The “New Jedi Order” closes out its 19-book run with James Luceno’s epic “The Unifying Force”(2003), which feels every bit of its 527 pages and must be read over several sittings. In the end, it’s a respectable conclusion to the saga, sometimes trying too hard to be “big” – like when Jacen fights the enemy by turning into a pillar of light in a throne room that blasts into space – but mostly earning its scope with satisfying answers to the long-simmering mysteries and a good grasp of most of the characters.
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“The Final Prophecy” (2003), the 18th and penultimate book of the “New Jedi Order,” is a rare “Star Wars” novel that doesn’t feature any movie characters or relations of movie characters on the cover. It’s a testament to how popular Tahiri had become that she dominates the cover art, flanked by Yuuzhan Vong shaper Nen Yim and executor/”Prophet” Nom Anor.
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“Force Heretic II: Refugee” (2003) is one of the most enjoyable page-turners of the “New Jedi Order,” and it’s also the book that has the least to do with the main plot of the “NJO.” The second of a trilogy by Sean Williams and Shane Dix and the 16th book in the series, “Refugee” is split into three storylines like its predecessor, “Remnant,” and the best of those three is essentially a sequel to “The Truce at Bakura.” The second-best plotline chronicles our heroes’ “Foundation and Earth”-style search for Zonama Sekot. The third plotline is more forgettable, but it also takes up the fewest pages: Nom Anor continues to spark an uprising among Yuuzhan Vong Shamed Ones.
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Featuring a lot of dangling plot threads from the “New Jedi Order” and the entire Expanded Universe, “Force Heretic I: Remnant” (2003) – the 15th book in the “NJO” and first of a trilogy – is the best-plotted novel of the saga so far. It’s the debut “Star Wars” effort from Sean Williams – who would go on to be known for his action-heavy video-game tie-ins under “The Old Republic” and “The Force Unleashed” banners – and Shane Dix, whom I’m tempted to credit with the more subtle and deeper aspects of this book. This trilogy marks Dix’s only “Star Wars” contributions other than a Star Wars Insider short story called “Or Die Trying,” also written with Williams.
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“Destiny’s Way” (2002), Walter Jon Williams’ only “Star Wars” novel and the 14th entry in the “New Jedi Order” series, is a transitional book, but a rather good one. It’s easily the best hardcover so far in a series where the paperbacks tend to be much better. Williams doesn’t do anything the best among “Star Wars” authors, but he does almost everything well – monologues and dialogues about the Yuuzhan Vong’s place in the Force, political maneuvering that leads to Cal Omas elected as chief of state, and pacing that allows a reader to enjoy Jacen and Danni picnicking on the Mon Calamari ocean as much as (or more than) the conclusive Jedis-vs.-Vong-warriors battle in the tunnels of a remote moon.
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There are two books in the “New Jedi Order” series that tripped up my reading flow on this re-read. The first is the ninth entry, “Star by Star,” because it’s relentlessly grim and overwritten. The second is the 13th book, “Traitor” (2002), because it’s so good that it can’t be read breezily; it demands that a reader take the time to savor the lyrical writing and profound lessons.
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Aaron Allston is best known for his Wraith Squadron novels, but his two “New Jedi Order” novels – the “Enemy Lines” duology – are sneaky good, too. They don’t make as strong of an impression as other his “Star Wars” novels because they lack a main character or even group of characters. Indeed, “Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand” (2002) is a bit all over the place even when compared to “Rebel Dream” – which centered on a battle at Borleias – but it still offers some great little subplots.
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Aaron Allston enters the “New Jedi Order” fold with the saga’s 11th book, “Rebel Dream” (2002). As with Michael Stackpole’s “Dark Tide” duology earlier in the series, Allston’s “Enemy Lines” duology (to be followed by “Rebel Stand”) is not an “X-Wing” story on the sly. However, “Rebel Dream” does have a significant “X-Wing” flavor, mainly because Wedge Antilles is the general in charge of capturing and defending Coruscant’s stellar neighbor Borleias, a repeat of Rogue Squadron’s mission in “Wedge’s Gamble,” only now the enemy is the Yuuzhan Vong instead of the Empire.
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Rey from “The Force Awakens” has gotten a lot of hype as a breakthrough female Jedi, but as fans of the Legends canon know, Rey had many predecessors. Perhaps the most richly characterized was Jaina Solo, and the book that focuses on her the most is “Dark Journey” (2002), the 10th novel in the “New Jedi Order” series, placing it exactly in the middle of the 19-book saga.
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“Star by Star” (2001), the ninth book in the “New Jedi Order” series and the first “Star Wars” novel by Troy Denning, is a rough one. I had put off my “NJO” re-read for a long time largely because of my dread of this 606-page behemoth. Whereas reading most of this series is a pleasure, this book is unavoidable homework. Telling myself “Maybe it’s not as bad as I remember,” I embarked on the re-read. But – although I am an apologist for some of Denning’s works, particularly the parts of “Tatooine Ghost” and the “Dark Nest Trilogy” where Luke and Leia learn about their parents – “Star by Star” remains a massive slog, mostly overwritten, but also frustratingly underwritten at times.
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