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02-05-2002, 03:39 PM
Dark Journey
Elaine Cunningham, 301pp.

Well, we all knew it would happen ~ Jaina dallies with the Dark Side. Dark Journey is the story of Jaina's refusal to grieve for her brothers, and what that refusal can do to one's soul. It is also a story rife with subtleties; much of the interaction and understanding between characters is achieved with a look, an expression, a raised eyebrow, a nearly imperceptible nod, a specific word said or not said, or a sense in the force. I found myself wishing someone would just blurt things out, or that a character would fail to grasp some significant detail or what another was trying to convey.

Escaping Myrkr in Nom Anor's Ksstarr, the young Jedi return to Coruscant amidst the raging battle where that planet was lost. After escape and a brief group discussion, they decide to head to Hapes. The hope is that they can rehabilitate the living ship on a world that, so far, has escaped Yuuzhan Vong interest.

However, 'peace' on Hapes is tenuous, as the ever-conniving Ta'a Chume gambles with the lives of Hapans and newly arrived refugees alike as she works to reassert her control over her home planet.

Tsavong Lah assigns none other than his own son, Khalee Lah, to work with the Yun-Harla priest Harrar in an effort to capture Jaina. Yun-Harla, as we have learned before, is the Yuuzhan Vong goddess of trickery. This fact makes for a fascinating plot device as Yun-Harla becomes a role model for Jaina. Renaming the Ksstarr the Trickster, Jaina baits the Yuuzhan Vong and proceeds to live up to the name.

Han and Leia find themselves on Hapes as well, Kyp Durron and his minions in tow, looking after the interests of the refugees that have unexpectedly been allowed respite there. Joining Kyp's command is Colonel Jagged Fel, replete with Chiss training in the service of the Imperial remnant. However, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend', and Jag is obviously on the side opposing the Yuuzhan Vong. He provides an interesting, albeit predictable, anchor to reality for Jaina.

Jaina utilizes all the resources at her disposal including those provided by Ta'a Chume, unheeding the ultimate price of that assistance. She devises an ingenious way to deceive and manipulate the Vong, all the while playing into Ta'a Chume's devious hands. The loss of Anakin and the uncertain fate of Jacen provide the brick and mortar Jaina uses to build a solid wall around her emotions. With Kyp's help, at least initially, she willfully and purposely crosses the line to the dark side, but with the wall as solid as it is, she seemingly doesn't care who she hurts or whether her methods are honorable. All she sees is her goal, and to her, the end justifies the means.

Interestingly enough, it is Jaina's relationship with Kyp during this time that proves to be the redemption for them both. Two people who used each other for their own ends find themselves gaining a new respect for and understanding of each other. Jag Fel has his purpose, as does the stalwart Tenel Ka, whose quiet demeanor masks the strength, understanding, and wisdom we have come to respect and admire in her.

Unfortunately, the ending is rather abrupt. Yes, the battle at Hapes concludes, the intrigue within the house of Ta'a Chume runs its predictable course, and our heroes withdraw to reassess. However, we are still left with a question mark as to Jacen's true fate, and an unsettled feeling about Jaina's mental and emotional state as she continues to control her emotions far too efficiently. That control got her into trouble in the first place. She’s only 18 ~ granted, she’s been through more than most twice her age ~ but we would still expect her to display more of the lack of foresight typical of youth.

[ 02-05-2002: Message edited by: LadySith ]