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I like big books.

Vortex (Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi, Book 6)

Vortex - Troy Denning If it's one thing that Denning has down, it's the narration of battle scenes. It certainly makes for page-turning reading, even if it's a rather superficial thing. The confrontations in this book are all top-notch with some rather interesting twists on Force abilities that draw on the best traditions of the EU and add some new clever variations on top. But that alone doesn't really deserve three stars. I think what impressed me most was Denning's ability to make sense of an smooth over a lot of the plot elements awkwardly introduced by previous authors in the series (mainly Christie Golden), into a patchwork that actually makes sense and feels like it's going somewhere. The slave uprisings in the Outer Rim Territories have a context now and a direction that doesn't feel like a randomly introduced complication to make Chief of State Daala look bad; with Denning, the uprisings represent a philosophical choice that the Jedi have to make that recasts the purpose and ethos of the Jedi themselves. I think the better novels in the EU all manage to do something along those lines, and this is definitely one of the better ones.

On the downside, it does seem like a lot of Jedi are a little too eager for confrontation instead of mediation, but maybe that's a personal preference and quibble. I just don't see a physical power struggle among longtime Jedi masters and friends of the sort that occurs in this story as "realistic" (cringe). Well, lets just say, it's highly out of character and a little distracting from the overall suspension of disbelief, which is an especially difficult thing to manage in something as melodramatic and geeky as what amounts to Star Wars fan fiction. The many deaths of Abeloth is getting a little old too, and seems less a genuinely shocking plot twist than a cheap gimmick. Part of me feels like everything worth exploring with that particular character and this particular crisis is done and over with, which makes the continuation of that particular plot line seem like beating a dead horse.

The political fallout of Daala and the Jedi butting heads seems like it would be interesting, as does Tahiri's trial, so there's still some hope for this series. Those two subplots offer the opportunity for some real character development if the right author can be found to address those issues. Allston wrote the next one, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.