‘Star Wars: Dark Force Rising’ (Book)

‘STAR WARS: DARK FORCE RISING’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Katana Fleet with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia

Will Luke, Han and Leia ever confront Grand Admiral Thrawn?

‘Dark Force Rising’ is the second novel in the original Thrawn trilogy of ‘Star Wars’ books by Timothy Zahn. The trilogy started in ‘Heir to the Empire’, which I read from October to November in 2020. I read ‘Dark Force Rising’ in December 2020. It was a decent read for me in the build up to Christmas.

The book was originally published in 1992, although I read the e-book version when it came out in 2016. This was when Disney acquired the rights to ‘Star Wars’ with Lucasfilm Ltd. They put the original Thrawn trilogy under the ‘Star Wars Legends’ series. Yeah, I forgot to mention that last time.

You see, for some reason, Disney decided to put the old ‘Star Wars’ expanded universe continuity in an alternative universe and replace it with their own ‘Star Wars’ expanded universe material. This is something I don’t approve of as I believe every aspect of a sci-fi franchise should be embraced here.

I don’t think ‘Doctor Who’ has discarded a certain book series as an old continuity and replaced it with a new old, but I’d like to think all the books, audios and comics coexist as one with the established TV stories. Same thing with ‘Star Wars’ with their books, audios and comics with the films!

So why Disney would seem to discard the original Thrawn trilogy and put it under ‘Legends’ is baffling. Maybe they wanted to put in their own ‘Episodes VII-IX’ and not acknowledge previous ‘Star Wars’ tales that depict what happened to Luke, Han and Leia after the events of ‘Return of the Jedi’.

That sort of attitude comes across as lazy in my opinion. Now, I’m not going to say ‘Solo’ is good in having a Darth Maul appearance without establishing the villain survived and appeared in ‘The Clone Wars’ and ‘Rebels’ shows. But at least ‘Solo’ acknowledges (clumsily) that there’s other spin-off media. 🙂

Maybe I’m over-thinking the issue as usual and there’s probably a simple explanation for why the original Thrawn trilogy doesn’t match up to what happens later in the ‘official’ ‘Star Wars’ sequels trilogy from ‘The Force Awakens’ onwards, but I think more people would lean to the original stuff. 🙂

The hardcore ‘Star Wars’ fans wouldn’t dismiss the original Thrawn trilogy like Disney seems to be doing with their sequels trilogy. Mind you, Disney might be trying to make amends for that considering the divided reception they’ve had to their sequels trilogy made from 2015 to 2019 lately.

But I digress. ‘Dark Force Rising’ is shorter in terms of a novel compared to ‘Heir to the Empire’. Whereas ‘Heir to the Empire’ was 32 chapters in length, ‘Dark Force Rising’ is 29 chapters in length. I don’t know if this is a pattern matching to the original ‘Star Trek’ show’s episode count in Seasons 1 and 2.

Like I said, I enjoyed reading ‘Dark Force Rising’ when I read it in December 2020. It was a good time to read the original Thrawn trilogy from October to December 2020 since I was also watching ‘The Mandalorian’ series on Disney+ and I was revisiting the ‘Star Wars’ movies in chronological order. 😀

However, with that said, I don’t think ‘Dark Force Rising’ is as good as ‘Heir to the Empire’. Now I’m not saying ‘Dark Force Rising’ is a bad book. On the contrary, Timothy Zahn writes very well again. I enjoyed the book more than I enjoyed ‘Lords of the Sith’ by Paul S. Kemp when reading it in 2019. 😀

But I didn’t feel ‘Dark Force Rising’ was as exciting enough as ‘Heir to the Empire’. Maybe it was because I had a lack of not watching a visual representation of the story, like I’d partially done with ‘Heir to the Empire’ by DarthAngelus on YouTube. Maybe I’m not into ‘Star Wars’ as I would’ve liked.

Whatever the reason, I did tend to drift whilst reading ‘Dark Force Rising’ and not feel as invested as I would’ve liked when I was reading ‘Heir to the Empire’. Perhaps this is usually the case with a middle chapter of a trilogy of books. But at least ‘Dark Force Rising’ is way better than ‘The Last Jedi’.

Let me try to justify myself in terms of comparing the original Thrawn trilogy to the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy. Now in the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy; Luke, Han, Leia and the Rebel Alliance had an enemy to fight against. The enemy of course is the Galactic Empire, Darth Vader and the Emperor. 🙂

Now I felt that Darth Vader was more prominent as a villain in the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy. This is especially when he had confrontations with Luke Skywalker and when there was a personal link between them in being father and son. This is something I can get behind watching the original films.

That’s not something I can say about Grand Admiral Thrawn. Don’t get me wrong, he is an intimidating presence aboard his Imperial ship, the Chimaera. His conversations with Pellaeon when they’re conducting battle strategies and such demonstrate how cunning and ruthless Thrawn can be.

But there’s not really enough of him having confrontations with Luke, Han and Leia like Darth Vader had in the original trilogy. I was kind of expecting that since it’s what I enjoyed when Luke, Han and Leia had to overcome deadly powerful threats in the Empire led by Darth Vader and the Emperor. 😐

Maybe the build-up to Luke, Han and Leia confronting Thrawn is saved for ‘The Last Command’, the third book of the original Thrawn trilogy. But I would’ve liked the confrontation between our main ‘Star Wars’ heroes and Thrawn to be more personal and match with what went on with Darth Vader.

If anything, the Dark Jedi Master called C’baoth might be considered more the personal enemy for Luke when he’s training him to learn his Dark Jedi/Sith skills, unlike how Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi trained him. Maybe this should’ve been called ‘The C’baoth Trilogy’ rather than ‘The Thrawn Trilogy’.

The story of ‘Dark Force Rising’ has our heroes learning about a fleet of highly automated heavy cruisers known as the Katana fleet – also coined ‘Dark Force’. The smuggler Talon Karrde (who debuted in ‘Heir to the Empire’) discovered the Katana fleet as he soon warns the New Republic of it.

Thrawn attempts to press his advantage to marshal more forces for the battle against the New Republic. Karrde is soon under arrest by the Empire remnants led by Thrawn and Mara Jade, Karrde’s associate, tries all he can to secure his release before she goes to Luke Skywalker for help. 🙂

Now if I’m brutally honest, I found the Luke Skywalker story in ‘Dark Force Rising’ more interesting than Han and Leia’s stories (I’ll get back to them in a bit). This is especially when Luke finds himself undergoing training by C’baoth, before learning the harsh truth about him when Mara Jade comes. 🙂

And hey, I was reading ‘Dark Force Rising’ when Luke Skywalker made a return appearance at the end of Season 2 of ‘The Mandalorian’. It was surreal to see that whilst reading ‘Dark Force Rising’ at the same time. I assume Luke’s appearance in ‘The Mandalorian’ happens after the Thrawn trilogy. 🙂

It was also nice to read Mara Jade’s journey in the original Thrawn trilogy. In ‘Heir to the Empire’, she started off being antagonistic towards Luke, wanting to kill him because of what he did to ‘end her life’ in ‘Return of the Jedi’. In ‘Dark Force Rising’, Mara Jade is becoming more trusting to Luke. 🙂

Not wishing to predict what will happen in later ‘Star Wars’ books featuring Luke and Mara and not wishing to reveal spoilers, but I think that Luke and Mara will become more trusting and friendlier to each as times goes on. It’ll be interesting how that relationship gets resolved in ‘The Last Command’.

Incidentally, at the time of this review, I’ve heard that Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond in ‘Doctor Who’, is being considered to play Mara Jade in a future ‘Star Wars’ project, whether it’d be a film or a web TV show. Now, I would welcome that greatly since I’m sure Karen would play Mara splendidly. 🙂

In terms of the other character journeys going on in ‘Dark Force Rising’, Leia goes to the planet Honoghr where the alien race called Noghri that serve the Empire might’ve been deceived over the years and have effectively been enslaved. It’s interesting how the Noghri treat Leia in the story here.

Chewbacca accompanies Leia and they find that the Noghri regard her highly since they revere her late father, the insidious Darth Vader. They believe that Vadar saved their planet from an ecological disaster. Much has changed since then. Leia tries to convince the Noghri otherwise of the Empire. 😐

She has conversations with the female ruler of the Noghri called the maitrakh and the Noghri she befriended in ‘Heir to the Empire’ called Khabarakh to gain the Noghri’s trust and have them switch sides to fight the Empire. This works out when they learn the horrid things that the Empire has done.

I don’t think the storyline featuring Leia, Chewie and C-3PO on Honoghr is bad as it comes second to being interesting under Luke’s in ‘Dark Force Rising’. But there were occasions when I tended to drift from what was going on in Leia’s storyline, especially with the intercutting between other storylines.

That’s like another issue I tend to have when reading books, especially when they seem to be set in space, on an alien planet or something. Because there aren’t many familiar Earth settings for me to identify with, it does make me drift when I’m trying to visualise the worlds being depicted for me. 😐

That might make me less of a sci-fi fan as I seem to make out to be most of the time. Perhaps it’s because I can enjoy a sci-fi story when it’s in a visual sense rather than in a prose sense. Perhaps it’s why I enjoy the variety in ‘Doctor Who’ books more than opposed to what’s in the ‘Star Wars’ books. 😐

Han’s story in ‘Dark Force Rising’ might be the least interesting compared to Luke and Leia’s storylines. In his story, Han Solo with Lando Calrissian try to find evidence at the planet Nov Cov in order to expose Delta Source, a New Republic source believed to be a spy for Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Now I will admit, the political struggle where Senator Borsk Fey’lya tries to take over the New Republic and is suspected to be working for Thrawn is intriguing. This is especially when Admiral Ackbar got arrested at the conclusion of ‘Heir to the Empire’. I appreciate that side of the story told.

But like I said with Leia’s story, I tended to drift in terms of what was going on with Fey’lya being difficult, especially with the recommendations made to stop the Katana fleet. Fey’lya seems to be more treacherous as the story progresses, especially when Han and Lando are about to suspect him.

The fact that Ackbar being temporarily neutralised as a tactical opponent gives Thrawn the opportunity to lead an army of clones to claim the Katana fleet, which outmanoeuvres our hero characters like Luke, Leia, Han and Lando in the final confrontation towards the end of the tale here.

Just to go back to Luke being trained by the Dark Jedi/Sith called C’baoth, I think it would’ve been interesting and compelling if Luke was being trained to learn the arts of the Dark Side, making him conflicted throughout the story. There seemed a promise of that, but it didn’t amount to anything. 😦

There was also less character development and interaction for C-3PO and R2-D2 in ‘Dark Force Rising’ compared to ‘Heir to the Empire’ as well as for Chewie. I agree, it is difficult to write for their characters when Luke, Han, Leia and Lando get more attention, but I would’ve liked more of them. 🙂

The e-book has special features attached to it after you’ve finished the story, which are similar to the ‘Heir to the Empire’ e-book special features. There’s an introduction to the ‘Star Wars’ expanded universe; and there’s an excerpt, which is Chapter 1, from the third book of the original Thrawn trilogy called ‘Star Wars: The Last Command’ by Timothy Zahn. There’s an introduction to the Old Republic era with an excerpt, which is ‘Day One: Chapter 1’, from the book called ‘Star Wars: The Old Republic – Deceived’ by Paul S. Kemp. There’s an introduction to the Rise of the Empire era with an excerpt, which is Chapters 1 and 2, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Dark Lord – The Rise of Darth Vader’ by James Luceno. There’s an introduction to the Rebellion era with an excerpt, which is Chapter One, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Allegiance’ by Timothy Zahn. There’s an introduction to the New Republic era with an excerpt, which is Chapter 1, from the book called ‘Star Wars: X-Wing – Rogue Squadron’ by Michael A. Stackpole. There’s an introduction to the New Jedi Order era with an excerpt, which is ‘One – Fraying Fabric’, from the book called ‘Star Wars: The New Jedi Order – Vector Prime’ by R. A. Salvatore.  And there’s an introduction to the Legacy era, with an excerpt, which is ‘chapter one’, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Legacy of the Force – Betrayal’ by Aaron Allston; and an excerpt, which is Chapter One, from the book called ‘Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi – Outcast’ by Aaron Allston. There’s also a ‘Star Wars Legends’ novels timeline.

‘Star Wars: Dark Force Rising’ is a decent read in the original Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn. I can’t say it’s a better instalment compared to ‘Heir to the Empire’, but at least it’s well-written and it has our main characters in Luke, Han, Leia and Lando in a better light compared to the sequels movies. 🙂

Maybe with film adaptations of the original Thrawn trilogy, I would see the three books by Timothy Zahn in a better light compared to reading them. Maybe with audiobooks to listen to, I would enjoy and appreciate them more. Here’s hoping that ‘The Last Command’ will be a satisfying conclusion. 🙂

‘Star Wars: Dark Force Rising’ rating – 7/10


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