Star Wars Review: Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void

Dawn of the Jedi has moved into novel form with Into the Void.  How does it compare to the comics?

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This is the first Star Wars book that I bought for release price (at least, for Sci-Fi Book Club) price in some time. It’s a bit short, but I don’t particularly regret it.  It’s good to read a new book in a series you’re heavily into once in a while.  I’ve been meaning to pick up a good Stephen King book for the past couple of years for the same reason.

I also like to support Science Fiction books with female protagonists.  These aren’t as rare as they were thirty years ago, but they’re still not as common as ones with male protagonists.  Whether I would be less interested in them if they were is another story.  Female protagonists being rarer means that authors are required to put more work into them if they want to sell them.  Sometimes they don’t, of course, which does take that step toward making them more common, but that bit of extra effort is a reason why so many of my favorite heroes are heroines.

As of its release on May 7th of 2013, Tim Lebbon’s Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void became the earliest novel in the Star Wars universe.  This is not unusual.  In fact, since I started reviewing Star Wars novels in 2009, this has happened seven times.  In 2009, Darth Bane: Path of Destruction was the start of novel history.  In July of the following year, Fatal Alliance, the first novel celebrating the upcoming release of The Old Republic brought the start of the timeline back by about 2,600 years.  Later that year, Red Harvest was set two years earlier.  In march of 2011, The Old Republic: Deceived brought the start of the timeline back by about a decade, and eight months later Drew Karpyshyn’s Revan gave us another big leap, this time about 300 years, closing the gap between the earliest games and their novels.  In July of 2012, Lost Tribe of the Sith was released in paperback, bridging another gap- this time, between novels and comics.  Except for the fact that a new comic series was released- the one I just spent the last two weeks talking about.

As trends in fiction go, this is one that I like.  Ever since I read the then-recent Tales of the Jedi in the late ‘90s, I’ve wanted to see novels exploring the origins of the Jedi and the Sith.  The most appealing story to me, that of the Second Great Schism, hasn’t been written yet (neither has the Third, another story I’m looking forward to) but Dawn of the Jedi does seem to be leading down the line toward the First Schism.

That’s a story for another day, though.  We’re here to talk about Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void, a story set cocurrent with the Dawn of the Jedi comics, yet chronicling a different story.  Which means that the title is essentially piggy-backing off of another popular product.  Thankfully, the stories share enough similarities that they can be called a series; the second half of Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm seems to take place around the climax of Into the Void, though there is no hour by hour comparison to speak of.

Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void tells the tale of Lanoree Brock, Je’daii Ranger, or the equivalent of a Jedi Knight.  It’s written in the style of Highlander, where the training and its introduction into the mystical world is as important as the here and now, if not moreso.  On one hand, it tells the story of Lanoree and her companion Tre Sana as they chase after and repeatedly face a deadly and charismatic criminal, a man who would destroy hundreds of people and risk destroying tens of thousands more for the sake of fulfilling his goals.  On the other, it tells of Lanoree undertaking her Great Journey – the training of the Je’daii – when this man was just her younger brother, with hints of darkness in him.

Tim Lebbon gives us a strong story that hits most of the right notes.  The link between our hero and villain is strong enough to make up for the lack of depth in the villain (we never really see anything approaching Dal’s point of view).  The action is strong and each movement of the characters is a brushstroke against the tapestry that tells us of the Tython system.  Lebbon keeps you wanting to know more about the characters and the setting, doling out even portions to ensure that you don’t over-indulge on this information.

This even-handedness, ultimately, is what may leave some readers feeling unfilled.  Lanoree shows hints of personality quirks, but ultimately comes across as a flawless hero with no serious inner conflict.  Once they leave Kalimahr – a world that acts as the “tutorial” to start setting up Lanoree, Tre and the system – the story consists of three separate strings of find Dal, fight Dal, leave.  While this succeeds at keeping the success of the mission at large in question, it cuts out much of the other suspense.  The novel clocks in at a measly 263 pages, and lengthening the book by even as little as ten percent could have evened it out and saved some of these issues.  The recurring ideas – pride, charismatic monstrosity and the ease with which one may lose inner balance – could have been developed into serious themes that built off of one another.  To take that one step farther, if Lanoree had been forced to deal with her own inner struggles than the ethical questions surrounding certain powers (powers that, fans know, will ultimately lead to the first two Great Schisms) the ending could have been both ambiguous and powerful, rather than a resolution that feels very much like winding down and putting a character out to pasture so that the comics can finish the story.

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