After last week I did not have high hopes for the rest of The Old Republic tie-in books. However, while Deceived is nothing groundbreaking, it is a nice, self-contained story that does an admirable job of setting up plot for the MMO while still telling a story in it’s own right.
Welcome to Legends of the Hydian Way, the chronicle of my attempt to read through and review all the novels that make up mainline Legends canon in chronological order. May the Force be with me.
The Old Republic: Deceived by Paul S. Kemp is the second tie-in novel to Bioware’s similarly named MMO, and unlike Revan, takes place a scant ten years before the events of the game start. The Sith have finally launched the invasion feared by both sides in Revan but are now meeting with the Republic to discuss a peace treaty. This is an unexpected move for the Sith, but one the Jedi can’t afford to ignore.
Our book largely concerns three character: Darth Malgus, a Sith Lord in a deeply unhealthy and abusive relationship with his Twi’lek slave; Zeerid “Z-Man” a former soldier running guns and worse for criminal cartel The Exchange to pay off his daughter’s medical debts; and Aryn, a Jedi walking a dangerous road hoping to avenge her dead Master.
Malgus and Eleena (his slave girlfriend) open the book by leading a surprise attack on the Jedi temple, killing Aryn’s master and destroying the structure utterly. This proves only the prelude to a surprise Sith attack on the planet Coruscant in general, and in short order the Capital of the Republic is in Sith hands. Malgus, however, is infuriated to learn after the fact that Coruscant isn’t going to be levelled by bombers as he believed, but instead merely used as a bargaining chip to strengthen the Sith’s position at the peace negotiations. To Malgus, the idea of peace itself is abhorrent, as he believes that conflict is the will of the Force and without it the Sith Empire will be made weak.
Zeerid, for his part, is contacted by his handler at The Exchange after a gun smuggling run goes sour and told that he has one final chance to clear his debts. The surprise occupation of Coruscant has created an opportunity to Zeerid to make an extremely dangerous run with a cargo of engspice, a narcotic, to the surface of the planet. Surprisingly, The Exchange is willing to completely forgive his debts if he success, such is the urgency of this run.
At the peace negotiations on Alderaan, Aryn feels the death of her master through the Force and knows the Sith have betrayed them. Upset that the Jedi intend to continue negotiating for peace despite this Sith duplicity, she secretly departs Alderaan, intent on finding Zeerid (whom she knows from time serving in the war with him) in hopes he can help her get to Coruscant to avenge her master.
While Zeerid and Aryn attempt to reach Coruscant for their own reasons, Malgus is seething aboard his ship in orbit around that world. An agent from the Hutt Cartel arrives to warn Malgus that both a spicerunner and a Jedi will soon be arriving to run his blockade, and Malgus puts his ships on alert. Zeerid and Aryn try to sneak past attached to the hull of a Sith cargo ship, but with Malgus forewarned they are discovered. Zeerid’s ship is destroyed, along with the spice, but the two of them survive and land on Coruscant thanks to Aryn’s Force abilities.
Aryn is dead set on going to the ruins of the Jedi temple to find a recording of what happened there, and while Zeerid is less enthusiastic, he agrees to help. Zeerid is concerned Aryn ia making dangerous decisions and doesn’t want to see her end up like him, trapped in a life defined by choices he made a long time ago. At the temple, Aryn finds a holorecording of Anakin killing younglin- I mean Malgus attacking the Temple and realizes he is the one who killed her Master. She also sees that when Eleena is wounded, he reacts, exposing how much he cares about her (it’s complicated). Shaken, Aryn and Zeerid hole up for the night while Zeerid formulates a plan to get them off planet.
Aryn, volatile and unpredictable in her anger at Malgus, sneaks back to the Temple. Malgus, having anticipated that she would go there, confronts her and the two fight. Zeerid arrives to interrupt in a speeder car and convinces Aryn to leave with him. Aryn agrees, not out of self-preservation, but instead having decided she needs to hurt Malgus before she kills him.
Zeerid reluctantly tells Aryn that he spotted Eleena at the spaceport while looking for a ship to steal. They agree to work together long enough for Zeerid to steal a ship, but Aryn will not be dissuaded from her suicidal revenge quest. Malgus, fearing for Eleena, races to the spaceport. Zeerid coincidentally steals the ship belonging to the Hutt agent that sold him out, while Aryn confronts Eleena and finally realizes what she’s been planning to do is wrong. Eleena is clearly the victim of abuse and in a deeply unhealthy relationship with Malgus, and so Aryn cannot bring herself to kill her.
Malgus arrives and the two fight. Aryn is beaten, but Malgus allows her to leave, saying he owes her a debt for sparing Eleena and exposing his weakness. She flees, leaving Malgus and Eleena to finally talk. Malgus takes the opportunity to say that his love for Eleena is making him weak, and then murders her. Oops.
Our book concludes with a pair of epilogues, one showing Malgus, his hatred and pain over Eleena’s death making him even more powerful, killing a rival Sith and declaring that peace will destroy them all. Zeerid and Aryn meet again at a vineyard on Dantooine that Zeerid is trying to get running and it’s implied they live happily ever after with Zeerid’s daughter.
This books is a vast improvement over Revan if only because it isn’t trying to set up quite as much for its tie-in material and has space and time to have its own story. While not terribly orginal, the plot is good enough and Zeerid in particular has some emotional weight behind him. His fears for his daughter and regrets that one bad choice made for good reasons has defined his life so much feel real and sincere.
Malgus is a much stickier issue. His major character arc revolves around a profoundly unhealthy relationship with his slave girl Eleena. He’s abusive, threatens to kill her several times, yet claims to love her. She’s helpless, seems to have feelings for Malgus, but is ultmately trapped between her love for him and her fear of him. It’s disturbing, and unusual for Star Wars. I can’t decide whether it’s good to see a depiction of a real evil like this exposed and condemned or out of place with Star Wars’ usual tone. The end to this story, with Malgus outright murdering Eleena for “making him weak” is particularly twisted and no justice is sought or given for poor Eleena. That aspect, ultimately dips the whole subplot into exploitative territory for me, since it seems Eleena is brought into the story and killed off simply to provide motivation for Malgus.
Of the three main characters, Aryn is probably the flattest. Her arc of “Jedi wants revenge but ultimately decides not to pursue it” is very, very well tread territory, and she doesn’t really add much to it to differentiate her version from others. That she abandons the Jedi in the ends and goes to live with Zeerid is interesting, but it happens in the epilogue and we don’t get to explore that aspect of her very much.
In the end Deceived achieves the goal of a decent tie-in. It sets up an important event and character for The Old Republic while having enough of it’s own identity to stand apart from the game. It’s a solid entry in Legends canon, if not a stand-out one.
Next time we’re taking a break from The Old Republic books to look at…
A Star Wars zombie book?