Deep Dive: Fate of the Jedi: Allies

So this is Christie Golden’s second book, and with this we are exactly half-way through the series.  Hopefully by this point we’d have all the main plots developed and be bringing them all together into a coherent whole, and if we wanted to drop some plot point we’d have set all that up and developed the new threads that we wanted to follow.  Here, though, the series is almost going to drop a couple of important threads, but has nothing to replace them with and will actually end up reviving them later.  And it has the absolute worst scene in the entire book series.

So let’s start with the Daala and the Jedi plot.  After putting the Jedi Temple under siege and invading it by force in the previous book, here she’s brought them under siege by Mandalorians to demand that they turn over two of the sick Jedi that they are keeping there.  This is despite the fact that the Mandalorians already failed to invade the Temple and aren’t exactly known for diplomatic subtlety.  This was set up a bit by comments that the Alliance’s forces were now commanded by someone who would be more sympathetic to the Jedi, but deciding to give them the authority to try to negotiate with the Jedi and force them to turn those two people over is a clear mistake of incredible magnitude.  This is not helped by the fact that the leader of the forces is not exactly one who seems capable of actual diplomacy.  He gives them an ultimatum to send out the sick Jedi — which, since they were not in their right minds would have only started a fight anyway — or else he’ll attack or fire on them.  Wanting to avoid escalating things, Kenth Hamner sends out his new assistant, a person that we only meet in this book, a young and optimistic and energetic and nice young girl, to talk to him figuring that the leader isn’t going to be stupid enough to harm or kill her while he might well attack a Master or a Jedi.

Well, the leader is stupid enough to not only attack her, but basically execute her out in public.

Daala’s right-hand man, Wynn Dorvan, is obviously horrified, but then remembers that another character, Raynar Thul, will be coming out to eat lunch there — Dorvan often eats lunch with him — and so is obviously pretty convinced that the Mandalorian leader will kill him, too, and so rushes off to save him.  The Mandalorian even pulls rank on Dorvan and on purported orders from the Chief of State, but allows Dorvan to save Raynar and they take the young girl’s body into the Temple.  In public.  In broad daylight.  With the press watching.

Obviously, this would create terrible PR for Daala, and they do note that it does impact public support.  And yet Daala is not seen to be in any way more willing to be reasonable or negotiate, nor does it really result in calls for her dismissal or issues with her anti-Jedi policies.  Although there are some small changes — eliminating the special Jedi Court, for example, and thus putting them under the same law as everyone else — there’s no real movement in any way from this, nor do the Jedi really seem able to use that to apply any pressure on Daala to change her policies. 

And all of this seems to follow not from malice on Daala’s part, but instead due to incompetence.  Even in previous series — and even under Karen Traviss — making the Mandalorians the main negotiators would be seen as a bad idea.  They were always in general best used as muscle and a threat, not as the main force and main figureheads.  But if Daala was going to be stupid enough to do that, then both her and Boba Fett are smart enough to know that you send a commander who at least has some diplomatic ability.  You certainly don’t send someone who thinks that the best message he can send to everyone is to kill a young, unarmed girl as a threat.  And if you did happen to send someone that stupid, both of them would be smart enough to disavow and punish him for doing such a stupid thing.  And given what was shown, you wouldn’t send the Mandalorians out to do similar things later (and Daala will send the Mandalorians to put down slave revolts in a later book, with the same disastrous results).  This is all the result of incompetence.

Which is where this book and series fails.  They are building a conspiracy to oppose Daala and the existing authorities, and so could have used this to push Daala into these sorts of mistakes.  Then we could have had a real conflict between Daala who was facing hidden opposition who would make every move she made — even the correct ones — look like a problem and who could manipulate public opinion to make Daala think that some of her actions would be welcomed when they wouldn’t be, and the Jedi who would be looking at the moves she made and thinking that she wasn’t being sincere in her efforts and was letting her feelings about the Jedi dictate her moves, leading them to genuinely believe that her end goal really was nothing less than the disbanding of the Jedi Order.  This would leave Kenth Hamner in a tough position in the middle of all of this, not wanting to trigger anything but having to see, along with the Council, that things really did look like she was being disingenuous and unreasonable, and with him grasping at any straw that he could find to avoid open conflict, which then would explain his making a secret pact with an Admiral who was Daala’s lover and confidant to calm things down.  But while the threads are there, they are never used for any purpose like this and so it all comes down to incompetence, which means that Daala is at least in some way willing to resolve it peacefully and yet is acting like she isn’t, and no one, even those close to her, can figure that out or tell her to do something smarter.

Now, in reading around I heard some people talking about how this might be a reaction by the writers to having Daala shoved into the leadership of the GA and to the focus on the Mandalorians from the previous series (mostly, it is claimed, by Karen Traviss), and what I see here is so ridiculous that this almost seems credible.  However, if that is the case it seems incredibly petty to perform this sort of character assassination, especially given the impact that it has on the overall work.  If they didn’t want to use those characters, they could have simply shuffled them aside (especially the Mandalorians) but they seem to only be used in the story to make them look bad or reduce them to the sorts of characters that the other writers thought they were, which again if deliberate is quite petty.

And speaking of petty, let’s talk about the Jedi Council and the conflict with Hamner.  The Jedi girl’s name is Kani, but they call her K.P., which is short for “Kenth’s Pet”.  They grumble that it seems like Hamner is looking to settle in as Grand Master because he’s taking an assistant, and note that Luke didn’t have an assistant.  Of course, things are much more complicated now with many more forces on all sides pressing Hamner, and Luke really did seem like the sort of Grand Master who would let the paperwork and things like that slide which is not true of Hamner, so this does seem like a very petty complaint.  And the worst of it is that the nickname and the worst of the accusations come from Han Solo, but the writers don’t seem to get what that means.  Han has always been irreverent and suspicious of authority, but the key to the character has always been that while he’ll always have a point in his accusation he never gets them entirely right either.  He is right to at least suggest that authorities can’t be trusted and so will both discover these sorts of situations earlier and will have plans in place when something like that happens, but he’s never completely right about what’s going on and often will distrust and antagonize legitimate authorities that he needs.  So the right approach in this case is indeed to let Han shoot his mouth off about Kenth, but have Leia and the Jedi Council be more understanding and less inclined to go off half-cocked.  Then the conflict can be built slowly over time until things become untenable.  But here, the Jedi Council is pretty much opposed to anything Hamner tries to do, and don’t seem to trust or respect him at all.  Sure, Kyp Durron was always a troublemaker, even for Luke, and Corran Horn, who would normally be the voice of reason is not in position to do that, but why is Kyle Kattarn, for example, not stepping in?  We get too much of the Jedi Council to ignore the conflict but not enough of it to see real dividing lines forming.  And this is not helped by the fact that from the perspective of the Jedi, Daala really does seem to be courting open conflict, even though they definitely have sources — like Dorvan — that could show them that she isn’t and that Hamner’s approach might work.

If things are really that bad between Hamner and the Council, surely there’s some procedure in place for removing him or making him see that he would need to step aside.  But at least here, no one even brings it up and no one really seems to want to reason with him, and his concerns are too valid to be ignored.

The other big part of the book is the chase for Abeloth, which brings a fleet of Sith into the picture, as well as Lando and Jaina.  The Sith are, of course, trying to be devious and they want to try to convert Ben to the Sith side, using his attraction to Vestara as the main in to doing so.  I actually do like their relationship and the conflict as he’s trying to convert her and she’s trying to convert him, and there are some interesting dynamics with Vestara’s father and Luke as examples of fatherhood and their different styles.  Again, I’d like to see it explored, but way too much is going on here to do it justice, as they have to bring in some Sith, and then get rid of them, and then show what their plan is with a sidequest to claim some crystals and cause problems on Klatooine with a slave contract that is utterly pointless.  See, there was an agreement from the people on that planet that they’d basically enslave themselves to the Hutts if the Hutts would protect a sacred crystal formation.  The Sith and Abeloth try to disturb that, which damages it, which has the people declare that the Hutts have broken the contract and so they are free.  Lando and Jaina are snookered into assessing whether that was the case or not, and after some discussions declare that the Hutts tried their best and so the agreement should still be in effect.  At which point it’s made clear that the inhabitants were going to demand freedom regardless, making it all pointless in a way that’s probably supposed to be tragic but, given everything else that’s going on, just comes across as frustrating.

It’s in this arc that they end up potentially dropping two plot points, because Luke, Ben, the Sith Leader, Vestara, and her father all track Abeloth down and attack and seemingly kill her.  And this causes the sick Jedi to recover.  So, yay?  But if that’s all it was going to take to put Abeloth down, then it doesn’t seem like she was worth the build-up.  So it will surprise absolutely no one that the deaths don’t take, and even the cure doesn’t really take because the Jedi that were in stasis don’t get cured, as we find out in a later book.  So at the half-way point, threads get dropped only to be picked up again later.  This is obviously not something that lends itself to a great reading experience.

Still, we’re half-way there.  But the back half isn’t any better than the front half.

One Response to “Deep Dive: Fate of the Jedi: Allies”

  1. Deep Dive: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] thing in a very complicated situation, and the Council comes off as a bunch of adolescents — see the whole “Kenth’s Pet” issue from “Allies” — who don’t have anything like a sensible plan to oppose Daala but simply want to do […]

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