The New Jedi Order: Edge of Victory 1 – Conquest by Greg Keyes

The Jedi, led by Luke Skywalker are in peril. War Master Tsavong Lah’s declaration to the Galaxy that the Yuuzhan Vong invasion would stop if the Jedi would turn themselves over to the alien invaders is causing problems, with groups like The Peace Brigade taking Jedi hostage or just plain killing them. Kyp and his followers believe the Jedi should retaliate but Luke is unsure as to what course of action would be the right one.

Coming to the realisation that the Jedi Academy on Yavin IV could become a target for the Vong and their allies, Anakin, operating against Luke’s orders, takes his X-Wing and leaves to help the students and their teachers before it’s too late.

The Peace Brigade are already at the Yavin system and Anakin races to the Academy to warn them all. As Anakin prepares to face off against the would-be kidnappers and the Jedi Masters Kam and Tionne get the children to safety, but three young Jedi, Anakin’s best friend Tahiri, Valin Horn, son of Corran Horn and Sannah have all chosen to stay to help Anakin.

With the plan in jeopardy, the kids improvise and manage to steal a Peace Brigade ship and capture its pilot but the craft ends up in trouble and crashes. As they escape the wreckage, Tahiri is taken by the Peace Brigate troops. They begin repairs and as Anakin is on a recon mission he meets Qorl, who joins the rescue party. Anakin builds a makeshift air speeder to take him to save Tahiri whilst the rest fix up their downed ship.

Meanwhile, Luke, Jacen and Jaina meet with Borsk Fey’lya who confesses he knew that Tavin IV was a possible Yuuzhan Vong target. Luke has Jacen and Jaina search for Booster Terrik and gets in touch with Talon Karrde, asking the information broker/smuggler to help get the Jedi from the moon.

As Karrde and his crew save the hidden Jedi, the Yuuzhan Vong arrive and take the moon. Anakin is located and they try to take him down in his speeder but manages to escape thanks to a Yuuzhan Vong Shamed One, Vua Raapung who has his own reasons to want to attack the Vong stronghold. The two form a shaky truce as they break into the Vong base, Anakin disguised as a Slave and manage to form a plan to save Tahiri and help Raapung get his revenge against one of the Shapers.

One of Anakin’s tasks as a slave is to help harvest Lambet Crystals. After stealing one, in preparation to put their plan into effect, Anakin and Vua go into hiding where Anakin bonds the Lambet with his broken lightsaber, fixing his weapon and discovery that the combination also allows him to perceive the Yuuzhan Vong, albeit slightly, through the Force.

All this time, Tahiri has been prisoner of the Master Shaper Mezhan Kwaad and her Apprentice Nen Yim who are both using unconventional means to shape Tahiri and turn her into a Force Sensitive Yuuzhan Vong. Though their methods would be seen as heretical, they make incredible progress in manipulating Tahiti’s memories and by the time she has almost been fully ‘shaped’, the commander Tsaak Vootuh has gotten wind of their plans and takes them from their lab and to face Tsavong Lah.

Anakin and Vua arrive at the lab too late but are able to reach the Docking Bay. Vua asks to be granted the chance to prove that he is not a Shamed One, but instead, his implants failing and scars becoming infected is actually the work of Mezhan. She acknowledges her part in his downfall before the Shaper kills Vootuh and Tahiri manages to cut off her head. Anakin and Tahiri escape in the ship that was to take them to Tsavong Lah but their inexperience with Vong ships causes them to crash but they are soon saved by their stolen Peace Brigade ship.

As they escape Yavin IV, they are chased down and almost destroyed as they approach Talon Karrde’s small fleet that has been hiding in the system. As their luck is about to run out, reinforcements arrive in the shape of Booster Terrik’s Errant Venture along with Corran, Jacen and Jaina in their X-Wings.

They all escape, Anakin and Tahiri rekindle their friendship, agreeing to never be separated again after realising their powers are greatly increased when working together, the Errant Venture leaves to find a save haven for the Jedi children and the Yuuzhan Vong leave Yavin after their facility is destroyed.

Like quite a few Star Wars books I read in my younger years, I got this one on a trip to London when visiting family. I also remember reading it one day in the school library when I should have been studying for exams… oops.

This book draws characters from the Anakin Solo-centric Young Adult series, ‘Junior Jedi Knights’, especially Tahiri and Master Ikrit who played large roles in the series.

This novel is also the first where Anakin takes centre stage, not only on the mission but as the main protagonist of one of the books in ‘The New Jedi Order’ series and it’s a wonderful ploy by the writers to build his character up at this point. He’s always been a main character in this series but it’s great to see him breaking away on his own.

One thing this book does well is give us a more sympathetic look at the Yuuzhan Vong though Vua Raapung, one of the Shamed Ones, a group of Yuuzhan Vong that for various reasons are looked down upon by the rest of the species, and whilst he is one of the enemy, we get a chance to actually learn about them and their beliefs. The various Gods are reminiscent of Ancient Egypt or Greece with various Gods for various aspects of life, either the War God or the God and Goddess that are the lovers. Every different clan or caste of the Vong hierarchy have a different God to worship and they whole heartedly believe that their invasion of the Galaxy is the will of the Gods. The Vong disdain for technology is also examined, they even see fire, which doesn’t come from a living creature, to be an abomination, in fact it’s seen to be the First Abomination. Their culture is further explored by Anakin when he poses as a slave which helps us to understand them in a way that we haven’t seen before.

Overall, I really enjoy this book, it may seem like a bit of a side quest away from the main narrative of the series but it’s actually a very important part of the overall story of ‘The New Jedi Order’ and is the first part of a character arc that is well written and utterly devastating at the same time.

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