Star Wars EU novel: Dawn of the Jedi – Into the Void (25,793 BBY)

After having read the Dawn of the Jedi comics trilogy, I was very excited to discover that there had also been written a novel with a storyline from that same ancient Star Wars period. I decided to try it in audiobook format, because in this very busy daily life, who has time to sit down and actually read a book? Life is short, many things have to be enjoyed, and if possible, combined 🙂

The novel Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void was written by Tim Lebbon and narrated by January LaVoy. As an audiobook, it will take you 10 hours 27 minutes to finish, which is including an extra short story at the end of the novel, titled Eruption, which actually takes place before the storyline in the novel.

Publisher’s summary

On the planet Tython, the ancient Je’daii order was founded. And at the feet of its wise Masters, Lanoree Brock learned the mysteries and methods of the Force – and found her calling as one of its most powerful disciples. But as strongly as the Force flowed within Lanoree and her parents, it remained absent in her brother, who grew to despise and shun the Je’daii, and whose training in its ancient ways ended in tragedy.

Now, from her solitary life as a Ranger keeping order across the galaxy, Lanoree has been summoned by the Je’daii Council on a matter of utmost urgency. The leader of a fanatical cult, obsessed with traveling beyond the reaches of known space, is bent on opening a cosmic gateway using dreaded dark matter as the key – risking a cataclysmic reaction that will consume the entire star system. But more shocking to Lanoree than even the prospect of total galactic annihilation, is the decision of her Je’daii Masters to task her with the mission of preventing it. Until a staggering revelation makes clear why she was chosen: The brilliant, dangerous madman she must track down and stop at any cost is the brother whose death she has long grieved – and whose life she must now fear.

©2013 Tim Lebbon (P)2013 Random House Audio

My thoughts: Great narration but the story disappoints

What can I say, this story fell short for me. It was pretty anti-climactic after the thrilling adventure that was the Dawn of the Jedi comics trilogy. The characters felt very two-dimensional and the supposed heroine was, frankly, rather annoying and unsympathetic. Je’daii (pronounced correctly by the narrator with the emphasis on the second syllable) Ranger Lanoree Brock came across as endlessly harassing and nagging her brother, not accepting his making a different life choice. Now, this concept in itself I could understand, it is very human to struggle with choices close family members make that we maybe don’t get. And yes, we sometimes fall short and start nagging to them about it. However, the author did not succeed in writing a gripping story about it, nor did he give his heroine anything remotely resembling an interesting internal monologue; she simply kept repeating how the Force was with her, how much she constantly was aware of it, and, frankly, how awesome it made her. Quite boring. And intensly annoying.
The author fails to explain what it’s like to keep the Force balanced within you, since that is what it’s like to be a Force wielder in these ancient times. There are no Jedi and Sith as we know them, no Light and Dark side force wielders; everyone keeps Light & Dark in balance within them. Lanoree talks the talk but we never see her actually walking that walk, it’s only the Light side that she wields. Only in the bonus short story Eruption, that is included in the audiobook, we finally see a Je’daii choosing to wield the Dark side for a certain purpose, but still not Lanoree – and that short story is by a different author… What I liked about that short story as well, is that we meet Hawk Ryo again, we know him from the Dawn of the Jedi comics, where he was a master, but in Eruption he is still a Ranger, which I guess could be compared to what we know as a Jedi Knight.

As for the “bad guy” in the novel, Lanoree’s brother, the novel does not make clear at all how he reaches his point of Super Villainy. It starts out as him choosing not to have anything to do with the Force, and how he longs to explore the rest of the universe, which seem to me to be quite reasonable thoughts and wants. But why this is not acceptable in these Early Days is never explained (would have been interesting!), nor if he is even Force sensitive. It seemed to me he was not, or not much, which makes Lanorees harassing him even more irritating. Be that as it may, how all this turns him into a full-blown psychopath in the end, is never explained and therefore to me as a reader he is not believable as a villain.

Then there was the sidekick to the heroine. A supposed ‘real’ bad guy with whom she partners out of necessity, but somehow he turns out pretty darn ‘good’ for a criminal. Why he stays loyal to Lanoree confounds me, as she openly uses him and does not seem to care about his well-being at all. For instance, when he’s injured she promises him that he’ll get medical treatment once they reach her ship, but when they finally do, he doesn’t get any treatment whatsoever (sigh). Had I cared for this sidekick character at all, it would probably have bugged me.

However, I did not care for any of them. I finished the novel because I kept hoping it would get better, it being Star Wars after all, but when it finally reached its so-called climax, I felt robbed – of time I would never get back…

In conclusion, if you’d like to find out more about the early Je’daii, skip this novel and get your hands on the comics, for they are truly awesome examples of ancient Star Wars lore, with gorgeous graphic artwork.

Narration was good however, and I also liked the Star Wars music and sound effects, although it was a bit weird to hear the same sound effects for the Light side of the Force as were used for the Dark Side in Darth Plagueis and Darth Bane.

Audiobook: 12 Rules for Life – by Jordan B. Peterson

To hear me read this review, check out episode 530 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 30:17.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, for those of you who don’t know, is a Canadian clinical psychologist, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His main areas of study are the psychology of religious and ideological belief, and the assessment and improvement of personality and performance.

Christians: Some discernment is in order

The reason I’m reviewing this non-fiction book on my mostly christian geek blog, is that this book, among others, has a definite spiritual viewpoint. The author speaks about god (little ‘g’ because I don’t know which god he actually means), references the bible frequently and believes in judeo-christian values, but also explores some buddhist and new age concepts, some Jungian ideas and goes back to religious and spiritual archetypes that date back to ancient civilizations and religions. The book has an overall gnostic aspect to it that I can’t exactly place my finger on but is definitely there.

This audiobook is narrated by the author himself and will take you 15 hours and 39 minutes to finish.

Publisher’s Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of 12 Rules for Life, written and read by Jordan B. Peterson.

What are the most valuable things that everyone should know? Acclaimed clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson has influenced the modern understanding of personality, and now he has become one of the world’s most popular public thinkers, with his lectures on topics from the Bible to romantic relationships to mythology drawing tens of millions of viewers.

In an era of unprecedented change and polarising politics, his frank and refreshing message about the value of individual responsibility and ancient wisdom has resonated around the world.

In this book, he provides 12 profound and practical principles for how to live a meaningful life, from setting your house in order before criticising others to comparing yourself to who you were yesterday, not someone else today. Happiness is a pointless goal, he shows us. Instead we must search for meaning, not for its own sake but as a defence against the suffering that is intrinsic to our existence.

Drawing on vivid examples from his clinical practice and personal life, cutting-edge psychology and philosophy, and lessons from humanity’s oldest myths and stories, Peterson takes the listener on an intellectual journey like no other. Gripping, thought-provoking and deeply rewarding, 12 Rules for Life offers an antidote to the chaos in our lives: eternal truths applied to our modern problems.

©2018 Jordan B. Peterson (P)2018 Penguin Books Ltd

My thoughts: Food for thought, inspite of the commercial title

This book has the same feel as Peterson’s lectures; it’s organized in logical and easy-to-follow yet worth-listening-to-again chapters. I have listened to 90% of the author’s online lectures and watched many of his interviews, so I was expecting a lot of rehashing of his older material. Which in part is true, and yet this book still offers more insight, even to the seasoned interview-listener and lecture-watcher. I guess that is because in his lectures Peterson has a different goal, to educate his students on their way to their PhD’s, so he presents his points in different order and highlights different things. And in his interviews he (understandably) often offers a limited number of roughly the same main points, not quite oneliners but close.
This book, differently organized and ordered by 12 life rules, really offers new insights on top of his known material, inviting you to comtemplate them at your leisure – as long as you’re honest about yourself (or at least are not lying).

I particularly enjoyed his analyses of several well-known fairytales. I’d heard his elaborate analysis of Pinocchio in his lectures before, plus short insights into Sleeping Beauty and Hansel & Gretel, but this time he shortens Pinocchio and dives deeper into the other two. Plus the Little Mermaid and some others.

Below: the first of Peterson’s three (long) lectures in which he analyses Pinocchio to provide a specific example of the manner in which great mythological or archetypal themes inform and permeate narrative. 

I really wish Peterson would write a book in which he explores many more of the old fairy tales we all know and love! “12 Fairytales to Remember” or some such; I would immediately buy such a book, his analyses of those are astonishingly insightful.

Narration: passion and emotion

I almost always like it when an author narrates his own work, for the author knows exactly what he wanted to say through his specific sentences and chapters, and will accentuate and highlight the words and phrases he wants to emphasize. Peterson does that very well, and makes sure that we know exactly what he thinks about certain issues – “and that’s that!” That in itself does not necessarily earn it five stars from me. What was truly unique about Peterson’s reading however, is his emotion. After all, this is not a novel; I don’t expect any deep emotion while listening to non-fiction, other than, perhaps, some light humor. But in 4-5 different moments in the book, the author is deeply moved by what I suspect are his own memories, sometimes painful and sometimes very beautiful and touching. It must have been his conscious choice not to edit those narrated passages out and re-do them, but to leave the more emotional readings in as they are.
A unique choice, that took some getting used to; for me it sometimes bordered on cringe, especially when I could not follow him into that same emotion – for instance when his emotion was evoked not by a personal memory but by an abstract concept such as “what is the meaning of life” or some such.

Coda: Gnostic tendencies

His coda at the end is of a different tone. Peterson quotes the bible a lot but as far as I can see he’s not a born-again christian. He seems to treat the bible as a precious book of wisdom, not the Word of the living God. I suspect it’s all a bit Jungian in that it’s a mix of New Age concepts, gnosticism, buddhism and several other spiritual influences, even some freemasonry; together with, of course, psychological, historical and cultural insights. It’s this odd mixture that made it different from the entire rest of the book, and for me personally was the least insightful as gnosticism, New Age, freemasonry etc. mostly bring confusion instead of wisdom (imho; n=1).


In conclusion, I really liked the book and will most likely be repeat-listening to it regularly – especially for the psychological insights. I am also looking forward to the sequel, which the author has announced in the media he’s seriously contemplating – as apparently he has in fact 40 rules for life and these were only the first 12 🙂

Star Wars EU comics: Dawn of the Jedi 3 – Force War (25,792 BBY)

To hear me read this review and its two previous parts, check out episode 525 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 25:38.

This week I’m sharing my thoughts on Force War, part 3 of the awesome Dawn of the Jedi comics TPB trilogy. If you’ve started reading my blog just now, please jump back at least to my review of part 1 of this series.

Publisher’s Summary

(W ) John Ostrander (A) Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons (CA) David Michael Beck
The Rakata, powerful users of the dark side of the Force, have invaded the Tython system to enslave the Je’daii . . . With Forcesabers in hand, the Je’daii fight, led by mad Je’daii Daegen Lok and the mysterious Force Hound Xesh. But when Xesh is captured, the direction of the war is changed . . . Collects Dawn of the Jedi: Force War #1-#5.

My thoughts

Since the third trade paper back (TPB) starts with the perfect recap, let’s insert that here.

This is the perfect last part of any trilogy you’d like: it has our heroes in very dire circumstances, the promise of great love has now come true, the one who seemed to be the Last Hope has fallen to the dark side, mysteries are solved – at least partly – and a gigantic climactic battle covering an entire solar system threatens to wipe out everything. In fact, part of Force Storm reminded me of two SW movies: the way our redeemed hero falls to the dark side (again) leaves us with an “Oh no!” in our souls, maybe not as deep-felt as when Anakin fell in Revenge of the Sith but similar nonetheless. Plus, one of the comics issues in this story arc ends with a cliffhanger which masterfully reminds us of that other great second part of a trilogy: The Empire Strikes Back: all seems lost, our one true hope is nowhere to be found and the evil empire is stronger than ever. Just, wow.

I won’t spoil the ending of course, but suffice it to say that it very satisfactorily follows not only SW tradition but also most of our own historic archetypal hero legends and myths.

I’ll highlight some details of this third and last story arc. First, there seems to be some inconsistency in the way the Je’daii view romance. In part 1 Force Storm it is made clear that according to the Je’daii masters, love is best avoided. We see two Je’daii masters who are obviously former lovers, and one tells the other “There are reasons we cannot be together, and they have not changed. We must concentrate on the Force, on the balance.” On the other hand there is Shae, one of our young Ranger heroes – a Ranger is like a Jedi Knight – who not only falls in love, but then goes on and acts on it. I have to say, in context of the story and the way this was built up throughout the previous two TPB, it came off as mature, not adolescent. So one wonders, was Shae simply not aware of the rule prohibiting love, or did she intentionally ignore it?

Another detail worth mentioning is we learn Xesh’s name was given to him by his evil masters, and that he has chosen a true name for himself, Tau. Of course this had to be one of the not-so-subtle references to buddhism, for inspite of the different spelling it reminds us of the Chinese concept of Tao. Even the meaning of the name here, Soul, refers to something from the spiritual realm.

Third, it’s very nice to learn more about how Force Hounds like Xesh do what they do: they allow themselves to fall into the darkness and send themselves outward, which enables them to ‘sniff out’ almost anything and everyone in the Force, dependent on their own strength in the Force.

Which brings me to the one issue I had with this story as a whole: if Force Hounds are as strong as Xesh and Trill, then why haven’t they risen against their masters? One theory could be their slave mentality: apparently when someone has been reduced to slavery for generations, especially when it’s enforced with brute force, it’s very difficult to break free from that mindset. We can even see that in the Old Testament stories of liberated Israel, which kept longing for Egypt even though they had been slaves there for generations. Nevertheless, the issue is resolved in the end, with Xesh finally rebelling against his hated master, fighting to gain his freedom once and for all.

One final point to make about this entire trilogy, is the artwork by Jan Duursema (penciller), Dan Parsons (inker) and Wes Dzioba (colorist). It is beautiful all the way through. Just look at the money shot below, simply gorgeous.

In conclusion, this was a more than fun, thrilling ride through ancient Star Wars lore, re-kindling my fandom after the so very, very disappointing two parts of the Disney-owned Sequel Trilogy. I wish there were a sequel trilogy to this one!


Thoughts about Apple’s Airpods

Recently I finally bought myself a pair of Apple’s Airpods, which are their wireless earpods (or headset) so to speak. I’ve used the Apple earpods for years now, needing to buy a new pair every year, sometimes twice a year, because I always got stuck behind some tiny hook or even my own knees with the wire, while listening to podcasts and audiobooks during cooking, cleaning or travelling. Which in turn caused the drop of my iPhone on the cold hard floor more times than I dare to remember.

My second main use of the (wired) earpods, next to listening, was using the microphone function for recording video. And each time I accidentally moved or touched the wire, it was audible in said recording, with some creaking. Very annoying.

So after hesitating for about a year, mainly because of the price, I finally decided to treat myself to some Airpods. And here are my first experiences.


Of course the design is visually very pleasing. Starting with the clean and elegant packaging – don’t forget to get your complementary Lightning-USB wire before you throw it out, I almost didn’t notice it underneath the first layer of the box!

The Airpods come in a beautifully sleek, tiny, hightech storage box that somehow reminds me of a flattened egg.

The looks of the airpods themselves are an acquired taste I guess. If you’re always wearing earrings you could get away with it, but I still find they look a bit weird – especifially on men. Let’s hope Apple’s designers will fix that in the future. In the meantime guys could always use their gauge piercings to store their Airpods… (found on Pinterest):

Pairing to your device

Pick any Apple device, turn on bluetooth, hold the ‘egg box’ close and open it. The pairing with your device will be almost instantaneous and will offer you a very slick dialogue screen. If you close the box, the pairing will sever and the dialogue screen vanishes, also instanteously. Very fun to play with the first few minutes 🙂

Bonus: the Airpods can be paired to other devices like Android phones! Instructions on cnet teach us: To start pairing to anything new, put the AirPods in their case, then flip the lid up and press and hold the small button on the bottom rear of the charging case until the little LED light starts pulsing white. They should then show up in any Bluetooth-pairing settings on an Android phone, or computer, or TV.

Using the Airpods

Somehow the Airpods ‘know’ when you put the first one in your ear, you’ll hear a short ‘On’ signal. If you’re playing some media on your device via its speakers and you put the Airpods in your ear (provided they’re paired to that device) the playback on your device will immediately switch from speakers to the Airpods, without pause. As soon as you remove the first Airpod, your device will stop playback, very convenient I have to say. It won’t switch automatically back to speakers though, it stops playback and you’ll have to manually press Play again to continue listening on speaker.

One of the main reasons I bought the Airpods is wireless audio enhancement during video recording, thanks to the microphone function. Which of course means you can use them for phone calls, Facetime, Skype and audio recordings as well. They work perfectly, and I’m never scared they’ll fall out of my ears.

If you go to the Airpod settings on your iDevice (a subsection of your bluetooth settings) you can assign different functions to double-tapping each earbud, like start/stop playback.

Charging is easy, you stick the Airpods back into their little box, attach the wire (that came with their packaging) to any USB charger and you’re good to go.
You can add the very handy Battery widget to your iDevice’s screen to always keep track of your Airpods’ batterylife status.

What I’m missing

What I’m really missing is remote volume control via the Airpods. I’ve gotten very used to that function on my earpods. Now I have to dig up my device to adjust the volume, which is not very practical and seems to defeat the purpose of handsfree or wireless listening (and roaming around without your device on your body).

Another minor annoyance is battery life. I found that I have to charge the Airpods at least once a day, often more when I’m using them a lot.

Conclusion (so far)

After my first 2 weeks of use I’m finding the Airpods a very comfortable, easy to use, good quality wireless headset, with the special ‘Apple touch & feel’ that I’ve come to appreciate. They’re not cheap, but if you can afford them, I’d definitely recommend them.

Star Wars EU comics: Dawn of the Jedi 2 – The Prisoner of Bogan (25,793 BBY)

To hear me read this review and its two other parts, check out episode 525 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 25:38.

So, let’s continue right where we left off last time, with part 2 of the awesome Dawn of the Jedi trade paperback (TPB) comics trilogy!

Publisher’s summary

(W ) John Ostrander (A) Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons (CA) Wes Dziboa, David Michael Beck
Xesh, a mysterious alien warrior, is enthralled with the madman Daegen Lok and his obsession with conquering known space. Hunter teams are dispatched by the Je’daii to stop Lok and save the misguided Xesh, but they’re not alone. Xesh’s former masters have sent their own hunter-with orders to kill! Collects Dawn of the Jedi: Prisoner of Bogan #1-#5.

My thoughts

In this second TPB we find our dark side protagonist Xesh on Bogan, one of Tython’s two moons, banished to meditate on finding balance between the dark and the light sides of the Force. There he meets Daegon Lok, banished seven years earlier for the same reason. Daegon immediately issues a challenge, striving for dominance between them.

Daegon manages to take Xesh by surprise, overwhelming him with dark force magic – a term which is not used in this story, but which we know from at least one other Star Wars Expanded Universe novel series, the Darth Bane trilogy. Bane’s apprentice Zannah shows remarkable talent in this area and Bane makes her study the ancient writings and holocrons to learn about this specific dark side skill, which he himself lacks. It may well be that the ancient knowledge Zannah is studying, stems from this Dawn of the Jedi period. Who knows, I haven’t read any of the other EU stuff yet, so this is my theory for now 🙂 Fact is that Darth Zannah applies the exact same magic as Daegon Lok: preying on other people’s fears and using it to their detriment and sometimes even demise. Maybe the writer wanted to help us make this connection by naming one of Daegon’s victims Bel Zana (Dawn of the Jedi was created some years after Darth Bane).

Since the Je’daii have taken Xesh’s force saber from him, Daegon wants him to make another. Which is how we learn how a dark side force saber is made: not only does one need a special crystal, but one needs also to practice alchemy, which I guess is also a form of dark side magic.

We get to know Xesh’s strength even better than we already did in part 1, Force Storm. We already know he’s a formidable force fighter, and can track almost everything through the force, but now we also learn about his pure, raw power in the force: he can power an entire space craft through the force!

While Daegon en Xesh plan their escape from Bogan to get the materials for new force sabers, the Je’daii study an ancient holocron to try to find out more about the threat that is coming, the threat Daegon Lok saw in his force visions years ago, that they say drove him mad and made them banish him to Bogan. What’s interesting about this holocron, is that it looks like a mini replica of a Tho Yor, the huge ancient force ships that brought all force users to Tython – about which we learned in part 1 of the trilogy.

Daegon and Xesh manage to escape from Bogan fairly early in the story arc, which turns the rest of the adventure into a hide-and-seek kind of manhunt, with ranger Shae Koda as the lead ‘search dog’ because of her special bond with Xesh (see also Force Storm). This offers us readers a nice view of the solar system, as they visit several planets and moons and the cities upon them.

The Je’daii are of course also studying Xesh’s force saber, trying to get it to work and if possible to replicate it. The reader now learns that the energy blade is not so much hot as it is cold!

Although most of this TPB’s story arc is a manhunt with a lot of chase and action scenes in true Star Wars form, Xesh’s character is also more fleshed out with more interesting details about his back story. This time we learn more about his past as a child, life as a member of a force hound brood, how they are torture-trained, and about the big sister-like female who always protected him. Although Xesh doesn’t really remember much about her because of a memory block his masters put into his mind, we readers immediately get it: this is Trill, the second force hound in this story, who we also met in Part 1.

There is much more to say about this story of course. I will highlight two things that stood out to me. First, the way Daegon treats Xesh. It reminds us of the Master-Apprentice dynamics between the Sith of later times. However, there are significant differences too: Xesh in the end is not only not an apprentice, he far out-matches Daegon in strength. It seems Daegon made a devastating error of judgment about their relationship…

And second, there’s the motif of close friendship & brotherhood vs betrayal, that echoes that of Obi-Wan & Anakin – and again between two friends that became Je’daii masters, namely Daegon Lok and Hawk Ryo. They also end up fighting a fierce forcesaber battle…


This TPB reads like a movie and is a truly fun and thrilling adventure. I can do nothing but recommend this – although it is not a jumping-on point, you really should read part 1: Force Storm first.

Stay tuned for part 3: Force War!

Star Wars EU comics: Dawn of the Jedi 1 – Force Storm (25,793 BBY)

To hear me read this review and its two next parts, check out episode 525 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 25:38.

Well, by now I’ve dived deep into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, after a first few tentative steps with Darth Plagueis and the Darth Bane trilogy. In fact, I’ve gone full Obsessive Mode, which means I have now taken it upon myself to read all novels (a/o audiobooks) and all comics in chronological order, story-wise, as much as I can manage. Which does not mean I’ll review every single thing I read I don’t think, there is simply too much content to accompish that, but I’ll at least let you know about the things I liked, the hidden gems and also the things I found awful or simply incredibly dull. I’m planning to avoid reviewing the stuff I found simply okay, say the 3 out of 5 stars works.

For this undertaking I am using the Wookieepedia Legends timeline (the Expanded Universe has been declared non-canon by Disney and is now called Legends) that includes all novels and all comics at the same time. And for all of you who are into all that, they have also included movies, video games, tv series and even RPG scenarios – all in one big chronological timeline 🎉.

Although their entire timeline starts with a novel, I’ll review that one next time, since – spoiler alert – I didn’t like it very much and I really want to kick off this new blog series with a hit straight out of the ball park. My excuse is that both the novel and the comics are situated in the year 25,793 BBY – which means the actual order between the two doesn’t really matter.

On to Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm, the first of a TPB trilogy set in the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

Publisher’s Summary

(W ) John Ostrander (A) Jan Duursema, Dan Parsons (CA) Wes Dziboa, Gonzalo Flores.
Here begins the tale of the dawn of the Jedi, the Star Wars of 25,000 years ago-before lightsabers, before hyperspace travel, before the Jedi spread throughout the galaxy, when connections to the Force were new.

On the planet Tython, a group of beings – scientists, philosophers, and warriors – strive to maintain peace and to balance the mystifying power known as the Force. But a stranger is coming, one who will disrupt the balance with his arrival and his own connection to the Force. Everything in their system is about to change . . . The doors to the galaxy have been opened! Collects Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi-Force Storm #1-#5.

My thoughts

To start with the ending: I LOVED this entire trilogy of trade paper backs (TPB)! Or, 15 comics issues if you manage to still find these. These stories have a lot of so-called Star Wars tropes, and I mean that in a positive way, while being completely new and original at the same time, since the story takes place so long before the Skywalker era that the Jedi and Sith didn’t even exist. Let me start with the five tropes I recognized in Force Storm, the first part of our trilogy: First, there’s a truly badass villain in the Darth Vader tradition, long before there even were any darths. He even shares some similarities with Anakin Skywalker: he grew up to be a slave, his personality oozes the possibility of redemption, and there are even hints of a great love in his future (see pic below).

And as for the darth part, he dresses all-black complete with a face-covering mask, he’s a powerful master of the dark side of the force and kills without hesitation.

As for the heroes, in this first TPB there are several protagonists, none of which stand out – yet. The focus seems to be on three adolescent apprentices though, continuing the SW tradition of picking fairly young heroes on a quest that will also make them grow in strength and wisdom. Nice little detail is that one of these three is an actual Sith, that is to say the Sith as a species, one of the myriad of alien races in the Star Wars universe. They are red-skinned and originated on the world of Korriban.

There’s also an easter egg for SW fans: the symbol on the ancient pyramid spacecraft Tho Yor is the same as the symbol for the Rebellion – an unimportant detail but very nice if you happen to notice it – see pictures above and below.

Fourthly, in what I would call an eye-wink to fans, one of the Je’daii masters resembles Mace Windu, both in looks as in strength and wisdom 😉

And the last but not the least of the tropes I found, was the cover of the first TPB, which is designed to look like a SW movie poster – and I love it! Too bad they didn’t do it for all three covers.

As for the Story, Force Storm takes its time to introduce us to these ancient times of the SW lore, but manages to keep it well-paced. We learn why force wielders are from different races all over the galaxy, how they all came to live on a world called Tython in the core of the galaxy and that they came to be known as je’daii – which is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable. In those days, the Force was known to be both dark & light, in an eternal balance. The je’daii trained many years to keep this balance within themselves – which is of course a huge difference with the SW of the Skywalker era: in the ancient days there were no Light Side wielders and Dark Side wielders – every je’daii wielded both, and trained not to lose the balance. Interesting! In later EU stories like Revan we also see this phenomenon of force users wielding both sides of the force.

After the introductory pages, not so subtly disguised as a history lesson to our young journeyers (which we might call Padawan), the actual story starts. We meet our three young heroes, their masters and their force-sensitive planet Tython. We follow them on their adventure which leads them to meet Xesh, our villain – or in fact the representative of an entire realm of bad guys called the Infinite Empire. (Oh yeah, another SW trope! 🙂 ). Xesh is stronger in the Force and wields a forcesaber, which is a weapon the Tythons are unacquainted with. There are some fight scenes, both between the force wielders and with some of the planet’s monsters (“Hello, this is the Dune Saga calling, can we have our sand worms back?!”), and in the end we are left with Xesh leaving for Bogan, one of Tython’s two moons, the one representing the Dark Side of the Force. Which is where part 2 of the trilogy will pick up.

I loved the pacing of this story, the action scenes and the character moments. The villains are great. There’s Xesh of course, but we also meet his so-called ‘brood mate’ Trill, who like him is also a powerful Force Hound. And then there are their masters, the powerful and very evil Rakatan.

I did have some trouble sympathizing with our young heroes, I liked Xesh a lot better. Perhaps because he was better fleshed out, but I also think writers somehow find it easier to make bad guys interesting. The good guys often seem dull or two-dimensional or even hard to relate to.

Their masters on the other hand seemed to have more promise on the badassery scale, but they weren’t the main characters.

I did have some issue with the very on-the-nose references to buddhism, yin & yang, and the whole ‘good and evil are two sides of the same coin’ way of thinking. I know these elements are always somewhat present in SW, they are part of the concept, but in this TPB it was annoyingly so. Perhaps because in the Skywalker era, there was also some serious criticism of this philosophy weaved into the storylines, which created a good balance (see what I did there), whereas in this story it felt almost like an agenda.

All that being said, I still loved this first story arc very much, and would easily give it 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Next time, I’ll review part 2: Dawn of the Jedi: Prisoner of BoganStay tuned!



Review: Ahsoka (a Star Wars new canon novel)

To hear me read this review, check out episode 513 of the Spiritblade Underground Podcast, go to timestamp 22:42.

By now I’m pretty much dedicated to the Star Wars Expanded Universe – or rather Star Wars Legends, as it’s called now. However, my dedication only grew firm after having tried several works of the new Star Wars canon as Lucas Story Group now publishes it. Among which were two novels, which I both tried in audiobook format. The first was Tarkina review of which I posted a couple of months ago. The second novel was Ahsoka, which I’m reviewing today. And as with Tarkin, I was underwhelmed – to my own disappointment.

The novel was written by E.K. Johnston. In audiobook format it takes 7 hours and 8 minutes to finish, and is narrated by Ashley Eckstein – who also voices Ahsoka in both animated series!

Publisher’s summary

Fans have long wondered what happened to Ahsoka after she left the Jedi Order near the end of the Clone Wars and before she reappeared as the mysterious Rebel operative Fulcrum in Rebels. Finally her story will begin to be told.

Following her experiences with the Jedi and the devastation of Order 66, Ahsoka is unsure she can be part of a larger whole ever again. But her desire to fight the evils of the Empire and protect those who need it will lead her right to Bail Organa – and the Rebel Alliance.

©2016 E. K. Johnston (P)2016 Listening Library

My thoughts

The SW new canon novel Ahsoka was high on my wish list, for I’m both a huge Star Wars Clone Wars animated series fan, as well as a Star Wars Rebels fan. Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, was one of the new characters that were invented specifically for the SW The Clone Wars series, and quickly became a fan favorite. Many viewers who watched the Clone Wars were thrilled to see her return as an adult force wielder in the more recent series Rebels. Many fans – me included – were wondering what happened to her in the years between both series. How did she grow up, was she still in contact with the Jedi order or did she maybe return to them, and, most importantly: how did she get two colorless white light sabers? Ahsoka the novel promised to answer these questions and more, so I purchased it with anticipation.

Of course the audio effects are, as always, awesome, they really add to the story and the “feel” of the SW universe.
I found that this novel was clearly aimed at a young adult audience, for it wasn’t as exciting nor as deep as I had hoped. Possibly this may also be due to purely commercial deliberations by the publisher, simply wanting to keep on ‘milking the SW cow’ and making some easy money by throwing the fans a bone with an aluring title. Perhaps this sounds harsh and overly dramatic, but the novel left me with a sense of betrayal – well, kind of anyway; I mean it’s only a novel. But It’s like with the new Star Wars movies (parts 7 and 8, and even Rogue One): I’m beginning to feel the soul that was in the original Star Wars storylines, including the (Lucas-approved) Expanded Universe, has been ripped out by the now Disney-owned Lucas Story Group, leaving me as a fan nothing but some empty shells and no substance. (Hence, my recent exploration of the Legends content, formerly known as the Expanded Universe – but more on that in future posts).

About the only plus about the novel is that it does indeed explain where and how Ahsoka got the two uniquely white light sabres we know her to have in Star Wars Rebels.

So, hardcore Star Wars fans, be warned and only add this piece of new SW canon to your collection if you’re an absolute completist.

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