Co-review for Shadow Games

Skuldren: I think it’s very fitting that for this co-authored book that we have a co-review. Shadow Games is the first Star Wars novel to have Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff’s name on the cover, even though she was a co-author for Coruscant Nights III: Patterns of the Force. Together she and Michael Reaves have knocked out a very fun Star Wars book. And for Shadow Games there really is no better word to describe it; it’s just plain fun. You’ve got Dash Rendar hooking up with a holostar because he’s out of work and in desperate need of  credits. What should be a simple job turns into something much more complex, and leaves the reader with a bit of a mystery novel as Dash tries to figure out who’s behind what and why. Toss in Han Solo and the constantly amusing droid Leebo, and you have a highly enjoyable book that takes the stress out of reading Star Wars.

Synlah: Fun is exactly the word that came to mind when I was reading Shadow Games.  It reads as though the authors were having a blast writing it, and certainly shows that Bohnhoff is very much at home in the Star Wars Universe.  From a feminine perspective, I’m very happy that we have yet another worthy female author in Star Wars.

This book is set just pre-ANH.  One of the fun aspects of it are the sly references to coming events.  The story also delivers in attitude.  It has that free-wheeling, humorous adventure and real peril mix that ANH delivered so well.  Plus, it has a nicely twisted plot.  I love it when books deliver on that level, and lately I’ve been getting that in spades from the authors.  LucasBooks is on a streak right now (i.e., Conviction, Ascension, Riptide, Revan and Shadow Games) and I hope this is a trend that continues.

Skuldren: One of the factors that added to the twisted plot was the holostar, Javul Charn. I was expecting Javul to be your standard movie star type, but as the story progressed, she turned into something more. She wasn’t your typical Star Wars female character either. Javul was not another Leia or Winter. Javul actually had a complexity to her that made her feel more like a real person. She has uncertainties and secrets. Her character has a spine to it. She didn’t give any  ground to the others, like Dash.

And speaking of characterization, I loved what Maya and Michael were able to do with Dash. I only briefly played the video game and I never read the comics, so my only previous exposure to Dash has been in Shadows of the Empire. His part in Shadow Games felt like a natural fit into the SWEU. He’s an adventurous smuggler, the kind of character many people could see themselves being if they were in the Star Wars universe. He’s kind of like the less famous version of Han Solo. Yet that similarity factor creates some interesting interactions between Dash and Han. Even at this early point (prior to A New Hope), Han is still more famous than Dash and Dash is kind of envious. As trouble starts, readers get to see who’s more rebellious or loyal. It’s also worth noting that Chewie isn’t in the book, so Han doesn’t have any foils to play off of, other than Dash and Javul. Dash, on the other hand, has Leebo and Eaden Vrill (who’s like a Nautolan ninja) among everyone else.

A lot of how the viewer gets to see Dash comes from his interactions with others: how Dash interacts with Han, with Javul, with Eaden, and with Leebo. In that way, he’s defined by his company.

Synlah: Some fans expressed disappointment because the holostar is not Wynssa Starflare, but introducing a new character was a better decision.  First of all, I like the introduction of new characters into Star Wars and I hope we see Javul’s story continued.  Secondly, this plot could not have been used with Wynssa as the lead female; it just would not have worked.  And the plot is a good one.  It has a bit of everything: Imperials, Black Sun Vigos, Xizor and Rebels, including one famous Rebel in particular.  About the only group not involved are the Hutts.  There’s even a former Mandalorian — and just like everyone else, there are twists and turns with him.  It all adds to the fun of the adventure.

Skuldren: The addition of Hityamun “Hitch” Kris was pretty neat in retrospect. I’m a Mando fan, so I like seeing the addition of a Mandalorian. But Kris isn’t a typical Mando, he’s an ex-Mando. On top of that, he’s not even your typical villain. He broke stereotypes but also maintained stereotypes. He’s thick headed and stubborn, but his worldview and emotions are deeper than just two shades of color. With the characters in Shadow Games, there are very few basic good and evil stereotypes. Instead, everyone is a healthy shade of gray with some characters more darker and lighter than others. Kris was one of those characters that opens your eyes to the slippery slope of good and evil. He makes you ask the question: does the villain have to be a bad guy?

Looking back on it, all of the characters had a layered feel to them. As the book progressed, you got to know them better, and through reveals, they became something different, each of them going through a small transformation. With the mystery of the plot, it added to the character progression because you didn’t know where anyone was going to end up. Is this person the real villain? Is there more than one villain? Will this character live or die? Is this character a traitor? Maya and Michael wrote the book in a way that keeps you guessing, adding to joy of the novel.

Another thing Shadow Games has going for it is a lack of Jedi. Ordinarily, that statement wouldn’t make much sense: what’s Star Wars without Jedi? As an Expanded Universe reader, you get burnt out on reading about Jedi all the time and it’s nice to get a break from them. (It’s also nice to get a break from the Sith too.) And unlike Deathtroopers, Shadow Games is not a story with a tacked on Big 3 character to make it marketable to new readers. This is a book new readers can enjoy without having read any other Star Wars books. It’s a book veteran readers can enjoy without having to hear about the next big threat to the galaxy. It’s also the sort of book that can wait on the back burner until you’re ready to read it.  Since it’s not part of a series, there’s no pressure.

Synlah:  One of the pluses of this book is that it is about “ordinary” people in extraordinary circumstances.  There are no Jedi running to the rescue, or for that matter, Sith showing up to wreak mayhem.  That being said, one of the small things I liked in Shadow Games were the references to Jedi.  For about the first time in this era, we don’t see the entire galaxy undergone collective amnesia about the Old Jedi Order.  There are references to Vader too (as in they really don’t want to be within 100 parsecs of him), but the book demonstrates that you can have an entire entertaining, well-plotted story that holds your attention without always bringing in the Force Warriors.

Of course, no one in this book is really ordinary, but some characters believe they’re just trying to make their way in the galaxy.  In doing so, they struggle with obstacles that are bigger than they are, and how they act shows their character and how their lives have been impacted.   Dash and Javul come to a crossroads where the personal and the greater good intersect.  For Han, that time hasn’t come yet, but it’s close at hand. The story of Dash and Javul foreshadows Han’s own future.

Skuldren: In comparison, I’d have to say I liked Shadow Games a lot better than Revan, which was the last Star Wars novel I read. Shadow Games had a good flow and pacing to it with enjoyable characters, a fun story, and a good ending. That said, it’s not the best Star Wars book I’ve ever read (although it may be a contender for humor). Recently, Riptide  impressed me with what can be accomplished in a Star Wars book and we both felt that Shadow Games didn’t ascend to that level. Nevertheless, Shadow Games is a good book, a lot of fun to read, and we give it a solid 4 out of 5 metal bikinis.

Co-reviewed By: Skuldren and Synlah for Roqoo Depot.

2 Comments »

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  1. Best co-review I’ve read all year! Can’t wait to pick up the book!

  2. Awwwww. Thanks, you guys. :)


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