When a ship full of Sith warriors arrived in Galactic Alliance space, the fight to destroy it accidentally uncovered a deadly menace: a long-hidden group of clones, secretly created as insidious weapons capable of wielding the Force and heedless of the differences between light side and dark side. Now the clones have escapedóand evidence suggests they are flawed by genetic disease and violent madness.
Jedi Knight Jaden Korr pursues the clones, hoping to heal them but prepared to destroy them. What he doesnít know is that Sith agents are hot on his heels, determined not only to recover the clones for their master but to capture Jaden for their own dark-side purposes. In a life-or-death battle, Jaden will confront a shocking reality that will rock him to his core and bring him face-to-face with the question of what makes a manÖand a Jedi.
Jaden Korr was once a minor character from another age of video games, the apprentice to Kyle Katarn in 2003ís Jedi Academy. With Riptide, a sequel to last yearís Crosscurrent, Jaden is now also the protagonist in a pair of Star Wars horror novels. Itís one of those interesting surprises that can occasionally be found in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, where anything ever created is up for grabs. Perhaps the Korrís mysterious origins attracted Kemp to the character; Jaden was said to have been admitted to the Jedi Academy after constructing a lightsaber without instruction. This is an interesting bit of backstory that is touched on by Riptide, but, like much of the novel, isnít really expanded upon.
In Riptide the apprentice has become the master, as Korr takes on Marr Idi-Shael, the mathematics whiz and former first mate of the freighter Junker, as a student. Marrís former captain Khedryn Faal watches the proceedings, somewhat uncomfortable that his friend is growing into a sphere he doesnít understand. This is a nice dynamic, and I enjoyed reading scenes with these three.
Meanwhile, the clones unleashed from a Thrawn-era Imperial facility are on a rampage. Guided by the mystic Seer, they are determined to begin a religious pilgrimage to free the being whom they worship, the mysterious entity known only as Mother. All are stalked by Nyss and Syll, Umbaran agents of the One Sith, who have an agenda of their own.
Riptide has a lot going for it; Kempís writing is vivid and atmospheric and really brings the reader into the action. There is never a dull moment, from the flight of the clones from an uncharted moon to their showdown with Jaden Korr in a living space station. The journey to Mother is the single driving plot here, and it works a lot better than the two separate plotlines of Crosscurrent, which often felt cobbled together.
Still, I canít shake the feeling that thereís something missing here. The book is big on action and mystery, but those looking for answers to Kempís mysteries will be somewhat disappointed. The one big reveal in the book feels like a setup for a much larger revelation, but it never comes. After two books into this apparent series, Iím more confused than when I started. Now, the book is all about challenging the perception of identity, so maybe some ambiguity is called for. But I would have preferred more answers, particularly regarding Korrís origins.
One of the most frustrating things here is that neither Crosscurrent nor Riptide stands on its own, but nothing about the books suggests they are part of a series. Kemp seems to be setting up for a sequelÖif there is a sequel coming that brings resolution to all the dangling plotlines of the first two books, Iíd like to know about it. Without that assurance, Riptide seems to be stringing the reader along, and I dislike that.
Riptide offers a nice change of pace from the typical Legacy-era politicking, but itís short on answers. Unless you particularly liked Crosscurrent, I canít say that I recommend Riptide.