Part II of our Fate of the Jedi review looks into new characters, the authors, loose ends, and gives a score for the series as a whole. Be sure to read the first part here.
To the jump!
Building New Characters
Fate of the Jedi might have constituted one of the better character building efforts since New Jedi Order ended. Character death took somewhat of a backseat for the first time in several years and we got to see the emergence of several new (or newly fleshed out) individuals who may prove to be useful down the line. Seha Dorvald, Yaqeel Saav’etu, Jysella and Valin Horn are younger characters that can now be plugged into stories, perhaps serving as a new foundation as the age of existing characters threatens the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief.
One character in particular that seems ready to step into future narratives is Wynn Dorvan, the quietly brilliant politician who served as a foil to Daala’s hubris. Since Leia and Mon Mothma left office, the expanded universe seems to have found itself lacking in intriguing political characters. Dorvan promises to at least be competent at his job and engaging in the story. While there’s still more work to be done in the development department, all of these characters can be useful moving forward and it’s refreshing to see an effort has finally been made to strengthen that pool.
Ben Skywalker might have taken the biggest step forward in the series. Under Allston in particular, Ben has become a much more complete character that is ready to carry the story by himself. He’s been a pleasant change of pace from the grittiness of the last several years, demonstrating a sense of humor and snark that has been lacking. For me, one the most enjoyable parts of each book was watching the verbal interplay between Ben and Luke. Or Ben and Vestara. Or Ben and whatever character was nearby. His personality has become one that lends itself well to a narrative and likely will prove to be a great takeaway.
If I had to rank the novels in order of effectiveness, I think it would look something like this:
It’s Allston at the top of the list, and for a good reason I think. His three novels felt like Star Wars stories. The right balance of action, drama, and levity (the latter of which the expanded universe has been missing since NJO ended). While we can quibble with the effectiveness some of the subplots in his books, those subplots were generally ones that were poor throughout the entire series regardless of who was writing it. Much of what happened on Coruscant tended to drag and it didn’t seem to matter who was writing.
Golden was fairly average, but I honestly don’t know how many conclusions we can draw from her three entries into Fate of the Jedi. The second leg in the 9/3 format seems to be the one that is stuck in set-piece limbo. In the way this series was structured, Golden’s books were destined to be in an odd place narratively. That said, I think she generally did as much as she could with what she was given. I did enjoy how she handled a lot of the Luke and Ben scenes. Based on what she’s demonstrated both in these three books and what I’ve read by her outside of Star Wars, I think she’s an author that could be effective in a standalone or duology setting.
Denning is hurt heavily by Vortex and Apocalypse. The latter was merely an acceptable novel, but the former was sub-par. As mentioned earlier, a part of the problem with this series (as well as Legacy of the Force) was that stretches simply didn’t feel like Star Wars. The majority of those stretches, sadly, were contained within Denning’s books. It’s almost jarring. You have Allston, who is a solid match for the tonal qualities of Star Wars paired up with Denning, who is just about his polar opposite. Denning’s dark and gritty tone and overreliance on action constantly seemed to be at odds with the other writers and Star Wars itself.
If he had been the second-leg writer or even the first-leg, I think the series would have fared better. Using him is the closer for a second straight series seemed unwise. I left Legacy of the Force wondering what really had been accomplished. At the conclusion of Fate of the Jedi, I felt the same way. Perhaps this could have been avoided if the author order had been shaken up.
The Lack of Closure
Star Wars has always been something that fits into the classic dramatic structure format. Introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. While things dragged on at points in the series, Fate of the Jedi did hit the first four points to varying degrees of success. Where it fell flat was the final point. To its credit, the series did manage to wrap up one loose end that’s been lingering for the better part of a decade, Jaina Solo’s Love Polygon of Doom. While many readers (myself included) are happy that this finally has some closure, it unfortunately feels like it’s masking a much bigger problem: too many loose ends and unanswered questions.
There’s nothing wrong with having multiple directions you can go in the future. There is, however, a problem with leaving a 9-book series on a number of cliffhangers. What was the fate of the Jedi? Apparently to get kicked off of Coruscant. What’s Vestara’s fate? Unclear. Slave rebellions? Still ongoing. What happens to Daala? Loses an election bid, but nothing is mentioned beyond that. Does Boba Fett get to return home? Once again, no resolution. Abeloth? Kind of dead, but she’s still around to pull a Diabolus ex Machina on the EU.
And that’s just a sampling of the questions the series failed to answer.
Resolution is important. It provides the reader a release of anxiety and tension, it allows the characters to regain some sense of normalcy. While you can argue how important the traditional dramatic structure is to modern entertainment, it’s a vital component of the Star Wars mythos. Once again we come back to how these books too often don’t feel like the franchise it’s based on. All it takes to fix that problem is some conscious tweaking. Fate of the Jedi introduced a lot of very neat ideas late in the run, but if some those ideas are held off until the start of a new book or series, you’re going to get everything you want. A tight, clear narrative and new directions to go in the future. You don’t need to drop everything in the reader’s lap at one time. Spread it out.
There are some things you really have to like about Fate of the Jedi. For a long time, the EU has been in need of concerted character building efforts and this is the first series in six or seven years to make headway in that regard. A number of spots throughout had that wonderful sense of grandeur that makes Star Wars what it is. It demonstrated why one author has been such a mainstay in the franchise and illuminated one new writer that might be worth keeping around.
It’s an imperfect series to be certain. Too many loose ends. Often too dark. Too many times the philosophy presented within the books was at odds with the source material in the films. This isn’t a series without merit, but it is a series that could have been executed better by perhaps narrowing the scope to improve pacing throughout. So many bombshells and major plot elements introduced so late in the series (in some cases the final book) caused the ending to fall flat and watered down how effective the series ultimately could have been.
In all, it’s an average-ish series that did some things better than its predecessor, Legacy of the Force, but still fell into some of the same traps. The high points are engrossing, but the low points stick out and drag the rest down with it.
Fate of the Jedi earns a 3/5 as a whole.