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on 9 July 2013
Months before the scheduled release of Crucible a lot of news was floating about the interwebs and much of it was quite explosive. Who would have thought that George Lucas, the gatekeeper to the Star Wars franchise would ever sell off his most prized possession, and to Disney too. Well, he did and his decision to do so is what is bringing episodes VII, VIII, and IV. But George's decision to sell off Star Wars was not the only big news to be whispered about, big news was also impacting the literary branch, too. Now that Fate of the Jedi had wrapped up a new layout was to hit readers, and that was to be the end of the large scale series and a reintroduction to stand alones. So, here we are, a new stand alone, so lets delve in.

Over the last few decades Star Wars fans have been exposed to expansive story arcs laid out by The New Jedi Order, The Legacy of the Force, and The Fate of the Jedi. And as one would expect, those books have had quite the impact on the Expanded Universe. But with all large story arcs some loose threads are left dangling in order to open new doors later on, and some are just left dangling. This is where Crucible comes in. The first "Big Three" (Han, Luke, Leia) book since the climatic end of the Fate of the Jedi series attempts to advance some leftover plot points from stories past and also present a fresh new story to boot. But in the end does Crucible deliver what it promised? Well, lets find out.

I must admit that when Crucible was first announced I wasn't all that excited for it. Given Fate of the Jedi had worn me out with its drawn out storylines and pretty lackluster entertainment value, I wasn't all that excited to read another Big Three book, so my expectations were pretty low going in. Now, after reading the book, I can honestly say that the book has lived up to those expectations, and here's why. After reading hundreds of Star Wars books and comics I know that every installment is not a true stand alone, every book, or comic, is closely tied to events that have happened before or after the events featured in that book's tale, so I knew this book would be no different. What I wasn't prepared for was that this book would be so incredibly twisted in on itself that I would not know the book's true purpose until the last few chapters. Here's what I mean.

]]]Minor and unspecific spoilers ahead]Minor and unspecific spoilers ahead[[[

In the beginning of the book we are taken on a new adventure with Han and Leia being drug into a new threat against their close friend Lando. A new enemy has arisen in the aftermath of Abeloth, and this new enemy is smarter and wiser than we have seen in the least that is what we are told in the book synopsis. What we are really given is an attempt to introduce a brand new enemy with incredible intelligence to weave us a web of intrigue and suspense. However, the book never delivers what it promises. In actuality we are delivered an enemy that is much more tic-tac-toe than chess, and is so weak that even with the help of the most dangerous villains the EU has to offer they cannot help them succeed in their plot to rule the galaxy...or even their little corner of it.

What the book does deliver is a few new creatures and characters that are quite imaginative. However, once again the book doesn't deliver here either. These new beings, driven by a blend of technology and organic materials, are so underused that by the end of the book when the story calls for them the reader has already lost interest, at least that is what happened for me.

I was really interested in this new creation and wanted so much to see how Denning was going to spin them into the story and how he was going to use them to build suspense and drama, but in the end this avenue was never taken and the new beings tale was crushed by chapter after chapter of Luke, Leia, and Han running around not doing a whole bunch.

While reading the book I took notes as to what I liked and didn't like and will address them here.

First, I wrote down that the book doesn't play to Troy Denning's strengths, and it really doesn't. I know a lot of readers have their own opinion of Denning's work and sometimes I agree with both sides of the argument, but I was a big fan of his Abyss novel in the Fate series. I found his exploration of the Force to be very entertaining and was looking forward to seeing some of that work in this book...I still have images of his lake of fallen Jedi/Sith featured in Abyss. However, we see none of this until the last chapters of the book, maybe the last three or four chapters. To me this was very unfortunate. Not only do we have to wait until the very end to see this aspect, but we have to wait to the very end of the book to find out what the book is truly about.

Second, the lack of alternative perspective was very disappointing. In this book we are introduced to new characters and reintroduced to old ones too. Not only are we not shown their trials and tribulations from their perspective, but we are not given any real narrative perspective to their issues either. A large thread from Karen Traviss's work was left over after her departure and reintroduced in this book, however, we never see any new advancement to that story arc and in the end nothing is resolved. In fact the only resolution to that thread is Luke talking to the others about how he wonders what happened to them...pretty lame.

Third and finally, for a book that is pretty watered down and lacking of any real depth it can be quite confusing at times. Characters are hard to track as first and last names are switched from paragraph to paragraph. Sometimes a character is called by their first name in one paragraph and then their last in the next. Normally this wouldn't be so bad, but when the character list is this long, and characters are not always who they seem to be, keeping track can be difficult at times.

In conclusion the book isn't horrible, but it isn't all that great either. To me it felt a little bit like a glass of Kool-aid that has been left out on the counter for about a week. When you go to drink it you get ninety percent water at first and then ten percent sweet sugar at the bottom. The book just felt weak and uninspired, and in the end that is what really bothers me about it.

I would never tell a reader not to read a book, and I won't start here, but for me this book was not Denning's best...far from it.

P.S. The epilogue contains a huge cliffhanger that may leave some fans wondering if this new story arc will lead to a transition from EU storyline to movie storyline.

Note: I received this book as an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest review
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Luke, Leia and Han are the main featured players in this installment of the Star Wars saga, with Lando Calrissian playing a slight supporting role. We start in a cantina and end up fighting our way out, but apart from the familiar action the lesson we really learn is that Han and Leia still have it but are getting older. This book has been promoted as the final outing for the Three. I'm not sure if that means we've gone as far down the timeline as we're going to go, (allowing for more Big Three books to be issued about earlier adventures),or if there really won't be any more books, set anywhere in time, featuring Han, Leia and Luke. Either way, if this is their swan song, it is quite satisfying, if not a jaw dropping blockbuster.

The villains are pretty lame and the villainy is of a corporate/economic sort, until we get to the end of the book. Then we get the "monolith" and focus on the Force and some free wheeling mysticism. That's actually pretty interesting and is an interesting change from some of the purely action oriented books.

The book works as a standalone so it's a nice pickup for a casual reader. The treatment of the three main characters is consistent with what you might remember from the movies, so it has a comfortable and recognizable feel. I'm not deeply conversant with the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and I was just happy to enjoy a solid read with some old acquaintances.

Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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on 11 September 2013
I was actually looking forward to this book, but as soon as i noticed how thick the hard back was I felt this sinking feeling start. I mean prices for books are ridiculous as it is but troy denning must be on a paper ration system here. If this book were made into a film it would last about an hour if that! As far as the story goes its not that interesting, exciting or anything really. And for the climatic end that your waiting for its essentially the Star Wars heavy hitters picking out retirement homes for each other, DULL! I don't know what troy denning has been doing lately but he seems to be into writing short, dull and expensive books for the fans to line his pockets for him.
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on 7 February 2014
bit of a wierd one I thought, read all star wars books so I should know. this reminded me of the first batch of old school tales - crystal star, dark saber, planet of twilight sort of thing, except bang up to date with in the time line. It trundled along OK then got all mystical at the end with out really explaining what the heck was going on. They all got insubstantial but weren't but were.... bad guys were sort of new and out of no where in terms of why have we never heard about them before? Yet everyone esle seemed to know they were geniuses etc, was a bit weird and felt that they had been cobbled together and then chucked in to present a suitable challenge and seemed to take far too long to die
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on 22 December 2013
I got this as a gift from a well meaning relative since FotJ basically killed my interest in carrying on with the Star Wars EU.

So what can we say; when your ship is going under do you really need to set fire the the gift shop on the way down?
Denning continues to try and follow The Clone Wars' (cgi) misguided attempt to bring back the spiritual side of the SW universe by rewriting the series as some sort of Swords and Sorcery epic... and failing.
Why, dear gods why are people still using the horrendous Mortis storyline? It was a silly knee-jerk reaction to fan dislike of Lucas trying to add 'science' to the Force with midichlorians and the Jedi Scratch Test. "People don't like the tech angle.. er... EVERYTHING IS MAGIC... AND, AND THE FORCE HAS GODS AND STUFF NOW". Why has this been green lit, why not use authors with actual talent for creating deep, interesting characters with conflicted goals and motivations like Aaron Alliston or Karen Travis. People who's characters actually question the world around them and their place in it, the nature and use of their power (and I don't just mean Force power). No instead we get Wolverine OAPS charging through magic dreamscapes inside Halo style relics... (seriously I kept a count in the end of how many 'mortal' wounds Luke, Leia and Han had received and healed from three pages later).

I might even have been able to view this as mindless popcorn fodder if not for the purposeless inclusion of my three favourite characters from the past few arcs; Mirta Gev, Tahiri Veila and Vestara Khai. None of them served any plot purpose that couldn't have been filled by a generic mook or hanger-on and none of their overall story arcs were advanced in any fashion. Mirta still has no cure for the nano virus and Vestara is still on the run from pretty much everyone. A Dark Lady of the Sith in little more than title. As for Tahiri... when she isn't creepily flirting with a boy almost two decades her junior she's sighing over the Lando/Han hybrid so inconsequential to everything I can't even recall his name as I type.

I haven't been this disappointed in a book since FotJ dropped the "Jacen sacrificing himself to the Dark Side to change the future threw the Force out of whack and is driving Force Users mad with echoes of his own mind" angle in favour of "Jacen accidentally unleashed a Dimension hopping, shape shifting, Force God... oops"

In short it's a book that goes nowhere and offers nothing with everyone in exactly the same position by the finish as they started in.

The sooner cretins like Denning who think they're writing for a High Fantasy series are given the boot the better.
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on 19 July 2013
After Timothy Zahn, I consider Troy Denning to be the best Star Wars EU author. He has woven some masterful and truly epic stories with these beloved characters. This, sadly, is not one of them.

It's a strangely constructed tale, very short in length and lacking in substance, lots of action but it never feels exciting. Poorly realised villains really let it down, their machinations and motivations are ultimately pointless, they never threaten, not really and the final fight is over in a paragraph, or off page.

This was hyped as a big story for Luke, Leia and Han. That it might be something special, maybe someone wouldn't survive till the end. But it was nothing special, less than nothing. I made note of quite how violent it was, almost jarring in places, the way these classic characters are treated.

Basically Crucible serves as an epilogue to the Fate of the Jedi series, but as the grand finale we were promised, it fails on almost every level. The only praise I can give is that it's easy reading, but that is perhaps more to do with the length.
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on 24 July 2013
As mentioned by another reviewer, I very much believe Troy Denning is one of THE best EU authors that Star Wars has. When another author has let me down and Troy's book is next in the series, I often get excited knowing the tale will be that little bit sweeter for the remainder of the book.

Crucible however left me feeling just a tad bit unsatisfied. It felt a little incomplete to me and lacked some of the excitement Dennings other books have given me over the years. The story and idea was good, the ending was decent, but I just wanted more from this novel, we may not see another in this era for a long while considering the new Trilogy is on its way. Perhaps Troy had plans to release another one or two as sequels, but I find that unlikely now.

On the bright side this book does have many positive points and I suggest you go on and read it if you've relentlessly stared at the page of every expanded universe book you possibly could have over the years. You will feel content, it just depends on what level.
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on 18 December 2013
Star wars Crucible is a great novel but has had underwhelming reviews. It is a great book. If you have read Fate of the Jedi and want to know what happened to Vestara Khai, get it! If you want to just read a good book,get it! The only criticism I have about this book is that it is fairly short but its still nearly constantly exiting.
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on 2 February 2014
I love the way Troy Denning writes the Starwars books, he is one of my favourite writers, Hope there is more out soon
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on 14 November 2014
A good read
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