The Old Republic: Fatal Alliance

February 14, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

allianceThe Old Republic: Fatal Alliance by Sean Williams

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The neat thing about the The Old Republic series is how the books aren’t directly related to each other. Even though the books are part of a singular series, the books jump around through time and location, using new characters and developments in each book. I liked that, but it does make me wonder what the connection between these four books actually is. I get that the books are tied in to the game Knights of the Old Republic, and maybe I would have a better understanding were I familiar with the game, but to me, these books are just individual stories in a shared universe, like the other standalone Star Wars books.

In Fatal Alliance, a Sith-in training, a Jedi Padawan, a Mandalorian, a privateer, an ex-military commando, and an Imperial spy get caught up in a search for a lost planet that promises a large supply of materials that are in demand in the galaxy. The history of that planet has a connection to all players in the game, and when a threat larger than all of them promises a destruction of the entire galaxy within one generation’s time, all of the diverse players forego their own battles to fight a common enemy.

The premise is intriguing, and I like the way Williams combined an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” story with a grey goo idea. His cast of characters is diverse enough to account for the situations that arise in the story (even if the Sith Lord is a bit cartoonish), and his narrative style was a nice blend of readable and thoughtful, even if it felt a little overlong. The story covers a lot of ground, metaphorically and otherwise (there are at least four planets involved in the story), and it’s longer than the other books I’ve read so far in the EU.

The length of a novel doesn’t bother me much, so long as it’s fitting for the story told, but here the story takes a long time to get going. Williams spends a lot of time on his cast of characters (which is fairly large, as you can see above) and bringing them together, but I never had the kind of connection with the characters I would have expected from that much development. I bought into the friendships fairly well, but the individual characters felt a bit flat.

I’ve noticed that I can check out of a novel as I’m reading it if the narrative relies too much on description, and Fatal Alliance uses a lot of description. Description during action scenes isn’t a problem (how else are you going to convey the action?), but when nothing’s happening, but the author is taking a long time writing about everything around their characters, my mind begins to wander. Once the story got under way (at about the 3/5ths point of the novel, I should note), my engagement increased, but up until that point, I was having to make myself pick up the novel to keep reading it.

Williams has a habit of showing a scene from the perspective of one character, where other characters are present, and then jumping to the perspective of another character, but going back to a point earlier in that scene to start. I felt like the book could have been about fifty pages shorter if he had tightened up his narrative a bit more.

The novel feels like a Star Wars story, but at the same time, I think that this book could have easily been a stand-alone book in another universe without many changes. The premise is something new for Star Wars, enough so that near the end of the book, I found myself thinking outside of that universe, until something distinctly Star Wars reared its head. I think that’s actually a mark in the book’s favor, though, as Williams went outside my expectations with the story. Despite its length and its slow start, I enjoyed the story. So far, the entire The Old Republic series is one I would recommend.

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