The Fate of the Jedi series has ostensibly been a trilogy drawn out over nine books. Lacking forward momentum, and somewhat unfocused it never managed to unite all of its cohesive parts into a unified whole. At least not until the final volume Apocalypse. This isn’t quite enough to save this series and doesn’t make up for the haphazard mess the series was but at least makes for an exciting tale in its own right.
The Fate of the Jedi series is part of a greater editorial initiative that by my reckoning started with the New Jedi Order novels. These novels featured a unified threat in a new extragalactic species and was unfurled over the course of multiple duologies, trilogies, and stand alone novels. The New Jedi Order novels were followed by the Legacy of the Force novels which was another nine book series. Compared to the earlier New Republic era Star Wars novels there is what looks like a greater degree of editorial control over the Star Wars expanded universe. I can’t speak on the New Jedi Order or Legacy of the Force novels (I stopped reading after Vector Prime) but with The Fate of the Jedi novels the disparate plot threads seemed to distract from the series’ primary conflict lending the series an overall unfocused feel. Here is a sample of the major plots in The Fate of the Jedi:
- The Lost Tribe of the Sith, a society of Sith descended from the occupants of a crashed Sith vessel.
- The erosion of the Galactic Alliance, a government founded on idealistic principles once again sliding towards the totalitarian control that brought about the old Empire.
- The distrust of the Jedi, political and public opinion of the Jedi has been severally damaged by the recent, and older, atrocities committed by the fallen Jedi of old.
- The greater mysteries of the force, Luke attempts to explore the Force and its various adherents in order to better understand Jacen’s fall.
- The Madness of the Jedi, several Jedi are developing sudden madness driving them into fits of violent paranoia.
- Abeloth, tied to Luke’s exploration of the Force and the Jedi Madness the uber-powerful Abeloth provides the primary threat for most of the series.
Each book in the series focuses rather disparately one several of these plot threads. It is easy to appreciate the scope of what the authors and editors were attempting but by and large the interweaving of so many disparate plots only managed to dilute each and limit their emotional effects. Early in the series it is the Jedi Madness and distrust of the Government that is the most grating and once the source of the madness is revealed that plot thread is pretty much dropped.
For me it was Luke and Ben’s Galactic Tour of Force Mysteries that was the most engaging aspect of the series. Luke’s training with the Baran Do Sages, the Aing-Tii, and later his exploration Beyond Shadow were engaging and did much to deepen the lore of the Jedi and Force users in the expanded universe. Of course much was made early in the series of Luke learning to teleport objects with the force, a trick that was never used after its initial introduction. By and large had the series could have focused more on a Luke and Ben’s journey.
Tied to the exploration of the Force mysteries was the introduction of Abeloth. A being seemingly crafted out of the Dark Side of the force she was something ripped right out of a Lovecraft story. It shouldn’t come as a surprise how much I loved her as the villain. Between Luke’s exploration of the Force and Aboleth (and particularly the planet on which she was found) The Fate of the Jedi saw a greater emphasis on the fantastical and the mystical than previous entries in the Expanded Universe (at least in my experience). In Apocalypse, Troy Denning finally reveals Aboleth’s origins and actually manages to tie the mythology of the Star Wars novel’s with that of the current Clone Wars animated series. It’s a brilliant bit of synergy that actually leaves me interested in seeing what comes next.
It is a bit sad that the strongest novel in the series was the last. Truth be told new readers could probably read the summaries of the previous novels then jump straight into Apocalypse and still enjoy the novel greatly. I honestly don’t feel that my experience with the earlier novels greatly enhanced my reading of Apocalypse. In Apocalypse, Denning admirably does his best to draw together the different threads of the series into a unified conclusion. I was actually pleasantly surprised at just how successful he was at this task. It seems to me that the way the novel ends sets up less of an overarching major plot going forward. I definitely think the expanded universe would benefit from a return to smaller more focused series.