Author: Troy Denning
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: July 9, 2013
This review contains mild spoilers.
After the tumultuous events of the Legacy of the Force series, the Jedi are once again on the outs. The Galactic Alliance’s Neutrality Act severed all ties with the Jedi in attempt to remove the government from the war between the Jedi and the Sith, and the public is still wary of the Jedi – often going as far as to blame them for the destruction wrought by the Lost Tribe. As a result, the Jedi have retreated to a secluded location to regroup and rebuild under the watchful eye of Grand Master Luke Skywalker, who is himself still recovering from the wound he received courtesy of Abeloth the year before. So when Lando Calrissian asks Han and Leia for assistance with a pirate problem, they jump at the chance to help. Naturally, it isn’t long before the Big Three become entangled in yet another evil scheme.
The majority of Crucible is focused on the Big Three – particularly the relationship between Han and Leia - but veteran Star Wars author Troy Denning manages to fill the book with a number of new and returning characters. Expect fan-favorites Lando, Jaina, Ben, and Tahiri play a role in the plot, as well as Mirta Gev and the Mandalorians. Of course, Denning introduces a handful of new characters as well.
As the antagonists, Marvid and Craitheus Qreph are the most prominent newcomers. The two are members of the brilliant Columi species - one of the oldest in the galaxy - making them an ideal foe for the Jedi. There were, however, a few times in the book where they almost seemed unreasonably smart and powerful; especially after the events of the last series. Similarly, while the parallels between Han and young hotshot pilot Omad Kaeg were appreciated, Omad almost seemed like a carbon copy of everyone’s favorite smuggler. Then there’s Ohali Soroc, one of the ten Quest Knights sent in search of the Mortis Monolith.
Refinery operations chief Dena Yus and the mysterious Savara Raine are the most interesting of the new characters, but the mysteries surrounding both of them are quickly thrown away. One character’s surprise is revealed in her introductory paragraph, and the other’s is played off like it’s no big deal midway through the book. Denning’s approach was in and of itself an interesting twist, since reveals like these are often strung out until the last minute, yet it still felt somewhat anticlimactic.
As a big fan of The Clone Wars, I was very excited to find out whether the Jedi would eventually find the Mortis Monolith, which Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka entered in Season Three’s Mortis Trilogy. This controversial arc introduced a number of fascinating elements into the Star Wars universe, and I couldn’t wait to find out how the novels would tie into this concept. Sure enough, the effects of Mortis can be felt in this book, although they might not be what you’d expect. References to the Original Trilogy and previous EU works are also plentiful. Unfortunately, one extended reference felt somewhat heavy-handed.
Crucible is filled with plenty of action, from barely-survivable disasters to dogfights, lightsaber fights, and more. Denning even manages to turn sabacc, a relatively harmless card game, into something much, much worse. The characters in this novel suffer quite a bit, and the descriptions of their wounds are sure to make more than a few readers squirm with sympathy pains or exclaim “how could they do that to ____?!”
The most surprising part of Crucible is the ending, which is imbued with a sense of finality that we haven’t seen since the Ahsoka arc in Season Five of The Clone Wars. At the time, the fate of the show was up in the air – but we all know how that turned out. Likewise, with the upcoming Sequel Trilogy, the future of the EU is uncertain and debated at length. At this point, only the upcoming Sword of the Jedi series is further out in the timeline than Crucible, and nothing has been heard about that project since it was announced almost a year ago – before Disney acquired Lucasfilm. It will be very interesting to see where they take the story in the future.
I was very excited about Crucible when it was originally announced, but the novel’s description and some of the early impressions from fellow reviewers had me a little worried for a while. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Crucible. The book is by no means perfect, but I had a hard time putting down this enjoyable adventure with the Big Three.
Advanced Review Copy (ARC) courtesy of Del Rey. All staff members can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.