Traitor (Star Wars: The New Jedi Order, #13) - Matthew Stover "Is it what the teacher teaches? Or what the students learns?"

Where is Jacen? Is he alive? Dead? What happened to him after the mission to Myrkyr? Well, if you were curious, if you wanted to learn more about the Force and the mysterious Force presence Luke and Mara felt under the location of the former Jedi Temple, this is the book you want to read.

NOTE: Based on audiobook and novel.

Wow. Just wow.

That is a good wow, by the way. A very good, pleased wow.

Let me be frank, the NJO hasn't been a bad series up to this point. Sure, I went nuclear around "Jedi Eclipse" and other than the brilliant "Conquest", I haven't really loved any of the books, but really, these books are no worse than the Bantam cousins. In fact, in many ways, the worst of NJO are only as bad as the "meh" of NJO. Which is pretty frakkin' impressive in my book.

This book totally makes all the other books (minus the brilliant "Conquest") look like "The Crystal Star" or Kevin J. Anderson's Jedi Academy Trilogy. No, really, I'm serious. This is a damn fine book, period, Star Wars or otherwise.

"That's a bold claim, Crystal. How can you justify that?"

I thought you'd never ask.

Firstly, Stover keeps a narrow focus, which I've found to enjoy far more than the broader scope books. The cast contains only four people: Jacen, Vergere, Nom Anor, and Ganner. That is it. Oh, sure, there are nameless Yuuzhan Vong that Jacen fights at one point, but our major characters are the four listed above. And of those, three have points of view. I love this because we can finally delve deeply into our characters, to probe the extents of their mind, understand how they work, understand what they feel, and concentrate on their growth throughout the book.

Secondly, Stover writes well. Damn well. Brilliantly well. I loved the book-end approach (the introduction mirrors the conclusion). OMG, it was so brilliantly (frak, I need a thesaurus!) written, so evocative, so creepy and wonderful that I wanted to cheer and applaud and whoop when I finished the book. Stover is able to write in third person past and third person present AND use it perfectly. He switches back and forth adeptly to showcase Jacen's turmoil and struggles, and I thought it was--you guessed it!--brilliant.

For being a newbie to Star Wars, you might be afraid that he will A) ruin the characters or B) ruin the world. Bah, not Stover! He shows he is able to do his research by providing us with characters that feel like their previous incarnations (in fact, I think Ganner is BETTER in this book than in the book where he debuted!), with knowledge of the world, with an adept understanding (and new insight) into the Force. If only all new authors could take a page out of his work!!

The story itself is one that we've been aching for since "Star by Star". What happened to Jacen? Jaina felt his death, but Leia is sure he is alive. Who is right? What happened? What about Vergere? Who's side is she on? Expect some serious answers to these questions. Stover definitely gives us some closure to stuff that has been bothering us from the beginning (or at least, for a long time). I love his new view of the Force (I wish it had been used better in the Dark Nest books...), I love where he took Vergere, I love how Jacen FINALLY gets to learn what the frak his purpose is.

In short, this book is amazing, a pure joy to read. It is one of the best novels of the NJO and only Stover's own Revenge of the Sith novelization and Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy passes it for best novel in the entire Star Wars series (for me). Even if you don't like NJO, I recommend you at least give this a shot.