Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Andrew's Review of Dark Nest II: The Unseen Queen


2/5 Rancors - Troy Denning's The Unseen Queen is the middle book in the Dark Nest Trilogy and resumes the story a year after the events of The Joiner King. The Killiks have been granted Woteba, a planet on which to make a new home, and the Dark Nest appears to have faded away. The young Jedi, including Jaina Solo and constant companion Zekk, are full Joiners of the Killik nest and act in its interests. This story point continues to irritate me from the first book, as it weakens the Jedi we saw fought so hard to become powerful and mature throughout the New Jedi Order. It feels like something that would have happened to teenage Padawans, not the Sword of the Jedi and her chosen companions.

The Killiks continue to be an intriguingly alien adversary, as most members of their society simply want to be settled somewhere and fed. Mr. Denning explores the ramifications of having damaged Jedi in charge of a society while the titular Dark Nest drives new wedges into galactic relationships, particularly between the paranoid Chiss society and the fledgling Galactic Alliance. The Jedi as galactic tyrants is fertile ground for a good story but we never see events from Raynar Thul's viewpoint, so he remains a cipher. This keeps him suitably alien but also lessens the amount of interest he can present, since it's unclear that he feels or thinks much of anything.

The new character Admiral Bwua'tu is a highlight: introduced as an admiral brilliant in training simulations but completely untested, it initially appears he's being introduced as a comedic fall-guy, a foil to the practically experienced Skywalkers and Soloes. However, the Bothan proves to be more than he seems, and even when his ship is surprised by an unforeseen attack from within adapts quickly and gains some staying power as an ongoing character.

Mr. Denning has a rich stable of pet Star Wars characters and many appear here. The Squibs featured in Tatooine Ghost make a return appearance along with smugglers Jae Juun and Tarfang from The Joiner King (this duo is great: generally they are responsible for the funniest sections of the book, and the vicious Ewok coupled with the procedure-obsessed Sullustan generates some real laughs, especially as they interact with Han Solo). The continuity between his books is nice, even though it does create a sub-universe within Star Wars where these characters are important in his books and non-existent elsewhere. There are certainly several other Star Wars authors who have done the same (see Timothy Zahn, Michael Stackpole, or Karen Traviss), so I view it as a positive rather than a detraction. However, it does reduce the feeling of one giant smoothly flowing story a bit.

The Unseen Queen is a capable continuation of the Dark Nest Trilogy but fundamentally I find the Killik storyline unappealing, and my concerns from The Joiner King of characters reverting back to their younger personas continues here. There is more evolution of Jacen Solo that's worth reading, especially the surprise development of his meeting with Hapan leader Tenel Ka a year earlier, but I didn't find The Unseen Queen to add much to the story that couldn't have been compressed into a single volume with The Joiner King.

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