Fate of the Jedi: Conviction

Conviction took off from the momentum of Vortex, and on the surface, it was a lot like Backlash. In both books Allston followed up on Denning’s efforts of a Lovecraftian portrayal of the mysterious, uber-powerful Abeloth. Like Backlash, Abeloth took more of a back seat as the other parties stepped forward, especially the teaming of Han-Leia-Allana and Luke-Ben-Vestara. However, Allston did a lot more than write another Backlash.

Conviction soared above and beyond its predecessors as easily the most fun book in the series and with possibly the funniest Star Wars jokes in years. The book is simply jam packed with humor, fun, and excellent characterization.

Skuldren: Synlah brought up an issue a while back that had a lot of merit: where’s the next generation of Jedi? With the aftermath of the Yuuzhan Vong War, a lot of cream-of-the-crop of the Jedi Order were killed off (Anakin Solo, Ganner Rhysode, Eryl Besa, Jovan, Drark, Bela Hara, Krasov Hara, Ulaha Kore, etc). Dark Nest didn’t help any and then Legacy of the Force merely continued the destruction by taking out even bigger names like Mara Jade Skywalker and Jacen Solo. On top of the character deaths was the fact that there weren’t a whole lot of new Jedi being brought in to replace the old characters. Throughout Legacy of the Force, the only two new Jedi to be really developed were Ben and Seha. However, Fate of the Jedi started to reverse the effect. The authors brought back Raynar, they devoted page time to the Jedi Masters, they listed the entire Jedi Council, and most importantly they started creating new Jedi. This point is driven home even further while reading Conviction.

In Conviction Allston introduces readers to two new Jedi and further develops the existing characters. Josat is a red haired, lean, human male and a padawan assigned to Tekli (a new medic for the next generation?). The other new Jedi is Raharra Lapti, a young teenager who has not reached knighthood yet. Both are aptly setup for future page time in the novels to follow. Rounding things out, Allston gives some hefty page time to Seha Dorvald. By the end of the book, Seha is feeling more and more like an important character whom readers can expect to see a lot more of in the future. The final addition to the new-gen Jedi cast is Bandy Geffer who you might remember fought alongside Raynar when the Mandos sieged the Jedi Temple. Bandy’s character gets some more action in Conviction, again setting up another Jedi to help fill out the Order.

Synlah: Don’t forget, Allston elevated Seha to Jedi Knight. But the thing I really like about all these characters, whether they’re bit players or Big Stars is how Allston characterizes them, makes them whole.  No matter how much page time, each character is fleshed out. You get a very real sense of who they are, what their personalities are like. You don’t feel they’re throw-aways just to advance plot, but viable additions to the Star Wars EU. He even manages to get Jag and Jaina on solid relationship footing in what are two very small but effective scenes.

I do have to say, however, that I don’t think anyone gets Han and Leia better than Allston. It was just pure joy to read the Han and Leia interaction throughout Conviction. Second to that was the interaction/dynamic between Luke, Ben and Vestara.

In my opinion, that’s part of what elevates a book from ordinary to memorable, and Allston certainly succeeded with that. I felt as though I’d stepped back into the EU universe.

Skuldren: I agree, the characterization between Han and Leia was spot on, and at times priceless. The interactions between Luke, Ben and Vestara were also really good. Plus Allston was on a role with R2-D2 and C-3PO. Altogether it did take you back in time with the expanded universe, especially with all the little nods to the past that were included in Conviction. For instance, at one point Han mentions the trash compactor in the Death Star. Later on Han uses the classic “trust me” line to Leia who in turn shoots him the stare she used when she was in her cell on the Death Star. Even Cilghal gets in on the action by pulling an Obi-Wan and spinning a lie. But the tributes go further than that when you consider all of the flashbacks to Planet of Twilight. A lot of the book takes place on Nam Chorios and some old faces return, along with the drochs and the Theran Listeners. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s a plot device for Yuuzhan Vong invasion and best yet, a cameo by the galaxy’s most feared bounty hunter!

Synlah: Oh yes, all the nods to the past certainly pulled the reader into the entire EU. If you didn’t know the history, the nods did not interfere with story enjoyment. If you did, they added an extra dimension to it. Han’s little throwaway line about being a slave on Kessel immediately threw me back into the entire Jedi Academy Trilogy, and the very beginnings of Luke’s Jedi Order. Daala first appeared in JAT and, incidentally, was rabidly anti-Jedi/New Republic then. That was an interestingly full-circle moment.

I found myself enjoying the Nam Chorios segments. Some may think there was too much of that, but there was plenty of action going on Coruscant to counterbalance Nam Chorios. And in my opinion the conclusion justified all the time spent there on the planet of twilight, not to mention a very important ability Luke mastered. The culmination of events between Luke and Callista was particularly poignant and sadly satisfying.

One other event I have to touch on concerns Leia and Allana. In the interaction between Allana, Leia and the Sith I saw shades of their fathers in both females. Allana showed an ability with visions and the courage of both her parents, but perhaps a shade more of the selfless Jacen (not Caedus), while Leia went pure Skywalker on a Sith who didn’t stand a chance. Leia so often displays Padme’s political acumen that you forget she’s the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, the most powerful Jedi ever. She certainly lived up to his Jedi legacy here, particularly as she was defending someone she loves.

Skuldren: I felt that the real strength of this novel was the humor. Allston has always been known for including some good laughs and a lot of jokes in his Star Wars books. However, Conviction is quite possibly his funniest book yet. From Ewok kill silhouettes to a Gammorean cameraman, from Luke and Ben jokes to some of Han’s best lines yet. But the real coup-de-grace was ultimately the dynamic duo of R2-D2 and C-3PO who tear it up at the end.

Synlah: I totally agree that Allston brought in some much need and really delightful humor. It really hearkened back to Star Wars roots with the spirit of A New Hope. It was the humor in the face of very grim circumstances that helped mark Star Wars as different from all other science fiction movies that had come before it. Conviction rings absolutely true in this. George Lucas demonstrated that you don’t have to tell a grim story in a grim way, and Allston very much follows in that vein with this book. My very favorite line in the book has to be: “Join me, Han, and we can rule the galaxy as wife and husband.” To which Han replies how about lunch instead and Leia agrees. No Palpatines there.

I don’t know if Allston set out to write a book that seamlessly knit the EU together, but he certainly achieved that. Conviction is a satisfying read and a good book.  It also leaves you speculating about where Fate of the Jedi is going next. What is Daala up to? Is the Lost Tribe canny or just incredibly stupid? Will August come soon enough?

Skuldren: The way Allston integrated the elements of Planet of Twilight into Conviction was certainly a massive bridge between the Bantam-era and the Del Rey-era. On its own, Planet of Twilight wasn’t the most memorably of books, but now all of the sudden its relevant again, and as Synlah hinted at earlier, it played a big part in tying up a major plot point in the FOTJ series. So that certainly was some crafty knitting there. And as for the questions and expectations in the series, especially with the new back cover that was revealed for Ascension, I’m eager to see what lies ahead.

Synlah: A final aspect of Conviction that should not be overlooked is the advancement of Luke Skywalker. Without shoving it in the reader’s face, Allston conveyed how much Luke is head and shoulders above everyone one else, including Sith or his own Jedi. Luke just continues to grow more powerful and wise without the major histrionics of, say, raining down lightning on everyone around him. He balances his wisdom and strength with his farm boy self-effacement in true Luke Skywalker fashion. Allston kept Luke true while growing him just that much more. It was a pleasure to witness.

In conclusion: (Synlah)  I would recommend Conviction. Over all it is an enjoyable and viable addition to the FOTJ series. With the “yes and” method Allston successfully manages to advance events from the previous books while presenting Golden and Denning with plenty to work with in their next two novels. He wraps this all up in a thorough EU package for the enjoyment of the reader, with no false notes in any of his characterizations.

(Skuldren) And although this is not an Abyss or Vortex, packed with mysterious Abeloth action, Allston really topped himself with his best book yet in this series, and in my opinion his best book since the Enemy Lines duology. The story mimics the fun, action-adventure aspect of the Original Trilogy, and, in a way, the joy that early Bantam stories like the Thrawn Trilogy and the X-wing books did so well. By leaving the Tribe to Christie Golden, and Abeloth to Troy Denning, Allston managed to hit a home run by focusing on the Big 3, classic Star Wars characters, and the new generation of Jedi. Conviction is Allston doing what he does best.

We give it a unanimous 5 out of 5 metal bikinis.

Co-reviewed By: Synlah and Skuldren

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