Top positive review
on 18 March 2011
There is a rule I've heard in several places. The second in a trilogy is always the worst. Now the glaring exception to this rule is the Original Star Wars trilogy, where the Empire Strikes Back was probably the best, but in general, it seems to be true. This isn't part of a trilogy, but each author writes three books, and I'm hoping the rule applies to that too. Why? Because Allston's second book wasn't as good as I was hoping.
That's not to say it's bad! I've rated it 8/10, which is still a high score. It's just not at quite the same level as the previous three in the series. There are three reasons for this, the first of which is the plot.
There is nothing bad about the plot. But there's nothing outstanding about it either. While it did follow on from Denning's "Tempest" rather well, it didn't seem to move the story along in many ways. And in some ways I understand this. In fact, I quite enjoyed reading about the war in a way that reflected real wars, rather than wars which only seem to have battles caused by the heroes/villains. Obviously the Heroes/Villains are involved, we wouldn't see them otherwise, but they generally aren't the driving force of the individual battles - that's the job of the tacticians and other military personnel. So it was good, if not progressive.
The second reason for the slightly lower score is that the different story-lines aren't quite as riveting as each other. In the first book, "Betrayal", I found that I wanted to know about all of the story-lines, all of the characters. Similarly in "Bloodlines" and "Tempest". But in this I found that actually, Jacen's story wasn't very interesting. Han and Leia's was mildly interesting, and Luke didn't seem to really have his own storyline, he just popped up in other people's every now and again. (Slight exaggeration there - he DID have a storyline, but it wasn't a major focus). There were two particularly outstanding story-lines: Alema and Ben. Without revealing too much, Alema's obsession with finding Han and Mara is joined with a new 'partner' and provides a little comedy to the plot, while still maintaining the overall tone, and is also another viewpoint on the situation.
But by far I found Ben's storyline to be superior to the rest. It's the first time we've really seen Ben in this much focus, despite him being quite important in events so far, and Allston does a very good job of writing his scenes. But it's the character development that makes Ben so interesting here. As Jacen's apprentice, he is constantly being tempted by the dark side, and as a teenager he is experiencing growing up. So it's an interesting mix, and I almost wish that Aalston was writing the next book just so that I could see what happens with Ben.
The third thing is rather petty in some ways, and is about two paragraphs from the whole book. Basically, the Author sums up the battle. Now since they're at the end I can't tell them without saying what happens, but I've tried to write a similar thing for the end of the clone wars:
"In the end, the Emperor decided he'd won. The Jedi thought they'd lost, and decided to all go and hide."
Ok, so that "pseudo-quote" probably unjustly, and badly, written. But the point I'm trying to make is that it was just a simple statement of who won. More suited to a report, or dissertation than a novel. If a character had said it, it would have been much more appropriate. It just seemed out of place, and distracted me from the escape a novel can provide. Normally not too much of a problem, but close to the end, it's something I remember vividly.
But as I said, that's a petty point. And overall, there was very little to fault with the novel. I was expecting it to be higher quality, but was in no way disappointed by what it was. I still found it impossible to put down, and would still recommend this series. Next stop: Sacrifice(Book 5).