Deep Dive: Fate of the Jedi: Vortex

This one is Troy Denning’s second book, and ends the first two thirds of the series.  We only have three books left, so we’d expect that this one would be setting everything up for the last three and put everything in place.  And yet it still seems to be spinning its wheels on a number of the main plots while oddly ending some of them in what seems to be a rush.

I’ve already talked about the Jedi plot, and how Saba Sebatyne takes over as acting Grand Master of the Jedi Order.  The main issue here is that this was supposed to be set up as Hamner failing as Grand Master, losing the confidence of the Jedi Council, needing to be replaced, and then going a bit berserk in trying to prevent them from launching their starfighters to help Luke out.  Except the main evidence is that Hamner had made a deal with the known and honourable and eventually ally Nek Bwua’tu to try to calm things down if they didn’t launch the ships.  Saba Sebatyne is given an internal monologue to express how terrible this is and how great a betrayal it is, but it doesn’t seem that unreasonable, especially since Hamner was sworn to secrecy by Bwua’tu about it.  Hamner comes across as someone who was trying to do the right 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 it, leading to Saba declaring at the end that they must depose Daala despite them actually having no plan or contacts that they could use to do that at that time, and right after they made Daala back down with a rather visible hostage taking and threat in order to rescue the Horn children.

The big issue with this is the slavery angle.  There’s a slave revolt on a certain planet, but the Jedi note that the purported slaves aren’t really sentient enough to actually be free.  Because of this, it’s clear that this situation is being arranged and inflamed by someone for their own purposes, whatever they might be.  It certainly wasn’t the idea of those beings that couldn’t really conceive of such a thing and, well, weren’t being treated all that badly.  The Jedi, however, don’t seem all that concerned about it and don’t clue in that this may be a sign of a threat to both the GA and the Jedi.  Now, it does make sense for them to send someone there to keep the Mandalorians that were sent there from doing something disastrously stupid — which they do — but the two Jedi that were sent overstep their bounds and declare against slavery … and as a reaction the Jedi Council is pretty much okay with it.  Okay, then, with this situation where the Jedi were sucked into a fairly transparent plot that resulted in them coming into direct and visible conflict with a GA government that already didn’t like them, and none of them — even Corran Horn, although he did have other things on his mind — seemed all that concerned with investigating this obvious set up.  Add that to their immediate move against Daala when Saba takes over, and it really seems like the Jedi really just wanted revenge against the GA and to oppose them directly.  Which, you know, is exactly what Daala was afraid of.

This is just a mess.  Hamner is presented as being totally unreasonable, despite the fact that what he’s doing isn’t that unreasonable and that he’s in a really tough situation, and that he isn’t actually getting any support from the Jedi and the Jedi Council.  In previous books, they went out of their way to undertake actions without his knowledge that, if they were discovered, would clearly increase tensions with Daala, and they had to know that if they were discovered Hamner wouldn’t easily be able to rely on the “They did it without telling me”, even if that precise sort of thing wasn’t the main concern Daala had with the Jedi in the first place.  But in this book, we’re supposed to believe that his taking what he saw as the best chance to resolve things without excessive violence and not breaking a confidence is an ultimate betrayal of the Jedi Council and a terrible lie.  If the plan didn’t seem like it would work, that would be one thing, or if Bwua’tu was untrustworthy — as Saba hints in her thoughts — that would be one thing, but he was presented as being trustworthy and later they’ll end up relying on him themselves.  It seems to assume that the readers will like Saba better than Hamner and so buy her thoughts over his, and feel sorry for her that she had to kill him — or, rather, let him die — and be happy with her taking over the Council afterwards.  I don’t think it would be that easy even for her fans to do that, and people like me that dislike the character are simply not going to buy it.

This could have been done so much better.  All they needed to do was make this be an actual conflict.  Make it so that the slavery case is a real and legitimate one.  Heck, take the one from last time where Lando and Jaina ruled that the contract was still valid, and it was pointed out that it wasn’t going to end the revolt.  Have the Hutts appeal to the GA for assistance, and have the Mandalorians be sent there.  Then we’d have Hamner being able to make a case that interfering would antagonize Daala and go against the judgement that a Jedi had made in the matter.  Have the rest respond that such a contract isn’t valid and the Jedi really should be there to deal with such injustices.  Then there’s a real conflict that they could use to lose confidence in Hamner:  that he’s putting maintaining some sort of peace with the GA ahead of the actual principles of the Order.  This would maintain the idea that he had a point while giving them a strong rejoinder that he had lost the sense of what a Jedi was supposed to be.  While I really, really dislike the fight with Saba and his death, this would be enough to have him set aside as acting Grand Master, at which point they could launch the ships without his direct interference, decide to move to a full-on warrior stance, and then put Saba in place to lead that battle.  We could even have seen him wrestling with his conscience over what the right stance was without trying to scuttle their attempts.  If they felt the need to kill him off, in the last book they’re going to kill off some Jedi in various attacks, so it would have been the perfect way to let him go out as a hero.

But as it stands, if you don’t agree with his stance it feels like his character was derailed, and if you do it feels like the rest of the Jedi were idiots who appointed his murderer to leadership of the Jedi.

We also get more of the Abeloth and Sith subplot, which is again a bit more of an exploration of a planet and its Force traditions and a continuation of the Ben/Vestara plot than anything else.  Things are a bit more serious at this point as the Sith are made more of a threat, but again this plot seems so much less advanced than the other plot that it seems out of place.  Even if I did care about it, which I don’t.  I like the Ben/Vestara relationship and how it’s developing, but it seems somewhat trivial given what’s happening across the rest of the galaxy.

There’s also another little Allana adventure, which I feel the same way about:  I enjoy it (and this one will play a role later) but it just seems out of place here.

We also have the continuation of Tahiri’s trial, which seems utterly irrelevant given that every other plot is so much more important than it.  It really should have been used as an instigating event in the first books and not dragged out to this point in the series.  I like trials and I like the lawyer, but it just doesn’t seem important enough to take up pages at this stage of the series.

So, we’re heading into the home stretch, and the series, to me, has already killed pretty much whatever they were trying to do with it.  In the last third, it was going to be really hard to save it … and the writing isn’t going to be able to pull that off.

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