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Legacy of the Force I - Betrayal

Mike?s Rating

3.8 / 4

Paul?s Rating

 3.6 / 4

Billy's Rating

3 / 4


This is the era of Luke Skywalker's legacy: the Jedi Master has unified the order into a cohesive group of powerful Jedi Knights. But as this new era begins, planetary interests threaten to disrupt this time of relative peace, and Luke is plagued with visions of an approaching darkness. Evil is rising again -- out of the best intentions -- and it looks as if the legacy of the Skywalkers may come full circle.


Mike: And it begins. If my hopes, and the promise of the first book, come to fruition, Legacy of the Force will go down as the absolute apotheosis (I really like using that word) of the EU. With full knowledge of the Saga to work with, and thirty-five years of novels to build off of, this series could be the perfect capper to everything that's come before. Already the echoes of the past are unmistakable: everyone could see the connections between the choices Anakin faced in Episode III and the ones Luke faced in Episode VI; those of us who've been clamoring for a third trilogy need look no further than this series. Maybe it's not movies, and maybe Lucas didn't write it (a horrible notion, isn't it?), but I for one can't think of a better conclusion to this trilogy of trilogies than one in this era, written by these people, and featuring characters we've come to know, arguably, even better than the Big Three.

But enough of that; I should be talking about the book itself. It's really nice to see Allston get a crack at the big event stuff for once; sure, Nyax was pretty weird, but he's long since paid his dues as a Star Wars author, and I think he does just as good as Denning or anyone else when it comes to relating this universe and these characters. And his writing is, of course, quite funny. One thing I particularly enjoy, though some could argue that it gives the book fourth-wall problems, is the way he plays with the line between in-universe and out-of-universe material: joking about Leia's buns and making "you're my only hope" references on one end of the spectrum, and manipulating the Dramatis Personae in support of the narrative on the other - I don't think anyone else would go so far as to include entries for both "Lysa Dunter" and "Syal Antilles".

Is it me, or is Jaina getting just worse and worse? As a person, I mean; not as a character. Yes, she's cranky, and can be tough to sympathize with, but I like that about her. Considering how logical Jacen is, and who their parents are, all those ill-tempered genes had to go somewhere. It's really quite amusing that Jacen's ended up being the evil one - for no greater a crime than wanting to expand his horizons. That's really my greatest concern about this whole mess - what exactly are they saying by bringing Jacen over?

While I'm in that neighborhood, I should say that I am generally pleased with what's transpired with regard to Jacen, Lumiya, and Vergere. I was sorry to see Nelani, one of the book's many interesting new characters, get the axe so soon, but even a Gorax could've seen where that was going. I particularly like that, despite the big influx of divergent Sith thinking, Vergere is essentially the same being she was before. Assuming everything Lumiya says is to be believed (which is quite a large assumption, I admit), Jacen's reaction to the information mirrored my own: it all made complete sense. I'd love to get a short story on her going after Palpatine, in fact. The largest of my old questions, however, has yet to really be addressed: what was Lumiya doing all this time? The most plausible answer is that she had some inkling of Jacen's destiny, and was waiting for him to be ready, like Obi-Wan and Yoda were for Luke and Leia, but if she's not completely on the up-and-up, and conquering the galaxy (or some such) really is her goal, is seems weird that she would bide her time for so long. For that and other reasons, I'm really hoping that Lumiya really is what she seems. I'm comfortable with them taking Jacen in this direction, despite my general support of the Vergere school of thought, just as long as they don't undersell it. I don't want the whole Darth Vectivus thing to turn out to be a trick - "Muahaha! Now Jacen is evil like us!!" - if the final word here is going to be that the Dark Side is inherently bad, I want to be fully convinced of that. As long as that area is handled well, and I suspect that these authors are up to the task, there's little that could spoil this series for me.

The best part, though, is still the war itself. The real tragedy of the prequels is that so much good work was being focused in the wrong direction by one all-powerful malevolent force. Lumiya and Jacen notwithstanding, the Corellian War (as I'm preemptively dubbing it) is the GFFA's chance to really work out all its issues and start functioning like a united government again. The NJO was great, but I really like the prospect of seeing a genuine Clone Wars-style civil war in the post-Endor galaxy; the Galactic Civil War of the OT and the Vong war were exciting and, of course, necessary, but in both cases, one side was really obviously the bad guys. Now, as Leia says near the end, both sides...are "us". That makes the drama far more interesting.

Paul: First things first: Betrayal is great!

I probably don’t need to tell you that this is an action-adventure story starring well-known characters and space-fantasy military hardware, leavened with a blaster-fast wit and moments of real emotional bite.

If you’re a fan, you’ll probably already know that this is the opening book of the Legacy of the Force series, picking up forty years after the original Star Wars trilogy, and marking the start of a new chapter in the lives of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.

But if there’s one thing that Betrayal proves, if there’s one thing that I do have to tell you, it’s this: Star Wars lives!

Across three decades, there have been many variations on George Lucas’ alchemy, from a Galaxy of creators across every narrative medium from the original Oscar-winning film to radio serials and long-running monthly comic-books. But appropriately for the start of a new series, Aaron Allston goes back to the classic swashbuckling clarity of the original movies here, and delivers an adventure that should please almost everyone: obsessive fans, the massive pool of casual readers, and the LucasFilm suits guiding the franchise into the future now that the movie series is over.

Spread the news! The heroes of the Rebellion might be getting older, but they still have it where it counts.

The plot of Betrayal is deceptively simple: Luke Skywalker’s reborn Jedi Order finds itself in the front line in a growing conflict with Han Solo’s homeworld of Corellia. Now we don’t quite see Luke’s X-wing going head-to-head with the Millennium Falcon in a dogfight, but the two heroes of the classic trilogy have taken up arms on opposite sides of the war.

It’s as dramatic as that: a conflict between emotional loyalty and ideals of duty, between honest instinct and rational moral code ? threatening to transform the most central relationships of the Star Wars saga, tearing decades-old certainties apart.

And it made me grin with delight to read it!

Reflecting these themes, there’s a lot of focus on family and friendship in this book. In particular, there are major roles for Han and Luke’s sons ? Jacen Solo, now a veteran Jedi Knight entering his thirties, and Ben Skywalker, his teenage apprentice. These are characters who, I suspect, will increasingly carry the weight of the franchise as the story travels on into decades long after the end of the movies ? and it’s a pleasure to be able to say that that, if Allston’s handling of them is anything to go by, they have enough character and style to stand proudly alongside their legendary parents. Advance spoilers have tended to focus on the situations they find themselves in, but these can’t really be understood without experiencing the actual development of these two characters, which is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this book.

Betrayal also sees the return of many other established characters, now arrayed on both sides of the battle lines. Most notable among these is veteran X-wing pilot Wedge Antilles, Luke’s wing-mate from the movies, who was the central character of Allston’s first four Star Wars novels. But some dedicated fans might be surprised to learn that there’s no appearance here by author’s own creations, the special-ops fighter-pilots of Wraith Squadron: Betrayal boasts only one brief, anonymous cameo by one member of the old team.

That said, I didn’t really notice their absence. This book already packs a lot in ? and it handles its complex storyline with impressive control. There are plenty of backstory references for the dedicated fan, but they’re presented in ways that won’t leave the returning reader lost. Scene after scene is set with a striking visual clarity, and the characters’ paths through the complex dogfights and dramas of the plot are at once dramatic and lucid.

True, there was one scene near the start where a Jedi action-sequence imitated the kinetic blur of Prequel-movie special effects in a way that knocked me slightly out of the story, but even that has its place ? it’s a way of telling an important section of the fanbase that this is their Star Wars too, and Allston uses it like a leitmotiv, to subtly evoke contrasts between the attitudes of different characters, and draw connections across the generations of the saga.

If I have one real concern after reading Betrayal, it’s about how well the nine-book series will fit together. I’m a big fan of the three authors involved ? Aaron Allston, Troy Denning and Karen Traviss ? and all of them are veterans of Star Wars storytelling, but their styles and concerns are very different. It remains to be seen how Allston’s swashbuckling adventure, Denning’s sophisticated fantasy, and Traviss’ psychology-driven New Wave sci-fi will gel with each other in this massive storytelling round-robin.

Also, for many serious fans of the saga, the dramatic denouement at the end of Betrayal will come as no surprise. Perhaps it’s meant to feel slightly unreal, slightly fake, but I worry that it reflects an awkward tension between the overarching demands of the storyline and the instincts of the individual authors involved. The twist ? if it’s really a twist ? seems to have a limited number of potential outcomes: this may be a dangerously slender piece of plot-architecture to carry so much of the storyline forward for the next three years.

On the other hand, it might not. I’m still braced to be taken by surprise, and anyway, we can’t really look ahead to the rest of the series without considering the ramifications of these events for the other characters. Last but not least, I know that the three authors involved in the series will give their all ? they love Star Wars too much not to!

But let’s get back to what really matters: Betrayal is a book that should give a great deal of pleasure to hard-core aficionados, casual fans, and anyone who likes any of the Star Wars movies. It marks the opening chapter in a new era of the saga, and it does so with style, verve, and panache.

Quite simply: it’s fun!

Billy: I'll preface this by saying it really is best to read Betrayal with as few spoilers as possibly, as there are some significant surprises within it's pages.

Betrayal does an effective job at presenting a conflict where no one side is really "wrong", and the always troublesome Corellian system (alongside the reactivation of Centerpoint Station) provides a realistic splinter to divide the loyalties of the heroes we've known for so long, without making them actual enemies (which would be completely unrealistic given what Wedge, Tycho, Han, Leia, etc have gone through over the decades) and, in fact, makes them more like allies than anything else, despite the uniforms they choose to wear.

The introduction of newer characters is also handled well- Ben Skywalker has an appropriate personality without feeling like a Anakin Skywalker/Anakin Solo/Luke repeat. Syal Antilles is distinguished from Wedge (and though the "twist" surrounding her may initially seem a little unneeded, it DOES surprise the reader and makes some sense so it works).

Now, most people know Lumiya was making a reappearance in this series after 20 years or so of relative obscurity, and the nature of her identity is fairly easy to determine with that foreknowledge, however Allston does a good job of presenting her as a unique Sith- primarily through both her uses of Force Dopplegangers and illusions as well as her goals she attempts to achieve despite her handicapped nature in certain Force techniques due to her extensive injuries (a nice connection to the "Vader can't use Sith lightning/was a less powerful Sith lord due to losing body parts" aspect introduced around the release of ROTS).

The only flaw in Lumiya's appearance is, perhaps, that her introduction and backstory is basicly just a quick summary of the Marvel events and that kinda comes across in an obligatory way. I was kinda hoping they'd have found a more clever way of incorporating her history into the novels more naturally, but I can udnerstand them just wanting to get it over with so they can move on and not get bogged down with excessive exposition integration.

Her approach is uniquely suited to counter the characters that she does, and leads to a very grave choice for one character that is sure to cause some controversary- but I think that, while the actions performed were wrong, the choice is an entirely udnerstandable and logical one, given the character's motivatons.

Allston's humor is thankfully still present in the book, even if it's less frequent than some of his other books (though this too is appropriate, given the tone of the story). Wedge and Tycho's banter in particular is hilarious, as is Wedge's interactions with Thracken Sal-Solo and the Intelligence agents earlier in the book. Ok, so I guess what I'm saying is Allston writes a very good Wedge

The only major problem I had with the book, from a character's actions point of view, was the early choices by Han and Leia that lead to much of the trouble in the book. While Han's suspicions are fine, the level of action he and Leia take don't seem very wise for either character to have considered actually doing. However, their actions later on to try and minimize the resulting damagae their actions caused are fine. I just didn't believe Han and Leia would actually do their initial actions that they did here.

Besides humor, the one other thing we expect to get with Allston is solid action, and the book delivers with two large space battle/starfighter operations, as well as multiple duels and a very good sequence where Jacen and Ben make their way through various traps and defenses Thracken has setup inside Centerpoint Station.

Overall, this is a very fun read that is not the "prequels retread" that some people feared it would be and is a far more effective and entertaining first entry in a series than the, rather dull, Vector Prime was for the New Jedi Order.


And, on a final SPOILER note (beware!):

If the one character does in fact continue down the dark path ahead of him, it is absolutely fascinating that, for the first time in Star Wars' EU history, we've see a hero who we've followed for so long turn to the Sith whose fall wasn't either pre-ordained (like Ulic Qel-Droma and Anakin Skywalker) or a deception (like Luke Skywalker, if you consider Luke to have fallen in Dark Empire).


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