Author: Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: November 29, 2011
This review contains minor spoilers.
Star Wars: Shadow Games is a book that might have slipped under the radar of many fans. This standalone novel, set just before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, doesn’t reveal the history of a famous piece of Star Wars lore or weave a galaxy-spanning tale of great significance. Instead, it turns its focus toward a new character: the famous pop star Javul Charn, whose tour comes under attack at every turn. Javul ends up bringing on Dash Rendar as her security chief who, in typical smuggler fashion, is in desperate need of some credits. Of course, things don’t exactly turn out Dash initially suspected. The result is a fun, lighthearted story which also manages to incorporate elements of mystery and suspense.
Longtime fans will probably remember Dash Rendar from the Shadows of the Empire multimedia event in the late-1990s, which spanned books, comics, games, and even an official soundtrack. Dash was originally created to fill in for Han Solo, who was frozen in carbonite during the events of Shadows of the Empire. Thankfully, Dash was not–and continues to avoid being–a simple carbon copy of Han. The two characters share much in common, but the subtleties are enough to make them distinct, interesting characters with an almost brotherly rivalry. Han himself actually plays a fairly large role in Shadow Games. Chewbacca, however, is only referred to in passing, as he is taking care of family matters on Kashyyyk during the events of the book.
Accompanying Dash on his journey are his co-pilot, Eaden Vrill, and a recently acquired droid named LE-BO2D9. The genuinely funny “Leebo” becomes Dash’s co-pilot by the events of Shadows of the Empire, and the authors do a good job explaining how this came to be. Eaden, however, isn’t necessarily a throwaway character. He’s a Nautolan master of the Teräs Käsi martial arts form, a skill which is assisted by his slight Force-sensitivity. The setup is somewhat similar to that of Jaden Korr and Khedryn Faal in Riptide.
Out of all of the main players in Shadow Games, Javul ended up being the most fascinating. Many readers might initially write off the holostar as a diva, as Dash himself did. But the authors slowly peel away the character’s layers over time, revealing new facets about the singer that twist the reader’s perception of Javul and the story as a whole.
Dash was initially hired to protect Javul from a fan-turned-stalker, but he quickly discovers that the situation is much worse. Most of the book ends up playing out like a mystery novel, with Dash, Javul, and the rest of the tour’s crew often confined to their ships while traveling between destinations. Danger, both the frightening and life-threatening variety, surrounds Javul at every turn. Everyone from the ship’s cargo master to the engineer is a potential suspect. Then, about two-thirds of the way through the book, a few key elements are revealed which take the story in a decidedly different, yet exciting, direction.
Of course, the book is not without flaw. Some of the word choices, in particular, seemed to be a bit strange. Shyriiwook is referred to as “Wookieespeak” at one point, a minor nitpick that is corrected a few pages later. A more glaring example is the repeated use of “Interceptor-class Star Destroyer,” rather than the correct term, “Interdictor-class Star Destroyer.” To be fair, Jagged Fel refers to the ships as Interceptors in Fate of the Jedi: Ascension, but this is the only other known instance of this usage in the Expanded Universe. Shadow Games also includes a throwaway reference to a costume designer’s former position as the man in charge of Lando Calrissian’s wardrobe on Cloud City. Unfortunately, Lando did not become the Baron Administrator of Bespin’s finest floating city until much later. The only part of the book that seemed unnecessary, however, was the final showdown between Dash and Javul’s “stalker,” as that plot thread seemed to have been satisfactorily wrapped up a few chapters earlier. But, in all honesty, these very small quibbles are a testament to how good the book actually is.
It’s hard to review the plot of Shadow Games without going into spoileriffic detail. Suffice to say that, while Shadow Games doesn’t have a major impact on the galaxy as a whole, it is certainly a fun ride. The intrigue and mystery will keep readers guessing–although there were a few plot points that you could see coming a mile away–and the action and adventure will keep fans on the edge of their seat. Best of all, it neatly wraps up the story in a satisfactory manner, with only one or two questions–like the exact contents of a mysterious container and Javul’s connection with another character–left unanswered. Don’t overlook Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff’s latest entry to the Star Wars universe. Shadow Games may not seem like much on the outside, but it’s got it where it counts.
Reviewed by William Devereux
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