The third of what will be nine spoiler-free reviews of Fate of the Jedi is ready. For those of you like me who hear “spoiler” and run as far in the other direction as possible, you can finally find out if Troy Denning’s Abyss– his first Star Wars novel since the controversial ending to Legacy of the Force – is any good or not.
Jedi Grand Master Luke Skywalker and his son Ben don’t know what they risk as they plague the secrets of the Mind Walkers. Nor do they know the dangers that face them even here. Back home, the other Jedi face off on their own unfamiliar battlefield- the world of courts and politicks.
Ah, Troy Denning. You know we love you, and yet… there’s just been something off, ever since Inferno.
This is Abyss. To begin with, as brief a summary as fits the constraints of a spoiler-free review. As Omen left off, Ship had left the Tribe, who was in turn searching for the Skywalkers, as the Skywalkers were headed to encounter the mysterious Force users of the Maw. The Jedi were hiding their mentally ill members from Chief of State Daala, and the press were making every effort to eat them alive. Up to speed yet?
As with the other installments of Fate of the Jedi, Abyss is remarkable for one of the best hand-offs in the Expanded Universe. This is no Tempest, with its “Boba Fett has a grand daughter? I wonder when Sacrifice will tell us more about that?”, nor is it the New Jedi Order with its particular curiosities. No, this is the series where the hand-off is the focus, and the works pays off. After that, the plot continues… what’s the word… naturally. That’s right, the plot moves. It doesn’t always make sense, of course, but in its own way, it’s not intended to. Still, the plot moves naturally.
Why is it not supposed to make sense? What the hell are you talking about? To give a couple of varying points of view, I’ve heard one reviewer refer to this novel as “Troy Denning beat Joe Schreiber to writing the first Star Wars horror novel”. I, personally, felt this as more of a mystery or a thriller novel. While I normally reveal a spoiler-filled yet barely coherent read-through thread to accompany each new release, any fans I may have might be shocked to discover no such thread this time. While I normally flip a page and respond “holy kriff!”, this time, I generally flipped the page like “what did I just read, and what does it mean?” There were very few OMG moments (not to say that there weren’t any), and yet, I was entranced reading every page of this novel as I was when I read Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor.
There are a lot of mysteries here, and you really get a chance to work your thought processes and see what kind of a fan you are. “Is this [plot point] this [canon thing]?” some ask. I, personally, ask “is this something we’re aware of?” The mysteries never stop coming, as it seems almost every chapter asks us another question about either the past, present or future, whether it’s a question about character relationships, group affiliations, or even species’ roles the possibilities of the Force.
The mysteries are definitely the best part, as the concrete scenes leave something to be desired. If you agree or even understand my first comment above, you can see what I mean. Unnecessary jumps in the plot that can be filled in by the reader but would be much better filled in by the author, a narrow focus which means that points of view I think would really have enhanced some scenes were left by the wayside.
Characterization, for the most part, is pretty good. I can think of one particular character who grated my nerves more than I feel that character should have, but as I reflect on the character, it’s possible the author simply knows them better than I do. It’s a possibility. Otherwise, the character dilemmas and choices seemed to fit, and I didn’t have any trouble believing the characters.
In the end, while not one of my favorite novels, Abyss is a worthy edition to the Star Wars pantheon and the works of Troy Denning. While it didn’t address some of the issues I’ve had with his writing as I hoped it might, he continued to deliver at the same level that he’s consistently been known for. Definitely worth a read.