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Double Star Wars Reviews: The Old Republic: Deceived and Riptide by Paul S Kemp

Double-Review time again! 🙂 I need to catch up with the reviews and doing Doubles seems the only way I’m going to be able to do that. 🙂

Star Wars The Old Republic Deceived

Now, I haven’t been able to play The Old Republic , so I don’t know what the storylines in the game entail, but after reading Sean Williams’ Fatal Alliance, this novel and Drew Karpyshyn’s Revan (review coming), it seems clear to me that The Old Republic is a massive project that stretches over quite a long length of time.

Deceived takes place during a lull in the war between the Empire and the Republic, and gives us one of the best Sith Lords to have ever existed in the Star Wars galaxy – at least in my opinion. I’m sure you all remember the amazing cinematic from before The Old Republic was launched showing how Darth Malgus attacked the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Well, I was blown away by that, and by the Sith Lord who had the (excuse me) balls to not only try something like that but to pull it off. I really wanted to know more about him, and Paul could easily have given us an all-over-evil psychotic Force-user with nothing but domination and subjugation going for him.

Thankfully, that’s exactly what Paul didn’t do. Malgus has one of the most interesting philosophies regarding the Force, the Jedi and the Sith that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading, the kind of philosophy that made the characters that Matthew Stover tackled so damned interesting and real. Yes, Malgus is badass, but he also comes across as fallible and, at times, even stupid. Powerful as he is he’s in over his head and eventually chooses the only path that keeps him true to himself. Just on the strength of that I’m hoping that Paul is able to return to Malgus sometime in the future, because the Malgus at the end of Deceived is someone I wouldn’t wish on even the most powerful Jedi force that could be assembled. Hell, even the Empire and the other Sith would have to beware! 🙂

But Malgus isn’t the only cool character in the novel – there’s a smuggler doing the best that he can for his daughter and a Jedi who is searching for the truth behind her master’s death; the smuggler is the guy that really had my sympathy – the man goes through some really tight situations in ways that would make Han Solo and Talon Karrde proud, and his very personal and practically unselfish motivation really got me cheering him on. The Jedi, on the other hand, had me worried, because we all know what happens when Jedi begin focusing on the things that their polar-opposites are known for. Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as I’m making it sound, but it does illustrate just how easy it is to lose sight of that which not only gives you strength but which also keeps you humble and thoughtful. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions and wanting answers, but we may not always like the answers, something the Jedi discovers, and also something that gives her the kind of motivation that any reader can identify with.

Characters aside, though, Deceived is also an excellent Star Wars novel – the action is exciting and intense, the humour spot on and just that bit campy (in other words, perfect Star Wars humour), and the intense personal explorations that the characters go on are make this novel very cool.
Is Deceived a good jumping-on point for readers new to the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Sure – if you want cool characters, thrilling action and walk-the-line looks at the philosophies of the Sith and the Jedi, then you’ll enjoy this novel. Hell, you might even end up burning to play The Old Republic! 🙂

All in all, an excellent novel and another Force-strong effort from Paul; 8 / 10

Order your paperback copies here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa. And do go and check out Paul’s website.

Riptide

Riptide is the sequel to Paul’s Star Wars EU debut, Crosscurrent (reviewed here), and though it’s a quick read (I finished it in three days), it’s a worthy successor, too.

Crosscurrent brought us Jaden Kor (some readers might remember him from the cool Star Wars PC game, Jedi Academy) and sent Jaden on a journey to find the meaning behind some disquieting Force-born visions he’d been having. Through that novel he discovered a very dangerous remnant from the days of Grand Admiral Thrawn and two smugglers who were tangled up in what quickly became an intense trial of survival. Jaden also came across a Jedi and a Sith literally thousands of years old and was pulled into their struggle for survival, too. (Incidentally, Crosscurrent is a novel that can also be read alongside the (much better than Legacy of the Force) Fate of the Jedi saga as well as John Jackson Miller’s Lost Tribe of the Sith.

Riptide picks up where Crosscurrent left off and sends the story hurtling into some very surprising directions, especially as regards Jaden. Not only is he still trying to solve the mystery of the Thrawn-era remnant I mentioned but he’s also trying to lead a Force-sensitive on the first tentative and dangerous steps toward Apprenticeship and Knighthood in the Jedi Order. Taken together these set up some intense problems for Jaden to overcome, and by extension, his friends. Fans of Knights of the Old Republic PC game and even the new Dawn of the Jedi comic series from Dark Horse should enjoy this novel as it gives readers another glimpse of an almost godly race of beings. Careful readers will also pick up nods to a certain Sith Order-offshoot created by one of the most controversial EU characters (who was first breathed into life by James Luceno in Cloak of Deception), and the storyline also settles in nicely with the then-current events in the Star Wars galaxy, namely the chaos left after the Second Galactic Civil War.

The novel has great humour, especially when certain characters are in very tight spots, excellent action and lightsaber duels, and the kind of philosophical journey’s that make Star Wars tales the kinds of tales that many diverse peoples can understand. I was hugely impressed with the (excuse the word) balls that Paul showed in this novel by doing what he did and I’m seriously hoping for more Jaden-centric novels from Paul.

8 / 10

To order your copies of the book click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here for South Africa.

Till next time and the upcoming giveaway,

BE EPIC!

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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Reviews

 

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Double Review: The Other Lands & The Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham

With these reviews a circle closes. 🙂

Acacia was one of the first books I ever reviewed on this blog (in actual fact, the second book) and it definitely feels as if I’ve gone on a long, tempestuous, thrilling and ultimately fully rewarding journey with not only the readers who’s also enjoyed David’s Epic Fantasy trilogy buy have journeyed with David as he brought us this trilogy. (You can also read my 2008 interview with David here.)

And with announcements about the future of this blog on the way it’s only fitting that I post the reviews of these titles – as I said, a circle closes. 🙂

Book 1 (my review here, in case you’ve not yet read it) set up what promised to be a truly epic story – a promise which The Other Lands and The Sacred Band fulfilled wonderfully.

The Other Lands

The novel doesn’t open, thankfully, immediately after the events of Acacia – a risk on David’s part, since we were met by characters who were subtly different from when me were introduced to them in Acacia, but a risk that paid off. Not only did David manage to show and explain how the characters had grown since I last read about them, but he also managed to set in motion the new cycles of growth and change that needed to happen to push not only the characters but the plot forward. After all, in Acacia we were shown a small part (yet a very important part) of the world David created – books 2 and 3 needed to show more of this world, and did.

In book 1 David also took the risk of removing one of the most promising and important characters of the trilogy, the effects of which are felt throughout book 2, from the normal man on the street right up to the sister who had to try and manage the thrust into the highest position of leadership. I was really surprised at this character’s return and was worried (I’ll admit) at what effect it would have on the rest of the cast, but David handled this all beautifully. 🙂

The same can be said of many of the characters in the book – Corrin Akaran terrified me at the end of Acacia, and she continued to evolve in The Other Lands – I couldn’t help but compare her to Cersei Lannister, and to be honest, I don’t know who would come out on top if the two had to clash. Mena’s search for her place in the world (other than being an Akaran and the embodiment of a goddess) was heartfelt and beautiful, and I loved Dariel’s progression in the book, too. Each of the siblings reacted to the previous book’s events in ways that were both true to themselves (and to what they had survived) and in ways that echoed with me – one of the ways that we live through characters in novels, though they may be set in Fantasy-worlds) is through the character’s humanity and the author’s ability to evoke sympathy and empathy, something that David succeeded massively at in The Other Lands.

And the world that David created expands – Dariel travels to The Other Lands and I loved the strangeness, intensity and brutality of this place. Not only was it an excellent crucible to test and temper Dariel, but a way to explore a world intimately linked to the Known World but also brazenly different – it was handled and explained so well that I’m unable to decide which place is better.

The build towards the novel’s climax was suitably inexorable and tension-filled – the menace was palpable, leading me to not even want to guess at the conclusion in Book 3; the ‘good guys’ just seemed so overwhelmed that I had no idea how they were going to survive or triumpf – a very good thing to keep readers hooked and worrying.

All things considered, The Other Lands was an excellent bridging novel between the beginning of the trilogy and its conclusion in that it wasn’t only a bridging novel: it was a tale all its own, carrying forward some of the arcs (plot- and character-wise) from Book 1, creating satisfying new arcs, and leaving mysteries for The Sacred Band to explain. It’s the kind of novel that stands above most of the other Epic Fantasy novels on the shelves today – not least because of David’s Historical Fiction background, and shows that David is not only an author who can build convincing worlds but also a writer who excels at telling the all-important human stories within his beautiful and fantastical canvas. Highly recommended!

9 / 10

The Sacred Band

And now we come to what, especially in Epic Fantasy, is considered the make-or-break volume in a trilogy: the final book.

The first thing I’ll say is that I was pleasantly misled by the wonderful cover – and that David seems to have had the foresight to write a tale that not only explained the cover but then also surprised us with that explanation. Too many times a novel (especially Fantasy and its attendant sub-genres) are judged by the covers – whether in the stores before purchase or after putting the book down, and its rare that a cover manages to suit the novel (notice the plethora of Character-focused covers nowadays), so when an author manages to write a novel that gives the prospective reader an idea of what is awaiting him or her in the book -without having any directing input in the creation of the cover- that’s a well-done thing indeed. I know that David wrote the book first, believe me, but I truly like the cover for The Sacred Band because of the many layers of stories in the cover, all present in the novel. 🙂 So, (whoever you are because I just can’t seem to find info on the artist / designer of the cover), well done, awesome cover!

Onto the meat and mead of the novel:

After the end of The Other Lands only one thing was for sure – the shit was going to hit the fan. David had manoeuvred his characters to where they needed to be and this invariably left them in places that were incredibly dangerous – Corrin in the Known World, having to prepare for a massive war, Mena in the ice trying to prepare herself for the coming carnage and Dariel in the Other Lands, facing not only hostile natives but approaching overlords…

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t think David will be able to pull this climax off. Why? Well, because of the threats facing the Akaran siblings and the Known World. I’ve read another book recently where the threat is just so massive that it couldn’t really be dealt with, and as I was feverishly plowing through The Sacred Band I was genuinely worried (readers of the novels will know what threats I’m talking about – I’d rather not spoil it for those that haven’t), but David not only managed to bring the climax, but also to bring it in a manner that was both satisfying and true to the characters and the story-arc they were part of. A tall order, indeed, when the characters didn’t suffer because of it – and neither did the tension, the action, the menace, the humanity. The novel and the series doesn’t end the way you think it will, I guarantee it – but the ending, and where this ending leaves the characters and the world, is immensely satisfying. 🙂

Why am I not giving you any actual detail about the book itself, the characters, etc.? Well, to do so would spoil much of what is set up in Book 2 and all of what happens in The Sacred Band. 🙂 I felt the ending was perfect and definitely consider it the most important part of the series – not because it should be but because it brings full-circle and basically explains the heart of what David was doing in this trilogy. More than that I don’t feel I should have to say – it’s an incredible book and an incredible trilogy, definitely one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of reading. 🙂

9 / 10

Trilogy Rating: 9 / 10

To order your copies of The Other Lands, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

To order your copies of The sacred Band, click here for Amazon US, here for Amazon UK, and here if you’re in South Africa.

And do head over and check out David’s website – you can read excerpts from the novels, there are order-links, and David also runs a blog there. In case you didn’t know, David has also written:

Gabriel’s Story,

Walk Through Darkness,

and Pride of Carthage.

David’s next novel will focus on telling the story of Spartacus. 🙂

Until next time,

Be EPIC!

UPDATE: Thanks to fellow reader Andre Philander, the guy responsible for The Sacred Band’s awesome cover is Paul A Romano. Thanks Andre!

Final UPDATE: It appears Andre made a mistake and that Wikipedia is also wrong: the true artist is this man – and he work is AWESOME.

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Reviews

 

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