Dark Nest Trilogy by Troy Denning
See Shaun Farrell's column last month for a review of Dark Nest #1 in the trilogy
The Unseen QueenDark Nest 2 [click]
The Swarm WarDark Nest 3 [click]
The Unseen Queen (Dark Nest 2)
SF novel by Troy Denning
Second Novel in Dark Nest Trilogy
Del Rey 2005
Having seemingly alleviated the Killik problem by providing them with several worlds to colonize, the Jedi are surprised to learn that a new enemy seems to be attacking the Killiks. Traveling to the new Killik home world, Luke Skywalker learns that the Killiks believe the Jedi are responsible. The situation only worsens when Luke learns that the Dark Nest continues to thrive and seems to have gained great influence over the Colony. Luke and Han agree to stay on the Killik world while Leia seeks out the true instigators of the attacks. To make matter worse, the Killiks seem to be engaging in piracy, disrupting the fragile balance of a galaxy struggling to cope after the Vong war. As our heroes seek to unravel the mystery, Luke Skywalker must face his hidden past and defeat a powerful enemy who hides in the shadows of his own heart.
Denning does many things well in this book, so Iíll just touch on a few points. I have been waiting many a Star Wars novel to see Leia embrace her Jedi heritage. Different writers have kicked around the idea, demonstrating that Leia herself is aware of her responsibility in this regard. Now Denning shows us the way. Having dedicated herself to the tutelage of Saba Sebatyne, a powerful Barabel Jedi Master, Leia finally explores what type of Jedi she can be. Given her Skywalker blood, I was not surprised to see her quickly gain new skills, but the Jedi mentality is often at odds with her aggressive personality. To join the Order, she must surrender herself to the will of the Masters. Luckily, given her relationship with the greatest Jedi Master in the galaxy, she is allotted quite a bit of freedom to speak her mind and take action. For Star Wars fans it is a great reward to finally see Leiaís character expanding with this new element.
Leia isnít the only Skywalker struggling with new information. Luke continues to be fed dangerous information by Alema Rar, a former pupil who has surrendered herself to the Dark Nest. Did Mara lie to Luke about something in her past? Was Mara responsible for the death of Lukeís mother? And how far will Luke go to discover the truth of what really happened? Denning explores these questions and more, but he doesnít answer all of them. I suspect those conclusions await us in Volume Three.
Jacen also struggles with a new revelation. No, I wonít say what, but I can say that it is something unexpected yet unavoidable when looking at his relationships. Armed with a new purpose to exist, Jacen acts in ways that his previous self would have considered dark side influenced. The stark contrast in his character in these novels is riveting, and he threatens to damage his relationship with his sister beyond repair. Only one thing matters to Jacen, and nothing, not even his family, is going to get in the way of doing what he feels is right.
The Unseen Queen is sure to please fans both old and new. The characters are moving in radically different directions from their past, and a sense of mystery permeates the entire story. The action comes in staccato bursts of clarity, and the final sequences demonstrate space battles at their finest. Fast paced and thrilling to read, Troy Denning delivers again.
The Swarm War (Dark Nest 3)
SF novel by Troy Denning
Third Novel in Dark Nest Trilogy
Del Rey 2006
Desperate to stop the war between the Killiks and the Chiss before it consumes countless worlds, Luke Skywalker takes control of the Jedi Order and formulates a daring plan: he must personally destroy the Dark Jedi Lomi Plo while battling the darkest fears of his heart. Meanwhile, Han and Leia come into a confrontation with their allies, and Leia will learn once and for all if she can truly become a Jedi Knight.
Troy Denning concludes the Dark Nest Trilogy with heightened drama and continuous action. The most compelling storyline here is Lukeís. Disillusioned with the Jedi Mastersí inability to work together in his absence, and further believing that he has somehow failed the Jedi, Luke makes himself the one leader of the Order. Needless to say, many of the Jedi are displeased with this choice, and the fallout from Lukeís decision should provide many novels worth of drama in years to come. This is not the level-headed Luke weíve seen in the past. He expresses deep anger, pain, and regret as he struggles with his role. In essence, Denning has shown how human and vulnerable Luke Skywalker really is.
Leiaís journey into Jedi-hood also comes to a conclusion. She becomes as powerful as any Jedi in the Order. Combine that strength with her political savvy and general kick-ass attitude, and Leia is no longer anyoneís princess. Itís nice to see her taking charge and getting into the action instead of staying behind and trying to convince someone of something while Luke saves the day.
More than the other books in this trilogy, The Swarm War is packed with fight scenes. While I love some good action as much as the next guy, I find that battles scenes stretched into multiple chapters can become a bit old. I much prefer the intrigue of Luke and Leia exploring new aspects of their personalities, or Jacen walking a dangerous line to the dark side, or Ben discovering his abilities to use the force, or Hanís fear of growing old. And while Iím interested in the changes in Jaina, I donít much care to watch her fighting Chiss with a bunch of bugs for 60 pages. But thatís just me, and if thatís the only thing I can complain about when discussing this trilogy, then Iíd say Denning did pretty good.
Denning also provides further speculation on the nature of war and our susceptibility to it. He puts into perspective how small our differences appear when placed on a grander scale: ďWhat did battles matter when a galactic burp could erase whole civilizations? Could any amount of killing ever change the fundamental brutal transience of existence?Ē It seems to be a sad reflection on our inability to avoid war despite its limited power to create positive change. While the outlook is dim, plenty of hope remains in the hearts of the characters, and we should cling to that hope.
The Dark Nest Trilogy is a must-read for fans of Star Wars fiction. The stage has been set for many more changes to come, so get ready for a wild ride.