I’m baaack! After a quick hiatus from the New Jedi Order due to extreme heartache, I decided to stop wallowing in Star by Star sorrow and drag myself back in to the fight against the Vong!
My first thought on picking up Dark Journey by Elaine Cunningham – “What’s this, a Jaina Solo book? Yes please!”
Dark Journey picks up right where Star by Star finished, with Jaina and the handful of surviving Jedi blazing away from the Yuuzhan Vong aboard Nom Anor’s personal ship. However, even though the events of this book immediately follow Star by Star, it does in a way feel like it’s own, self-contained story and offered me a slight respite from the horror of the war. Instead, it hones in on Jaina as she heads into the Hapan system to return Anakin’s body to their parents. (It still feels strange to refer to him in the past tense!) Once this has been done, Jaina throws herself into trying to figure out a way to exact her revenge on the Vong by tampering with the stolen alien ship.
Jaina’s journey certainly lives up to the title of this book as she flirts dangerously close to the dark side. When she is not lashing out with anger, she spends her time in a state of cool detachment, never truly opening up to her friends or family. This brush with the dark side gives so much depth to an interesting but, until now, somewhat one dimensional character. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED Jaina before this book but, until now, I never really felt I knew her nor did I connect with her on any level so I’m absolutely thrilled with this new insight into her character.
Throughout the novel she is hell bent on finding a way to strike at the Vong and remains utterly focused and driven. However, alhough she is very much becoming her own, individual character, I loved the odd flashes of resourcefulness and cheeky sense of humour in Jaina which remind you that she really is her father’s daughter!
Jaina’s personal journey of vengeance and self discovery is set against the backdrop of a crisis of sovereignty within the Hapes Consortium (always a fascinating place). Queen Tenenial Djo is sick and the cunning Ta’a Chume (remember her from the Courtship of Princess Leia days?) is plotting to replace her with a younger, more able Queen – Jaina. It was awesome to watch Jaina try and navigate this political minefield and rise to Ta’a Chume’s challenge.
Another fascinating undercurrent in this book was Jaina’s dealing with Kyp Durron. As a Jedi who has had his own brush with the dark side (with devastating consequences), Kyp is in a unique position to offer Jaina counsel and, potentially mentoring – provided the strong-willed Jaina is willing to accept this help! Their discussions on how far they are both prepared to go for victory were fascinating and I have to say I find their proactive approach to the war to be very refreshing compared to the reactive New Republic.
Overall, I loved this book. Anything with Hapes is always going to be fun as they are such an unusual culture to come across in a Star Wars novel. Plus it was a much needed Jaina book where I now feel I understand her so much more and really get what makes her tick. It opened my eyes to the possibility that perhaps it’s ok for our heroes to have a brush with the dark side – that perhaps the force users aren’t simply split into Jedi and Sith after all! Maybe it is “so much more”?! Plus Jaina’s victories over the Yuuzhan Vong were delightful and much needed after the crushing heartache of Star by Star!