Posts Tagged With: Troy Denning

Tatooine Ghost, by Troy Denning

tatooineIt doesn’t surprise me that you find this holo so fascinating.
Sure, I love little kids.  Especially human kids.
Of course.  But the boy in this ‘cube is no longer a child.  It was taken when he won the Boonta Eve Classic, more than forty years ago.
Won it?  Look, don’t think you’re talking to a pair of nerf herders, here.  Even when Podracing was legal, humans didn’t have the reflexes to survive it-much less win, and especially not as kids.
-Han Solo and Leia Organa-Solo, and a vendor with a holocube of a figure from the past

It is a time before the Vong; the Thrawn trilogy has yet to occur, but the heroes Han Solo and Princess Leia Organa have been married for months.  And the Empire is not the remnant it is now, but still a powerful force that threatens the New Republic.  Leia has not yet quite come to terms with the idea of Anakin Skywalker’s redemption; Han hasn’t come to terms with being jerked around by the Provisional Council of the New Republic while he was “courting” Leia.  But somewhere in this time frame, something happened.

This is where Tatooine Ghost opens.  Han and Leia are making a trip to Tatooine, hoping to bid on a moss painting from Alderaan called Killik Twilight, a painting that once hung in the palace on that world.  It also has a bit of a secret-for within the painting’s circuitry, there is a code key for the Rebel Alliance, which can’t be allowed to fall into Imperial hands.  Fortunately, the Empire doesn’t know it is there.  Unfortunately, they run into a Star Destroyer on the approach to Tatooine-the Chimaera, Captain Pellaeon’s ship-and it quickly becomes apparent that they have an interest in the painting.  (Why would this be?  Well, think time frame again; who would be interested in such a unique piece of art….?  It embarrasses me that I didn’t figure it out right away.)

While this would probably be enough for a decent story, it gets kicked up a notch when you find out that the painting is being sold in Mos Espa.  A brief encounter during the auction leads to a plot line in the book that runs alongside the main one-because once upon a time, Anakin Skywalker lived in Mos Espa, before Qui-Gon Jinn took him away to meet his destiny.  And this means we get the first real interactions between the Episode I-III eras with the Episode IV-VI eras (not counting Vergere from the New Jedi Order; you don’t get the same feeling of “EVENT” off of that as you do with Anakin’s home town).  Denning does a good job in bringing out old friends of Anakin, who knew him long before he became a Sith Lord-and who show Leia a bit of perspective that the evil Jedi who had tortured her wasn’t always a seething cauldron of hate and malice.  This plot line also fills in a very significant blank in the time between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones-just whatever happened to Shmi Skywalker.

But don’t have the impression that it’s all about coming to terms with Vader’s past; there’s plenty enough going on in the main plot line; the auction itself-which not only goes about they way you’d expect, given the famous Solo luck, but also introduces a trio of Squibs, possibly the most avaricious creatures I’ve seen in the Star Wars setting (outside of Hutts and Toydarians, of course).  These guys are genuine weasels, but at least they stick to their contract…if you don’t mind tactics that tend to be a little more then you bargained for; and they’re about as persistent fellows that I’ve ever seen.  Throw in a group of Imperials who begin to actively hunt our Rebel pair, who show a distressing amount of competence that goes above simple brutality (again, if you followed the books, shouldn’t be all that surprising).

One of the threads going along in this book that I thought was a nice touch was Han and Leia’s attitude towards children.  Han wouldn’t mind having some-we get hints of an interest in being a family man in this book, which makes a great deal of sense considering his background.  Leia’s attitude also matches her background-her family has always been strong in the Force, and her father was the nastiest piece of work the galaxy had ever seen (except for the Emperor, of course); it’s not surprising that she feels hesitant about having children, for fear of what they could become.

I rather enjoyed this book; after all, it’s set at a good time for the setting-the Empire is still out there, the New Republic is still working on inventing itself, no hint of the really ugly events of the New Jedi Order on the horizon-and hey, it’s got Chewbacca!  It’s been too long….  Even so, though, I’ll admit my favorite portions of the book were the ones tying into the Old Republic era.  It was good to see what became of a number of characters on Tatooine that we’d seen in Episodes I and II, and it was better to see Leia discover these things (the Force is a wonderful prompter) and learn a little more about her father in times less dark.  It also kinda makes me hope we see a similar treatment whenever they finish making Episode III, because the novels are a great place to explore the “final” fates of a number of characters.

All in all, I think Tatooine Ghost was a good read, especially considering the nice continuity ties to both the events in the first two episodes and to the events that would soon take place (probably shortly after the events of this novel!).  It’s definitely worth a read for any Star Wars fan.

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Star by Star, by Troy Denning

starbystarAm I worried about what’s happening to us?  Sure.  this war is bringing out all that’s selfish and wicked in the New Republic, corrupting the galaxy star by star.  I see it pulling one Jedi after another to the dark side, making us fight to win instead of protect.  But I can’t push others down my path.  Everyone needs to choose for themselves.
-Jacen Solo, Jedi Knight

For this book, I feel the need to paraphrase from another cult movie:  It’s always darkest before it gets really dark.

For those who haven’t been following, here’s the situation:  the New Republic has been dealing with an invasion by the Yuuzhan Vong; they’ve temporarily stalled their drive towards the Core Worlds in order to let the Republic turn against itself, offering not to conquer the worlds of Republic if they turned over all of the Jedi Knights, especially Jacen Solo, who had earned himself a place in the Warmaster’s “heart”; mainly because he’d just love to sacrifice the Jedi to his gods.

The Jedi have had a hard time of it as a result.  While the Jedi are slowly beginning to take some action, it’s still a holding action more than anything else.  But now, they are being forced to action.  The Vong have unleashed a strange creature upon them, capable of hunting the Jedi through the Force, and certainly capable of killing lone Jedi-and the fear is that they will be released in a widespread manner.  This is the opening of Star By Star, the latest hardcover in the New Jedi Order.

When the New Jedi Order began, it was stressed that the hardcovers would cover major events in the continuing saga of our heroes.  Well, believe me-this one certainly fits that description.  And at slightly over 600 pages, it comes in as the most densely packed Star Wars novel released to date (feel free to correct me…I’ve been wrong before).  I was slightly skeptical of this book; followers of my site will recall that I absolutely trashed the last book by Denning that I’d read (The Summoning).  Well, now I know why it was so bad-because his creative juices were going full steam ahead on this book!

The Vong are now hitting the Jedi on a couple of different fronts-first, the new creature unleashed upon the Jedi is hurting morale-not to mention cutting down the supply of Jedi Knights.  Another announcement from the Vong indicates that they are prepared to destroy refugee ships unless the Jedi surrender themselves.  It doesn’t require much imagination to realize that the Jedi aren’t going to stand for it-regardless of their internal dissension.  While Luke Skywalker starts the wheels turning to carry the war to the Yuuzhan Vong, as he consolidates the various factions of Jedi, a daring plan to infiltrate the source of the Jedi-killing creatures is begun.  This is of great concern to Han and Leia, because the effort is being led by their youngest, Anakin, who is also joined by both of his siblings.

Lest one believe the Vong are just sitting there, though, they are also continuing to maneuver both politically and militarily.  There’s enough political action going on that one almost starts to feel sorry for Borsk Fey’lya, the Chief of State.  Of course, longtime readers will be able to squash that feeling fairly quickly….

The book does a fairly good job on covering the rather large number of subplots that have been rolling around for the last year or so.  Han and Leia are finally beginning to become comfortable with each other again; Luke and Mara are not only beginning to take action, but are also learning how to be parents (one of the best quotes in the book comes from Mara late in the book; I almost used the quote, but I felt it might spoil some things-you’ll know it when you read it!).  Lando Calrissian shows up once more, with a rather…interesting…set of tools to use against the Vong invasion.  The droids are still there, too, although they really don’t get all that much time in this book.  You’d think that such a large book would have a bit more room for them….

Star By Star is a big book, with a price tag to match; but I think it was definitely worth the money.  By the end of this book, enough will have happened that the events of Vector Prime will look like a small burp in the storyline.  Take that as a warning.  And remember the first sentence in this review.  And keep in mind that there’s a very, very good reason why the next book (probably paperback, although I haven’t really checked) is called Dark Journey.

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The Summoning, by Troy Denning

You surprise me, elf.  I take back half the bad things I’ve ever said about you.
-Vala Thorsdotter to Galaeron Nihmedu

Well.  The back of The Summoning hypes this as the “most Realms-shaking event since The Threat From the Sea”.  Seeing as that wasn’t all that long ago, that didn’t exactly impress me.

There was a time, not too long ago, that I collected the Forgotten Realms series of novels as a matter of course.  Lately, though, I’ve found myself purchasing far less of them, grabbing only the ones that related to authors who’ve always entertained me (such as R. A. Salvatore or Elaine Cunningham).  Troy Denning has been one of the authors who I’ve been rather iffy about.  Some of his books I rather liked (such as Pages of Pain) and some that left me a little cold (such as Crucible:  The Trial of Cyric the Mad).  So when this came out, I decided to take a chance…even though it’s billed as the first book in the Return of the Archwizards.

It opens near the elven city of Evereska, where an elven patrol encounters a number of human crypt breakers led by the mysterious wizard named Melegaunt Tanthul.  The encounter becomes far more dangerous when a race of creatures called phaerimm are freed accidentally from their mystical imprisonment.  The leader of the patrol, Galaeron Nihmedu, finds himself working with the crypt breakers to find a way to defend Evereska from the assault.  However, Melegaunt’s motives include far more than simply acting against the phaerimm.

To be honest, I really couldn’t get into this novel.  Enjoyment of this book really requires extensive knowledge of Forgotten Realms lore, and some of that lore exists in the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game.  Some of it really asks a lot out of a casual reader.  Denning also sneaks in a character from Crucible-and I’m not sure why he bothered putting him in-as well as a character who may have had some origins in a Dungeons and Dragons computer game (although I can’t prove it; the resemblance in character is uncanny, but on the other hand, truly original concepts are hard to come by).

I would only recommend this book for folks who have every Forgotten Realms book and every role-playing supplement.  Well, maybe not every one, but certainly with a solid backing in Realms lore.  The plot didn’t draw me in, and I consider that an important part of the book-that, and intriguing characters.  It has a couple characters that are interesting, but it’s asking a lot for just that to carry the book.  I will have to give serious thought before purchasing the rest of this series.  For folks just beginning to read Forgotten Realms books, give this one a pass.

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