I don't think Drew Karpyshyn properly grasped how much emotional investment fans of Knights of the Old Republic have tied up in this story, these characters, and the ending that never seemed to come; if he had, this novel probably wouldn't have turned out the way it did. It might be unfair to judge this novel the way I am right now, since the bias here can't be understated. It's been seven years since I played both games of the KotOR series for the first time, which was one of the most memorable gaming experiences I've had in my life. Since then, I've played the games many times over, always wondering what happened to Revan, the Exile, and their respective companions.
THE OLD REPUBLIC: REVAN attempts to give those of us who've been waiting for more than half a decade some form of closure, but instead manages to effectively kick all of the loose plotlines into a shallow grave, and plant a big sign on top of it that reads, "You happy now? Move on."
To start off: don't let the title and that picture of the eponymous hero trick you. This book is NOT about Revan; if anything, only a third of the book's scant 280 pages actually centers on him. The rest follows a previously unknown Sith pureblood called Lord Scourge: a Dark Lord with a name so campy that his dark side compatriots can't help but poke fun at it. For reasons that I'll probably never understand, this Lord Scourge is the absolute focus of the book. This is about his rise to power, his trials upon the Sith homeworld, his misdeeds; while Revan is relegated to going through the motions and reenacting events that were already thoroughly covered in the games, the majority of which he spends helping Canderous Ordo reclaim the Mask of Mandalore.
And yes, Canderous Ordo, the trigger-happy Mandalorian who helped Revan escape Taris, makes an appearance, as does Bastila Shan, T3, and the Jedi Exile from KotOR 2: The Sith Lords (permanently named Meetra Surik for the rest of the book). Unfortunately, no one else manages to make an appearance. Not one of them. In a very awkward part of the book, Canderous suggests excitedly that they get the old gang back together for their coming adventure to recover Mandalore's Mask, but we are quickly given very bad reasons why this would be impossible. The old Companions of the Ebon Hawk are each given a brief mention, but are otherwise completely forgotten for the rest of the book. (Though, for some reason, Carth Onasi doesn't even get the token mention the rest got, and his name doesn't pop up even once in the book.)
And it's especially disappointing because even when characters like Revan, Canderous, or Bastila make their appearances, they don't even faintly act how they did in the games. There's no humor, no candor, only a few brief and forced mentions of the old days, and when someone talks, it's so direct as to almost make them sound robotic. Even when Revan and Canderous return to the Ebon Hawk, the book briefly mentions the ship's shape and a recap of how they got it, and the story moves on. Karpyshyn allows for absolutely no sense of fond reminiscence, no revisiting of old adventures, and characterization I can only describe as barebones. You could've switched around the names of every character in the book, and I wouldn't be able to tell you who was who.
Once again, it feels as though Karpyshyn's work is the victim of this mythical deadline that he's apologized more than once for. Characterization is not as dense as it should be, dialogue is scarce (which is totally weird, coming from the writer of dialogue-heavy games like KotOR and MASS EFFECT), and actions that should take up a paragraph take pages for themselves. Too much of this book seems like filler.
So, Revan's part in this book - this book titled REVAN - is actually very minimal, and most of what he does here is actually covered in the games. The Jedi Exile is dug back up, minus any mention at all of her respective companions (Atton Rand and the gang), is given a name and an ending so badly implemented that I almost stopped reading right then and there. Not to mention that the canon established by the games is trampled to suit the overall goal of the book, which appears to be to set up the story for BioWare's new MMO, THE OLD REPUBLIC.
With all of that in mind, I'm still asking myself: What was the point of this book? If it was to give KotOR fans some closure, it utterly failed in that regard. I'm sitting here more unsatisfied with the state of Revan's story than I ever was in the seven years since playing the game. If it was to set up the new MMO for potential players, I have no real idea how anything that happens in this book would be more informative than just playing the games or reading their synopses, since a lot of what happens is just extended action scenes, sans the one chapter that actually, and directly, sets up the MMO.
This book is one of the most disappointing things I've ever read, and that is not an exaggeration. Seven years of waiting led up to this book - a book that didn't even bother to supply meaningful endings for the characters that Karpyshyn helped create. But, again, I have to mention the bias here; my expectations here were extremely high. I'd expected to revisit old characters, see their stories to an end, and unravel the mystery of Darth Revan that the games had spun so well. But when all is said and done, we have a bitter and (unbelievably enough, given the timeframe) rushed ending for Revan, a token mention of characters we'd spent so much time with (if they were lucky enough), all of which is completely overshadowed by the story of a Sith pureblood named Lord Scourge: a story so uninteresting, I nearly skipped most of his chapters.
And then, as if to rub it in our faces, the rug is pulled out from underneath us, revealing the book's true intentions: a not-so-subtle sign pointing the way toward THE OLD REPUBLIC MMO. "You happy now? Move on - preferably in the direction of the TOR subscription page."
No, thank you. The Endar Spire still spins with or without this book.
on November 17, 2011
-Some Spoilers Below-
The book started off strong, and it was enjoyable and interesting seeing how Bastila and Revan (as well as Canderous) have carried on throughout the years after the events of the KOTOR 1-2. However, too many characters were simply swept under the rug. Carth Onasi was never mentioned at all, in fact.
Instead, a lot of time was spent on a new character, Lord Scourge of the Sith. Besides the ridiculously Dark Side-esque name, I actually didn't mind these segments - they were an interesting look into the reclusive Sith Empire.
Revan and Canderous go on an interesting quest for Mandalore's Mask, which while it was one of the exciting and awesome segments of the book, rife with tension and combat sections, had a lot more potential. All the clans converging on the area in question at once would have made a brilliant cathartic climax to that plotline of the novel, but instead we get kind of an anticlimatic resolution to the Mandalorian plotline.
After this, the book starts to go downhill. Less and less time is given to Revan; he even gets captured at one point, his ship shot down with a single shot from the new character Lord Scourge. And then he proceeds to spend most of the remaining time of the book imprisoned. How exciting, for the character we had waited to long to see back in action.
The exile then makes an appearance, and is even given a name. She and Scourge actually find common ground in an interesting twist, and pull off a xanatos gambit which I found myself enjoying, even if Revan had been shunted to the sidelines for these segments. Revan gets his characteristic mask back right after escaping, and it's an awesome scene of reclaimed identity and power.
Along the way, the Emperor's past and identity were revealed, and I must say it's a disappointment. There's a reason the movie 'Jaws' was improved by the shark not being shown for most of the movie...we can always imagine something worse than what actually is. The author fleshed out a lot more of his past than was necessary, stripping away the mystery with the subtlety of a rampaging bantha.
-Major Spoilers Ahead-
And now we come to the fabled climax, Revan, the Exile, and even Lord Scourge united against the Emperor, or should I say, Lord Vivius. Vivius? Are you kidding us, Drew? *sighs*
The battle starts off on a high note, with an exciting melee frenzy and the three battle their way to the Emperor's chambers. Too much of the pages during this segment are taken up by Scourge wondering about his kriffing visions, instead of focusing on the epic battles.
Revan pulls a Leeroy Jenkins and charges ahead of the others to meet the Emperor one-on-one. It's an enjoyable battle, but underdeveloped and too short. Revan is described as being master of both the Light and Dark side of the force, but one of the first guidelines of superb writing is to show, not tell. Drew could have shown us this instead with an extended fight scene, in which Revan is seen using both Sith Lightning and Jedi Healing abilities, as well as the other myriad applications of both sides of the force. Instead, we're just told he's using both sides of the force, and the fight ends much too quickly.
Scourge and the Exile arrive, and Revan rises to his feet - and things are looking up. Two iconic figures - nay, legends, from the Old Republic metaverse, and an interesting new Sith Lord, versus the fabled Sith Emperor? I set down the book to get myself some coffee and popcorn before resuming to fully enjoy the anticipated battle at this point.
And....Scourge has another of his little visions, and decides it's time to abruptly kill off a main character, backstabbing the Exile - who isn't even given a final word. Revan is knocked unconscious by one burst of lightning, and the battle is over before it even begun. Katharsis had been stabbed in the back by Drew as surely as the Exile had by Scourge, and I nearly stopped reading at this point.
Look, we all knew they had to fail, because the Emperor is still alive and well by the time of the Old Republic MMO. But that didn't mean the climatic defeat of Revan and the Exile had to be as short and insulting as it was. We should have been given a chapter long battle, with Scourge dying heroically during the battle, and the Emperor slowly gaining the upper hand versus Revan and the Exile, wearing them down. At which point, Revan could have sacrificed himself to allow the Exile to escape, a'la how Starkiller did at the climax of the Force Unleashed, nearly killing the Emperor. Revan and the Exile indeed deserved to nearly have killed the Emperor, rather than failing before the true battle ever began.
The Exile dying as ingloriously as she did was such an understatement of her character. After besting Darth Nihilius, Darth Kraya - she should have exercised at least some measure of caution against Scourge, and at least put up a fight better than a millisecond.
So, to conclude, I believe this happened because we and the author had very different ideas about the purpose of this story.
To Drew, the purpose of this was to, "Quickly and neatly tie up loose ends from KOTOR 1-2 so that we can get to the Old Republic MMO."
To us, the purpose was simple. "See our favorite heroes from the Star Wars universe, Revan the Conquerer and the Exile the Void, in action one last time."
Disappointed is an understatement. This was above average for the average star war's book, but it was such a failure when you consider the star studded cast it had at it's fingertips. I find myself eager to write a fanfic to fan-retcon this abomination, or at least to bang my head against the wall until I have amnesia about the fates of Revan and the Exile.
[Warning: review contains SPOILERS]
Like most KOTOR fans, I was ecstatics when I heard Drew Karpyshyn would be writing a book about Revan and his crew. Sadly, Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan isn't a book about Revan and his crew so much as an attempt to get KOTOR fans into the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO.
First, Revan. Well, he's actually only in half the book or so. Of the first 50 pages, he's in less than 10. The rest of the book deals with the politics on the Sith capital of Dromund Kaas (more on that later). As for what we do see, we still don't get very much. There is some explanation of Revan's battle with Mandalore the Ultimate and time on the Sith homeward, but we learn surprisingly little about the character. We do get to see Revan's willpower and sense of humor, but nothing about his thoughts or relationships with most of the KOTOR characters, aside from Bastila and Canderous.
My biggest problem is that the little we do get of Revan's history totally diminishes him as a character. It turns out Revan and Malak sought to conquer the Republic because the Sith Emperor overpowered their will and told them to. In other words, they were merely his pawns. This revelation makes Revan look weak, but more importantly it is emotionally stale. Neither Revan's turn to the Dark Side nor his return to the Light have as much emotional salience because his choices were in a sense out of his hands. KOTOR was a game all about choices, so this explanation for Revan's actions seems especially jarring.
Speaking of the KOTOR crew, they're also noticeable for their absence. Only Canderous Ordo, Bastila Shan, the Jedi Exile, and T3-M4 make an appearance. The rest don't even have a cameo. Now, I know Karpyshyn had been warning fans that not all the characters would make an appearance, but I had thought he was implying that he wouldn't bring back Juhani or Carth. But at least expected to see more than three of the original KOTOR crew. Not even HK-47! If that's not bad enough, aside from HK-47 the KOTOR crew is only mentioned in one scene when Canderous and Revan discuss asking them to join their latest mission, but decide against it. It's basically a horrible way to dash our hopes.
Fortunately, Karpyshyn does do Canderous justice, with his gruff attitude and wit. Although even there Karpyshyn leaves Canderous just as he's going through major changes. Bastila comes across as a bit too subdued, fading into life as a housewife, rather than the sassy Jedi we met on Taris. The Exile - Meetra Surik - is fine, but not memorable. On the other hand, T3-M4 was a pleasant surprise. Karpyshyn game that little droid more emotional range and depth than most of the living characters.
So if not Revan and the KOTOR crew, what does Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan focus on? Largely the Sith Empire on Dromund Kaas and the Sith Lord Scourge. This subplot just seems out of place in a book about Revan. Most readers want to read a book titled Revan because they have an emotional investment in the KOTOR characters. By contrast, readers don't really have any emotional investment in the Sith Empire yet, so much of the subplot comes across as a distraction.
From a narrative point of view, there's an obvious problem with the way the book is structured and the way the subplot works. Basically, the first half of the book follows Revan's quest to find out what happened to him and find the Sith home world. In the prologue, he is disturbed by visions of a rainy planet. However, chapter 1 then proceeds to follow events on that rainy planet of Dromund Kaas. In short, the subplot destroys ANY sense of suspense in Revan's story.
Second, because readers don't have any emotional investment in the Sith Empire or those characters, they don't have much impact. In what Karpyshyn obviously intended to be a pivotal scene, two Sith characters discuss the history of the Sith Emperor and how he's so evil he consumed the life essence of an entire planet. However, for readers this just sounds like a lazy attempt to one-up Emperor Palpatine. Indeed, the Sith Emperor seemed just like a Palpatine clone, but without the personality. I would have loved more scenes like that discussing REVAN's history, but as of now I just don't really care about the Sith Emperor.
Putting aside the fact that Lord "Scourge" sounds cheesy even for a Sith Lord's name, Lord Scourge himself was a pleasant surprise. He starts off as a fairly banal Sith brute, but actually becomes more interesting over time and grows as a character. Near the end, his story intersects with Revan and the Exile's. It's sad that in a book called Revan he's probably the only one whom I'd like to see more of in the MMO.
Oh, and one more thing. If it was SO important that Revan and friends stop the Sith, why didn't they inform the Republic? Couldn't somebody have sent a message back to Republic space before going to confront the Sith Emperor (or maybe send T3)? After all, that's what Revan and crew did when they went to confront the Star Force in KOTOR. I just can't believe that none of the characters - and presumably Karpyshyn - even thought to discuss the possibility.
Overall, while I loved Karpyshyn's Bane trilogy, I think he really dropped the ball here. There's so much Karpyshyn could have and should have done to give KOTOR fans a fulfilling experience, even while providing a segue to the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic. This book doesn't do that. Instead, it was an attempt to bridge KOTOR to TOR, but I suspect that might just turn some KOTOR fans off from the game. Overall, 2 stars.
on November 18, 2011
Alright, I could write a really long review highlighting the many, many things I didn't really care for with this book, however I'll keep myself focused on the title character.
As background, I'm a no holds barred KOTOR (Knights of the Old Republic) junkie. I've probably played and beaten the first game a couple dozen times at the very least, and the second (much of which I regret Obsidian getting their hands on) I've played through at least a dozen. Suffice it to say that I have been looking forward to this novel for quite a long time, how disappointed can one fan get?
First and foremost, Revan is powerful. Kreia stated that looking at Revan was like staring into the heart of the Force. Training aside, to say looking at him was equivalent to seeing the living, breathing Force. The Force (can't imagine anyone reading this and not knowing it, but anyway) is the force of life, that energy that binds all living things together. Now, staring at this man, again, all training aside, would be overwhelming to say the least. Revan was said to possess immense charisma, so much that he led much of the Republic military forces and Jedi off to war with the Mandalorians. He was said to be a brilliant tactician, performing feints and counter-feints that left the Mandalorians in complete disarray. The Mandalorians (again for the layman out there) are a warrior culture born and bred for combat. Military tactics, combat styling and synchronized attacks are happenstance thoughts, so to say that this Jedi came along and did what they did, only far better is to say he was not only connected to the force on a level unseen before, but also an incredibly intelligent man just as himself. These traits equal out to an incredibly powerful foe.
Now Revan not only led the Republic forces to war against the Mandalorians, but he won. The Mandalorians on their conquests never stood a chance against Revan, but as a culture that respects the Warriors Way above all else, they revered Revan. He battled Mandalore the Ultimate, their leader and greatest warrior in single combat and won. Revan wasn't only to be respected but feared. After defeating the bulk of the Mandalorians, he chased the remainder into the unknown regions. When Revan returned, he and Malak had become conquerers, but not in the typical sense. Revan and Malak didn't target regular worlds for conquest, they targeted worlds with strategic value for military operations. This signaled that maybe Revan wasn't actually bent on the destruction of the Republic, but instead felt it was ill prepared for a coming threat and was gathering and preparing the resources he needed to battle it. Revan did actually succumb to the Dark Side of the Force, but dark side doesn't necessarily mean you are a Sith or following any of their ideals. The Sith are an actual species and force sensitive beings that have overtly given in to the dark side. So that said, Revan was fueling his newfound powers and conquests with the dark side of the force, but it would appear he was preparing to battle the Sith.
Let's talk about the Revan in the novel. This Revan has some skill, but seems like he's lost. Yes, when the Jedi council wiped his memories they essentially destroyed his identity, but its made very clear that his identity returned at the end of KOTOR and he remembered the threat he needed to face and left to fight it. The Revan in the novel has no sense of power in his identity. The author puts alot of emphasis on Revans identity being shattered, but someone with that much natural attunement to the force, that much natural intelligence and charisma would still have many of those traits, identity or not. The author though continues to portray Revan almost as a regular master. He fails repeatedly to capture the immense strength and power that the character possesses. And these complaints are only about the character and his core personality.
The author seems to have gotten a checklist of notable events and things Revan as well as the Exile did and was told to write a story about it. What should be a fitting conclusion to an amazing story is left as a "Well this happened in game so I'll mention it, then we'll speculate this happened and then so and so did this and got us here" type of story. Everything has detail, but no substance to it. Revan is a superficial character (well all of them are really save for Lord Scourge, the pansy Sith Lord) that you end up not really caring about. You sense that there is great destiny wrapped around him, but the author fails to really capture what that means let alone properly explore the sheer depth of the character. Why they named the book Revan is a little beyond me. It seems this would be more appropriately titled "Lord Scourge" as the only character that has much substance is the Sith Lord that routinely fails to follow Sith ideals. Sith respect power above all things, and anyone who can seize power from another is rightfully entitled to whatever that other person had. Lord Scourge for the bulk of the book is kind of bumbling through the Sith landscape being played like a violin and is consistently suspicious yet still surprised when someone plays him. He's a weak character but not forgettable as the author spends a large amount of effort bringing him to the front of the story.
Overall, I really had higher hopes for this book. I don't really feel that my time has been wasted, but I thought that Revan deserved a much, much better book for his story than this came out to be. Hopefully someone will revisit his story and give him the conclusion he deserves, sadly that time doesn't seem to be now.
on August 1, 2010
(NOTE: Amazon is blending all reviews for books in a series in to one large hodgepodge. Please contact Amazon through the HELP button on the bottom of every AMAZON page and tell them to put the reviews back how they were.)
Fatal Alliance does offer quite a bit of adventure and epic battle scenes however, with all that is packed into its 450 pages there is little room for character development. The adventure begins with the reader being told the story of how an upcoming Jedi has failed his trials to become a Knight. Well I really shouldn't say "how he failed" because little is told as to how he actually failed the trials. But don't fret the book doesn't expand at all on how this failure effects the character anyways. This lack of character building becomes a theme with every character, sadly. As you read on you will be introduced to about twelve more characters that have little development.
A mother that has betrayed the Sith is given little as to why she did this and how that decision has changed her life. A Sith apprentice is faced with having to strike down the woman who gave birth to her but the author chooses to not expand on the characters emotions as she comes closer to the fatal swipe. A soldier that has fallen out of league with her former comrades for being a snitch is only given a few paragraphs as to how this event has formed who she has become. A character that could have been a focal point for all this lack of history should have been the Jedi Master, but she herself gives little in the way of wisdom and doesn't delve into the issues that should have played a bigger role with the characters.
Overall the books saving grace is the battle scenes that take up the vast majority of the book. To some this may be enough but to those who have tired of death star after death star this book should be lower on your to-read-list. In no way is the book horrible and in no way would I tell you not to read it but be warned, if you like books that are heavy on characters and lighter on space battles this will not be up your alley. Just my opinion.
ALL FEEDBACK IS APPRECIATED. THANKS AND GOOD READING.
on November 21, 2011
In 2004, the Star Wars video role-playing game Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (TSL) revealed that the tale of our Jedi hero from the first Knights of the Old Republic (KotOR) game was not over. We learned that our KotOR character, a.k.a. Revan (playable as either gender but established as officially male by the people who keep track of such things for the purposes of products like this novel), had regained some of his lost memories and, abandoning his loyal companions, left the known galaxy to confront some sinister threat in the Unknown Regions.
TSL also brought into question what Revan knew when he attacked the Republic as Darth Revan, leader of his own evil Sith Empire, years before, and what his motivations truly were. That game concludes with another Jedi character, the Exile (also playable as either gender, but established as officially female), following Revan into the Unknown Regions to help him confront the threat that the game suggests are a people known as the "True Sith," the living legacy of a culture even more evil than the bad guys encountered up to that point in the series.
For many years fans of the Knights of the Old Republic saga waited for the conclusion to the story to get their answers: What was this threat? What did Revan know? Did the Exile find him? Did they succeed? Hopes for a completion of the trilogy in the form of a Knights of the Old Republic III video game were repeatedly raised and dashed.
When the Star Wars: The Old Republic multiplayer online RPG was announced, it was billed to fans of the KotOR games as the continuation of the Knights of the Old Republic saga -- a "KotOR 3-12" so to speak -- despite the fact that it is set some 300 years after the events of the original video games. Many fans still held out hope that the closure they sought would be delivered, not "300 years" after the fact, but by being able to witness the events that transpired in the Unknown Regions involving their heroes.
Over six years after KotOR 2 provided an Empire Strikes Back-style "non-ending" to the KotOR saga, The Old Republic: Revan attempts to provide that closure for fans of Revan, the Exile, and the KotOR video games, while introducing them to the villains of The Old Republic MMORPG.
It accomplishes what it set out to do in the most rudimentary sense. It offers answers to the primary questions and provides a link between the KotOR games and the era of The Old Republic MMORPG, while containing enough lightsaber action to satisfy those who simply enjoy immersing themselves in the Star Wars setting. Unfortunately, the novel achieves little more. Even more disappointing for many readers will be the overwhelming sense that it didn't try to.
Many of those simply looking for a canon glimpse at their ultimate Star Wars hero -- Revan -- will walk away enthralled by his combat skills, dominating display of Force power, ability to manipulate his adversaries without their knowledge, and the fact that not only does he once again don the robes that have defined his appearance since KotOR's release, but he utters the most memorable line in the book.
And despite the fact that Revan is only the point-of-view character for roughly a third of the book, the newly introduced Sith pureblood Scourge will help satisfy the thirst for more lightsaber and Force power "pwnage" for many readers.
As a warning to readers that require a clear-cut victory for their hero over the villain: this book does not offer closure in that respect. Instead, it prolongs the overarching conflict to allow Bioware to capitalize on the popularity of the primary characters by bringing them back -- in some fashion -- for an encore in The Old Republic MMORPG.
Those looking for something more than campy Star Wars entertainment from the novel will likely be disappointed as well. The storytelling and characterization lacks sophistication, approaching the level of that found in teen/young adult books. The Old Republic: Revan was an opportunity to show us who these characters are, where they came from, what they think, and the "world" they live in. It's hard to say it "whiffed' in this respect, because it never really tried to swing the bat.
The story is so focused on the actions of the three primary characters that, aside from Scourge's introduction, we get negligible insight into the characters' pasts and experiences that might indicate WHY they think and act as they do now. WHY was the Exile so loyal to Revan? WHY did Revan believe in strategic sacrifices that resulted in deaths on a planetary scale? Was it his upbringing in the Jedi Temple? His masters? A figure he idolized? We never find out. When the Exile encounters a planet stripped of the Force, she neither compares nor contrasts it with tales of what one of the villains of TSL was capable of. In fact, she never even thinks about her adversaries at all, despite the fact that most TSL players will have made the connection immediately. Many times it will feel to some readers as though the characters never existed out of the events relevant to the story being told in the novel, nor that they are part of the larger Star Wars narrative.
This last point also proves to be among the most frustrating. The Republic, the Jedi Order, and their conflict with the Sith bind the Star Wars setting together, yet the Old Republic: Revan, fails to paint a picture of the "world" these characters inhabit. It ignores most of the supporting cast from the games -- Bastila, Canderous, and T3-M4 are the only supporting characters that get face time -- even when bringing in a character like Admiral Carth Onasi to alert the reader to the desperate state of the Republic military or a member of the reformed Jedi Council such as Visas, the Disciple, or the Handmaiden to emphasize the inability of the Jedi to deal with a Sith invasion would have helped paint a picture that demonstrated for the reader the dire importance of the Revan and Exile's mission. Even the planet on which much of the novel takes place is written more like it was taken out of a script from a video game, with all the action taking place at a handful of key buildings/rooms. The scope of the Sith Empire and the terrifying buildup of the Sith military in preparation for an attack on the Republic is never shown to the reader.
Ultimately, one's enjoyment will depend greatly on what one was looking to get out of the book, moreso than many other titles. Those looking for a Star Wars or Revan fix may very well find that they eat it up. Others will be sorely disappointed in the novel's minimalist approach to just about everything. This reader didn't expect much from a literary standpoint and still wound up put off by the lack of effort on display.
First of all, let me say that my biggest peeve with Star Wars novels is that too many authors seem content to fill their books with ridiculous plot devices, endless battle scenes, and shallow characters. I've had enough of superweapons - after all, we all know the good guys defeat them. Unfortunately, I thought Sean Williams' Star Wars: The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance, the first in the Old Republic series, exemplifies these problems. As such, I admit I approached Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived with some trepidation.
Fortunately, Paul Kemp's approach to the Star Wars universe is completely different. While technically the second book in the Old Republic Series, Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived features a new plot and new characters. WARNING: the rest of this review contains some minor spoilers, none of which as far as I'm aware are available elsewhere on the web - although I mention almost nothing past page 50 of the book.
Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived begins with the Sith sacking of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, a scene featured in a Bioware trailer for the upcoming Old Republic computer game (I've posted the link in the comments section). By itself, this is a pretty dramatic opening for a novel and does a great job of bringing the action to life. The rest of the book focuses on how various characters cope with the destruction, and that's where it gets interesting. The plot is actually fairly simple, but effective.
For the Sith, the book follows Darth Malgus - the creepy guy on the cover who led the attack on the Jedi Temple. He's an evil villain to be sure, but also an emotionally complex one. He craves war and loathes peace, but also has a sense of honor and adversarial respect for the Jedi. Moreover, he cares for and loves his Twi'lek mistress Eleena - think an emotionally insecure Aayla Secura. I frankly can't think of another Star Wars villain since Thrawn who had as much nuance and sheer destructive potential.
Next, the Jedi Aryn Leneer struggles with how to react to the death of her father figure, Jedi Master Zallow. Where most Jedi come across as implacably calm, which honestly can get a bit boring, Aryn really has to struggle through her emotions. She comes to doubt the Jedi prohibition on attachment and questions the sacrifices she's made on behalf of the Order. She's not simply a female version of Luke Skyalker - and she comes across as much more real and more interesting as a result.
Finally, there's the smuggler character, Zeerid Korr. Except, unlike almost every other Star Wars novel, Zeerid isn't simply a wanna-be replica of Han Solo. In fact, quite the opposite. While he's good with a blaster, he doesn't have the same world weary cynicism. He's a caring father who was forced into the business by a family tragedy. He also has to make some difficult choices between earning money for his family and following his conscience.
Throughout Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived, each of these characters face unenviable choices and, to Kemp's credit, they do not always take the obvious route. I could not predict the ending - itself rare for a Star Wars novel. In the last 20 pages, I actually gasped aloud at a certain turn of events. Without spoiling the ending, I think it's fair to say we can look forward to a sequel.
I will provide a brief warning. While Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived does have plenty of lightsaber combat, these aren't the focus of the book. Moreover, there really isn't much starfighting at all. If you prefer Star Wars novels with constant action, then this book might not be for you. It's a matter of preference. However, I suspect most readers will be pleasantly surprised at the direction of the Old Republic series and the character development in this story.
on December 28, 2010
Some time ago, I ordered two SW novels through the Amazon vine program: one was "Star Wars: Red Harvest", this one the other. Being a horror/ undead monster fan, and bearing no interest in the Old Republic (approx. 1000 years before the SW movies events took place), I read Harvest first. Horrible, as reviewed elsewhere. Therefore, I started reading this one feeling pretty bored and negative. At first, the novel did little to dispel my disinterest, a generic shootout between smugglers, and a down-on-his-luck Han Solo-like with a hidden family. Oh well...
Then... the light! Or more like it, a darkness so intense it radiated blackness out of the book. The best "bad" (Sith, etc) character in a SWEU novel. A Sith Lord so intent on destruction he gets betrayed by the power struggles of his order. And with a lover! Finally, SW fans are treated like the adults some of us are. For those concerned, there are no graphic descriptions, but for adults, there's enough innuendo to know what is going on.
Things get even better. A somewhat archetypal struggle inside a Jedi's soul gives way to a somewhat uninteresting alliance with the smuggler, and then... magic! Confrontation, light saber fights, struggles, tricks and ploys, sacrifices, and all the good things you love in SW.
This book is a hidden gem. It is very well written. The descriptions are short and sharp, yet informative enough to clearly envision the places, the scenarios, the situations... The characters are maybe too archetypal (and let's be honest, SW is loved precisely because of that), but the action and the plot is crisp, and well-thought. The characters do not throw themselves into absurd decisions that none of us would take in real life. On the contrary, every action comes from a well-defined train of thought (or feeling) flawlessly laid out by this Mr. Kemp.
There are two things that are very gripping in this novel. One is that this book has white, black and almost every shade of gray from a moral standpoint. And that is refreshing. The second is that there are brief snippets of local customs and manners, e.g. a very nice scene of one of the main characters being driven to an spaceport, and the description of the events on the street as she passes by in a cab. This is unusual in SW novels and endows the final product with a sense of "suspended reality-realism" that is a definitive selling point for me. Probably not for everyone, though.
The only thing I did not like that much is that there is no feeling of this being 1000s of years before the SW movies. The ships, the places (Coruscant, for example), the droids feel exactly the same as in The Phantom Menace. This could be a common thing for the Old Republic time period (I haven't read, or played games about this era), but there are no distinctive features. Anyway, it is not enough of a flaw to take stars off my evaluation.
I don't think you will read this Mr. Kemp, but in case you happen to do, congratulations on an excellent book. I will look for more of your stuff. If all the Old Republic books were like this, I'd be a fan.
on November 22, 2011
Revan. A character that made a lasting impact on me when I was a child. Knights of the Old Republic (video game) was every bit as good as any
book I have ever read and the characters are every bit as memorable as anything I have ever read, watched, or played. With Star Wars: The Old Republic
on the horizon, I was very excited when the book "Revan" was released. Finally, I get to see what happened to the hero of the Republic!
From the start I realized that this book was hastily done and with barely any regards to how the characters actually were in the video game. Revan is not
portrayed as a charismatic bad-ass Jedi that has seen both sides, in this book he is portrayed as a wimp that can't figure out what happened in his past.
Most of the book follows Lord Scourge, a Sith Lord that is every bit whiny 12 year old as he is turncoat. I didn't buy this book to read about a Sith Lord named
Scourge, but that is what you get.
The story is stretched thin and while cohesive it is flat and boring. This does not have the spark that the Darth Bane series had. It is not "Jedi Academy" bad, but
it isn't even close to licking the heels of the Darth Bane Trilogy.
In retrospect this book does not live up to KOTOR or even Drew's past achievements and for this being one of the most beloved characters in the Star Wars universe is nothing
less than a tragedy.
*** spoilers ahead***
Fatal Alliance has several flaws that could be fatal to certain readers' ability to like the book. There are a lot of new characters, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but even at a page count over 400 pgs, characterization seems to have been sacrificed along the way. Stryver, Eldon Ax, Shigar, Master Saetle, Larin Moxla, Ula, Master Howl, Master Chatris, and Lema Xandret are names you will run across a lot if you read the story. Their stories weave in and out with nice cliff hangers, but for some reason, there's just not a lot to "connect" to as a reader. There's this huge conflict with pretty sweet new, dangerous technology that gets literally swept away in the end.
Of the recent Star Wars books, this one by far is the best, but the competition has been sadly lacking of late. I still enjoyed the read, though for me, there wasn't enough of a tie-in to the KOTOR games. This book is a teaser for the new The Old Republic game, but aside from name dropping the Treaty of Coruscant about 10 times, there's nothing to really tease us with.
Conclusion: It's a worthwhile read that will hopefully mean more as time passes and the Old Republic game releases. It's certainly set up for sequels. The author does a decent job with dialogue. (There were only a few times that I cringed at how cliche the lines sounded.) If you love Star Wars books, go for it.