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Dark Nest I ? The Joiner King
by Troy Denning

Published by Del Rey

Scott's Rating:   3 out of 4
Mike's Rating:   3.2 out of 4

This is the first book in the Dark Nest Trilogy. The following is from the book cover:

?After triumphing in Star Wars: The Unifying Force, the heroes of the New Jedi Order return in a dazzling new adventure!

Luke Skywalker is worried: A handful of Jedi Knights, including his nephew and niece, Jaina and Jacen Solo, have disappeared into the Unknown Regions in response to a strange cry for help that only they could hear. Now the alien Chiss have angrily lodged a formal complaint, accusing the missing Jedi of meddling in a border dispute between the Chiss and an unidentified aggressor.

Luke has no choice but to head to the Unknown Regions for serious damage control. Han and Leia follow, intent on protecting their children from what could be grave danger. But none of them are prepared for what they find when they reach their destination.

A colony of mysterious aliens is expanding toward the edge of Chiss space. The leader of the alien nest is resolute. Adept in the Force, he is drawing old friends to his side, compelling them to join the colony and meld their Force-abilities with his, even if it leads to all-out war. . . .?


    Several years from now I?ll look back on this book and remember a couple of key things about it. First of all, this book really starts connecting the dots between the prequel characters and the classic trilogy characters. Luke discovers an encoded sector in R2-D2?s memory. It contains little bits and pieces of the droid?s memory of Padme and Anakin. It even holds a few scenes from Revenge of the Sith. ( I assume R2 recorded the bootleg online!) It?s great to see Luke and Leia?s reaction to the revelations about their parents. It?s also interesting to see how the quest for information about his parents distracts Luke from his mission as a Jedi. I?m really looking forward to seeing where the revelations go and how our heroes will be impacted by them.

The other thing noteworthy about The Joiner King is that it really starts developing Ben Skywalker into a character. Luke?s old enough to be a grandfather by now, so it?s neat to finally see the Skywalker family line being carried on. Ben has a fear of the Force and pulls himself away from it. Having the character shy away from his heritage and destiny is an interesting twist. I look forward to seeing the character developed further.

Denning did a few other things that I liked in this novel. A few Dark Jedi have been revived and been shown to be a formidable presence. Since resurrecting the Sith seems to be off limits according to Lucas, I like seeing at least a few Dark Jedi giving our heroes a hard time. I also liked seeing more of the young characters taking center stage. Raynar, Tenel Ka, and some of the other Young Jedi Knights have prominent roles. Jacen is also shown on a quest to learn more about the Force and all its aspects. It?s intriguing to see him trying to learn from the Dathomir witches, the cult following ?The Current?, and others shown in previous novels.

My favorite part of any Star Wars novel is the action and Denning delivers a lot of it here. There are a few good dogfights and a massive grand finale featuring all of our heroes from Han to Mara to Jaina all in battle together.

It?s worth noting that this book includes the story Ylesia by Walter Jon Williams. It?s a great little bonus to have this in paper format. It was originally only an e-book. Finally, I have to add that I like the eye catching cover to the novel. The artist is Cliff Nielsen and Han Solo has never looked older and grayer.


    Analogy time.

It will undoubtedly surprise many of you to hear this, but in addition to Star Wars, I read a lot of comic books. One of those comic books is called Powers; it's a crime book set in a city populated by superheroes ("Powers"). A while back, there was an issue starting off a new story that...well, it wasn't about superheroes, and it damn sure wasn't about crime. Without getting into the delightful details, the issue consisted of nothing but dialogue-less monkeys. Monkeys doing...things that nobody needs to see monkeys do. And while the issue ended up making sense in the context of the entire story, no one knew what to make of it at first, and according to a recent interview with the creators, they lost a huge chunk of readers as a result. The artist, Michael Avon Oeming, refers to this occurence as a way of skimming off the top; of getting out of the way the people who were only iffy about the book to begin with. If you were still onboard Powers after the monkey issue, you were onboard for the whole ride.

If you haven't figured out where this is going yet, The Joiner King is Del Rey's monkey issue. There's a lot of weird stuff going on - Jacen's traveling through time, Jaina and Zekk are rubbing forearms, and man oh man, is Luke on the dark side. And in the midst of all this, we're finally, finally seeing threads from all over the place getting brought together. Luke and Leia are going to find out about their mother. We're apparently going to get a definitive origin for the Corellian System, and who knows what other ancient mysteries. All this would be enough, but let's not forget that there's a bunch of stuff left hanging from the NJO as well - Raynar, Jacen's Jedi status, Jaina and Jag, and of course, was Vergere insane or what?

EU fans have two choices right now. They can take everything at face value and run screaming for the hills, or they can strap themselves in and trust that Denning, Rostoni, and Co. are going somewhere with all of this. They've got another eleven books to show us where, and all I ask for the time being is that, as Denning managed to do reasonably well in Joiner King, they keep it entertaining. Weird, I can handle.


    One of my least favorite Star Wars plot points is when a Jedi gets somehow brainwashed. Unfortunately, that?s a large part of this storyline. Jaina, Alema, Zekk, and Tahiri spend most of the story as mind melded zombies who are mentally linked to the insect aliens. They even have what can only be described as an orgy at one point. I was never really into any of this.

Since this was the first post-New Jedi Order novel, I was hoping that this book would deal more with the ramifications of that galactic conflict. While The Joiner King does touch on that here and there, the story largely takes place in the Outer Rim away from the devastation of the Yuuzhan Vong war. For better or worse, you could almost pick up this novel and follow what?s going on without having read the NJO.


    See above.


    Squashed bugs.


    There's one thing I can't handle. C-3PO, at the top of page 40: "I do wish you would stop doing that, Princess Leia. It's most disorientating, and one of these times my file allocation table will be corrupted."

The only thing worse than seeing "disorientating" (which, for anyone playing along at home, is not a word) out of a professional writer is seeing it come from a character who's fluent in SIX MILLION FORMS OF COMMUNICATION!!!

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