The Dark Nest Series: Book 1; The Joiner King (2005)
It’s been almost eight years since I’ve picked up an Expanded Universe (EU) novel. The last time would have been The Unifying Force right before I went to university. Much has happened in the EU since then, with two major plot unfolding and several mini-series along the way. To get back into things and kinda serve as a refresher, I chose this series to dive back into the EU…could’ve picked better
From the back of the book:
Luke Skywalker is worried: A handful of Jedi Knights, including his nephew and niece, Jaina and Jacen Solo, have disappeared into the Unknown Regions in response to a strange cry for help that only they could hear. Now the alien Chiss have angrily lodged a formal complaint, accusing the missing Jedi of meddling in a border dispute between the Chiss and an unidentified aggressor.
Luke has no choice but to head to the Unknown Regions for serious damage control. Han and Leia follow, intent on protecting their children from what could be grave danger. But none of them are prepared for what they find when they reach their destination.
A colony of mysterious aliens is expanding toward the edge of Chiss space. The leader of the alien nest is resolute. Adept in the Force, he is drawing old friends to his side, compelling them to join the colony and meld their Force-abilities with his, even if it leads to all-out war…
It’s been some time since the conclusion of the Yuuzhan Vong War…apparently six years. Apparently the galaxy is rebuilding, though you won’t see much of that. In fact, the most you will see of the war-ravaged, familiar galaxy is a few token moments all marked with the corruption that has taken hold of the galaxy. It’s a dirty, complex place that has numerous challenges everyday that threatens to spread the Jedi too thin and you will be left wishing to see more as the Myrkyr gang forget their Jedi duty and take off for the stars because of a strange feeling…
The confused, and slightly dark side leaning, Jedi Council is already battling inner turmoil with a serious debate over morals but when the government they serve (or shouldn’t serve – according to some Councillors) demands Luke control his Jedi – Luke asks how high. See, the Chiss are feeling nervous and their influence with the Galactic Alliances makes the government feel nervous. So the government reneges on a deal with the Jedi, causing them to go deal with their youth.
What both groups meet out there, with Jacen, Han & Leia joining the groups, is a strange race of creatures that may (or may not) have been around for thousands of millenniums, inter-racial orgies (complete with awkward morning after pillow talk), and a talking Ewok that no one seems to question the logic behind…
Welcome back to the EU, Raiju. Weird is the norm.
Ugh…it’s annoying to write this book’s title. I took one look at this title before I started and I nearly put the book back. In fairness, once the book is over the title makes complete sense - which it should! However, “The Joiner King” is not a very inviting title, especially when I think of a new comer to the Expanded Universe – but, after reading this book you will also see it’s not for new comers.
I don’t know why this is not called Star by Star 2 or has some reference as a sequel to that book. Its by Troy Denning (author of Star by Star), it is all about the strike team that went on the Myrkyr mission, and its even about going after some strange creatures again. The thing is, Star by Star was great – it was a pivotal moment in the New Jedi Order series; and this book does set up an interesting new storyline and character developments for the Expanded Universe. So why that hell is it called the Joiner King?! Ugh…
As I already mentioned, this book is by Troy Denning. I do think that is a loose statement though. While this book, and entire Dark Nest series, is penned by Troy Denning; he clearly had input from a number of other EU authors. Multiple EU storylines are connected or launched from this book – including setting the stage for the next big EU series. There are also the token connections to the film prequels, which isn’t surprising given the date this book was published, so Lucas had to have some input on the novel.
Nonetheless, those connections in the storyline aside, this book is true to Denning’s form. The writing is engaging, moving the storyline along with a nice pace. Familiar characters are (sometimes annoyingly) true to their form. There’s not much literary risk or development, its just straight to the story telling – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s Star Wars, what we are looking for is; some creative story arcs, lots of action, and a few token catchphrases from your favourite character – check, check, check.
However, Denning does flirt with the genre a bit. While Star Wars is based in space, it very much is fantasy based. There’s this all-powerful magic-like thing that strings together the universe and there isn’t much scientific thought. Remember Phantom Menance and the minichlo-whatevers? There’s a reason scientific thought shouldn’t be included in Star Wars – because its not really a sci-fi. However, that said, Denning does do a good job making Star Wars flirt with the sci-fi genre. Big, gross bugs? Exploration of the Myrkyr gang’s mental connection? And tough challenges to the character’s moral codes? It’s almost like Star Wars could be sci-fi…
Why you need to read it:
I’ll simplify it:
- Fall out of the Myrkyr mission, answers many of the big and small questions
- Jacen being awesome, after NJO I hated this kid. This novel won me back
- Exploration of other Jedi/Force-using orders. Cool new force powers
- See Fel go through emotional hell with the stiff upper lip the Chiss gave him
- Chiss society development
- Ben Skywalker, best character development. He wants to be Han (don’t we all?)
- Sets up an interesting storyline
Why you may not want to read it (yet):
- Relies heavily on knowledge of the NJO series
- Is a little weird for the EU, which is weird itself so you need to be familiar
- Very much a lean towards sci-fi, don’t read if in a fantasy mood
Why you may want to throw the book at the wall:
- A couple fight scenes are awkwardly written, one which was just completely started out of the blue and made me feel like I was on acid (when that day I clearly wasn’t)
- Beginning is a bit awkward, see first paragaph of Raiju’s synopsis.
- Jaine and Zekk’s relationship, and freaky bug orgies (Yup...It goes there…)
- Han’s smuggler tag along is just by-the-book annoying
- Talking Ewok…ugh
- R2-D2 has access to prequel information he wasn’t around for
For the most part, same old people. Which kinda sucks because the Yuuzhan Vong War left it feeling like a lot of them would change. But in the end, it’s mostly just the characters talking about how they feel they changed. Few act like they have, except the notable few who are to the extreme (Jedi using force lightning is apparently okay…).
However, the moral dilemmas facing Luke and even the Jedi Council as a whole does set up an interesting plot that I wish to follow. Its clear Luke is struggling with a number of things, from his personal crap like Ben not wanting to use the force ad R2-D2 having recordings on Anakin Skywalker to his Jedi duties and wondering what is really bad or good anymore. A neat scene that drains Luke physically may foreshadow the fall out of all this, or at least tie nicely back to the original films – gonna have to keep reading for this.
For what faults this book has, there are many things that kept me reading through this book at a great pace. However, if I were new to the Expanded Universe I certainly wouldn’t be reading another. So this really is a book for those already dedicated to the Expanded Universe and it will dismiss those that are feeling iffy about the EU.
1 – Thunderwave: Leaves you wishing you were dead
2 - Thundershock: It’s a jolt, but that’s about it
3 – Shockwave: Bit of a punch, may paralysis
4 – Thunderbolt: Better not be water, this hits hard and rarely misses
5 – Thunder: It’s super effective