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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Star Wars: Knight Errant

One thousand years before Luke Skywalker, and a generation before Darth Bane, Star Wars: Knight Errant, written by John Jackson Miller, takes place in the turbulent years of the Old Republic. Jedi Knight Kerra Holt is trapped in Sith controlled space, having just helped several thousand oppressed people escape to the Republic. Now stuck on the capital planet of the Lord Daiman’s empire, Kerra plots and schemes to take down the tyrant and his evil brother, Lord Odion. But other Sith Lords come into play, along with a mercenary crew headed by Brigadier Jarrow Rusher at first working for Daiman, but enlisted by Kerra to save a group of students caught in the crossfire. Kerra will need all of her wits and all of her power to save every life she can and win the day.

This is quite possibly the best Star Wars novel I’ve ever read. What makes it work is that it’s got a very strong cast of characters. Every character is well rounded and individualized, from Kerra Holt herself to the Bothan spy Narsk to bumbling mercenary recruit Beadle Lubboon. The most interesting character in the novel is undoubtedly Rusher, a military history buff and experienced commander. Rusher is a classic anti-hero in the same vein as Han Solo. What differentiates him from Solo, however, is his dedication to his men and his admirable sense of duty, though he doesn’t mind the money. Naturally, he and Kerra don’t get along well at first, but it’s a testament to Miller’s handling of the character development that they’re fire forged friends by the end of the book. They’re both selfless in their own way, with Rusher being the pragmatist and Kerra being the idealist, thus being perfect foils to each other.

The book also has a lot of interesting settings, ranging from the dark police state of Darkknell, which is Lord Daiman’s capital, to the icy Syned, Arkadia’s headquarters. They’re all finely described, the author expertly transporting the reader’s mind to these imaginary places. In addition, the action is well plotted out, keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole time through. We have everything from speeder bike chases to pitched battles to the classic lightsaber duel. Then there’s the tone. This book can be serious when it needs to, but is overall a rather enjoyable and lighthearted read, a nice departure from more grim and serious Star Wars books like the Thrawn trilogy or even the barely readable Fate of the Jedi. In addition, I also liked how the writer focused on details in the lore, such as why the heroes can’t simply escape back to the Republic, or the difficulties of a bunch of different alien species living crammed together in Rusher’s ship, Diligence.

One downside to the book is that there are a lot of villains to keep track of. You’ve got seven named Sith Lords with varying roles, plus a bunch of backstory connecting them all. The sole chink in this book’s armor is that it doesn’t focus on one particular villain for the entire story. In the first half or so of the book, Daiman and Odion are the villains, and then it switches briefly to Calician, Quillian, and Dromika, before Arkadia takes center stage for the last third or so of the book, and in the background is someone manipulating everyone’s puppet strings. All of the Sith Lords seem to have their own unique philosophy when it comes to being a Sith Lord. Daiman imagines himself to be the creator of the universe, while Odion intends to destroy it. Arkadia relies on chaos to produce a semblance of order. But this approach, while unqiue, gets a bit tired after seeing it happen five or six times. Still, all of the Sith Lords are great villains, especially Arkadia, who is more of an anti-villain than anything.

On the whole, this book is worth reading, and is in fact superior to the comics on which it is based (the book serves as  an interquel between the story arcs “Aflame” and “Deluge” in the Star Wars: Knight Errant comic book). The plot and the cast are both excellently written, with superb action and an engaging writing style. It’s a fun, adventurous read which should be on the reading list of any Star Wars fan, or any fantasy or science fiction enthusiast for that matter. Mind you, it’s by no means a perfect book, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if it doesn’t come pretty close.

RATING: 8.5/10

Note: I originally wrote this review as an assignment for my Creative Writing for Publication class. For those who care, I got 95% on it.

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