Anderson improves in his second Star Wars book
Written by Kevin J. Anderson.
Bantam Books.Patrick Mahoney
Although still slightly predictable, Dark Apprentice -- the newest book in the Star Wars line -- is enjoyable and entertaining.
The most valuable portion of this book is the use of a clever villainess, Admiral Daala. Though not as ingenious as the Grand Admiral Thrawn in Timothy Zahn's recent trilogy, she far outshines Moruth Doole, the primary antagonist of Kevin Anderson's first book (Jedi Search) in this trilogy. Daala is cold and calculating, and although she is more intent on random destruction than on defeating the New Republic, her experience and knowledge are refreshing.
In general, all of the characters in Dark Apprentice are much better than their counterparts in Jedi Search. All of them seem much more alive, and are more reminiscent of the characters in the films. All of the action of the characters is well justified and even the most drastic of changes -- Admiral Ackbar's resignation -- are developed and completely believable. There are occasional exceptions to this when the characters seem driven in a certain path only to further some unimportant plot line. For example, throughout the book Han and Lando argue about whether Han should really own the Millenium Falcon or not. Overall, however, I found the characters' actions entirely plausible -- a vast improvement over Anderson's Jedi Search.
Unfortunately, Anderson still suffers from one main problem: He explains too much. He often explicitly tells the reader what the character is thinking rather than putting out some hints and allowing the reader to figure this out for himself.
Much of what develops with the Jedi academy is predictable, as Anderson nearly spelled it out in the first book. Still he does a great job describing the history of the old Jedis and their downfall. He is able to keep the reader's interest in what could have easily become a boring plot line about a bunch of young Jedis learning to stand on their heads.
The plot moves quickly, very much unlike the Zahn series which focused a lot on politicking and strategies. This fast-paced plot line draws the reader in and keeps his attention focused on the story, making it hard to put the book down. A problem with this book is that it ends. All books end, but this one has a definite finale and doesn't really seem to be the second book in a trilogy. The third book will have to venture off in a different direction from the first and second.
Dark Apprentice is worth reading; it is exciting and quick. But if you are expecting the sort of book written by Zahn, you will be disappointed.