Novel Review: Coruscant Nights I: Jedi Twilight
Reading a Michael Reaves book is like playing a game of galactic Who’s Who. It isn’t essential to have read the MedStar duology or Darth Maul: Shadowhunter first in order to enjoy Coruscant Nights 1: Jedi Twilight, but recurring characters make Jedi Twilight more enjoyable if you have. Sullustan reporter Den Dhur, one of the major point of view characters in MedStar, joins 1-5 and Jax Pavan in this adventure through Corsucant’s undercity.
Jedi Twilight, as befits a novel of the Purge, is full of half- or almost-Jedi characters. Jax is a Padawan cut loose too soon from his Master, Even Piell. Laranth Tarak, a woman who wields the Force but chooses not to use a lightsaber, was part of the Grey Paladin sect instead of the conventional Jedi Order. It’s hard to imagine Den Dhur as a Jedi, but he’s the most street-smart of all of them. Matthew Stover and Michael Reaves must have discussed swapping characters at some point, because we also get the pleasant return of Force-sensitive soldier Nick Rostu, from the war-torn planet Haruun Kal.
I like Laranth Tarak because she’s an unconventional Twi’lek, tough and scarred, although she briefly becomes a damsel in distress in the last few chapters when she’s the only one of the group unable to escape from binders on her own. She’s one of my favorite female Star Wars characters, mostly because of a conversation in the next book in the series – but she does find herself getting captured a lot.
The underbelly of Coruscant is a world of half-people too: people who are scarred, out of touch with their political ideals, or just plain desperate. Reaves handles them well, in a story where personal, inner struggles for success or pride feel as, or more, important than the inevitable struggle with the Empire. It was the characters that drew me to this book when I first read it a few years ago, and the group dynamic is still great. Everyone has a very distinct way of speaking and looking at the world. The dialogue, snappy and usually very naturalistic, shines, but there isn’t enough of it.
I found myself at times during my re-read wondering whether this was the same book I had loved a few years ago. The beginning is slow, bringing us Nick Rostu’s backstory in pages and pages of prose when a lot of it could have been explained in dialogue when he meets up with Jax. My love for the Dark Times era and for character-heavy stories can’t completely negate some of the book’s flaws, such as the aforementioned swaths of prose or those infamous Star Wars similes (“like looking for a needle in a sleestax”).
The presence of Even Piell is jarring too, since canon has since changed so that Piell died quite a few years earlier than the beginning of this book. That’s something that the keepers of the canon will have to work out.
Speaking of continuity: Darth Vader and Prince Xizor are an integral part of the plot, and introduced early on. It’s hard, though, for me to shake the feeling that they are present to offer the reader some familiar faces instead of completely inundating us with Michael Reaves’ original cast. Vader and Xizor were a good source of plot, but not much new about them is revealed, and they seemed sometimes to occupy spaces that could just as well have been filled by their subordinates.
The fight scenes in Jedi Twilight are a lot of fun, partially because of the pure variety of weapons involved. Each main character has their own speciality, and the final fight reminds me that the Star Wars universe should really feature lightwhips more often.
My final thought about Jedi Twilight is that on a second read-through I remember liking it more than I actually do now. That doesn’t mean that a first-time reader won’t be able to become invested in the characters enough to continue on with the series. I’m still looking forward the release of Coruscant Nights 4.
With the dark ascension of the Empire, and the Jedi Knights virtually wiped out, one Jedi who escaped the massacre is slated for a date with destiny–and a confrontation with Darth Vader.
Jax Pavan is one of the few Jedi Knights who miraculously survived the slaughter that followed Palpatine’s ruthless Order 66. Now, deep in Coruscant’s Blackpit Slums, Jax ekes out a living as a private investigator, trying to help people in need while concealing his Jedi identity and staying one step ahead of the killers out for Jedi blood. And they’re not the only ones in search of the elusive Jax. Hard-boiled reporter Den Dhur and his buddy, the highly unorthodox droid I-5YQ, have shocking news to bring Jax–about the father he never knew.
But when Jax learns that his old Jedi Master has been killed, leaving behind the request that Jax finish a mission critical to the resistance, Jax has no choice but to emerge from hiding–and risk detection by Darth Vader–to fulfill his Master’s dying wish.