True Colors - Karen Traviss The Cloned and the Restless
I loved Hard Contact, the first real Clone Wars novel (in my opinion), but was disappointed with the slogging pace, political and ethical diatribes, and the hefty, largely unexplored cast of Triple Zero. But I wasn't so disappointed that I didn't pick up "True Colors" when it came out last year.

The Clone War continues, and Skirata has vamped up his search for Ko Sai, a Kaminoan who may hold the keys to reversing the age acceleration in his rag-tag band of clones. But, Palpatine has ordered Delta squad to hunt after her too, along with a separate team from Kamino. The race is on, and the question hovers inside each clone (and those who love them): will the clones ever be able to live a normal life? And what will be their future after the war ends?

What made "Triple Zero" so much of a disappointment (compared to "Hard Contact") was the fact that much of the action and great characters present in HC was missing in TZ. But the same can't quite be said of "True Colors". At about the sixth chapter, TC picks up with an intense scene with Etain forcing the colonists of Qiilura to leave and pretty much maintains that speed throughout the book as Skirata and the Nulls search for Ko Sai (before Delta Squad), and Omega Squad infiltrates another battlefront on Graftikar.
Furthermore, characters introduced in TZ get more exploration, and more opportunities exist to dig into the dirty subjects. Etain, Skirata and Darman get the limelight, of course, but so do Ordo, Mereel, Sev, Besany, and my new personal favorite, Walon Vau, who is very interesting in TC as a cold killer with a methodical, almost unemotional outlook on life. Fi's character gets stretched in an interesting manner. And I think Traviss will go down in Star wars history as being the first to write using a Kaminoan character (very nicely, may I add--Good job, Karen). These characters discuss meaty topics such as desertion, humanity, and life after the Clones Wars--all in a logical, insightful manner that will exercise your mind. And Delta Squad can always be depended upon for cracking a joke that will have you in stitches (look out for when Fixer and Sev go diving!).
Lastly, I was never so happy to see that Traviss got the memo about the annoying "double definitions" that she did in TZ. I like her exploration of Mando culture but hated how she would have her characters say something in Mando, translate it in English and then have it appear in the glossary at the end. In TC, Traviss remedies this problem. THANK YOU TRAVISS!

While in some aspects TC is better than TZ, in others, it is much worse:
1. For the first five chapters, the book reads like a soap opera. Etain misses Darman. Darman misses Etain. Besany brags about boyfriend, Ordo (when did this happen?!?!). Ordo is clueless about Besany. Fi feels left out in the romance department. Skirata wants the girlfriends for all of "his boys" and is instantly concerned about Etain's pregnancy and health. I was so close to giving up on it. And in the last two chapters, the soap opera resumes with the birth of Etain's baby, Darman's reaction, etc. (oh, please!).
2. Certain things are repeated twelve too many times. For example, count how many times each that Traviss has some character bring up: a) how Skirata saved the Nulls from the Kaminoans' knife, b) how the ARCs almost killed the clone kids to save them from the Separatists, c) how much *fill-in-the-blank* misses *so-and-so*, and d) how badly the clones are being treated/how invisible they are/how they are being used (etc.). Repetition isn't necessarily bad (helps remind the reader) but is excessive when done more than once a chapter (Traviss does it as frequently as twice a page).
3. There are way too many characters. Frequent characters include two Mandalorians, three Jedi, eight commandos, one treasury agent, one clone commander, an ARCs, and three Nulls. This does not include all the other people mentioned in the Dramatis Personae who have bit parts, such as Corr, Jaing, Maze, Rav Bralor (a terrible female Mandalorian whose character could be summed up as Kick-A** GirlTM), and Jaller Obrim. It gets to the point where I thought that Traviss had included everyone in the book--including the Twi'lek Pilot! Traviss, remember HC? There were 6 characters: 4 commandos, Etain, and the bad guy. Too many characters = less characterization.
4. The pacing was off. The first 16 chapters cover about one week while the last four cover about a month. It was as if Traviss wanted to hurry up and have Etain give birth. She could have easily extended some of the action to cover a longer time or had Etain be closer to term in the beginning to compensate for the uneven pacing.
5. And then, there were some scenes/actions/comments that really drove me nuts.
a. My personal favorite: Besany (the absolutely gorgeous woman rejected because of her beauty *eyes roll*) pulls out a 25 cm (~10" cake) that she just *happens* to keep for guests she never has *eyes roll* and gives it to Mereel to give to Ordo. Who keeps a cake this size for guests that never come? How old is this thing? And how did this cake come to Ordo without looking like crap?
b. Etain looks three months pregnant but has, in her spare time (during a war?), accelerated her pregnancy so she is actually six months pregnant. Any woman will tell you, if she is six months pregnant, she will look six months pregnant. And how is it she can accelerate a pregnancy in the few hours she has off by a whole 3 months?!?! And more importantly, how does a Jedi, who's not supposed to have these relationships, know how to do this?
c. Skirata has his good points but is hard to relate to as he is perfect in any way. He knows when to be harsh, when to coddle women, when to jump to concern when a baby kicks (a completely normal phenomenon, Kal...didn't this guy have three kids? Why doesn't he know this?), is smarter than the entire Jedi Order, and is always right. Gary Stu, anyone?
d. Why are all Jedi that aren't Jusik and Etain bad guys? I mean, if the Jedi isn't a Mandalorian wannabe (Jusik) or pregnant with a clone's baby (Etain), they are out to kill all the clones and imprison them in slavery or are stupid, oblivious idiots (Zey, Mace Windu). It appears that Traviss loves her Mandalorians and hates the Jedi.
e. I don't understand how Fi could have been seriously damaged while Darman, only a few feet away comes away practically unscathed. If someone would please explain that to me, I would be greatly appreciative.

Dialogue/Sexual Situations/Violence:
There is cursing, but it is in Mandalorian.
Etain is pregnant with Darman's child. It is insinuated that Besany would like to sleep with Ordo.
Etain is hurt, and her pregnancy is threatened. A war between civilians, and clones breaks out. Several clones are harmed: explosions, fire-fights, and hand-to-hand combat. A man is bit by another man. The Nulls want to kill Ko Sai. Pretty much what you would expect from a Star Wars novel.

Somewhat better than TZ, somewhat worse, TC has come back in some ways to what made HC a hit. TC has more of the intense action, intrigue, gut-splitting humor, and open discussions on what being a human is, who is eligible for gift of humanity, if clones can defect (really interesting), what rights clones deserve, and what will happen to the soldiers if greatly injured (or at the end of the war). Still, melodrama, a huge largely stereotyped cast, and repetitiveness really make it hard to appreciate the good points. Therefore, three stars, in a tie with TZ.

NOTE: The novel comes with a short story called "Odds". About the best thing I can say about this short story is "Odd". It seems more of a prelude or Chapter 1 than a full-blown short story. Not to say it wasn't interesting, just a poor short story.