MB, Canada | Listener Since 2010
Previously, I had only ever gotten to experience this story via the previous, abridged release.
Many times such abridgements are just fine, taking a story that would be 12-14 hours and slimming it into 2.5-3 hours makes it much more like a movie and for stories that are only so-so this can vastly improve them. This story I'd always felt I'd been missing too much and kept making a point to sit down and read the original text. Then not 2 days in I find this beautiful production lurking on Audible like an answer to a dream.
The story is triumphant and sad at the same time. I love Zhan's approach to characters, story, and Star Wars in general. His use of Luke's doubt to reign in his powers really appealed to me and reminded me of his comments at a convention panel I saw him at. When discussing other writers tackling Star Wars: "Look at what MY Luke can do!" seemed to him as the take-away from other scribes.
No character is dead weight, everyone contributes, with the exceptions of perhaps the Solo kids who are quietly tucked away. (Possibly a reaction to their overuse in the Corellian trilogy). Political challenges are presented far more superbly than the movies ever accomplished. And we are left with a story that does not fall flat in the face of this fan's critical eye on continuity.
A number of plot points are opened up for the future (sadly Zahn has never explored further into the Star Wars timeline, all his future books, excluding the conclusion to this one, being set in the past.) I would have love to have seen him continue as part of the New Jedi Order series.
Marc Thompson strongly anchors the audio providing easily recognizable voices for both movie and book only characters. He also brings strong tempo, pronunciation, and even acting choices that weren't just different from the Anthony Heald voiced abridgement but a surprising improvement. (Kudos Marc, I always wanted to not like you, because Anthony was my first narrator, but you've won now.)
This book, and Vision of the Future, are Star Wars books at their best. Well written, acted, and not silly, easily dismissed as just sci-fi, or just Star Wars. The characters face their strongest challenge to (that) date. Not in the form of a new super-weapon, ancient all-powerful Sith, or hidden fleet of starships.
But from something they've always been fighting for... peace.
Tim Lebbon's first foray into the Star Wars universe feels like it lacks focus, which is ironic since it follows only one character. The story flashes back and forth in the life of Lanoree Brock a Je'daii Ranger from her training to her latest mission upon which rests the safety of everyone and everything she knows.
Mr Lebbon may have suffered from the curse of being loaded down introducing a new era, new characters and new dynamics all at the same time. Unfortunately the story does not succeed as Drew Karpyshyn did with the Darth Bane trilogy. The story presents a number of possibilities and realizes so few.
January LaVoy is a new choice to voice the Star Wars books. She feels like she was chosen to reflect the new era, the fact the main protagonist is female. But she does not bring the range and depth of Marc Thompson.
Still, the new sandbox is interesting and worth exploring. As an introduction to this era it is presented well (the Dawn of the Jedi comics may flush it out better.) and since it is allowed to be different I didn't find it as jarring as R. A. Salvatore's Vector Prime.
Worth a listen, but maybe just once.
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