Review – Knights of the Old Republic vol 7: Dueling Ambitions

A new beginning of sorts starts with volume 7 of Knights of the Old Republic, with Zayne free from the charges that had plagued him up until now. The group we’ve grown accustomed to following can go on new adventures, find new trouble, and most importantly seek out new ways to make money. I went into this volume expecting not to like it – most people seem to not care for this arc of the story – but I was pleasantly surprised to find it very compelling, and I’ll tell you why after the break.

What’s funny is, it’s not the art that’s very compelling about this volume. It goes from only mildly weak (like the weaker parts of other KOTOR volumes) to downright bad – but it’s the story in this case that kept me reading, and was in fact downright engaging. It starts with the opening chapter called Prophet Motive, which finds the group (sans Zayne, who’s taking a vacation) infiltrating a black-market-run “wall street” of sorts, where people are buying and selling the rights to planets (and their resources) that have only just been discovered, but not yet actually explored. Grpyh has a plan to fool them into a bidding war on one of these previously sold planets, by having Jarael pose as a pissed off member of that planet, and talking up how much it’s really worth. Of course, the sceme goes bad, and Zayne does NOT arrive in the nick of time – but Jarael saves herself and Rohlan by using the Force… a revelation that gets mostly skipped in the next chapter.

Faithful Execution is a one off tale where the crew find a wreck to salvage, only it turns out there’s still one occupant and his droid. It’s one of those stories where the reader is led to believe one thing before the rug is pulled out from under us, but really what works best is the fact that ELBEE is finally brought back to the forefront in this story, after having been ignored for a long time now (essentially since Camper left the series). Zayne starts to build his friendship with the droid, something bound to come in handy in the future.

And finally in Dueling Ambitions, Zayne and Jarael go on a date to a Dueling Arena. This is a spot where participants fight each other in a popular reality show that the galaxy loves to watch. Gryph has another plan to con people out of money, but Zayne and Rohlan find themselves as contestants in the sport, along the way discovering the underbelly and reality of what’s really going on. Dueling is just a mask for slavery, with most of the contestants forced to play endlessly with no way to escape. As Zayne and his friends work to expose the slavery circuit, they discover a very important truth about Jarael – that she in fact was once a slaver herself.

Maybe it’s just that I find Jarael a compelling character, maybe I had grown tired of the Zayne as framed padawan storyline, but I was really happy with the direction this book took in this volume. More often that not, we’re still dealing with the mis-adventures of this group of characters – but they’re such fun personalities and it’s such a rollicking good time – I understand why people are quick to point out that this series in particular captures the essence of Star Wars so well. This series is still highly recommended reading, and I enjoyed this particular volume enough to suggest that it is a good follow up to Vindication, and one that’s very much necessary in setting up the plot for the next two volumes.

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