Three and a half millennia before Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side and the rise of Palpatine’s Galactic Empire, the Republic finds itself on the brink of war with another threat: the Sith Empire. However, when a third party comes forward with a proposition neither side can refuse, things begin to heat up. Centering around a Jedi Padawan, a Sith apprentice, a disgraced commando, and an undercover operative ultimately looking out for number one, Fatal Alliance sets the stage for Star Wars: The Old Republic, the upcoming MMORPG from BioWare and LucasArts.
A fresh new plot
Before I actually began reading this novel, I was interested in discovering how it would be different from other novels in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In the past, novels centering on the search for an unknown object usually contained the same motifs: multiple parties are interested, multiple parties fight over the object, and one party walks away with the prize. Obviously, this is highly generalized, but it serves to exemplify my slight apprehension at the initial premise of Fatal Alliance.
However, I was very pleasantly surprised in the direction this novel went. Sure, it began with the multiple parties coming together because of an interesting unknown object, but it deviates from there. In Fatal Alliance, the object of interest becomes the primary threat—to all involved parties, not just a single one. And not only was there that twist within the novel, but the threat becomes so great that it causes Jedi and Sith, Republic and Empire, to join forces in order to have even a hope of a chance at survival.
Seemed over-simplified at times
The one thing which detracted from this novel, for me, was the author’s style of writing. Maybe it is due to the fact that I haven’t read a Star Wars novel in a while, or that I’m used to Timothy Zahn’s writing with the Star Wars universe. Whatever the reason, Williams’ writing style seemed… simplistic to me. It’s not that it was bad writing, because it wasn’t. The best way to describe my impression of his style is as a less-than-adult reading level style of writing. As I said, his writing isn’t bad; it’s just simple.
Character depth is a go—dive, dive, dive
The thing that made Fatal Alliance a truly good read, though, was Williams’ characters. For characters who are essentially one-shot characters for these novels, Williams brought an astonishing level of depth and complexity to them. Of special note is the inner turmoil the Jedi Padawan and the Sith apprentice go through while interacting with their respective sworn enemies. It’s not often that fans of the Star Wars universe get to see old-school Jedi and Sith working together, and I don’t think fans will be disappointed with how things develop in regard to the alliance.
In addition to the Jedi and Sith extremes, I enjoyed the character development of the undercover operative, despite my dislike of the character (I’m a Force-user fanboy at heart). As the alliance forms, it is very interesting to see how the operative’s focus and goals shift from one political spectrum to another—and from there to sheer survival. Throw in a possible romantic relationship, and this character development shakes, stirs, and serves, and does it very well.
Why should you read this book?
Despite my misgivings about the author’s writing style, Fatal Alliance is really a very well-rounded novel. The characters are enjoyable and fresh, and the development they undergo is a sight to behold. However, you should read this novel for the story. This is a new and original plot line for the Star Wars universe and it does a marvelous job in setting the mood for the upcoming video game from BioWare and LucasArts.