A few notes before we begin.
This was the 40th book published in what became the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In terms of the EU timeline it is the 15th book detailing stories that happen after the events in Return of the Jedi. It was written by Michael Stackpole and originally published as a paperback in 1999. It is the 8th installment of the ten books that make up the X-Wing series.
Let me start by saying that the X-Wing series is probably my third favorite series in the EU. I like it a lot because it focuses on characters outside of what we get in the movies. He really builds out the ranks of the Rebellion/New Republic. Sure it its core group of characters are names and people we saw in the movies but it is nice to have Star Wars stories that are not centered on Han/Luke/Leia. It also introduces Corran Horn who goes on to be a very important figure in the EU and the new Jedi order.
With that being said, and my love of these first seven books in this series right out front…the problem with this book (and really the EU as a whole) is that dead is no longer dead. While not many of the core characters die off in this series, the secondary characters tend to have a very short life span. These people are involved in a very dangerous occupation. Flying star fighters is inherently dangerous and flying missions in what becomes several different wars leads to a high death count. That builds the drama for the other characters and is believable to the reader.
In this book several of the major secondary characters of this series die…only to come back with no real explanation. That is either lazy writing or a directive from the powers that be that these characters cannot die. It is the fatal flaw of the EU as a whole and up to this point this series has manged to avoid this particular pitfall.
Outside of that this is a very enjoyable story that cannot really be judged without judging the other seven books that came before it. Which is ok…Lucas Books used this series to fill in the caps between there first several standalone books and the Thrawn Trilogy. Now they are filling in the two or so years between that and the Jedi Academy series. they even go so far as to use a few of these books to ret-con some of the events in those books. Going back and reading this book in chronological order for the first time it adds another layer of enjoyment to reading the EU as a whole.
These books are not for casual fans and I think that is why it was easier for Disney to write off this entire timeline so easily. Given the fact they were published out of chronological order a lot of us that were reading them as they came off the presses had to work hard to remember where in the timeline these events happened. Since there is a lot of overlap from book to book that became a great chore. I would suggest to anyone that wants to read this timeline of Star Wars stories to do it in chronological order. It makes things a lot less confusing and you can more easily lose yourself in the story book to book.
This particular adventure shows us Wedge Antilles and his Rogue Squadron once again dealing with their main nemesis Ysanne Isard. Never mind the fact that she “died” several books ago. Through some convoluted plot we learn this time she has a clone, but there never is a great explanation of how that comes to be.
Granted that is not the main story of this book, but it is a big plot point. Rogue Squadron is once more set off to deal with another Imperial War Lord. By my count that makes it the third one (in this series and fourth overall when we count what they did in the Thrawn Trilogy) they have had to deal with. This is another trend in the early EU books that gets a little stale. This one isn’t even very memorable.
I think another failure of the EU is the fact that it took them so long to start establishing other threats to peace and harmony in this universe. Every book seems to have yet another Admiral from the Empire getting enough support behind them to cause a little trouble. This would be even more exhausting if I were including the comics in my review of the EU. I do know that in the comics there are more details about the Imperials all struggling for control but it takes an awful long time before anyone steps up and truly asserts control over a reunified Empire. Maybe that is a good story, but not being a big comic reader it is one that gets lost on me.
If this series was meant to layout that fight then it does a fine job. However, while Lucas Books used this series to fill in the timeline I think it would have been better served as a way to introduce new characters. We do get Horn, and that is awesome but Disney has shown that Star Wars fans have a bigger appetite for new compelling characters then that. Think about all the new characters we have come to know and love in the short amount of time they have been calling the shots. That trend will continue with the release of Rogue One.
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Isard’s Revenge (Star Wars, X-Wing 8)