I went into Crucible slightly hopeful and also without very high expectations, hoping that this book would surprise me. Unfortunately, it failed miserably. Instead of moving forward and away from some of the less liked bits of the last ten years of the Expanded Universe, Crucible latches on to those bits and runs with them. Readers who haven’t read Fate of the Jedi will be lost about a great many plot points, which makes it a failure as a standalone novel. The best way that I can describe this book is that it takes the worst plotlines from Fate of the Jedi, adds in lot of arrogant Jedi superiority, and then a final dash of Crystal Star at the end. Unfortunately, no Star Wars fan ever said “The Expanded Universe needs more plotlines like the Crystal Star!’ and for good reason. If this is really going to be the last big adventure for Luke, Leia, and Han, then I am oh so sorry for all three of them.
Mild Spoilers Beneath The Cut
The plot isn’t overly complicated. Lando asks Han and Leia to assist him in fighting back against a corporate takeover by the Qreph brothers out near the Rift. It’s near where one of the Quest Knights was last before her communications ceased so Luke Skywalker decides to join them. Needless to say, it’s a trap and now Luke and Leia have to save Han from the Qrephs and their hired help: Mirta Gev and her Mandalorians and Vestara Khai. Unfortunately, the Qrephs are bent on galactic domination and getting revenge on Han Solo for supposedly shooting their mother. They’ve also been experimenting with a form of cloning by growing biots and are trying to give themselves Force powers. With a little help from Lando, Ben, and Tahiri, the Skywalker siblings set out to save Han and encounter some strange Force entity that could mean the end of the galaxy as they know it.
The first chapter starts okay and has some promise but it immediately goes downhill. The plot is ridiculous at best and Denning once more reverts to information dumping and does so frequently throughout the book. Established characters are written in such a way that often strains credulity and the Big Three are put through the torture porn wringer so often that I’m honestly shocked they make it through the book alive. It felt like there was very little reason for Ben or Tahiri to be in this book much less working together after what happened in Legacy of the Force and their presence was just an afterthought to fill up page space and to say they were in the book. I don’t often say this about Star Wars novels but I’m honestly struggling to find something in this book that I sincerely liked. In all fairness, the book isn’t awful the entire time. Occasionally, a glimpse of a fun adventure story peaked through only to disappear not long later into an onslaught of action or some more commentary on how only the Jedi can handle themselves in a fight, which brings me to one of my biggest complaints with the book.
This book is riddled with a Jedi superiority sentiment right from the start. The second chapter immediately set my teeth on edge. I don’t dislike the Jedi but unfortunately, the arrogance and the attitudes displayed by almost every single one of those characters* made me angry beyond belief. To borrow a line from Battlestar Galactica, all of this has happened before and all of it will happen again. It would not surprise me in the least if the Jedi Order were to fall again because they are making many of the same mistakes that the previous Order did. To top it off, the dismissal of the abilities of non-Force Sensitive characters throughout the book irritated me to no end. I kept asking myself “Will the real Han Solo and the real Lando Calrissian please stand up and punch all of these Jedi for saying that they aren’t capable of handling themselves in a fight or flying a ship?” It floors me that characters like Luke or Ben would have the gall to say something like this with such frequency especially to Lando.
*The exceptions were Corran Horn and to some extent, Jaina Solo.
I was originally excited that both Vestara Khai and Mirta Gev would have starring roles in this book. This was foolish. Mirta gets treated terribly throughout the novel and Vestara Khai has been reduced (due in part to events of Fate of the Jedi) to nothing more than another dark sider. In this book, they are both one-dimensional characters who are used to further the ridiculous plot and are even frequently objectified. One of the Qrephs thinks about how attractive Vestara is numerous times in the book and even makes a creepy clone of her and poor Mirta is made to wear a slinky black dress and then some dealer outfit instead of her beskar’gam just for the heck of it. They both deserve better than that. Vestara seems to have just slid into the generic evil lady who wants revenge trope. As for Mirta, not only are the Mandalorians essentially used as cannon fodder but apparently her (and Boba Fett’s) only driving motivation for doing anything anymore is finding a cure for that nanovirus that prevents them from returning home to Mandalore which is a good motivation but it’s being overused at this point. All of this is a disservice to both characters.
The ending is what made me give up on the book entirely To call it ridiculous would be kind. This isn’t what Star Wars is about which makes it fall flat enough to make some readers throw down the book in frustration. It is so bizarre that I can’t even begin to describe it except to say it’s on the same level as Waru and I don’t know how else to properly paint a picture of this strange Force phenomenon.
Overall, this book is just a disappointment. It was billed as a standalone final adventure for Luke, Leia, and Han but instead relies too much upon Fate of the Jedi plotlines and cannot stand on its own.
I give Crucible a 1.5/5 and cannot, in good consciousness, recommend this book.
Note: Thank you to Random House and Net Galley for providing an advance copy to review.