Fate of the Jedi: Ascension

ascension-by-christie-golden

Fate of the Jedi: Ascension is the eighth book in the nine part series and is written by Christie Golden. Coming in at a healthy 392 pages, Ascension covers a lot of ground and sets things up for the final book in the series. Once again Synlah and I present our thoughts on the penultimate novel in a very special co-review. By the way, for those of you who don’t know, penultimate means next to last in a series.

Synlah: The book opens with the Lost Tribe, and there’s quite a bit of significant development here.  For the first time we get a look at Abeloth’s overt power and it’s impressive.  She’s isn’t just a creepy, tentacled, shape-shifting monster who eats people, body and soul.  We also find out that Lord Vol has some power of his own but it’s of a different kind.  He did not get to his position and age without understanding his opponent’s weaknesses and exploiting them.  It costs him (and the Lost Tribe), but his attack on Abeloth is very effective.  The surprise here — and set up for the inevitable confrontation — is Gavar Khai’s defection from the Lost Tribe to Abeloth.

Skuldren: I loved the way the book opened with character perspectives from Gavar Khai, Grand Lord Vol, and Abeloth. Getting inside their heads created a deeper connection to each character, and in Abeloth’s case, it shared a little more light on who she is, not so much what she is. On top of that, I’ve been waiting patiently for Vol’s debut. Although we don’t see any epic lightsaber fights from him, we do get a good look at his character perspective. With his additional viewpoint, it adds another dimension to the Lost Tribe.

Synlah: Personally, I really like the Lost Tribe as much for who they aren’t as who they are.  I love their combination of Sith civilization, their ruthless arrogance in the belief of their own superiority, and a surprising naivety that results from that belief.  In spite of how the Jedi keep handing their heads to them, the Lost Tribe persists in the ludicrous belief that they rule the galaxy.  Their heritage, long isolation, and belief in their own superiority (not to mention their consistent underestimating of Luke and the Jedi — did the Lost Tribe not read NJO?) continues to be their downfall.  I hope that this trend continues.  Christie Golden does a fine job of juxtaposing their delusions of themselves against reality.

Skuldren: Along with the insight from the villains of the series comes the first big surprise: the destruction of Tahv. The Sith’s capital, the City of Glass, and for Abeloth, a casual victim. Using two scenes from two points of view, Christie manages to display the power of both Vol and Abeloth. Yet every action has a reaction and the consequences of this battle were massive. Having been attacked at her very core, Abeloth strikes back at anything and everything. In her moment of rage, she doesn’t just strike back at Vol, or attack some nearby Sith. For a being of her caliber destroying just a building or two, even a whole block, wouldn’t justify the full scope of her abilities. To fully illustrate the might of her wrath Abeloth attacks the entire city. And she doesn’t just rip the place to pieces, she actually melts the capital to the ground. This whole maelstrom of destruction takes only a few minutes and leaves the reader in awe.

Synlah:  This book is so jam packed it would take too long to review every plot detail, suffice to say Christie Golden delivers a bit of everything: politicians both good and bad, conniving moffs, Sith, Squibs, Jedi, angsty, Force strong teenagers in love, and the creepiest Abeloth we’ve yet seen.

Skuldren: Ah yes, the Squibs. I don’t know why, but I have a love for cute little alien species. Whenever Troy Denning used the Squibs in one of his novels, it was always a humorous experience, and Christie does a great job of nailing that aspect. When you read the Squibs dialog, it genuinely feels different from the other characters and their personality shines through it. It combines that alien aspect with a species bent on deals and secrecy. And they’re just plain fun. I’m hoping we see more of them in Apocalypse because Ascension has me jonesing for some more Squib action.

Synlah: I love the Squibs, and their inclusion highlights something I really like about Christie Golden’s style.  Golden seems to have a knack for adding character dimension without an overflow of exposition.  Most notable is Abeloth, but I felt that several characters benefited from Golden’s style.  I particularly appreciate her portrayal of Jaina.  What I felt Allston started in Conviction, Golden built on in Ascension: a mature, adult, competent female Jedi, sure in herself and her duty, and her personal life.  Jaina has finally stepped into her own.

As well, Golden nailed the emotional and hormonal aspects of Teenage Love in all its typical drama.  Toss in Force strength and you get some interesting interaction.  It’s interesting to note here that in The Scene it’s Vestara who’s the aggressor (although that seems to have slipped the notice of some readers).  Let’s remember at this point that Vestara has more than amply demonstrated her willingness to betray and kill.  It’s Vestara who first acts in violence and ups the level of violence in response to Ben’s Force slap to the point where one of them would have been killed if Ben hadn’t acted accordingly.  Most people would have cold cocked the girl at that point — if you toss me into a bulkhead and come at me with a lightsaber, I don’t care what your gender is; all bets are off at that point.  But instead of resorting to more violence Ben resorts to tossing pillows in her face and restraining her with bed sheets which I might add are the closest things at hand to restrain her with.  Although I did find the Ben-Vestara scene perhaps a tad forced, it wasn’t unbelievable either.

Skuldren: I thought that scene was believable. I know when I read it, the slap surprised me, but I was so drawn into the scene and emotions being stirred that it never threw me out of the story. Regardless, it does touch upon one of the things Ascension did that we haven’t seen in a while: it brings out material worthy of discussion. Whether it’s the choices made by the characters, or the way the story twisted this way and that, there are a lot of things in this book for fans to discuss. With the long wait for Apocalypse, it’s sure to keep people busy.

But as Synlah mentioned earlier, a lot of stuff happens in Ascension, too much to cover everything in just one review. A couple things that stood out though were some story elements that some fans had been clamoring for. One group of dedicated Star Wars fans were longing for a return to the political spectrum. Not just a look at the top, but a return of the Senate and some sense of government rules, regulations, and processes. Not something the ordinary fan would care to think of as exciting. However such mundane things are world building tools. In this case galaxy building tools. It brings the setting to life and adds an amount of realism. One cannot have war without some form of government, and as Clausewitz said: “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” Christie uses the politicians initially to shuffle things up. The Senate get their page time and serve as a faucet to dish out some big surprises. As the story progresses, those political surprises get bigger and bigger. The politicians wind up in little personal wars with themselves, sometimes in literal battle. By the end things are set for a massive war to decide just who will rule the galaxy.

One of those personal, political battles also involves the other aspect some fans have been begging for: space battles. Ascension manages to include one that impressed me by putting two foes against each other that I didn’t expect and by delivering a healthy dose of realism. Like most of the book, it unfolded in ways I wouldn’t have predicted. This wasn’t a case of Thrawn holding some massive tactical advantage that lets him easily win the battle. Nor was it a quick, relatively bloodless battle. The engagement really touched back to the grim days of the Yuuzhan Vong war when readers didn’t know who would win or die and the odds were dead even for both sides.

It’s too early to make conclusions on the series as a whole, but for Christie’s part, I think she did a great job of jumping into a whole new universe. Her books slid into the FOTJ series without feeling out of place. And Ascension feels perfectly at home in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. A veteran reader would not notice that this is an author whose only written three Star Wars books.

Ascension does present a different tone than Conviction though. Allston gave readers a fun romp through the plot lines that had no shortage of humor, drama and a little bit of horror with the drochs. Christie takes things to a more serious level, which is only fitting concerning the waypoints of the story. There are still some lighthearted moments, but there are also very emotional passages. Ascension doesn’t just float by and toss readers to the next book. Instead it grips readers in a steady conveyor of twists and turns. The story impacts the reader, digging them deeper into the fictional scenery and characters with each surprising event. Amazingly enough Christie doesn’t have to use the mysterious aura of Abeloth to create that depth. Nor does she utilize witty characters or the big three to truly ensnare the fans. Her biggest strong points are taking fairly new characters and bonding them with the reader. Each character has a journey in this book. Christie makes sure the words carry the reader away to fully enjoy the show. Political masquerades, an intricate space battle, and wild goose chases leading and cementing destinies. There is so much in this novel that it’s hard not to find something to like.

Synlah: All in all, Ascension is a fantastic penultimate novel that sets the stage perfectly for an epic Apocalypse finale.  But with the plot twists and turns Golden has set things up in a perfectly unpredictable way.  What that finale will be is anybody’s guess.

We give Ascension a five out of five metal bikinis.

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