The New Jedi Order: Dark Tide (Part 2) – Ruin by Michael A. Stackpole

After the loss of Dantooine, The New Republic looks for allies and answers as a new weapon presents itself that could turn the tide of war.

With the New Republic on the run once again, Leia turns to The Imperial Remnant, led by Admiral Gilad Pellaeon for aid against the Yuuzhan Vong.

Corran Horn, Ganner Rhysolde and Jacen Solo lead a scouting mission on the planet Ghent, where they plan on taking some Human slaves so that scientists can find a way of saving those infected. During the battle, they discover that the Yuuzhan Vong’s living armour is allergic to a certain type of pollen from trees originating from the planet Ithor. With this knowledge they return to the New Republic.

Luke, Anakin, Mirax, R2 and a man called Chaco go in search of the Jedi Daeshara’cor who, after learning that the Vong take slaves, goes in search of old Imperial Super Weapon technology. Through the efforts of the whole team, Anakin and Chaco finally locate her and bring her back to the Jedi.

Meanwhile, Senator Elegos A’Kla, on a fact finding mission with the leader of the Yuuzhan Vong forces, Shedao Shai, is outed as a friend of Corran Horn, the Jedi who killed Shai’s kin on Bimmiel.

The Vong send A’Kla’s ship back to the New Republic, who are staging for an attack on Ithor, with a message for Corran, in to form of A’Kla’s bones, arranged in the formal Yuuzhan Vong fashion.

Corran devises a plan, to call out Shedao Shai for a duel to give the people of Itho a chance to evacuate. After a battle above the planet and a small incursion, Corran sends his message to the Vong leader who accepts the terms, if Shai wins he gets the bones of his ancestor recovered from Bimmiel, if Corran wins then Ithor is to be safe from further Vong attack.

The fight, observed by Luke Skywalker and Shai’s underling Deign Lian, Corran is mortally wounded, but endures by using the Force. He manages to beat Shai, leaving Deign Lian to return to the Vong Warship. Lian, secretly working for Vong Warlord Tsavong Lah, goes against the agreed terms and sends Yuuzhan Vong missiles onto the planet, the missiles expel a bacteria that eats and destroys all life on the planet.

Ithor is destroyed, luckily most of the population has been evacuated with samples of the trees that produce the pollen that the Vondum Crab Armour is allergic to. However, the Warship’s escape is hampered by an Imperial Interdictor Cruiser that disables the Vong’s gravity based defences and the ship is destroyed, killing Lian in the process.

After his Bacta treatment is complete, Corran holds a meeting with Luke, Ganner, who after being injured in a battle with a Vong warrior on Ghent and realising the threat they do possess and changes his point of view of the Force and how the Jedi should act and Jacen Solo, who had grown closer to Corran and Ganner in their work together. The purpose of the meeting is to announce that, after the people of the New Republic were seeing him as the reason Ithor fell, which would cause a political nightmare for the Jedi Order, he was going into self-imposed isolation on Corellia, admitting that his plan to fight Shedao Shai was spurred by the Vong leaders murder of his friend and the fact that, during the battle, Corran’s murder of Shai came not from a place of defence, but from an act of revenge, touching on the Dark Side. Ganner and Jacen both try to convince him to reconsider but his decision has been made.

‘Ruin’ really ups the ante from ‘Onslaught’, the stakes become increasingly higher, especially with the pollen which could turn the tide of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion before its really begun. We learn more about the Yuuzhan Vong through conversations between Shai and A’Kla, as well as through Shai’s treatment of Lian. Their embrace of pain and how they use it to strengthen themselves truly makes them a formidable enemy, even before you take into account their technology and the fact that they are invisible in the Force.

Something that can be said about this series is that we can easily be introduced to new Jedi very easily, some of which will go on to become major players and others who are used as Yuuzhan Vong, one of such we get in this book, Daeshara’cor, who plays a major part in the book and becomes a big part in Anakin’s life, later teaching him more about loss. Jaina also experiences this when her Rogue Squadron wing mate Anni is killed in combat which leads to the two of them having a touching sibling moment towards the end of the book. Jacen and Jaina get one earlier on before Jacen goes on his mission with Corran and Ganner, but the dynamic between the twins is different than with their younger brother.

One part of the book that, in a way seemed quite petty on Stackpole’s part is how he sidelines Corran Horn at the end. The self imposed exile of Horn basically takes him off the board until further notice, but he is more than happy to use other authors original characters from the series.

The book really pushes the series forward at a fantastic pace. Stackpole was a great choice to drive the series forward here, making the Yuuzhan Vong a genuine threat after the New Republic defeated them at the end of ‘Vector Prime’ and laying the groundwork for the next authors to carry on the series.

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