"The Jedi are not creatures of myth and magic. They are flesh and blood. They bleed. They break."
When we last left our Jedi heroes, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (this was Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth, the first part of a two part story), they were about to crash their vehicle into the Lanteeban countryside after a narrow escape with General Lok Durd's forces. Now, our heroes struggle to reach Trebol, a small damotite mining village. There, they try to blend in and manage their escape. Meanwhile, Tyranus and Sidious grow more suspicious of the events, and Bail asks an old friend, Tryn Netzl, to find a cure for this bioweapon.
As always, Karen Miller has an absolutely impressive grasp of the main characters. Time and again, I was astounded at how she was able to write Anakin and Obi-Wan so close to their onscreen performances. I also love how she kept bringing up the past with them. For Anakin, it was his life as a slave, his adoration of children, his conflict between being a Jedi and wanting to make everyone's life better, and his hidden darkness. For Obi-Wan, it was simple things like Qui-Gon, Melida/Daan (always good to see tie-ins with Jude Watson's fantastic works), his stiffness, and even hints of his "acting" ability (hence why he's called a "Crazy old wizard" while on Tatooine).
One of the absolute best conversations between the two of them starts on page 274 with this amazing quote from Obi-Wan: "I am a Jedi. I have the power to help them and so I must help them. I cannot--I will not--stand by and watch them suffer. I won't prove our critics right!" This brilliantly ties in with Wild Space (where Bail criticizes the Jedi for taking care of their own above others) and shows Obi-Wan's growth. It also leads into a nice conversation where Anakin reveals he did here the words Obi-Wan told Qui-Gon on the landing platform on Coruscant ("The boy is dangerous. They all sense it. Why can't you?"). I love these types of tie-ins!
Other characters that fare equally well include Bail Organa, Padme Naberrie, Count Dooku, Yoda, and Palpatine. I don't think KM could ever do Bail wrong, she just seems to have his cadences down. Padme, she has brought tons of life to and far beyond just Love Interest. I was shocked at how well she did Count Dooku, which I don't think she's done before. He was a nice blend of evil and truly upset with the current state of the Republic and the Jedi. KM's Yoda is really good; so many authors have such a hard time writing his speech, but KM really nails it. And finally, Palpatine had some (see below) interesting POVs. I think her novel has got to be the first where he thinks of himself as Sidious and Palpatine as almost like a costume he puts on. Brilliant!
The story really ramps up when Obi-Wan and Anakin "join" the village of Torbel. There, they first try to remain undercover, but when their cover is blown, they must break past the villagers distrust of strangers and Jedi and befriend them. This is really great, that Jedi must prove their worth, not just burst in, lightsabers blazing, to a crowd that bows down and worships them (Karen Traviss does something similar, but I found her approach a lot harsher).
Karen Miller continues to impress in her way of writing action. The scenes where Obi-Wan and Anakin are assisting in the theta storm really drew me into the novel and made it hard to put the book down. I also was impressed that Miller allowed Durd to be successful with his bioweapon on Chandrila (nice tie-in to Mon Mothma). Too many authors say something is big, bad and ominous, but then the Jedi swoop in, blow it all up, and bam, tension over.
I Didn't Like:
There are a ton of minor things that bother me, but here are the major ones.
Right off, the book starts very, extremely slow. Obi-Wan and Anakin walk. Obi-Wan and Anakin collapse from exhaustion. Obi-Wan and Anakin stay with Teeba Jaklin. Obi-Wan and Anakin investigate the town. Obi-Wan and Anakin spend a day in the mines. And interspersed we have rather uninteresting scenes where Bail talks to a worried Padme, Bail talks to a worried Mon Mothma, Yoda talks to a worried Taria, and Taria talks to a worried Ahsoka. Not what I would call an "edge of your seat" entrance. While I don't expect 100% action in a story and I actually adore character development, to me this felt like a combination of setup and fluff. The setup is unnecessary, as the first book, Stealth, should have provided that. And the fluff is exactly that: fluff.
Like the past two books, everyone experiences mind-numbing, life-or-death, excruciating pain. While I like how she keeps from making the Jedi invulnerable and God-like, I do grow tired of hearing how much in pain everyone is, how so-and-so needs to rest, and especially how much Durd abuses Bant'era (that almost goes too far in and of itself). The whole "slave collar" that transmits all this pain and paralyzing agents is just too much.
I mentioned it briefly, but some of Palpatine's scenes just go too far, particularly when he is with Bail, Yoda, and Padme. Honestly, he comes off as an irate parent. How does Yoda not sense the Dark Side in this man? He's biting off Bail and Yoda's heads every other word!
I'm still not fond of Miller's original characters, namely Bant'era and Taria. Bant'era feels more like a woman trying to be a scientist than a scientist. Same goes for the "quirky" Tryn Netzl (though I did like him a bit more than Bant'era). Taria Damsin just smarts of a Mary Sue. Her unique hair color is constantly brought up, she gets to be romantically involved with Obi-Wan (which I didn't hate, but it does strain credibility), she gets to be the super-duper hero and save the day in the end, she is understanding, she is smart, she is uber cool with a lightsaber, she is pitied by everyone, including Yoda, because she is oh, so sick and dying...I think you get my drift. All I could think as I read a scene with her was: did Star Wars really need another Mary Sue?
Something I notice more and more in Clone Wars material: the Separatists, instead of being shown as dissenters of the Republic (think: Rebel Alliance for an in-universe or early America for out-of-universe example), are shown as truly evil, evil, evil, bad, bad, bad, wicked, wicked, wicked. Bioweapons, superweapons, under-handed attacks, killing billions of innocents for the heck of it--where are the Republic's bioweapons, superweapons and under-handed attacks? Come on, don't tell me the Republic isn't cooking up some type of weapon that will destroy billions (yes, billions, writers and creators have no sense of scale) just to win a battle. Don't tell me the Republic is morally superior to the Separatists (they use clones!)! Quit treating this battle like another good vs. evil, particularly when it was set up more like the American Civil War.
And the swearing! Geesh, I've never seen so many "stangs" in a Star Wars novel! And what really bothers me, is that every single character uses "stang". I find it odd that, in a galaxy that big, with that many disparate cultures (Obi-Wan being a Jedi, Anakin from Tatooine, Bail from Alderaan, Padme from Naboo, Durd from Neimoidia, and Bant'era from Corellia) "stang" is the most common form of swearing. Where are the Corellia curses, the Neimoidian curses, the Tatooinian/Hutt curses? Why is everyone over-using "stang"?
The end "battle" was disappointing. Not only was the actual battle execution poor (Miller is better at this, as she showed in Stealth), but then, after slogging through page after page of "will the shields fail or not", the last 60 pages or so takes place over an indeterminate time, with everything falling coincidentally in place. Wow, they got Taria to Lanteeb fast! Wow, she arrives just in time for Obi-Wan to send the final key to Tryn, who surprisingly finds the cure in 2.5 minutes, which allows the ships to miraculously arrive near Lanteeb just in time to scare away Greivous! And the shield conveniently fails at the same time that Ahsoka and Rex arrive to save the day! My, the Force has been busy today!
And my final complaint: why was this separated into two books? The story is good, the character interactions decent or better, but there is no reason why this should have been stretched into two books (other than Karen Traviss backed out of the last book, making Miller pick it up).
Too many "stangs", "kriffs" and "barves" to count. It got annoying to read after a point too.
Taria used to be Obi-Wan's squeeze.
Chandrila is devastated with the use of the bioweapon. Bant'era is brutally abused by her captor. Obi-Wan and Anakin are stretched to the limit.
Clone Wars Gambit: Siege is a nice conclusion to the duology, Stealth & Siege. The story was interesting enough to hold my attention, different enough from the billion of other "superweapon" type plots to not make me groan, portrayed the characters well enough that I could believe they would do and act the way they did, and introduced some new conflicts to the characters (Greti's Force sensitivity, Anakin's training as a Jedi, the townspeople's view of the Jedi, and so on). I still wasn't fond of the newest Mary Sue addition to Star Wars, Taria Damsin, the continued vilification of the Separatists, or the repetitiveness (either of people's never-ending pain, swearing, or the problem of the moment), but I feel it was a decent read. I just hope Miller returns to Star Wars; she's a good writer and her talents would be perfect in the Expanded universe.
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