Sacrifice…Posted: June 1, 2007
This post is going to be a long review/ramble about the latest Star Wars: Legacy of the Force novel, Sacrifice. If such blather about Star Wars isn’t your thing, please read other posts that may be more interesting to your tastes. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Oh yes, and there will be spoilers.
That said, I hate to say, I told you so.
This was the most painfully amazing Star Wars reading experience I’ve had so far with the LotF books. I long ago drank the Star Wars kool-aid… so novels like this, which go for the throat with the characters who’ve inhabited my brain for at least half of my life, are bound to fuck with my emotions.
Particuarly if that book features the death of the one of the most popular and prominent EU Star Wars characters, Mara Jade Skywalker.
But if Mara had to die, I’m glad the editors’ let Karen Traviss do it. Her writing/narration style is to get deep inside the characters and that allows an emotional, important story like this to really get to you. Traviss is easily the best writer of all of the LotF novelists and perhaps of the second best over-all Star Wars writer working today (after Matthew Stover, of course). I think if any of the other LotF novelists had tackled this part of the overall plot this book would have left me cold, not misty eyed. Especially of they’d like Denning do it. Emotion and characterization is not his strong suit.
I had a bit of an on again, off again affection towards the character of Mara Jade. Honestly, it depended on the writer handling her. I generally enjoyed how Luceno and his crew handled her in the NJO books but (oddly, for most EU fans) could go the rest of my life without reading a Zahn penned novel about her.
Traviss’ Mara is the best interpretation of the character I’ve ever read. Traviss weaves all of the elements of the character (Mara the assassin, Mara the Jedi, Mara the wife, Mara the mother) into a coherent, compelling character that just force jumped off the page for me. The scenes between her and Ben, were touching and so perfectly spot on.
In fact that characterization for all of the primary cast members, Ben, Luke, Mara, and Jacen (and for a few moments Jania and Leia) was spot on. I hope when LotF is done that Lucasbooks lets Traviss write another post-ROTJ book. I could read about her Luke Skywalker all day.
I think it’s clear from the above, that I just loved this book. That said, let’s nitpick (if I didn’t what sort of fan would I be?)
Boba Fett, if there’s a popular Star Wars character I could not give two shits and a fuck about, it would be him. Or maybe Darth Maul. Traviss’ nigh-fanish love for the character shines through (often painfully) here. Her Fett is nearly perfect, but in a fucked up sort of way. Traviss is at least able to allow her Mary Sue to have problems, which I must say is better than most.
The Solos (other than Jacen) do not get much in his novel. Jania is sidelined for much of the novel (though we get a big character point from her that isn’t really addressed in the text). I like Jania, a lot, and would love to see Traviss’ full take on her. Perhaps for her final LotF novel? Han get at most three lines in the whole book and Leia only a scene or two. A bit of a disappointment.
Finally while, Traviss’ writing style and narrative tics serve the political, emotional, and characterization points of the novel well, they don’t serve the action sequences. Nearly every fight in the novel doesn’t work and was difficult for me to follow. The final showdown between Jacen and Mara did work, more or less, but still was a bit stiff.
When I first discussed this novel and Legacy of the Force more generally, I brought up the specter of a bit of sexism in the fact that every major character death so far in LotF has been female. Mara Jade, of course, just the latest symptom of this trend.
The question, of course, is how was this death handled in the text itself, from a feminist perspective. Considering that, Sacrifice fared both well and poorly. Well, in that Mara died in an in-character way, she went down fighting, it was not a ‘women-in-the-fridge’ kind of moment. Yet at the same time her death was still more about how it affected the men in her life, Luke, Ben, and Jacen, than about her character. I mean, Mara died so that Jacen could become a full Sith and Ben could, perhaps, fall to the dark-side.
In fiction, particularly serialized fiction like LotF, a character death is always going to be more about how it affects the characters left standing than about the character that bit the dust. The question should be asked, was this character’s death handling a way that was fundamentally in-character and respectful the character’s history?
I feel that Sacrifice, more or less, passes this test. If Mara had to die, it was best that she died the way she did in this book, under the pen of this author. There were no skin-tight jumpsuits for her in this novel.
But just because this one death passes the test, the worrying trend that most of the “featured” deaths in LotF have been female does not go away. Star Wars has a troubling history of how it treats its female characters (see: Padme) so this is could easily be a continuation of that trend. Honestly, this is something that bothers my usual unchallengeable love of Star Wars.
That said, where does Sacrifice leave us in the overal LotF scheme of things?
1.) It is now clear that the final confrontation of the novels will come down to Jacen vs. Luke and/or Ben. My money is still on Jacen versus Ben.
2.) Speaking of Ben… I don’t think he’ll fall to the dark side. This novel, and the previous one, Exile, seem to be setting him up to be the sort of Jedi who feels like this father but thinks like his mother. Ben is easily the most compelling character of the lot and look forward to seeing where he goes.
3.) I expect to see a closer working relationship between Han & Leia and Luke in the last 4 LotF books.
My final reaction to this book is that August can not come soon enough, tempered by the fact that Try Denning is back at the helm. Oh and the cover for the next book is horrible.