Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Sword of the Jedi is Born in Destiny's Way

The New Jedi Order was my first passion in Star Wars literature. Soon after seeing the movies for the first time, I got caught up in this ongoing story about Jedi fighting aliens. About ten years later, I’m re-reading the series with a fresh perspective.

Especially following in Traitor's footsteps as it does, Destiny's Way starts slow. The writing style is good but not as distinct as Matthew Stover's, and Luke's confrontation with Chief of State hopeful Fyor Rodan isn't as gripping as any of Jacen's visceral adventures. However, Destiny's Way became one of my favorite New Jedi Order novels as I read on. It features some hugely important events, including the formation of the new Jedi Council and the first mention of a new galactic government, the reunion of Jacen with his parents and with Jaina, the appearance of Shimrra in the flesh, the Jedi knighting ceremony and the proclamation of Jaina as the Sword of the Jedi, and the deaths of Tsavong Lah and Vergere.

 Walter Jon Williams wrote one other Star Wars story, the ebook Ylesia, which I will not be reviewing here. His dialogue is at times observant and funny: Fyor Rodan is right when he says that Luke took an X-Wing that wasn't his in order to "conduct spiritual exercises" during the galactic civil war. Veregere is as great in Destiny's Way as she was in Traitor, and her conversations with Luke about Jedi philosophy are fascinating.

Partially because of her, we learn more about the Yuuzhan Vong than ever before in this book. Vergere's explanations to Jacen are rather sudden but full of deep-diving revelations: I had forgotten that the Ferroans had in fact encouraged Zonama Sekot's sentience. (This book also contains the first mention of the living ship polyps, which I adore.)

As slimy as Nom Anor is, every scene he has in this book is entertaining. He leans more about Onimi, the eighth cortex, and what he does not know is Jacen's continued alliance with the world-shaping dhuryam. The scene of an entire crowd of Yuuzhan Vong trying not to scratch their itchy skin was quietly funny. Elsewhere on Coruscant, Nen Yim continues to be fantastic as one of the keepers of the super secret eighth cortex project.

Speaking of Yuuzhan Vong, poor Tsavong Lah; I'll actually miss him. Presumably he has a child still to be born. the Yuuzhan Vong scenes are fantastic, the things that really made this book stand out for me all had to do with the Skywalker-Solo clan. They get an all-too-brief vacation on Mon Calamari, during which Luke, Mara, Jacen, Jaina, Han, and Leia share an apartment. It only gets too crowded when Vergere arrives, and I would absolutely read at least a trilogy about the seven of them getting into domestic shenanigans. Jacen also hangs out with Danni Quee, and I liked how platonic their relationship was; they were set up as a potential romantic pair in Vector Prime, but their scenes aren't about rekindling that. Instead it's just breathing space, a chance for them to catch up and literally immerse themselves in the life of one of the planets they're trying to save.

Then there is the brilliant, touching Jedi knighting ceremony. Every movement seems carefully chosen by both the characters and the author, as different Jedi masters ceremonially dress each new knight in their Jedi robes and Luke drapes them in their hood.

My one complaint about Destiny's Way is that Zekk and Alema's stories are left unresolved for now. The strike team is large, but Williams did such a good job of including many other characters that I would have liked another scene about them. He also balances the political stories well. Luke's disgust and shock at both Alpha Red and the Smuggler's Alliance make for some interesting character developments for the Jedi Master. Luke also makes a major change in this book after Vergere convinces him that wartime aggression is not always a path to the dark side. People are practically lining up to smack Master Skywalker in the face in the political arena, and Kyp Durron's bitter outburst at the council was in-character and a little cathartic.

Just as Traitor paralleled Dark Journey, Destiny's Way parallels Star by Star: the Myrkr strike team survivors are knighted, and Jacen and Jaina fight and are victorious in claustrophobic, Yuuzhan Vong-filled tunnels. I think that it's significant that Jaina holds her own in that fight, while Jacen needs to be rescued by Vergere. Likewise, it isn't the twin bond that helps Jaina return to the life she can sense in the Force; instead it is the isolation and forced relaxation in Ebaq 9's radioactive tunnels. Jaina continues to be one of my favorite characters, and she regains her hope in Destiny's Way. That hope will still be put to the test, but I'm glad to see the Skywalker-Solos move forward into the war with a little more optimism.

1 comment:

  1. There are good points in the story, but for me, they were completely eclipsed by the criminal neglect of Tenel Ka.

    I was introduced to the Star Wars EU through the Young Jedi Knights series of books, where Jacen and Tenel Ka have a romantic attraction to each other. Later books would expand on this, such as NJO's "Dark Journey," which is as much about Tenel Ka dealing with the apparent loss of her love as it is Jania losing her brothers.

    Unfortunately, it seems nobody told Walter John Williams any of this, because Jacen and Tenel Ka don't exchange a single word throughout the whole novel. Instead, Jacen pals around with this pointless new character we don't care about, while his actual long-time love interest gets a non-speaking cameo.

    Since this series is what got you into the EU, I can see why it didn't bother you as much, but as someone who got into the earlier books, I can't tell you how much this annoyed me.

    And don't even get me started on Lowbacca and poor EmTeeDee.