Coruscant Nights #1: Jedi Twilight

Author: Michael Reaves
Cover Artist: Glen Orbik
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: June 17, 2008
Pages: 368
Era: Rise Of The Empire

summary

With the dark ascension of the Empire, and the Jedi Knights virtually wiped out, one Jedi who escaped the massacre is slated for a date with destiny–and a confrontation with Darth Vader.

Jax Pavan is one of the few Jedi Knights who miraculously survived the slaughter that followed Palpatine’s ruthless Order 66. Now, deep in Coruscant’s Blackpit Slums, Jax ekes out a living as a private investigator, trying to help people in need while concealing his Jedi identity and staying one step ahead of the killers out for Jedi blood. And they’re not the only ones in search of the elusive Jax. Hard-boiled reporter Den Dhur and his buddy, the highly unorthodox droid I-5YQ, have shocking news to bring Jax–about the father he never knew.
But when Jax learns that his old Jedi Master has been killed, leaving behind the request that Jax finish a mission critical to the resistance, Jax has no choice but to emerge from hiding–and risk detection by Darth Vader–to fulfill his Master’s dying wish.

review

Jedi Twilight is the first in the Coruscant Nights Trilogy by Michael Reaves, author of such Star Wars books as Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, Death Star, and most importantly the Med Star Duology. That particular series comes into vital play with Jedi Twilight because a lot of the characters are the same. In fact, I would go as far as to say that the Coruscant Nights Trilogy is but a continuation of Med Star in the birthing of the Empire era. The back drop is no longer a war between the Republic and the Confederacy, but a time of bitter change. It no longer centers on a mobile med unit, but the coming together of an unlikely group of wayfarers. How they come together is the heart of this tale.

In a way, this book starts out as a collection of short stories. The main characters are scattered about in the thralls of the massive city planet known as Coruscant. We are introduced briefly to Jedi Master Even Piell and one of but many of Lord Vader’s hunts for the surviving Jedi. It is here that the seed of the story is begun. Nick Rostu, who you may remember from Matthew Stover’s Shatterpoint, becomes the carrier of this seed and brings it to the attention of Jedi Knight Jax Pavan. The inherited quest: find the droid 10-4TO aka Bug Eyes. Pavan, seeing that he has no other choice and most likely nothing better to do, accepts the mission which will ultimately unite him with a motley group of characters.

Among this assorted group is the likes of Den Dhur, a Sullustan reporter who, now that the war is over, is scraping by any way he can. Yet he is not alone in his endeavor. His sole companion is a droid, I-5YQ. Since the events of Med Star, these two have become quite the pair, relying on each others’ friendship in order to survive. Den Dhur’s part in this story is one of loyalty and friendship taken to the edges of extreme. His bond to I-5YQ will test his own values and will cause him to reevaluate just how precious their friendship is. However, I-5YQ’s story is a little different. Unlike Den Dhur, I-5 has a mission. To find Jax Pavan. As you can see, this is how they fall into the story. But what I-5 doesn’t realize is that Jax Pavan doesn’t like droids. This crossroads of interest is part of one of the core underlying themes of this book: Droids and Society.

With a name like Jedi Twilight, and with so much action oriented around the Jedi, one might overlook the subtle insights, overtones, and discussion of droids and their place in the galaxy in this book. First off there is Den Dhur’s deep bond with I-5, the illustration of how droids can be seen as equals. Then there is the flip side of the coin with I-5 and Jax Pavan. Pavan could care less about the droid and wants nothing more than to be rid of him. Yet I-5 is hopelessly obsessed with wanting to bond with Pavan. In this relationship both parties are at the mercy of their own ignorance. The bad chemistry between them will lead you to look at Jedi Knight Jax Pavan and wonder if he is a character worth liking.

Regardless, droid relationships are but one of many droid subplots in this book. In fact the main climax is one of a droid plot masterminded by Prince Xizor. On top of that, the object that everyone ends up looking for in this story is a droid. Just to show how droid crazy things can get, there are even ‘feral droids’ which are nothing less than mad cannibals who kill and feast on anyone sorry enough to end up in Coruscant’s old Factory District. But with all that aside, the one droid topic that cuts the deepest is the sentience of droids. This book delves deeply into the topic and explores whether droids are truly sentient and whether they are deserving of equal rights.

With an underlying story about droids, a mainline thread revolving around Pavan’s search for a droid, which is the seed of the story I mentioned earlier, there is but two other equally important threads to follow. One of those being the Black Sun assassin Kaird. Just like in Med Star, Kaird just wants to go home, but to do that, he has to get his hands dirty. Yet he is no longer just a mere killer. Now he is a possible Vigo in the Black Sun organization. His chief opponent: Xizor. Unfortunately, we know how this one is going to end. Nevertheless, Kaird still makes for an enjoyable villain. His scheming comes into major play. What you might not have foreseen is that he will eventually join Pavan and his party. Remember, this is a story about everyone else’s stories linking together.

And that means Vader.

No, the Dark Lord of the Sith won’t join Pavan on some quest. But Vader does have an assistant in this book called Haninum Tyk Rhinann. Rhinann’s character is not exactly an enviable, enjoyable personality. He isn’t the kind of person a reader bonds to. However, what he lacks in relation, he makes up for in sheer description alone. Michael Reeves doesn’t just tell us that Rhinann is an Elomin, a red skinned and horned humanoid. Instead he brings this odd alien’s visual imagery to life. Rhinann thinks differently, he breathes differently, he even has multiple hearts. All these small details come together to bring his species into concept far better than any before him. If you’re not careful, you’ll miss out on one of the most vivid descriptions of an alien character yet.

So you have a Jedi searching for a droid, a droid searching for a Jedi, two Black Sun operatives (Xizor and Kaird), and Vader himself all colliding toward each other. Throw in Den Dhur, Vader’s aid Rhinann, Nick Rostu, and Laranth Tarak, and you just happen to have a mixed cast heading for the ultimate showdown. Alas the big finale is a little rushed and convoluted. Xizor has a strange scheme involving droids, Vader is after Pavan for some unstated reason, and in the end they’re all attacked by feral droids. Well everyone except Vader since he gets there right after the droids are dealt with. At that point you can well imagine the good guys get away…but so do the bad guys. Of course no one would expect Vader or Xizor to die because they can’t, though I do fault the author for making Vader’s escape just a little corny.

With all that said, this book is still worth reading. Don’t let the ending scare you because it isn’t that bad, just not exceptional. Some of the best things in the whole Star Wars Expanded Universe showed up in this book, so you certainly don’t want to miss it. One of those being the subjects on droids, as previously mentioned, the other being the idea of Gray Paladins. This is where Laranth Tarak comes in. She is a member of a splinter group of the Jedi Order, a group who believes that Jedi should rely less on the Force and more on their personal skills. Sadly this group would have cleaned house during the Yuuzhan Vong War. Too bad they weren’t around then. And let us not forget all the cool fight scenes that pop up in this book. Lightsaber fights, chases, and droid battles big and small. Plus all the gorgeous descriptions of Couruscant and its gritty underlevels.

Bottom line, if you are a Star Wars Expanded Universe fan, you’ll want to read this book. Your knowledge of said universe would falter without it.

So without spoiling too much of it, I hope I’ve given you a good idea of what to expect and what I thought of Jedi Twilight.

Thanks for reading and be sure to comment,
Darth Skuldren

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