it’s a little painful for me to say that I didn’t exactly love this book. Dark Journey has good parts to it-Jaina begins some psychological warfare with the Vong, and her very wobbly walk against the Dark Side is well detailed. The problem I had with this book probably can’t really be considered Cunningham’s fault (I’m not sure how much control the authors have over the Big Picture for the New Jedi Order). And that problem is Hapes.
I’ve never really bought into the Hapes Cluster, ever since The Courtship of Princess Leia. I kind of think it’s seeing way too much time in these books, and I wish it would stop (maybe the Vong will visit soon). I expect that Cunningham felt it closest to the type of books she’s more familiar with writing. But the intrigue of the Cluster feels out of place for me with the Yuuzhan Vong knocking on everyone’s door. It’s a gut reaction; I’m sure there are several fans of the Hapes Cluster, so I’ll end the rant here before I get folks really upset.
The other minor problem with the book is that it seemed to be a holding point. Oh, there were events that will certainly have repercussions down the line. But I feel as if very little was actually accomplished here. Of course, regrouping could be seen as a pretty important point, but….
Well, even with its flaws, Dark Journey isn’t a bad read. It’s got some great scenes (I loved the comment about Han: it gets repeated by both Leia and Jaina, and it was perfectly in character), and it gives attention to a character who really has deserved more time in the spotlight. I’m hoping that trend continues as the series progresses.