Monday, 29 January 2018

#StarWars The Approaching Storm mini review

The Approaching Storm is the prequel novel to Attack Of The Clones. The grand republic is crumbling and more and more systems to look succeed from the republic entirely during this period of galactic uncertainty. One such planet is the seemingly insignificant world of Ansion, whose succession would potentially lead to a great number of other systems following suite. 

Ansion is a divided planet, split between the very traditional prairie dwelling nomads and the city residing business folk. Wishing to encroach ever further into the ancestral homes of the nomads    Obi-Wan Kenobi and his adolescent padowan Anakin, together with Luminara Unduli and her padowan Barris Offee are tasked with persuading the secessionist movements that remaining in the republic is beneficial for all those involved. 

The team of Jedi must negotiate with traditionalist nomads to come to an agreement with the city dwellers that can be beneficial for all, to convince the necessary factions to vote remain on this "Brexit" in a galaxy far, far away... 

Of course, nothing is as straight forward as it would first seem, and the team of Jedi must overcome many pitfalls set in place by Soergg The Hutt and his underworld minions. The story is full of attempted kidnappings, assassinations and political treachery, and is extremely tense throughout. 

In addition to this, the Jedi must successfully navigate the varied lands of a relatively unknown Ansion in their search for the traditionalist clans with whom they must converse. Luckily, Barriss has the fortune of befriending her would-be kidnappers who then act as guides to help them do just that. The Jedi must maneuver varied terrain, tame and conquer unusual wildlife and work within the unusual traditional politics of a variety of Ansion clans. 

Including all the above, we are treated to an exciting, political and action packed story, with many diverse and richly detailed characters. Not only this, we are given an insight into the developing character of Anakin Skywalker, who even now is struggling with his headstrong attitude to Jedi-ism and arrogance, whilst trying to be a genuinely decent and morally proper being. 

The whole story is so well written, intricately detailed and a great prequel to the Attack Of The Clones story, I would readily recommend to any fan of this era of Star Wars stories. It's exciting; full of action and deceit and was wholly entertaining throughout. 

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

#StarWars Outbound Flight Novel Mini Review

Set prior to The Clone Wars in an era of political and economic uncertainty, Outbound Flight is Jedi master C'baoth's pet project of exploration; intending to take a colony of Jedi, force sensitive individuals and colonists to explore worlds in the unknown regions of space.

The story begins with the possibility of the mission perhaps being axed permanently much to C'baoth's disgust, and we are treated to some of the political maneuverings of Senator Palpatine, who even in these early stages in his rise to power is already plotting and manipulating those around him to bring about the demise of the Jedi and solidify his eventual place as ruler of the Empire.

Obi Wan and his just teenager apprentice Anakin Skywalker also make an appearance in Outbound Flight. Following a request from Mace Windu, the pair board the exploration project with the premise of discovering what happened to lost Jedi Vergeer from the story Rogue Planet, but with the secret agenda of monitoring C'baoth on his mission.

They, together with C'baoth's recently graduated Jedi Apprentice Lorana (who throughout the story is obviously and painfully torn between her loyalty and respect for her master and wanting to do what's right) try to step in when C'baoth's form of leadership strays ever more from the path of the Jedi and towards that of the dark and tyrannous. Kenobi and his padowan plan to stay aboard the mission longer than originally intended, putting a spanner in the works for old Palpatine who quickly has to do some further scheming to make sure Anakin is not aboard the ship...

We are also introduced to a band of interesting smugglers, with key character Car'das. Upon suffering a hyperdrive malfunction on a mission for a Hutt, they inadvertently enter unknown space and meet the true star of the story, Commander Thrawn. Thrawn is of the previously unknown Chiss species and an exceptional military commander. Currently at loggerheads with a race known as the Vagaari, Chiss uses the smugglers to learn more about republic civilization, culture and technology, possibly searching for any advantage over his adversaries that he can gain. Thrawn has been trying desperately to overcome the brutalities of the Vagaari race whilst trying to maintain obedience of very strict Chiss rules and regulations regarding warfare.

The Chiss encounter the interception mission sent forth by Palpatine intended for Outbound Flight, aboard which are Palpatine's personal crony and members of the trade federation, as well as a battalion of droid starfighters. Due to typical Trade Federation tact, a battle ensues with the Chiss, leaving them stripped of command and with no apparent way to complete their original quest of destroying Outbound Flight... Only by way of further scheming and politics between varying groups of extremely well written and detailed characters, do the several plot lines coalescence.

Events spiral and we are treated to more galactic warfare on an epic scale, with some truly brutal tactics employed, particularity by the alien Vagaari. Timothy Zahn has done an excellent job of interweaving all the different schemes and sub plots together where they culminate in a rather exciting and not wholly predictable climax.

The story is gripping throughout; the detailed environments and character descriptions are always interesting and I always felt suitably gripped, whether it being from the subterfuge or the exciting combat. I especially enjoyed the character development of Car'das and his smuggler gang, working together with the brilliantly calculating Thrawn.

Much like the prequel trilogy of films, a lot of this story is based on the ever deepening corruption of Republic politics, with seemingly everyone - even the good guys having multiple faces and agendas. This, blended with the obvious descent of a Jedi Master toward the dark side and the exciting and brutal space combat make for an excellent entry in the expanded Star Wars universe and a real page turner.

I'm attempting to read through the Star Wars novels in Chronological order, and I'd say reading the Episode 1 and Rogue Planet novels prior to this was definitely a good move, though not essential.

An excellent read for any Star Wars fan.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay Mini Review

I wanted to make my last read of 2017 a seasonal one and so opted for The Santa Klaus Murder as a suitable Christmas themed typical murder mystery.

As is tradition, the entire Melbury family plus a few additions are holidaying at Sir Osmond Melbury's country residence of Flaxmere, all in an effort to maintain Sir Osmond's favour in order to stake a claim on whatever piece of the Melbury fortune they may be entitled to. When then, among the festivities, Sir Osmond's murder at the hands of one of the guests, staff or family in a Santa costume comes about, a tale of deceit, deception and disloyalty is told...

And it's told inventively by using accounts of events from different characters; the bulk is accounted for as musings by the chief investigator, but some of the family are tasked with putting their version of events to paper, which is then used to make up sections of the narrative. 

The conclusion, though not too shocking is quite satisfyingly told, and the story does include a few distractions to dis-allude from the ultimate guilty party. The cast of characters is quite large, and I was very greatful to have a cast list at the beginning of the book to refer back to. Remembering how everyone relates to one another can be challenging, but all characters are interesting and befit the between war era of which it is set.

I particularly like all the family politics that surface after learning that prior to his jolly old St murder Sir Osmond had had musings to alter his will, meaning there are two possible sets of motives and suspects depending on whether the will was in fact changed or not.

Nothing ground breaking, but an enjoyable and fairly easy to read murder mystery perfect for Christmas time.

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