What’s this? Another “Something From the Hydian Way?” And it’s a text post? What could it mean?
Welcome my friends, to Legends of the Hydian Way, a series of articles chronicling my journey through the dusty pages of The Star Wars That Came Before. With the Disney acquisition of Star Wars came a clearing of the board of what up until that point had been considered Star Wars canon: The Expanded Universe (now known as Star Wars Legends). In its place, Disney has created their own, new canon and a lot of the new members of our community are people who’ve never read or heard of the Star Wars that I grew up with and spent so many years investing in. The more I thought about it, the more I came to a few realizations:
1. Just because something isn’t “canon” anymore doesn’t make it less worth reading.
2. A lot of my memories of Legends canon books are colored with the rosy tint of nostalgia and are probably not entirely reflective of their overall quality.
3. There are a lot of people out there who have only recently fallen in love with the galaxy far far away, and some of those people may be interested in the Legends of Old Star Wars but have no idea where to start or what’s worth the time to track down.
Out of these realizations was born what was intially a very humble project: I decided to go back through my by now fairly extensive collection of e-books and old paperbacks and read through the Legends canon novels chronologically, start to finish. There are a lot of Legends books I’ve never read, and many more that I read an extremely long time ago and have largely forgotten. With the help of a local used books store and some Amazon gift cards I felt pretty confident I could fill in any gaps in my collection as I went. And so, armed with a helpful chronological list I found on the internet, I started reading.
Shortly before finishing the first book on my list I decided I’d also like to write a short review of each book as I got to the end of it. This would help to serve not only to collect my thoughts as I went, but also enable me to share my journey with anyone I chose. That’s where Ben came in, suggesting I post those reviews as I go here on The Hydian Way. And so Legends of the Hydian Way is born!
I invite you all to join my on my journey back through the books that captured my imagination for years, whether its a similar stroll through memory lane for you, or if you’ve never before picked up a Legends novel and wonder what all the fuss is about. Below, you’ll find my first review and soon I’ll have a second one ready for you to enjoy.
Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void
By Tim Lebbon
Chronology: 25,793 years before The Battle of Yavin (BBY, aka the events of A New Hope, which is usually used as the touchstone event for Legends date systems)
Into the Void is the first book I could find chronologically in the Legends canon and I decided this would be my starting point on this journey through the Star Wars that was!
The formatting for these “my thoughts”/mini-reviews is subject to change, so if you’ve got suggestions feel free to let me know on Twitter at AkaAgentShades
So – Dawn of The Jedi! I’ll admit this book hooked me in much faster than I was expecting. Set some 25,000 years before A New Hope, Into the Void tells stories of the original Jedi order (spelled Je’daii throughout the book, so that’s how I’ll be referring to them for this review) in the Tythan system. Unlike the Jedi we are familiar with, the Je’daii are not devoted to the light side of the force, instead preferring to seek balance between light and dark (they refer to the two as Ashla and Bogan after their moons, but this only made me giggle because bogan is an Australian slang term for redneck). This focus on balance creates a darker, slightly more sinister Je’daii order willing to go to extremes and do much more morally questionable things in service to the force, so long as they do not fall “out of balance.” Much like most discussions of force philosophy, this book doesn’t get too specific about what that means, instead implying that to swing too far in either direction is undesirable and that the Jedi/Sith dichotomy of modern Star Wars is not the ideal result.
The plot of Into the Void revolves around Lanoree Brock, a Je’daii Ranger (essentially a proto-Jedi Knight) and her hunt for her brother Dalien, whom she believed dead until the Je’daii learned he was planning to attempt to leave the Tythan system with the help of a dangerous Dark Matter device. Such a device might do what he hopes, and reignite a “hypergate” lost deep inside a city on Tython, or it could open up a black hole and destroy the entire system. Our darker, edgier Je’daii order aren’t willing to let him risk that and send Lanoree to stop him, and kill him if necessary.
Through the course of her investigation, Lanoree reveals to the reader both her history with Dalien and why he is driven to such extremes to leave his home system (something Star Wars fans generally imagine to be trivial with hyperdrive technology readily available). Through Lanoree’s memories we learn that Dalien believes the force to be an enslaving influence, subsuming those who allow it and removing their identity and free will, and over time this conviction drove him further and further from his all Je’daii family. Further fanning the flames of his hatred of the force is the fact that the people of the Tythan system were brought there millennia ago by something called the Tho Yar (what a Tho Yar is never gets explained in the book, more on that later) and so all of the familiar Star Wars species inhabiting it have no idea where they came from and no hyperspace technology in order to leave. Dalien rejects the force, fakes his own death, and sets out on a quest to find a way to leave Tythan and discover his “true home.”
Lanoree herself provides a nuanced look at the Je’daii mindset. She’s not particularly compassionate but regrets when violence is necessary. She’s loyal to the Je’daii but struggles with their secrets and demands of her. She’s very human in a way Jedi and Sith can sometimes fail to be. Throughout the book she wrestles with feelings of guilt and failure for not “saving” her brother from the path that he eventually took. Their relationship is one of the more intriguing parts of the book, as she can’t understand why he hates the force, and he considers her little more than the Force’s puppet, but regret and the embers of familial love are evident in both of them during their interactions.
There are other characters but few stand out as particularly important to the story. Of some note is Tre, a Twi’lek informant who accompanies Lanoree, but only because he’s explicitly said to have three lekku and that sets me wondering too hard about whether that means he has more brain matter than other Twi’leks and why no one else is surprised by him having the equivalent of a third eyeball.
The course of the story takes us on an exciting chase across Tythan as Lanoree hunts Dalien and does an admirable job of world building this new setting and time period. Her hunt is splashed against the backdrop of a shadow war between the Je’daii (implied to be hiding the truth of the larger galaxy for unknown reasons) and the Stargazers (a cult desperate to escape Tythan at any cost). Into the Void raises a lot of questions for follow up in other novels. Unfortunately it does a poor job of wrapping up its own threads.
After a fascinating first two thirds the final act of the book ends abruptly with an unsatisfying confrontation between Lanoree and Dalien that fails to give closure to the underlying conflict between them and only results in Dalien dead and his mysterious dark matter device unused. Whether it would have worked is not addressed, and instead the Je’daii are preoccupied with the jarringly sudden arrival of an outsystem alien spacecraft. We are simply told of this event as Lanoree debates whether her brothers sect of Stargazers are merely part of a larger movement and the book comes to surprising end because the last 3rd of the actual novel is an unrelated short story.
This really brings me to what I’ve been avoiding talking about up until now. Into the Void is apparently a tie-in novel to a series of comics put out by Dark Horse and sharing the Dawn of the Jedi title. I couldn’t find any indication in the book itself or on the cover of this, and ended up googling it afterwards to see if there was a sequel and discovering the comics series. This is, in and of itself, not a bad thing. However, from looking through synopses of the comics (at the moment I’m not planning on including comics in this project, it’s big enough as it is) I found that it immediately jettisons all of the plot threads introduced here in favor of a tired invasion plot revolving around the Rakata from KOTOR. Lanoree isn’t even in the comics.
I think it’s a real shame that this book is sort of on it’s own. The subplots about the nature of the force (whether it is a form of enslaving entity or not and why Dalien seems to get more and more insane the more he cuts himself off from it) the Je’daii cold war against the Stargazers, and indeed why the Tho Yar (apparently big sentient rock spaceships) brought all these people here to begin with deserved follow up and had a lot of potential. So I’m left to sum up Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void as a fascinating beginning to stories that will never be told and one that falls victim to it’s tie-in status at the cost of its final act.
Next up, we jump forward a few thousand years to The Lost Tribe of the Sith!