The Star Wars universe probably has the richest and most collaborative lore of any fictional world. Literally, thousands of artists and authors have taken George Lucas' creation and turned it into the books, movies, paintings, comic books, and video games we know today. Paul S. Kemp, an author and corporate lawyer from Michigan, added his name to that list with his first Star Wars book, Crosscurrent. On March 22nd, 2011, Kemp's second Star Wars book will hit the shelves. Deceived will also be the second book to deal directly with the lore leading up to LucasArts' and BioWare's MMORPG (maybe you've heard of it): Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The wildly popular Deceived trailer for SWTOR shows us how a Sith named Darth Malgus led the assault on the Jedi Temple during the Sacking of Coruscant. Darth Malgus and his Twi'lek companion rather quietly walk through the front doors of the temple to be surrounded immediately by Jedi who are rather uncertain about what to make of the situation until a stolen transport full of Sith warriors comes crashing through the main hall. A battle of light and dark ensues, which culminates with Maglus facing off with and killing Jedi Master Ven Zallow.
As with everything Star Wars, we only get a piece of the actual story with the trailer. This four minute trailer is the spark which eventually turns into the forest fire. Deceived tells the immediate and personal effects of this battle on Darth Malgus, his Twi'lek companion, a Smuggler, and a Jedi Knight.
The novel hardback will retail for $27 U.S. ($31 Canadian) when it releases, but Massively received an advanced copy of Deceived. Continue reading to scoop up our impressions of the latest in what looks to be a series of SWTOR-related novels. (Oh, there maybe a couple of spoilers to tease you in there, too.)
Deceived explores the effects the destruction of the Jedi temple and the Sacking of Coruscant has on three individuals: Darth Malgus, Aryn Leneer, and Zeerid Korr. Darth Malgus, as I mentioned, was the Sith Lord who led the attack on the Jedi Temple. Aryn Leneer was a Jedi Knight and former apprentice to Master Ven Zallow. Zeerid Korr was a reluctant Smuggler who has a history with Aryn. Although the Sacking of Coruscant eventually brings them together, there is a stronger connection between the trio: love. Now, I don't want you to get all mushy at this point. The book is not a romance novel -- far from it. The English word love is far too limited. Right at the front of the novel, we learn that each one of these characters is in love (with other people).
Darth Malgus carries the type of love we most commonly associate with the word. Malgus is in love with his Twi'lek companion, Eleena. Malgus murdered Eleena's owner and took her as his own slave. Eventually, the relationship grew stronger, and she became his confidant and lover. This was especially evident after Malgus' grave injuries following the Battle of Alderaan when Eleena nursed him back to health. What is of greatest interest in the novel is not their relationship itself, but rather how it affects his position in the Empire and his feelings towards his enemies.
Aryn's love is for Ven Zallow. This teacher and mentor eventually became her father in the spiritual sense. She was not immediately aware of how she felt about him, but when she felt him die all the way from Alderaan, she realized that her feelings were more than just her empathic abilities. The want to avenge her "father's" death would test her ties to friends and even the Jedi Order itself.
What is a father willing to do for a daughter? That is the question Zeerid Korr asks himself throughout the novel. We learn early on that Zeerid does not have very much money, and he is a smuggler for The Exchange. He cannot afford to give his daughter the care that she needs after a horrendous accident causes her to lose her legs. At the same time, he could not afford to see her as much as he wished either. Working for The Exchange means that everyone you love is at risk. He could not let on that he had family.
I have been pretty vocal about my general contempt for Star Wars novels. This isn't because I dislike the stories. In most cases, the stories are great. The majority of the novels tend to assume too much about the audience and concentrate on getting to the climax of the story rather than enjoying the journey. This novel does one thing really well, and the other not so well. But perhaps I am willing to overlook one for the other.
I appreciate lore in novels. It really gives real depth to a character-driven story. However, I don't like having to hold the novel in one hand and browse Wookieepedia with the other in order to understand what people and places look like. Granted, the majority of the people in this novel were human, but I had to turn to the internet to recall that Cereans were the cone-headed beings like Jedi Ki-Adi-Mundi from Episodes I through III. I find it hard to enjoy stories if I have to pull myself out of a novel to understand what I am supposed to be imagining.
On the flip side, character development was a lot stronger than I expected. This could largely be because these characters hadn't specifically been explored in the Star Wars universe before, or it could be the talent of the author. I will attribute it to the latter.
As a father myself, I have felt many times that I was not adequately providing for my children, as I am sure all parents have at one time or another. So starting and finishing the novel with Zeerid Korr was a very appropriate choice.
Strangely, I felt drawn also to Darth Malgus not because of his megalomanic deposition nor his love for Twi'leks. He had a strong desire to achieve, and it seemed as though something was always getting in his way -- something he could not let go of. Although I am not sure I would handle things the same way he did, the character was relatable.
For the SWTOR fans
If you are anything like I am, then you are looking to fill the gaps in lore that lead to your story in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Deceived will be a good novel to do some of that, although I believe the Threat of Peace webcomics give a better overview of the political situation. What this novel does the best is give me hope for my character in the game.
Deceived takes what could very easily be one dimensional characters, like Jedi and Sith, and gives them purpose and personality beyond the conventional. Jedi do not always do what is the most good, and Sith don't always do what is most evil. The characters in the novel make some extremely hard choices, choices, I hope, that our characters will have to make in the game. If nothing else, fans of SWTOR should read this when it is released to get a sense of the depth their characters' stories can have. I like to think I can predict what a Star Wars game is going to be like. But if this novel is any indication of what is in store, I am deceiving myself.