Onslaught (Dark Tide, #1) - Michael A. Stackpole "Easy isn't for Jedi"

The Yuuzhan Vong have entered the Outer Rim of the galaxy. Leia is attempting to garner support from the New Republic; Luke and Jacen head off to Belkadan to get further developments; Corran and Ganner head to Bimmiel to check up on some missing academics; Mara and Anakin head to Dantooine to attempt some R&R for Mara.

NOTE: Based on audiobook and novel.

I thought Vector Prime was a great entry into this most recent, more gritty series. But Onslaught is amazing. It is a perfect second novel: gradually building the conflict, displaying the players/characters, and intensifying the story.

In Onslaught, Stackpole brings back fan favorites, Corran (who is now a Jedi), Wedge, Tycho, and Elegos A'Kla (among others, including a Bothan admiral who ISN'T sneaky and duplicitous). Corran is in prime form. It's nice to see him married with kids, to have him a more mature Jedi, and to have him bounce off with the younger Jedi, Ganner Rhysode. His mission with Ganner on Bimmiel is interesting and relevant to the story (even though at first sniff it doesn't appear to be).

But Stackpole does a brilliant job with our major characters. Probably my favorites were Mara and Anakin. Mara gives Anakin a good lesson about using the Force (similar to one she gave Luke in Vision of the Future and one Anakin got in the Junior Jedi Knight series). I also enjoyed how they stumbled upon their own Yuuzhan Vong crisis. Luke and Jacen are also great, as they argue over each own's perception about the Force. One thing sorely missed in the audiobook, however, is Jacen's capture by the Yuuzhan Vong's Embrace of Pain, where Luke has to rescue him. That was a critical scene and shouldn't have been omitted, in my opinion.

I'll admit, I wasn't too fond of Stackpole's treatment of Leia, Jaina, and Han. Yet again, Leia comes off shrill and demanding, as she argues with Gavin Darklighter about allowing 16 year old Jaina onto Rogue Squadron. I understand this galaxy has different rules (as evinced by a 14 year old queen and an 18 year old senator), but nonetheless, I found it disgusting to hear Leia pouting about her daughter not getting into Rogue Squadron. Similarly, the Solo kids tend to be treated as if they were in their twenties instead of teens and are UBER AMAZING at everything. This is best seen in Jaina, a 16 year old Rogue Squadron member. Talk about cheapening what it means to be in the Squadron! Lastly, Han is barely visible in the novel, and only at the beginning as a drunken idiot. The characterization seemed a bit off, even considering the events of the last book.

But what makes Onslaught so good is how Stackpole begins to up the ante and weaves in all the storylines. I liked how the Yuuzhan Vong are spreading out to cover as many planets as possible (creating a base from which to launch further campaigns), the discoveries that the Jedi make about the Yuuzhan Vong, and the intimacy between the characters (such as between Luke and Mara, Mara and Anakin, or Luke and Jacen).

If you liked Vector Prime, be prepared for an even better book (especially if you liked the X-Wing series). If you didn't like Vector Prime, there is a good chance this will change your mind about the series. Great book; I can't wait to move on to Ruin!