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on March 13, 2010
This being the fourth book in the Fate of the Jedi series, I don't have much to add to my thoughts on the series. The main plots are here, Jedis going crazy, political power struggles between the Remnant Empire, the Galactic Alliance, and the Jedi, and Luke and Ben adventuring together. Thankfully, the book is not entirely a clone of the ones before it, which books 2 and 3 pretty much were. The Jedi going crazy plot is given little space and that is to this book's benefit. Luke and Ben have switched from following Jacen Solo's trail to following the Sith Vestara Khai's trail; well, that's a bit different at least. And the political power struggles? Well, if the Star Wars: Legacy comics are part of the Expanded Universe continuity, we know how things end up, so there's not too much tension there. Pros: The second half of the book is more suspenseful than the first, especially with Vestara Khai proving to be an interesting and deceitful foe for Ben. Cons: Luke and Ben are still following somebody and interacting with a weird tribe of people that they must prove themselves to, just like in the former books. The small plot involving Allana/Amelia Solo is just as cutesy and seemingly pointless as the ones in the previous books. (Pro: it received much fewer pages this time.)

Overall, this book continues the Fate of the Jedi series: not enough happens for the price of the hardcover. The entire series is the most blatant money grab yet for the Star Wars books; at least the New Jedi Order books, which also had a lot of pointless filler, were mostly in paperback. These books will continue to be enjoyed by Star Wars enthusiasts and completists, and I count myself among them, but do yourself a favor and check it out from the library or wait until it is in the bargain bin.
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on March 16, 2010
20 words or less: Despite some illogical character decisions, Backlash appeals to fans of both the original and prequel trilogies while continuing to build on the groundwork of the series and fix the expanded universe.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Pros: Luke and Ben feature in a worthwhile plot with memorable scenes; Crazed Jedi plotline continues to build slowly but steadily toward an unpredictable conclusion; Fate of the Jedi continues to build a strong groundwork with consistant characterization and few continuity errors;

Cons: Humor doesn't work as well as in previous Allston novels; Although necessary, the youth movement creates frustratingly illogical scenarios;

The Review: The writers and editors of the Fate of the Jedi series might not be Jedi Masters yet but they are getting closer and closer to hitting that wamp rat sized target located in the middle of nostalgia and innovation. Fate of the Jedi is supposed to be a return to the lighter, more escapist fare of the early Star Wars adventures after years of doom and gloom that robbed the galaxy far far aware of its most promising protagonists. While early installments struggled to drive forward the series plotlines and maintain individual narratives, in Backlash, Allston appears to have placed the flailing series on solid ground with the help of the Sith threat introduced in Book 3.

As young Jedi continue to inflicted by an unexplained insanity that makes their fellow Knights appear to be evil doppelgangers in their maladied minds, the Jedi Order struggles to maintain credibility with a government that has been seen Jedi become Sith one time too many. The Order must defend itself from these mentally ill Jedi, the politicians of the Galactic Alliance, and the power hungry moffs of the resurgent Empire. At the same time, Luke, convicted of endangering the galactic population by training these fallen Jedi and failing to control them and subsequently exiled from the Jedi Order, continues to explore the galaxy with his son Ben, hoping to find what caused his nephew Jacen Solo to become the Sith that killed Luke's wife, Mara. After encountering and repelling a Sith ambush in the previous installment, Luke and Ben track the sole survivor to Dathomir, where she attempts to hide herself within the innately force-sensitive, rancor-riding, indigenous population. When they do ultimately catch up to her, all is not as it appears.

Like the previous novels, the main Jedi plotline and the Skywalker plotline are for the most part separate although Han and Leia do jump between threads, providing that nostalgic feeling of reunion previously missing. However, unlike the previous novels, the Skywalker plotline is more substantive, developing the Force witches of Dathomir into a deeper culture than the wasted opportunities represented by the Baran Do Sages of Outcast and the Aing-Tii monks of Omen. As Luke and Ben attempt to capture the rogue Sith warrior, they find themselves in the middle of a clan war between a progressive clan rejecting the matriarchal traditions of the past and the secretive, darkside-wielding NightSisters. Whether it's the inclusion of the Sith element or the depth of the Dathomiri culture, there is a relevance to their actions that surpasses the "after-school special" superficiality of earlier plots. The re-emergence of the Sith as a threat, although a somewhat tamer version than Palpatine's evil incarnate, also raise the stakes of the series overall. It took awhile but Luke and Ben's actions finally matter again.

The second string concerning the political struggles of the Jedi amidst a crisis of crazies is about as strong as it has been all series but rather than being forced to carry the weight of the book, the strength of the Dathomir plotline allows it to slowly ratchet up the tension. While it's strange that major players are still being introduced into the series in the fourth book, the multi-dimensional power struggle appears to reaching a tipping point and it's difficult to predict how it will all play out, something atypical for the average Star Wars novel. After the extended break between books 3 and 4 caused by Allston's unfortunate heart attack, I'm very excited to see the series continue despite some of its flaws which admittedly may be more a result of my departure from the ranks of the targeted demographic than any flaw on Allston's part.

Through the half dozen or so Allston SW novels I've read, the single most notable aspect of his writing is his gift for humor. Despite suffering the aforementioned heart attack, Allston returns to his trademark humor here, albeit with somewhat less impact. Some of the changes that the Del Rey/Lucas Books editors have been introducing into the Fate of the Jedi are storylines that are somewhat lighter in tone. After the genocidal plots of the New Jedi Order icosikaihenilogy (21 books) and the fratricidal plots of the Legacy of the Force enneilogy (9 books), the fans were clamoring for lighter fare. Del Rey delivers this in Fate of the Jedi but unfortunately at the expense of the effectiveness of Allston's humor. In his X-Wing books and his NJO work, the dark comedy stood out in contrast to the bleak situations our characters found themselves in. Like a coping mechanism, the characters seemed to laugh because it was the only way to distract themselves from the death surrounding them. Even the humor of The Empire Strikes Back broke the tension between Imperial assaults and torture sessions. With the lighter tone of FotJ, Allston's writing comes across as almost cutesy, especially in scenes involving the pre-teen Allana Solo and the young adult Ben Skywalker.

This cutesy factor has been one of the largest problems of the series so far and the lack of appropriately aged characters continues in Backlash. Luke, Leia, and Han are considered to be either "too skilled" or "too old" for major action sequences and as a result an unrealistic amount of weight is placed on the shoulders of young protagonists, namely Ben and Allana. In the past the mainstream SW novels have been separated from the YA stories but Fate of the Jedi appears to be catering to both the old guard of the original trilogy and the younger fans of the prequel era. While understandable, this fanboy doesn't like watching his heroes throw their children into danger with terrible parenting decision after decision for the sake of their screen time.

As an example, Han and Leia leave their daughter alone for weeks where she eventually encounters a murderous junker who runs the local chop shop. Ben is given command of a tribe of older, trained warriors whose culture he doesn't understand to defend their redoubt from a rancor siege. And it's not so much the fact that they are put into dangerous situations, it's that they are portrayed as more capable than any of the adults around. It's only a matter of time before Ben is teaching the tribes strategy so basic a Gungan should know them and using his "detective skills" to suss out decades old secrets in days. Under the flimsy pretense of training, the authors marginalize Luke Skywalker to create artificial tension in scenarios where he could easily resolve conflicts with minimum bloodshed. Why would a Jedi let hundreds of people die when he has the power to save them? This illogical youth movement is frustrating at times but unfortunately necessary as the editorial staff has killed off or marginalized the majority of strong appropriately aged characters over the past few years and continually overpowered Luke and Leia.

Regardless of my fanboy criticisms, Backlash is still a worthwhile entry into the Star Wars canon and my favorite of the Fate of the Jedi books thus far. It ends on an enigmatic note that begs for further exploration in Troy Denning's Allies (due out in late May). Despite the younger, lighter tone of the series, Fate of the Jedi continues to present enjoyable Star Wars adventures in an episodic format that allow you to jump back to the galaxy far, far away that you explored in the imagination of your youth for a few hours. It's clear that Star Wars is in a bit of a transition period as LucasBooks attempts to rebuild the universe from catastrophic events of the past few years but I'm hopeful that once the youth movement completes, the character development will be worth it. It should be expected but character continuity has been something that hasn't always made an appearance in Star Wars fiction, so the increased attention in Fate of the Jedi is appreciated even if it creates other smaller problems. If you were a Star Wars fan that has abandoned the series because it lost the escapist elements that made it Star Wars, it might be time to take a second look.
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on August 15, 2013
The book was entertaining but felt like filler, and I agree with other reviewers who stated that the book doesn't do much to forward the main story arcs. In sum, the bulk of the book involves Luke and Ben taking a pit-stop on Dathomir and involving themselves with the locals while hunting for a young Sith woman. We learn more about them, the woman, and the people of Dathomir, generally, but Luke and Ben learn almost nothing that furthers their ultimate goals. The book also contains some fun battle scenes.

The book is good and must be viewed as part of the overall series.
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on April 22, 2015
If you're a fan of the SW Expanded Universe (in chronology, this series is no longer in the "Canon", but relegated to "Legends", due to the new films), these books are worth a try. They continue the adventures of the characters from the original movies as well as those from the New Jedi Order Series, Legacy of the Force, and the books intervening to those. Light easy read, nothing graphic or grotesque.
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Unlike "New Jedi Order," "Fate of the Jedi" is off to a very slow start. This is the fourth book of the series and I'm still waiting for it to begin.

The strength in this series remains with the maturing of the relationship between Luke and Ben. Allana's portrayal is still very one dimensional, while Han and Leia's role as grandparents is unrealistic. Go to Dathomir where Luke is in trouble and leave her in the Falcon with C3PO to babysit? Please. What happened to their common sense?

The political problems are convoluted, as usual. I don't see why they have to be. They just are.

Basically, everyone visits Dathomir and leaves. The end.
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on July 15, 2011
I like Aaron Allston and the "Fate of the Jedi" series has been pretty good but it feels like the core concept that the story is following is a little flimsy. It hasn't stopped me from reading them all and enjoying them, but it just seems like they're is something off about them.
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on May 16, 2014
The Star Wars expanded universe novels have been good fun, and Backlash did not disappoint. It progressed all of the major storylines along nicely and served a nice lead in into the next installment in the series.
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on March 13, 2013
Troy Denning's Abyss ramped up the overall plot of Fate of the Jedi with the introduction of Abeloth and the beginnings of the direct conflict between Luke Skywalker and the Lost Tribe of the Sith. In Aaron Allston's Backlash, things slow down as the focus goes to the Luke/Jedi vs. Sith dynamic: Abeloth takes a seat offstage and waits in the wings for the next book. Sith Vestara Khai has fled to the planet Dathomir, home of the Force-wielding Nightsisters featured in prior novels and in the Clone Wars TV show. Luke and Ben follow her there and are joined by Han, Leia, and granddaughter Allana Solo in short order. It's nice to see the movie gang back together, even if Backlash's extended focus on Dathomir does feel like a sideline to the major events Abyss seemed to be setting up.

I was thrilled to see the Clone Wars television series pay multiple visits to Dathomir but I still haven't reconciled the red colors and bizarre vegetation growth to the more normal planet I envisioned with The Courtship of Princess Leia, its first appearance. Here the planet is more a continuation of the book world than the TV one, with forests, rivers and jungle sparsely occupied by Nightsisters and other less malevolent Force users. And of course, rancors! There's a terrific action scene in the middle where the heroes have allied with two local clans, the Raining Leaves and Broken Columns, and are working with them to fend off a Nightsister assault. The Nightsisters send multiple waves of rancors charging up the hill in a sequence visceral in its impact: boulders flying, huge bodies falling off the bluffs, and Luke standing alone due to an amusing technicality preventing him from visiting the summit of the hill.

Allana gets an adventure of her own in Backlash: stuck at the spaceport on the Millennium Falcon, she decides to investigate the mysterious disappearance of R2-D2. With all the weight of prophecy the various authors have heaped upon this child's shoulders, it's great to see her get into some childish scrapes. It certainly seems likely she won't be able to sneak around like this as she gets a bit older and the galaxy learns who she is. Additionally, her adventures present a taste of peril that the Luke/Han/Leia storyline largely lacks.

Vestara allies herself with a Nightsister while she hides from her Jedi pursuers. It's clear by this point in the series that Vestara Khai will be a major player: she spends most of Backlash as an offscreen quarry or a sparring partner for Ben whose viewpoint we're not sure of yet. I'm glad the series creators are featuring at least one Sith from the Lost Tribe who seems to have the potential to grow and change. Being an entire culture with no outside exposure for millennia on end, I'd expect a few more Sith to start revising their perspectives on the galaxy and life as they gain rapid exposure to new cultures and ideas. So far Vestara appears to be the only one who might change and even that seems shaky based on her Sith indoctrination.

While Backlash continues to slowly advance a couple of key plots (notably Daala vs. the Jedi and Moff Lecerson vs. the established government), the absence of Abeloth and the very episodic vibe of the Solos and Skywalkers romping around on Dathomir make this a less essential entry in the Fate of the Jedi series. The pacing of events on Coruscant is becoming overly spread out by this fourth book and there's a serious need for release and forward movement beyond another-mad-Jedi and Daala-gets-a-little-nastier. Backlash is naturally a sensible read for anyone going through the whole series but it largely treads water as far as the overall plot.
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on November 24, 2012
Story continues to build up and release but it still has an end that is far off. Most of the books in this series have a bit of a stand by itself design and at the fourth book I was hoping I would have a better idea of who or what was behind the jedi crazies and just where the other main plot lines were going. At least a general direction...
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First, I should say that, unlike many people reading this book, I'd heard about the ending of the series before I even started reading. However, I think that spoiler is allowing me to enjoy the series more than I would have otherwise. Backlash builds the story very slowly. It's not even clear what the larger story arch is about. In retrospect, the Fate of the Jedi series probably takes too long to actually set up the larger threat. As such, much of Backlash might seem pointless. However, knowing what's coming ahead, I can tell you there is a point.

With that caveat, how is the book? For me, Backlash is where the Fate of the Jedi series began to lose its way. While some of the previous books were a bit slower, they did have some interesting character moments or plot points. I loved the relationship between Luke and Ben in Outcast and Omen. The Mind Walkers provided some great moments through reviving the ghosts of the past.

By contrast, Backlash takes place primarily on the planet Dathomir and not much seems to happen. Aaron Allston skims over characterization, even to the extent that he leaves major plot holes. For example, Luke and Ben cross paths with Han and Leia - and there's barely any reaction! Luke had been exiled for a decade and yet there's little emotion in their reunion. Ben has some great moments in solving puzzles, but Allston almost always ruins them by having somebody state, "Well, good thing you trained with the Galactic Alliance Guard", making Ben seem like a one-trick pony.

The plot also remains bogged down. For an absurdly large part of the book, Luke and Han take part in the Dathomiri equivalent of the olympics. Allana gets kidnaps and escapes from a crazy mechanic, pulling some utterly unbelievable feats, including flying the Falcon. Frankly, I never liked the Solo kids because they always seemed like "super kids", and I'd hoped Allana would avoid that fate, but no such luck.. Fortunately, the tension between Daala and the Jedi explodes out into the open. Still, there's not enough "there" there.

Overall, I do feel like the Fate of the Jedi series is getting lost. As much as I like seeing the characterization of Luke and Ben, there really isn't much in this book that's worth the price of admission. There's little character development, few action scenes, and the plot stalls. Thus far, this is my least favorite book in the series. I'm crossing my fingers that Allies proves better.
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