Labyrinth of Evil

September 12, 2016 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

evilLabyrinth of Evil by James Luceno


I have mixed feeling about James Luceno. His writing style isn’t my favorite: his characters are thin; his plots are weak; and his narrative is dry. What he does well, though, is connecting the dots in the Expanded Universe, namely because he seems to know a lot about it. Labyrinth of Evil is described as the prequel to Revenge of the Sith, and the first in the Dark Lord trilogy, which is a good thing, since the movie opens with a lot of questions. Luceno seems to be the right person to answer those questions, even if the book itself isn’t all that interesting.

The novel serves to introduce General Grievous, as well as provide the story of how Palpatine found himself kidnapped far above Coruscant. We get a brief — brief — look into who Grievous was before becoming a cyborg, and we get a glimpse into the Jedi starting to discover who Sidious really is, which seems like it would make for an exciting story, but it falls flat, over and over again. I think it’s due to his lack of characterization. Most of the characters in his books already exist in the movies, and it seems like he relies on what we already know about the characters for us to relate to them. Even then, though, it’s hard to get too connected, not just because the characters aren’t realized, but also because we know where the story is going. Even on its original release, it came out months after the release of Revenge of the Sith.

As I was reading the book, I wondered why so much of the story didn’t mention much of the Clone Wars, or Asajj Ventress, or Ahsoka, until I looked at the publication history of all the EU books and realized this book was written years before The Clone Wars series began. It was a surprise, and one that reminded me I should have read these books in publication order instead of chronological order, since parts of the story were jarring due to the disconnect. I can’t fault the author for not knowing the future of the series, but it still made for a less-than-perfect reading experience.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that Luceno, Karen Traviss, Drew Karpyshyn and other Star Wars authors like to advertise how they’re “New York Times Bestselling Author”s. I get that it’s a marketing ploy, and I get that it’s technically true, but I feel like it would be better to note that they’re “Authors Who Wrote a New York Times Bestselling Book”, since the real reason the book made the list was due to the license, not the author. I’d feel differently if these authors had books outside of the EU that made the list, but come on; let’s admit to some creative license here. I mean, I think Karen Traviss’ is  great writer, but had she not written some Star Wars books, she wouldn’t be able to make that claim.

So, the book isn’t great, but it’s informative. Folks who want a better understanding of the events that led up to Revenge of the Sith might want to read through it, but that’s about it. I wound up rating the book three stars, two for the quality of the writing, and one for the context it gives to the movie.

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