Originally published at: http://www.rancorslovetoread.com/2009/06/andrews-review-of-darksaber.html
2/5 Rancors – Kevin J. Anderson’s Darksaber is the second novel in the unofficially named Callista Trilogy. Introduced in Barbara Hambly’s Children of the Jedi, Callista is a Jedi Knight from the Clone Wars era and is also Luke Skywalker’s love interest. She provides a common thread through these three otherwise-loosely connected novels (the third is Hambly’s Planet of Twilight). Anderson returns to many of the themes and approaches found in his earlierJedi Academy Trilogy, including a surplus of action, fast-moving, basic prose, and a marked predilection for superweapons.
This time around we get two new weapons of mass destruction for the Expanded Universe. The first is the titular Darksaber, a massive lightsaber-shaped weapon being constructed under the auspices of Durga the Hutt. Like many petty tyrants before him, Durga dreams of galactic conquest and believes the Darksaber is his golden ticket (despite the abysmal track record the Empire’s Death Stars bore). Additionally, a massive black Super Star Destroyer named the Knight Hammer shows up. The extent to which Anderson ran with the superweapon theme based only on the Death Stars is rather amusing once you list all the ones he has introduced. The concept is fine but loses its luster when used too often.
Admiral Daala makes a return appearance from the Jedi Academy Trilogy. Much like her portrayal there, we are told she is very threatening but she doesn’t appear to have any actual tactical sense. In a nice touch, Grand Admiral Thrawn’s second-in-command Pellaeon also appears here working with Daala, but sadly he is not really given much of significance to do. It seems his inclusion was intended to bolster Daala’s credibility: he used to work for Thrawn, now he works for her, so Daala is as good a leader as Thrawn!
There is an interesting tie to The Empire Strikes Back with a lengthy sequence set on Hoth. I found the wampa attack to be one of the most exciting, primal sequences of the story. My only quibble here is the tie to one specific wampa takes things a bit too far. Tatooine also makes an appearance, and while I’ll acknowledge it’s easily possible to overuse these movie locations, I do enjoy seeing them in print occasionally and I’m glad Anderson dropped them in.
As I did in Children of the Jedi, I continued to find Luke and Callista’s relationship tedious and unconvincing. Their romance has no strong foundation and so there’s not much for Anderson to work with. Too many novels feature an uncertain and weak Luke mooning about over one thing or another, and this is no exception. The EU as a whole would have been well-served by a nuanced portrayal of a questioning yet confident Luke Skywalker, the one who was perfectly set up by Return of the Jedi.
The shift in authors makes this book a very different entry from the first in the Callista Trilogy. Darksaber is a breezy read and the action clips right along, so despite some significant reservations about the story choices and direction taken I still found it a step up from its predecessor. If you enjoyed the Jedi Academy Trilogy, odds are you’ll like this one as well.
Originally published at: http://www.rancorslovetoread.com/2009/07/davids-review-of-darksaber.html
4/5 Rancors – Darksaber by Kevin J. Anderson is the second book in a series of three that amounts to a de facto trilogy thought of as the Callista Trilogy. The first book was Barbara Hambly’s Children of the Jedi, and the third will be her Planet of Twilight. I much prefer Mr. Anderson’s effort. Reading Darksaber is like meeting up with old friends again. We get the whole gang – Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2, and Threepio. Set just after the events of Children of the Jedi, Mr. Anderson’s tale tracks Luke and Callista as they try to find a way of bringing back Callista’s Jedi powers. At the same time, Durga the Hutt has “hired” Bevel Lemelisk, co-designer of the original Death Star, to build a new version of the Death Star to enable Durga to expand his empire. Then we find that Admiral Daala has proved to be difficult to kill and is in fact leading efforts to unite the warlords and reassert the dominance of the Empire. The book has a lot going on and is an extremely entertaining story.
Admittedly, some of the book could be thought of as a little far-fetched even if you think that the normal Star Wars activities are perfectly normal. As I did with Children of the Jedi, I still have trouble accepting the relationship between Luke and Callista. They fell in love when she was a spirit living purely as a form of consciousness. Now she has a body and Luke is deeply in love with her. The only problem is that she has lost her Jedi powers, so much of the plotline revolves Luke and Callista and their struggles.
One other moment that could be slightly over the top takes place on Hoth. Luke, Callista, and some others are attacked by a vicious band of wampas led by a one-armed wampa who apparently has met Luke before. Possibly we didn’t need the specific tie back to The Empire Strikes Back, but the sequence is well done and exciting in any case.
The action in the book is great fun to read. Lemelisk has his problems in trying to build a new version of the Death Star for Durga, and Admiral Daala is bent on wreaking havoc on any Republic forces she can find. Our heroes are exerting their best efforts to prevent any of this from happening.
Mr. Anderson was the author of the three books in the Jedi Academy Trilogy, and I thought they were extremely well done. If you enjoyed those books, you will definitely like Darksaber. Plus, you just have to like a book that opens with the following sentence: “The banthas plodded in single file, leaving only a narrow trail of scuffed footprints across the dunes.” Yes!