I was pretty excited to read this: the first novel (of three that have been announced) that ties into the MMO game, The Old Republic, a sequel of sorts to the excellent PC games Knights of the Old Republic and The Sith Lords.
Sean has proved that he knows Star Wars, having co-written 3 novels in the New Jedi Order saga (The Force Heretic Trilogy, Remnant, Refugee, Reunion) as well as the novelization of the most awesome game I’ve yet to play, The Force Unleashed. And with Fatal Alliance, he’s proved it again, but unfortunately, not as well as I would have hoped.
Fatal Alliance is an excellent novel – I truly did enjoy it, and it’s definitely one of the most action-packed Star Wars novels I’ve read, and it’s also packed with great characters that work their way through an awesome plot.
We’ve got an enigmatic Mandalorian who is central to the plot, as well as one of the most surprising characters in the tale; we’ve got a Jedi Padawan who goes through an expertly handled Hero’s Journey; a smuggler who practically stole the show; an Imperial spy who is terrified of his own shadow but believes in justice and balance. These are just some of the characters that fill this novel, and almost all of them were well-realized and brilliantly brought to life, but not all of them were:
The Sith apprentice, Eldon Ax, was someone I just couldn’t get a handle on; chapters from her POV were great, with plenty of action and Sith coolness, but I found that when she opened her mouth she sounded like the stereotypical evil Sith-Lord-in-Waiting. I could be missing the point entirely (there were definitely chapters in which she said what she needed to achieve a specific goal) but I was routinely jarred out of the flow of the book while reading her POVs – she seemed like two different characters to me. I am looking forward to seeing her again, though – at the end of the novel, having grown and gone through all she had up to that point, she is left in a really difficult situation, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with her.
Three of my favourite characters: Larin Moxla and Dao Stryver.
Larin really had my sympathy – she’s living in a very tense time and in a very difficult professional situation, and her POVs were pitch-perfect and afforded much of the drama and danger that filled the novel.
Dao Stryver is one of the best Mandalorians I’ve read – in my opinion, on the same level as Boba Fett. Resourceful, manipulative, highly intelligent and focused, an excellent fighter, and enigmatic, Dao really impressed me. 🙂
Shigar Konshi was also pretty damn cool – there were echoes of a young Luke in him (hehehe, talk about a paradox, huh?) but he also had a personality all his own and made for some great discussions and thoughts about the Force, Sith, Jedi, the Empire and the Republic. I’m definitely looking forward to catching up with Shigar again!
Now, in terms of the action in the novel – damn! Massive set-pieces, excellent snub-fighter battles and great tactics; Sean definitely excels at these kind of scenes and it was like I was watching scenes on the level of Revenge of the Sith’s opening scene – that kind of massive spectacle. But Sean also kicks ass in the smaller battles – there’s a battle that takes place in a palace on (Nal)Hutta that is pretty damn awesome. 🙂
Tying into the action are some of the creepiest (thanks to Marc Thompson and Kevin Thomsen) and most interesting droids this side of YVH droids (Yuuzhan Vong Hunter, for those who didn’t know) – I hope we see them again some time!
Plot-wise, Fatal Alliance is a massively sprawling novel – the (Nal)Hutta sequence (from the novel’s blurb) is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much that happens, so much that the characters have to go through, that I was expecting something to fall flat somewhere, but Sean handled the plot masterfully. The tension and action ramp up continuously, and since I was listening to the audiobook, there were times when I just didn’t want to get back to work, or even go to work. There are plenty of surprises in the novel – just when I thought I had a handle on the story and what would happen, Sean proved me wrong – always a goo thing. 🙂
Now, another problem: I just didn’t get the feeling, the true sense, that this novel was set in the Old Republic. Now, hear me out here – my reasons might be trivial, but here they are: too many times, the terms “Empire”, “Imperial”, “Emperor” and “Republic” were used, and I wasn’t confused by this -I know when the story takes place- but instead of grounding the tale in the Old Republic era, these terms made me constantly think that the tale took place in some kind of ‘Infinities’ alternate era, where Luke, Han, Leia or any of the characters we know were never born and the course of the galaxy’s history had changed. It was a bit confusing and I was expecting to hear someone, somewhere say “Darth Sidious”.
But Fatal Alliance was still an excellent Star Wars novel, nonetheless, and it definitely set the scene for what players of the MMO could expect – the Cold War is on the verge of erupting into all-out war and I can’t wait to see what Paul Kemp and Drew Karpyshyn bring to the Old Republic. 🙂
Not the best introduction to the Old Republic MMO storyline, but a highly enjoyable if sometimes confusing novel.
Once again, the team brought their best game. Marc Thompson did an incredible job with the massive cast of characters, giving each of them a vibrancy and a uniqueness that really made listening to him an experience; his treatment of the droids I spoke of earlier was incredible, and I’ve never been so creeped out by a robot before! The music and sound effects used came across as perfect and natural, really adding layers of sensory enjoyment to the tale, and I remain a fan of Star Wars audiobooks and the people who bring them to us. Excellent job!
To order your copies of Fatal Alliance, click here for Amazon US (novel and audiobook), Amazon UK (novel and audiobook), and audiobook download at Audible. Check out Sean’s website here and the official Star Wars website here, and for extra info about Fatal Alliance (beware of spoilers, though) check out the novel’s page over at Wookieepedia.