In Review: Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi-Into the Void
Published by Del Rey Books, May 2013. Hardcover at $27.00, 300 pages. This includes a 16 page preview of Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi–Prisoner of Bogan, a 9 page short story by John Ostrander, and a 20 page excerpt from the upcoming novel Star Wars: Crucible by Troy Denning.
The cover: Illustrated by Torstein Nordstrand and designed by Scott Biel, Je’daii Ranger Lanoree Brock looks upset as she races somewhere with her blade poised to strike down any aggressor. Behind her is one of the ancient pyramids, the Tho Yor, ancient ships that brought all the races together. It was a good idea to showcase the hero with her weapon, and I like the background with the pyramid. The lighting hurts the image as too much of her garb is unclear and makes the lower half of the image an orange mess, seemingly to wipe out any chance of a more detailed background. Overall grade: C+
The premise: From the inside front cover: “On the planet Tython, the ancient Je’daii order was founded. And at the feet of its wise Masters, Lanoree Brock learned the mysteries and methods of the Force–and found her calling as one its most powerful disciples. But as strongly as the Force flowed within Lanoree and her parents, it remained absent in her brother, who grew to despise and shun the Je’daii, and whose training in its ancient ways ended in tragedy. Now, from her solitary life as a Ranger keeping order across the galaxy, Lanoree has been summoned by the Je’daii Council on a matter of utmost urgency. The leader of a fanatical cult, obsessed with traveling beyond the reaches of known space, is bent on opening a cosmic gateway using dreaded dark matter as the key–risking a cataclysmic reaction that will consume the entire star system. But more shocking to Lanoree than even the prospect of total galactic annihilation, is the decision of her Je’daii Masters to task her with the mission of preventing it. Until a staggering revelation makes clear why she was chosen: The brilliant, dangerous madman she must track down and stop at any cost is the brother whose death she has long grieved–and whose life she must now fear.” It sounds like I’ll be getting the familiar aspects of classic Star Wars family conflict with a chase. Simple, I’m in! Overall grade: A
The characters: I’m always leery of books that open with a list of dramatis personae, which is like the author is grabbing me and saying, “You’re gonna need this list to help you remember who’s who.” I hate that. It makes me nervous before I’ve even read Page One. We get that in this book, but we don’t need it. Eight characters are on this list, but only three are constantly appearing. First is Lanoree Block, young and devoted to her brother. A good piece of the novel involves flashbacks to Lanoree training to be a Je’daii. We see that she’s got skills, including an ability I’ve never encountered or heard of in the Star Wars universe; shown in Chapter Thirteen, this craft would be a tremendous boon for good or perverted into an unbelievable evil–so many possibilities. Her brother, the book’s antagonist, Dalien, was different in his youth. He rejected the Force and dreamed of getting off planet. Dal goes through Force training to be a Je’daii, but it is so obvious to others, save Lanoree, that he will never be a Je’daii. Reading about Dal’s youth was much more interesting than his sister’s simply because the motivations and signs of a person’s fall are always intriguing. As an adult, his grand scheme is obvious and understandable, yet insane. I enjoyed that both the hero and villain of this piece understand the other must be stopped, but due to their past find it difficult to eliminate the other until the final battle. The other primary character in the novel is Tre Sana, a Twi’lek male, who is helping Lanoree under duress. He is a rogue, who appears to have the soul of Lando, but his past shows a much darker side. His voice is that of the reluctant participant, giving advice and sarcasm at every turn. Many warnings are given to Lanoree about his trustworthiness, and I was constantly on guard to see if he would turn like Dal. Overall grade: A+
The settings: Set 25,793 years before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, the galaxy is full of familiar races and planets, though the latter’s names are new. Tython, where the ancient Je’daii Order was founded, is the Earth substitute. Mountains, deserts, oceans, forests–for all intensive purposes, this is Earth, though it is widely unexplored and has the strange animal life one would find in this series. Nox is a standout of a world. The industrialization has gotten so bad the planet is dying. Cities exist under domes because the air is so toxic. This world makes Dune‘s Giedi Prime look like a set from The Sound of Music. Ten year earlier, during the Despot War, the Je’daii had bombed the planet to stop its manufacturing of weapons, adding to the destruction of the world. The planet is as anti-Je’daii as a world can be. Nox has appeared in the Dark Horse Comics, and this trip solidified its place as pure evil. Overall grade: A+
The action: In the present, there’s danger in every shadow as Lanoree does what she can to find her brother. She doesn’t have a lightsaber (they don’t exist yet, but if you were to read the 16 pages comic insert you would read of their progenitor), but a sword that can deflect blaster shots. She’s adept and using it and her Force skills are used in incredible fight scenes. The flashbacks have action, to be sure, but set in the past there’s no real threat for Lanoree or Dal as we know they’ll survive to fight in the present. Overall grade: B
The resolution: There’s a final battle which was sweet and line is tossed out for a possible sequel. But in the Star Wars universe, does the battle ever really end? Overall grade: A
The extra story: “Eruption” is a quick tale featuring Lanoree and Ranger Hawk Ryo, a character from the Dark Horse Comics series. It goes at a speedy pace, showing Ryo on a mission, while delving into his past. This was good. I’d be more than willing to purchase a novel written by John Ostrander. Overall grade: A
The final line: I’m a huge fan of the comics and I was interested to see what a book could add. The answer is quite a lot. This was an epic tale of a sister and brother lost in the past fighting for their futures. Action and drama in the Star Wars universe’s origins that’s sure to please. Overall grade: A
Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyers Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years, and only recently taught 9th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.