Author(s): James Luceno
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: May 29, 2001
Era: Rise of the Empire era
In Cloak of Deception, James Luceno masterfully captures the prequel “feel” and spins a tale which deepens and adds layers to characters and plotlines presented in The Phantom Menace. The book could be characterized as a political thriller with liberal dashes of action sprinkled throughout.
Cloak of Deception kicks off with a nifty echo of the opening sequence of The Phantom Menace (it was published after, although it is set before the film). Much like the start of the movie, the first few chapters are chock-full of shipboard Jedi action, Neimoidians, battle droids, and more. Luceno writes in a very descriptive style and does not take for granted that the reader has seen the Star Wars films, making for a stronger novel.
Many characters from The Phantom Menace make their EU debut here, and there are also entertaining cameos from characters who play significant roles later in the saga, such as Lieutenant Governor Tarkin, Vergere, and Jorus C’baoth. Considering the book was published in 2001, it meshes well with the two prequel films released afterward. The Separatist commerce organizations of Attack of the Clones are all worked into the story by name, along with many of the bit-player Senators and Jedi. A sequence early on in the book takes place at the Coruscant Opera House, which marries up nicely (and quite accidentally) with the dialogue between Palpatine and Anakin that takes place there in Revenge of the Sith.
I was most impressed by the complexity of the plot Luceno wove. Palpatine and his alter-ego Darth Sidious pull the strings of virtually every character in the story. At times I had to step back and think through exactly what each character knew and what they didn’t to see how Palpatine’s plans were falling into place. One element I found a bit confusing early on is whether Palpatine had anticipated Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan’s involvement in the Nebula Front/Trade Federation/Old Republic conflict he was brewing. Whether he did or not, though, it works to his advantage as the Jedi begin to get entangled in and compromised by the corruption and duplicity spreading through the government.
Cloak of Deception fills out the “accusations of corruption” against Valorum that Palpatine mentions in The Phantom Menace and sets the stage for the forthcoming vote-of-no-confidence in Valorum’s leadership. It explains why Sidious instructed the Trade Federation to blockade Naboo in particular and manages to breathe some life into the somewhat dry concept of taxation of trade routes being a key conflict driver in The Phantom Menace.
Luceno does a great job bringing out and enlivening some of the murkier story elements from the first prequel film. His descriptive powers serve his story well and he leaves many tasty tidbits for serious fans of the EU to digest. This book is very highly recommended to anyone wanting a quality Star Wars read and especially highly to fans of the prequels.
5.0/5.0 Kath Hounds
Reviewed by Andrew P.
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