Book Review: ‘Star Wars: Crucible’

Title: Star Wars: Crucible
Author: Troy Denning
Release Date: July 9th, 2013

Warning: This review may contain minor spoilers.

Where to even begin? I blame myself for how I feel about this book. I was so excited for it.
Too excited.
Han, Luke, and Leia together again on an adventure? This was going to be like old times. But it wasn’t. It was more of what we have gotten recently from the trio’s ongoing story.

Let’s look at the official synopsis before we get too deep.

Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, and Luke Skywalker return in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which will challenge them in ways they never expected—and forever alter their understanding of life and the Force.

When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.

Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. They will stop at nothing to control the lucrative Outer Rim mining trade—and ultimately the entire galactic economy. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.

It was right after I read this blurb that I began to get a bad feeling about this book. Specifically “dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination” andan enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself”. Sounds way too heavy for the fun adventure story I was hoping to get.

Although I can’t point to a specific quote, I could swear that in the early promotion of this book it was said that this would be a side story and would not have galactic ramifications. Instead we got a story that pretty much picks up where Fate of the Jedi left off. In fact, if you haven’t read FotJ I would say that Crucible could be quite confusing. Story-lines like the search for the Mortis monolith and where exactly did Vestara Khai go are picked right up. I rather enjoyed learning more, but these things made this feel less like a stand-alone novel and much more like a conclusion to the FotJ series.

If you are a fan of the Fate of the Jedi novels you may very much like this book. I liked elements of those novels but had my problems with them. I gave Denning’s Apocalypse a mostly positive review. But the strangeness of those novels really carried over. Remember the Font of Power, Pool of Knowledge, Lake of Apparitions, and beyond shadows? Be prepared for that type of strangeness multiplied by 10. Throw in brainy alien bad guys whose heads are so big they have to have robotic suits and extremely creepy clone (or was it grown?) experiments, and it all went way to far for me.

When I read a Star Wars novel I try to imagine how it would look as a film. I couldn’t even come close to imagining Crucible as a Star Wars film. Maybe an off-the-wall anime series at best. Read the last two chapters and you will know what I am talking about.

The book had nonstop action and our heroes were almost always in danger. I started to get the feeling that the author really wanted to kill Han, Luke, and Leia but didn’t have permission to. They are mutilated a number of times in the story only to be revived by the convenience of bacta or the Force. Even many of the side characters sustain major injuries. I like a sense of danger but it really got to be overkill.

For the most part the book focuses on the “Big 3″ and I did like their interactions. It was really cool to see Luke and Leia out on a mission together as Jedi and also to see them both really use their Force powers. Han showed his abilities in other ways, and it was interesting to see him come to grips with his limitations as a non Force user. There is a great touching moment between Han and Leia toward the end of the book that I enjoyed. How this moment came about I didn’t like, but the moment itself really worked for me.

The book introduced a couple new characters like the miner Omad Kaeg (he was basically a young mash-up of Han and Lando) and the female refinery chief Dena Yus, but I found them both mostly forgettable. I was happy to see Ben, Jaina, and Tahiri in the Dramatis Personae but was disappointed in how little they were used.

I really liked the use of Vestara Khai. I find her an interesting character and I think they have set her up to be a constant foil for the Jedi in the future. She isn’t quite as complex in this book as she was in Fate of the Jedi. Anyone who is still on the fence about her true nature shouldn’t be after they read this. As a fan of Mandalorians I was also happy to see Boba Fett’s grandaughter Mirta Gev in the novel, even if her Mandos were a lot less honorable than I like to think they should be (I blame Traviss).

In the end this book fell very short for me. The story wasn’t that interesting and the strange factor was just way too high. I think there was a lot of potential wasted. Many times I felt like Denning wanted to go certain places but wasn’t allowed to (specifically when it comes to the Mortis mystery). The book definitely acts as a passing of the torch and implies that Han, Luke and Leia are taking a much needed vacation. With everything that is going on with the new films coming up and the uncertainty of where the Expanded Universe stands, this could very well be the last story we get in this era for a long while. This is not how I want this era to end and I am really crossing my fingers that Sword of the Jedi still happens and can give us a more satisfying conclusion or a better launching point for more stories to come.

Did you like the book? Completely disagree with me? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Aaron Goins

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  • Brian

    Boy if this is sort of it for this era of the EU, it’s a pretty big letdown.

    I think the biggest issue was that Denning couldn’t or wouldn’t reign in the scope. If this was a more self-contained, smaller-scale adventure, it could have fared so much better and been a stronger bookend for Han, Luke, and Leia. Unfortunately it tried to do too much and seemed to get away from Denning.

    • Aaron Goins

      I completely agree Brian. I wish this book was a much smaller scale more personal adventure for the Big 3. Maybe Denning can’t really write that type of book.

  • Arnold Corso

    I mostly agree although I really liked the abstract parts at the end. I think the book does show why the Big 3 need a break. And the villains were just dully. I posted a review on Poli-Sci Jedi.

    • Aaron Goins

      I just read your review. One thing we can agree on is the lack of a good villain in the book

      • Arnold Corso

        I also very much agree that it’s not a good way to end the era. Here’s hoping for SOTJ

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  • Dec

    I thought it was a good book. But I also agree with some of your points about it being too strange. And personally, I didn’t like the ambiguity regarding whether the “monolith” was the Mortis monolith or not.
    As for the villains/antagonists, meh. I thought they were good in concept and initially refreshing to the last type of antagonists in past books, until the end… When -SPOILER- Denning just turns them into overpowered dark side fuelled warriors.
    Not technically Sith, but still a weak idea if you ask me.
    But I think the book succeeds in bringing the curtain down on the era of Luke, Han and Leia defending the Galaxy.
    I’d probably give the book an 8/10.

  • polish_jedi

    Just finished the book, and I did really like it, I do agree with some of your points, but after the incredibly boring, and only sometimes great, FOTJ series, it was nice to not have to read through endless political debates that could have been done in three fewer books.

  • Samuel

    I thought that book was the best so far! It was a bit confusing for me though, I couldn’t really image what most of the setting looked like. And sure it could have gone on longer, and have a few more books trailing after. Overall, I thought Denning did very good. As a HUGE Starwars fan, I would like to see this as a film.