Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse
Author: Troy Denning
Release Date: March 13, 2012
Reviewed By: Chris Carey
Fate of the Jedi is a series that has been plagued with problems from its start. It followed after the poor Legacy of the Force series, with the rather outrageous decision to be a series that would be released entirely in hardcover. The creative team boasted that the series would contain no major deaths, neutering any sense of danger in the books. It’s a series that has had release delays, and authors were forced to beef up their books with additional subplots after the stories were releasing at a paltry page count. It has been a series without major reveals, without space battles, and without a sense of identity. Apocalypse goes a long way toward addressing the concerns that fans have had with Fate of the Jedi, but even this massive, almost-500 page book can’t fix everything.
If you haven’t been reading Fate of the Jedi, don’t bother starting with Apocalypse. It’s the last book in a 9 book series, and it throws the reader right into the action from the beginning. It’s rather absurd that, published almost a year after Ascension, there’s nothing at the start of the book to remind readers of what has happened so far. The action kicks off right from the opening pages, and it’s a lot of fun to read. It actually gets to a point where readers are likely to feel fatigued from the constant action. The opening action feels like it would be home in the climax of any other book, and starting Apocalypse with this much action just shows the reader how intense the book is going to be. In fact, Apocalypse has something for everyone. There’s a vicious Boba Fett, Raynar Thul visiting Killiks, the Squibs, space battles, an intense (but poignant) death, more Force ghosts, answers to some of the oldest questions in the Star Wars Expanded Universe… yes, there’s a lot in Apocalypse for fans to devour and ponder.
Not every plot in the book is great, but most of them are. The Abeloth plot is creepy and intriguing, and the Jedi/Sith plot starts out very strong, although it does begin to drag about halfway through the book. As pointless as the Han/Leia/Allana plot seems at first, it ends up packing quite a punch. The only weak link in this book was the subplot between Jagged Fel and Daala, which felt entirely unrealistic. It’s an important plot, because of how it strategically places the characters involved throughout the book, but it was so unrealistic that those portions of the story are almost impossible to read without developing a headache. The Big Three (Luke, Han, Leia) are all written great, and flow with their characterizations from earlier in the series without any issues. Ben is as loveable as ever, and Jaina finally returns to the forefront of the story in a role that truly suits her. This is the Jaina that fans love, and readers will likely be impressed with her characterization this time around. Allana, on the other hand, seems starkly different in Apocalypse. She’s a 9-year-old girl, but her dialogue makes her sound like an adult. Readers might also be disappointed to learn that she takes part in some action sequences, and it’s a little unnerving to see this little girl kill without hesitation.
Vestara is a real highlight of this book. She’s so nuanced and deep, and she’s really grown throughout the series. Little things, like how she lies or the methods in which she kills someone, are subtle indicators to remind the reader of her background. It’s great. Readers will switch back and forth throughout Apocalypse, sometimes loving her and sometimes hating her. That is exactly how characters, like Ben Skywalker, react to her. In essence, Denning is putting the reader right into the story by making us care about Vestara in such a profound way. Her arc reaches a satisfying ending in Apocalypse‘s closing pages, but it isn’t what most readers would necessarily expect. It makes sense for her character, though, and readers will appreciate the effort Denning took to keep her an exciting and interesting character, while leaving the future open.
The villains of Apocalypse, Abeloth, the Lost Tribe of the Sith, and Daala, are really the weakest part of the book. The Lost Tribe has been radically marginalized for the majority of Fate of the Jedi. From their introduction, it has been clear that they are no threat to Luke Skywalker – and thus, they lose all credibility as villains. Even though there are thousands of them on Coruscant in Apocalypse, there are no Sith that have been fleshed out and can stand on their own as villains. They are merely throwaway characters, and readers won’t bat an eye when Luke finds himself stuck in the Jedi Temple with a vast majority of them. Daala, on the other hand, started the series as a credible, though uneven, villain. While her role in Apocalypse is larger than in some of the previous books, she’s still a character that has been extremely underutilized.
Abeloth is an odd villain to place, though. This is a character that has been a nebulous villain for the majority of the series; an unknown quantity with an unknown origin. It’s hard to take Abeloth seriously when readers are unaware of the threat she possesses. Her background is unveiled in Apocalypse (in true Denning fashion, however), tying her character to The Clone Wars television show. This is a major revelation, and it’s going to either excite or disappoint the readers. Denning doesn’t take the time to really delve into the details, leaving those who have watched the television show with hundreds of questions. Those who have not seen the television show will likely consider Abeloth’s background to be akin to information overload. It is disappointing to realize that Fate of the Jedi was already halfway published before The Clone Wars episodes that tie into Abeloth’s story were aired – meaning that Abeloth’s background, the background to the villain of this entire series, wasn’t decided on until the series neared its end. The concept is interesting, but it feels like it was shoehorned in. Fate of the Jedi has now thrown in with The Clone Wars, and if the show decides to revisit that storyline and totally invalidate the premise that Denning has offered readers in this book, things will likely take a very ugly turn.
Apocalypse is a fun read, and whether readers choose to experience it because they love Fate of the Jedi or they’re just glad that this series has reached its conclusion, readers will be satisfied with the ending. Apocalypse doesn’t just feel like an ending to the series, though. It feels like the start of a new era. As usual, Denning doesn’t wrap all the loose ends up nicely, but there are no major problems with what has been left open-ended. Instead, this offers various jumping off points that standalone books or duologies can tackle. For once, it’s clear that the future of the Expanded Universe won’t hinge on a huge multi-book, multi-author series. Apocalypse, despite its ominous title, offers a glimpse of hope that many fans have been patiently waiting for.