It's been an interesting ride, burning through Mr. Kemp's Star Wars novels (almost) back to back. First came THE OLD REPUBLIC: DECEIVED, which, for my money, is one of the best Star Wars novels to be released in some time. The second was CROSSCURRENT, and though it had some faults that weren't so prevalent in DECEIVED, it was still a very entertaining SW romp. RIPTIDE, for some reason, continues this trend of Kemp's books getting slightly less masterful with each iteration. It doesn't quite read like a sequel, and it doesn't quite read like a standalone novel. The story seems in limbo, much like my opinion of it.
Before we get going, RIPTIDE is most definitely a continuation of the story set up in CROSSCURRENT, and it would be hard for me to recommend this to anyone who's not given that book a read yet. It tries to stand on its own by subtly recapping the events from the last book, but even then, RIPTIDE leans very heavily on the premise of its prequel. Even timeline wise, they're only separated by hours at most.
The story picks up with Jaden Korr, his new apprentice, Marr Idi-Shael, and Khedryn Faal hunting the Jedi/Sith clones that escaped from an uncharted moon. They're seen as a serious threat, so Jaden takes it upon himself to track them down while the rest of the Jedi Order mobilizes to assist. As they're quick to find out, capturing the clones will by no means be an easy task to accomplish, given their extraordinary power over the Force. And the chase eventually ends up leading them to places in the Unknown Regions that are just as dangerous.
The crew of the Junker just never has it easy.
Now, what irked me about this book was that the characters from CROSSCURRENT aren't really given enough time to shine here. Though we're following their continuing adventures, there's an overwhelming feeling that we're dropping in on them in mid-sentence. Everything's just toned down a few notches. This is made especially clear when you realize that Kemp is trying to juggle (if I counted right) somewhere around twelve characters in one of the shortest SW books I've ever read.
The pacing is still there, Kemp's writing is still top notch, the characters (Khedryn, especially) are still a joy to follow when they're given the stage, and the situations are still very interesting if a little familiar. But the whole thing just felt so uneven, like a condensed version of a really good Star Wars adventure. I'm not sure if it's LucasArts or the author who decides how long the novel has to be, but one of them needs to change things up for Kemp's next novel, which I'm definitely looking forward to.
Basically, I think CROSSCURRENT and RIPTIDE would've functioned better as one novel. There are plotlines from the first book that seemed important (like the 5,000 year old Sith starship) that are kind of brushed under the rug rather abruptly in the sequel, and things that seemed completely unimportant (like the Anzat assassin) that suddenly have relevance here. It's a weird teeter-totter feeling that makes me think I'm reading one book in thirds, and while it's something I can deal with as a reader, it doesn't grant the characters and the story the focus they deserve.
RIPTIDE is a great continuation of the CROSSCURRENT story arc, but it doesn't operate well as a "sequel" or a standalone book. Honestly, I'm just wishing LucasArts and Kemp would just pick one side and stick with it.