*Editor’s Note: This is a really, really old review, one of the first I wrote in the original thread and so it’s a lot less plot heavy than a lot of my summaries are now. So much so that I seriously considered trying to heavily rework this one and include a lot of plot summary and such. But I don’t think I’m going to do so. For one thing, this is one that I highly recommend; if you haven’t read it yet, you really need to do so. For another, the plot is fairly simple. Anyway, I still feel somewhat guilty about not walking through the plot in some detail, the way I do with my reviews now. I’ve posted other old reviews without doing much except cleaning up grammar and flow and that kind of thing, but this is by far the one that I just gloss over the most. I don’t think I really talk about a single actual event in this story. But I think I’ll let it stand. It’s different, but nothing wrong with that.
*A few words about redemption. It’s at the heart of a lot of great, great literature. It’s a wonderful, beautiful word and I think to some degree, we’re all searching for redemption, the idea of atoning for our mistakes and reaching some sort of a feeling of purity and success. The idea of coming back from our failures and our wounds and doing something worthwhile and powerful is a strong and an evocative one. One that, frankly, I’ve failed to even begin to do justice here.
*I said at the beginning of this series that I’d discuss how the works of EU relate to other works of art. This one’s just too big to even begin to discuss. The idea of redemption is a truly permeating one. And it never fails to move me. Maybe it’s the Christian idea of Jesus redeeming the world, Scrooge whispering “Back payments, back payments,” Royal Tenenbaum staring over the table and saying, “Can’t a guy be a **** his whole life and then just try to make up for it?” Maybe it’s Lord Jim taking that long walk into the village, a dead man’s ring in his hand. Maybe it’s Mitya Karamazov consigning himself to a life of suffering, knowing he doesn’t have to. Sometimes it’s a big thing, a show stopper like a dying soldier telling another, “Earn this.” Sometimes it’s a small thing that seems barely worth mentioning, like a father tossing the game ball his son just gave him up in the air. Regardless, it’s redemption. Redemption, as Caedmon’s Call said it, is a road and its one we’re all walking at varying speeds and with varying stories. But redemption is the name of the game.
*Anyway, if redemption isn’t the most personally evocative word in the English language for me, it’s in the top ten. So I went into this book with high hopes.
*Ten years after the events of The Sith War, which is enough time for our characters to have grown.
*The art here are uniformly fantastic. The scenery is gorgeous and the characters are both recognizable and changed. Ulic, especially, is brilliant, all haggard lines and haunted eyes. Fantastic.
*Even Sylvar, a character who was so cardboard it was ridiculous in the original stories, comes across as real and breathing here. She has several truly fine and emotional moments.
*What’s so great about this story is that it’s more than just Ulic’s search for redemption. It’s about Nomi’s search as well and even more so about Sylvar’s.
*At the end of The Sith War, I blasted Nomi Sunrider quite harshly. Vima gets off a great line, speaking of Ulic: “I think my mother resented him more for leaving us than for the crimes he committed.” Bingo. Dead on target. See, when they made Nomi into that kind of a dark hearted character in The Sith War, I did not believe that they would ever actually explore that weakness. But they do so here. I thought it was unintentional by the authors. Apparently not. Apparently, it was shading. Kudos for not being afraid to look at the negative side of your “good” characters.
*And, amazingly, the authors pull of Vima’s rather rebellious and whiny character without making her the least bit annoying. Rather she seems supremely tragic and strong of heart. That’s amazing. Most of the time these kinds of characters are so annoying I can’t stand them.
*Some people said that the characters here are clichéd. And perhaps they are familiar: the wounded warrior struggling for redemption, the distant mother, the angry and grieving survivor, the disconnected teenage girl hungry for a male mentor. But to a greater degree, these characters are archetypes, not stereotypes, characters that seem so deeply ingrained in our conscious minds (and our unconscious ones) that they seem old friends.
*Toward supporting this, I’ll mention the ring that Ulic wears on a cord around his neck. I honestly cannot recall the significance of this ring. Is it something of Cay’s? Of Arca’s? Perhaps a gift from Nomi? Perhaps an intended gift FOR Nomi? Darned if I know. But I don’t need to know. I know instantly and instinctively that it means something important and, frankly, that’s all that is important.
*Another complaint levied at this series is that it’s plotless. And it certainly is meandering and methodical. Someone said nothing really happens. No, unless you count the struggles of four separate individuals to come to terms with their mistakes and rectify their lives. Other than that, nothing happens.
*I should mention that in previous books in this series, worlds have fallen, body counts have ranged into the millions, etc, etc. But it was all so much sound and fury, signifying nothing since we didn’t really care about any of the characters. This installment focuses on the much more compelling and resonant areas of struggle, the interior ones. This gets down where we live and, by doing so, manages to actually have a powerful message of forgiveness and hope.
*And the ending made me cry. Really. It’s truly beautiful and moving. Powerful and thought provoking.
*I mean, there’s so many great moments here; the snowball fight is a real classic. And I deeply, deeply love Sylvar’s line, “Of all the people to free from my hate . . . it was you.” But I mean, it all builds to that ending, which I put on my top twenty EU moments when I did that list a few years ago. I think it was in my top ten actually. Anyway, “he had the heart of a Jedi.”
*Yes, I know it’s a work by Kevin J. Anderson. I find the fact that it is moving, resonant and powerful just as bizarre as you do. I’m shocked.
*CANONICAL STATUS: While many of the tellings of the Sith War are corrupted, this story of the survivors of that conflict is considered extremely accurate. Events most likely transpired exactly or almost exactly as depicted here. This work is RECOMMENDED as a historical resource.
Kevin J. Anderson
*Next time? Well, if it’s Tales of the Jedi, it must be a retelling. Join me next time for Chronicles of the Old Republic: The Redemption of Ulic Qel-Droma.