Coruscant Nights II: Street of Shadows
Deep in the bowels of Coruscant, Jedi Jax Pavan ekes out a living as a private investigator, a go-to, can-do guy for the downtrodden. Now a mysterious Zeltron knockout named Deejah approaches Jax with a case that needs to be cracked: to find out who killed her artist lover, Volette, brutally murdered hours after his triumphant unveiling of a dazzling new light sculpture with obvious links to lightsaber pyrotechnics.
Finding Volette’s killer won’t be easy—too many secrets, too many suspects, and all kinds of motives. But with the droid I-5YQ’s help, and ex-reporter Den Dhur’s excellent snooping skills, the investigation is soon operating like a well-oiled machine.
Unfortunately, there’s a far more efficient machine hunting Jax. It’s a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as the clock starts ticking toward the final explosive showdown…to see who strikes first and who will die first.
Adrick: I very much enjoyed Jedi Twilight, the first volume in Michael Reaves’s Coruscant Nights trilogy, but I was somewhat disappointed that the book never quite hit the noir theme the cover and blurb seemed to promise.
Street of Shadows does a better job capturing the feel of a cheesy detective novel in true Star Wars style. There’s a classic murder mystery afoot in Street of Shadows, revolving around the death of a Caamasi artist—here Reaves ties his story to the destruction of Caamas, an event from this time period that was central to the plot of Timothy Zahn’s Hand of Thrawn novels. This is the kind of continuity linking that I really enjoy. There are also several quotable hardboiled detective style lines in a scene set in a Neimoidian bar. Jax Pavan still isn’t quite the tough, dark investigator one would expect in this genre—he even seems to be taking the whole Jedi Purge pretty well, in fact—but the overall tone is much closer to noir than the previous book. I hope the trend continues in the final installment.
As in the first book, Reaves has some interesting characters to work with. In addition to the core cast from Jedi Twilight, Reaves has brought back some other reoccurring characters from the prequel era: Captain Typho and Aurra Sing. Typho had always been a disappointing character to me (let’s face it: he’s just a poor substitute for Panaka), but his single-minded but clever portrayal here has really redeemed the character in my eyes. Aurra Sing, in her first major novel appearance chronologically, is also nicely handled.
A completely new character is Dejah Duare, the wealthy Zeltron bombshell who hires Jax and company to investigate the death of the Caamasi artist Volette. Duare also complicates the relationship between Jax and the Twi’lek Paladin Laranth, bringing some hidden feelings to the surface. Of course, Zeltrons were a staple of the later Marvel Star Wars comic books, and I always enjoy a good Marvel reference. (Reaves even throws a Velmorian sword for good measure!)
What keeps me from rating this book as highly as I did the previous Coruscant Nights novel is the extremely spotty continuity within the book. The events of Shadow Hunter and the MedStar Clone Wars novels, are frequently confused. It isn’t clear whether or not Jax knows that Anakin Skywalker has turned to the dark side, and he is also apparently unaware that Obi-Wan Kenobi defeated a Zabrak Sith on Naboo. The gang’s motives for investigating the murder also change without much explanation as the plot unfolds. I have heard that Michael Reaves was quite ill while he was writing the series, so it’s understandable that some mistakes made it into the final print. But honestly, these errors start to make the whole story less coherent. It’s hard to follow a mystery story if the characters don’t consistently know a key piece of information. It’s also odd that the Coruscant Nights books seem to have such similar plots to Jude Watson’s Last of the Jedi. That series also had a book featuring Typho encountering a Jedi survivor. You would think that would be similar enough to warrant some kind of cross-reference.
Editorial gaffes aside—however big they may be—this was a very entertaining book and I’m looking forward to seeing the tale of Jax and his friends conclude in Patterns of Force.