BOOK EIGHT: ASCENSION
By Christie Golden
Published in the UK by CENTURY PUBLISHING and in paperback by ARROW
Reviewed by Scott Weller
Having greatly enjoyed Timothy Zahn’s recent triumphant return to the STAR WARS EXPANDED UNIVERSE realm with Choices of One, I threw myself into the next instalment of the Lucas publishing schedule- book eight of the FATE OF THE JEDI series- with a greater sense of renewed reading optimism than I’ve had for the run in several years, hoping that some of Zahn’s story telling fire and magic may subconsciously help me to enjoy this penultimate tale of the new LUCAS BOOKS conceived saga, and that the plot and character developments within its 410 pages would have greatly improved from what I’d read previously in the series. Sadly, I’m afraid that ASCENSION, from recent fan favourite novelist Christie Golden, didn’t quite deliver the expected, and necessary, goods I wanted from a STAR WARS adventure…
As ever there’s lots of fast paced action, traps and escapes, and events are finally, finally moving towards their conclusion, but as has been mentioned in my previous reviews too many times before, this book series really has been padded out to a length far longer than it should have (at least a fifth of the book namely linked to the ongoing Lost Tribe of the Sith aspect in particular (though there are interesting moments here), and the pursuit of the Abeloth creature by Luke and Ben), with the overall novels strained from the heavy burden. Worryingly, certain plot elements from earlier in the series also seemed to have been either shortened or dropped (unless there’s more developments to come in the finale?), which I’m sure will annoy long-term readers of the EU cannon.
Character interactions of our favourite Classic Trilogy heroes feel incoherent and out of character once again, and sometimes I feel that their dialogue often simply doesn’t ring true. Complaints from some fans that Golden’s wordage also feels a bit too juvenile ring true in some sections. On the plus side, though, there is firm development of the supporting characters, namely the ones Golden herself introduced in previous books, in particular the interesting Vestara, who, with her still conflicted Sith heart, continues her strong relationship with Ben Skywalker, which has been an important part of the latter books of the series and which enters an important new phase here. There’s also a new development for the Jedi Order in general-already caught in the quagmire of dangers within intergalactic politics- as Luke makes an important decision regarding their future and their role with the Alliance. There’s also the death of a supporting character that fans of the series will be surprised to read about, too…
And, though the ultimate raison d’etre behind the Abeloth creature, one of the books major opponents for our Force users, is sadly not as all that exciting as its earlier promise indicated, it does at least get to show off some of its major league Dark Side powers quite vigorously towards Darish Vol, the Grand Lord of the Lost Tribe of the Sith (now that’s a mouthful to say!), alongside its accompanying semi-sentient Ship.
The book sees in subplots galore as we reach the story’s last third on Coruscant, of which conspiracies and bids for control of the Galactic Alliance begin to quickly (perhaps too quickly) form and coalesce from a multitude of relatively new Senate characters, though the deposed Chief of State, Daala, surely hoping to be as formidable as our reality’s Margaret Thatcher, isn’t out of the fight yet now that she ‘s allied with Bounty hunter fave Boba Fett and his Mandalorians. There are better moments within all this Political intrigue, witch-hunting, double dealings, intrigue and subterfuge run rampant, but none totally thrill or generate the excitement that this Saga truly deserves and should have had right from the start…
Beyond all the political stuff, readers can still enjoy further aforementioned bouts of traps, daring escapes and fast action sequences (but no lightsaber duels?!) linked to the Sith and the Abeloth quest. But none of that works anywhere near as well if you don’t have an involving, nay compelling, plot. Alas, in that respect, ASCENSION doesn’t quite make the full grade. Plainly put, there are great fantasy writers who can create great STAR WARS adventures, and then there are great fantasy writers. I think Miss Golden is in the overall latter category than the former.
Despite the books important positioning, it all feels a bit anticlimactic, so let’s hope that the upcoming finale, APOCALYPSE, can at least end the series in some noteworthy, and respectable, style.
AFICIONADO RATING: 3 out of 5