The New Jedi Order: Balance Point by Kathy Tyers

Two months after the tragedy at Fondor, the New Republic have made a shaky alliance with the Duros, who have been forced to live in orbital cities after the Empire occupied it and turned it into an uninhabitable waste land, to allow refugees from the Yuuzhan Vong invasion to take up residence on the planet and make it habitable.

Leia Organa-Solo is in the Gateway hub, the main area made habitable, co-ordinating the reclamation of the planet whilst Han and Jacen work in Pod 32 with the Ryn and other refugees saved during the Battle of Fondor.

Meanwhile, after a near fatal accident causing her to go EV (extra-vehicular) during a space battle, an injured Jaina Solo arrives on planet to help her father and brother but a devastating infestation causes Pod 32 to become uninhabitable and the whole lot need evacuating to the Gateway area. During the quarantine, Leia is reunited with Han and the Twins.

After learning of a Jedi Apprentice going missing on the main City Pod above Duros, Luke, Mara (who has just learned that she has become pregnant) and Anakin Solo, along with R2 go on a fact-finding mission which coincides with Jacen meeting with one of the Duros leaders about missing supplies to the plant. As Jacen is essentially placed under arrest (in the guise as being a guest), Luke, Anakin and Mara learn that anti-refugee sentiments are being thrown around amongst the Duros, which is similar to the anti-Droid sentiments that Nom Anor started on Rhommamool before the Vong invaded.

Jacen, keeping himself withdrawn from the Force manages to get free thanks to a rescue by Jaina who joins her younger brother, her Aunt and Uncle before heading back to Duros whilst Luke, Mara and Anakin do their best to escape the city before the Vong arrive, with the planetside refugees promised as sacrifices to allow the Duros cities to remain safe.

Once the Vong arrive, and the planetside evacuation underway, it becomes a war zone. Mara meets with the military leader of Duros and explains how they had been lied to by Yuuzhan Vong sympathisers and the Duros join the battle. War Master Tsavong Lah, the leader of the Vong arrives on the planet, taking Leia and a Hutt, Randa prisoner. Randa ends up sacrificed and Leia gravely injured as Jacen and Jaina work to rescue their Mother as Han helps get the last of the refugees, including the Ryn to safety.

Jacen reconnects with the Force as he has to battle Tsavong Lah to save Leia and the twins make it to the Falcon, joining the space battle in time for the last of the refugees to escape whist joining up with Luke, Mara and Anakin.

In the aftermath, an injured Tsavong Lah broadcasts to all known systems, claiming that the Yuuzhan Vong invasion will end of the people bring any and all force users, especially Jedi to Duros, especially Jacen Solo whom the War Master wishes to sacrifice personally.

The sixth instalment of ‘The New Jedi Order’ takes the galaxy-wide action of the previous novels and directs our attention to one place, Duros. A key planet for both the Yuuzhan Vong invasion and the New Republic defence as its close to the Core Worlds, giving the Vong a clear run at Coruscant.

Whilst keeping the majority of the action in once place it could make the novel feel small within the larger Galaxy but in actual fact it gives the novel real stakes for the whole series.

The story is mainly told from the points of view of Jacen and Mara. Jacen who I wracked with guilt for his involvement in the reactivation of Centrepoint Station in the previous novel and as a result has decided to cease using the Force. This moral dilemma drives Jacen throughout the book as he struggles with the guilt and the perceptions that people around him have for not using his powers, even when they could be used for defending and helping the refugees. During the Vong invasion, Jaina goes so far as berating him in front of Leia. Of course, by the end of the novel he opens himself back up to the force to help him defend his mother from Tsavong Lah.

Mara’s story, from her detection of the growing baby inside her to her actions Omar Duros is also chock-full of character development. Up until this book (given her barely appearing in the last one) in the series she had been terminally ill, after being infected by Nom Anor. She has almost a trepidatious new lease on life, nervous that the disease will come back after using Vergere’s tears to heal herself. Instead she senses a new life inside her, causing Luke to become increasingly protective of her, despite this being Mara Jade-Skywalker, one of the strongest, toughest women in the Galaxy, but given all she has gone through his concern is understandable. Of course it doesn’t stop her from throwing herself into danger and coming face-to-face with Nom Anor who reveals he was the one who infected her.

‘Balance Point’ is Kathy Tyers second full length Star Wars novel, the first being ‘Truce at Bakura’ which is one that I’ve not read before and it’s not available on Audiobook (digitally anyway) but given how much I have enjoyed this book I’m definitely tempted to, at some point, pick up ‘Truce’ and dive in.

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