Blades of the Fallen: Meet Solan

As we draw closer to the release of the third book in the NEXUS universe, I thought I could write a brief series of introductions to some of the characters in the book. The cast of characters is not as broad as in previous books, but there are still a handful to meet. These men and women are agents of the Vanguard, the Necurian people’s first and last line of defence.

Solan's Katana

Eighteen-year-old Solan Ashar sometimes remembers to check his arrogance before he lectures his fellow students. Mostly, he forgets that he hasn’t even started his training for the Vanguard yet, let alone graduated. Twenty-three-year-old Solan is full of doubt and worry. He is an inquisitor of the Vanguard, but is the responsibility of this role too heavy? Is the darker side of his new position too much to bear?

The moment teenage boy is suddenly forced into adult is the moment he witnesses the brutal murder of a Vanguard agent. The moment his ideas of a noble, adventurous life of sailing the stars and spreading peace to undiscovered races is shattered by the wrathful and merciless face of reality.

If he is to help bring a murderer to justice and uncover the truth behind a spate of child abductions, Solan will have to come to terms with the contrast between his once rose-tinted view of the Vanguard and its true nature.

Blades of the Fallen is coming 1 August.

Now meet:

Rialen
Ailan
Mara

Blades of the Fallen

 

Blades of the Fallen Cover

Finally, here is the cover for the third NEXUS book: Blades of the Fallen! And it comes with a release date: 1 August 2017. Pre-order now!

The murder changes everything. The Vanguard is supposed to protect against such violence, not fall victim to it. But even the so-called ‘Fallen’ wouldn’t kill without reason. Would they?

The murderer changes everything. The Fallen keep to themselves, living comfortably separate to other Necurians. But he is dragging them towards war. Why is he so convinced that it’s the Vanguard’s fault?

The inquisitors have changed. As teenagers, they witnessed the murder in front of their eyes. Five years later, they wield the authority of the Vanguard, and they will hunt down the killer. The motives must be uncovered. Because even the Fallen would not kill without reason.

NEXUS is a non-linear series in which every book has some kind of connection to the others. Although best read in order for more background and understanding, they each stand alone. Blades of the Fallen takes place over 100 years before the first book of the series, Shadow of the Wraith.

As always, I ‘designed’ the cover, in so far as I drew some stick people and blocks and arrows, and then Arianne Elliott interpreted that into something that looks like actual stuff and things.

Blades of the Fallen can be pre-ordered for Kindle and for all other e-readers direct through Smashwords. Links for the paperback and for other outlets such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc. will be added to the book’s page here when they become available.

Book 3 Cover Taster

Book three of NEXUS is slowly creeping closer, though working seven days a week until midnight is slowing down its progress. The cover is ready, but I don’t want to reveal it until I know when the book will be released.

I will probably also start putting out brief character spotlights as the release gets closer and, obviously, announce that release when I know it. Until then, here is a little square of the cover. Look, it has a foot! A sci-fi foot!

Book 3 Tease

You may have noticed my Facebook and Twitter (oh, and G+…) banners change. That was your first taste!

So until I know more, I’ll try and put out more guides for surviving unlikely situations you’ll definitely find yourself in should you happen to be some kind of Hero.

Still Alive

You might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps I had died and decided that in this new state of unliving, I would abandon my blog. This is, you will be ecstatic to hear, not the case. I have been busy with a death that doesn’t belong to me, the following despicable family behaviour, a job, a new car (it has GT on the back!), moving house, trying to get internet, and making my beta readers cry.

Yes, finally, the third book in the NEXUS series is (kind of) finished. I started writing it as soon as I finished Temple of the Sixth and set it aside time after time to write Kira, Acts of Violence, and Kira Part II, but at last the most abused book I’ve worked on is nearly ready. It still needs a bit of rewriting and then editing and proofreading, but it’s not too far off now. Hopefully.

Trip To Space

After this stop-start, stop-start, I hope at least the next two books will come quicker and smoother, but thinking about other projects is what got me into this four year crawl in the first place, so let’s ignore that for now.

So, sooner or later I’ll be posting again with a synopsis and release date…or just a cover. Or a rant about another film.

No Man’s Sky

No Man's Sky splashscreen

Science fiction is arguably the most freeing genre to write in. Almost any other genre can be slotted into it, and the range of hard to soft sci-fi means a writer/director/artist can do just about anything he or she wants. It’s one of the main reasons I’m drawn to write sci-fi (science fantasy, in my case).

No Man’s Sky, an upcoming game from Hello Games, seems set to relight the fire under our imaginations and renew our love of sci-fi. This isn’t the bleak dystopian or post-apocalyptic sci-fi that we’ve got used to lately. This is the colourful, vibrant frontier imagined in so many 70s and 80s sci-fi book covers. Sean Murray, the game’s creator, specifically credits the cover artwork of Chris Foss as inspiring the game. That is his view of what science fiction is.

I was watching when the game was first announced and have been looking forward to it ever since. I wrote an article about it not long after, saying:

During Spike’s VGX 2013 awards – catastrophically co-hosted by Joel McHale – a little game studio called Hello Games showed us a glimpse of their new game, No Man’s Sky. In the midst of games such as The Last Of Us, Titanfall, Grand Theft Auto 5, etc., this unknown game – from the tiny group of indie developers of Joe Danger – stole the show.

No Man’s Sky is, for all intents and purposes, infinite. We could buy the game on release day and we’ll have died of old age before we’ve explored every planet in it. A single planet could easily be the size of Earth. Think about that for a moment. Think about a game like Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto. It takes a while to wander around them, doesn’t it? No Man’s Sky has Earth-sized planets that you can get out of your spaceship and walk around. You could probably spend a few months exploring every inch of a single planet (on foot). There are billions and billions of these planets. Actually, I think the number is eighteen quintillion, give or take.

This is all made possible by the procedurally generated worlds. To put it simply, it would be impossible for the Hello Games team (initially 4 people) to create the galaxy and planets and lifeforms by hand the way other games are done. The team, therefore, created a system whereby they put in rough blueprints, and then the game takes those blueprints and their constraints to create unique flora and fauna, planets, terrain, weather, etc. The game does this on the fly as you play – it isn’t preloaded. And those constraints ensure that there’s a degree of realism to how and where plants grow, the physiology of animals, and so on. This results in players experiencing worlds that the developers themselves have never seen.

Most importantly to someone like me, it creates a much more real sense of exploration and discovery. You are literally, and quite genuinely, discovering these digital worlds and creatures that no one has come across before. That said, I can imagine the novelty could wear off after a while, especially when you start to recognise elements – ‘oh, look, that mouse has the same head as the dinosaur three planets ago’.

Sean Murray is reluctant to say too much about the lore of the universe and the storyline of the game. Which makes sense – it’s a game about discovery, after all. It sounds, though, like the story will be quite loose and in the background. Rather than having goals, we’ll have reasons to do things. This is where our imaginations will take over.

I’m not too sure what kind of things we’ll be able to do. We can mine, we can shoot things from our spaceship, and we can buy new ships and equipment. Other than that, it’s a bit of a mystery. My biggest concern for the game is that it will rely too much on the player’s sense of wonder and expect us to keep playing for the sense of discovery. As I said, the novelty of this won’t last long, so there needs to be actual gameplay that keeps us playing.

No Man's Sky

That said, we will no doubt end up creating our own storylines, our own narratives to go along with what we’re doing. That will be a fresh take on gaming for some people – we’re used to being told this is who you are, this is what you’re doing, and this is why you’re doing it.

I’ve said before that I hate how most games throw in a story as an excuse for shooting anything that moves, and that proper writers, like Rhianna Pratchett (Tomb Raider, Heavenly Sword, etc.), need to be employed from the start to create an immersive, properly next-gen (now current gen, I suppose) game. I might even write another post ranting about that at some point. But the equal of creating a story-rich game is perhaps to do just what No Man’s Sky seems to be doing: let us create our story.

It won’t surprise regular readers (or as regular as you can be with my infrequent ramblings) to hear that I have my own ideas for games if anyone was foolish enough to give me a game studio. No Man’s Sky is, amongst others, the kind of game I would want to make. Create a rich galaxy, a background story, and let the player do whatever they want. I want to craft a galaxy and its inhabitants and then let the player loose to make their mark on it.

Of course, I would want to go a little further – put more options and whatnot in. That would mean more funding. More funding means more constraints by a publisher. There’s a reason most games these days are so formulaic. The publishers are terrified of putting money into something that isn’t tried and tested. Much better to take a game that sold well, put a new coat of paint on it, change the name slightly, and push it out into the wide world.

Hello Games doesn’t have this problem, because they are indie developers. This is probably the only reason they are able to do what they are doing. Sean Murray worked at EA, so he knows the industry well enough to know to stay away from becoming the industry.

Anyway, there are many articles out there about No Man’s Sky, so there’s not much point in me going on and on. If you’re interested enough to have got to the end of this article, you’ve probably already read some of those other articles.

Suffice to say I am looking forward to become a frontiersman.

Reviews and Amazon Rants

It means a lot to get good reviews. It means quite a lot to get a good rating, though slightly less than a well thought out review. It also means a lot when Amazon decides ‘f*** you, we don’t like you having nice things, so we’ll delete your best reviews’. Though it means a lot in a different way.

They’ve been doing this for a while now on Amazon itself, and since taking over Goodreads, they’ve started doing it there. I’m certainly not the only one noticing the reviews disappearing – and only ever 5-star reviews, it seems. I can’t speak for the deleted reviews of others, but the ones that have disappeared from mine have been from review bloggers, writing detailed, unbiased reviews. Not family members raving about how the books are the best things ever.

Amazon has claimed before that they won’t allow authors to post reviews on books in the same genre as they themselves write. Aside from the fact that this is pathetically stupid and is pretty much censorship, it doesn’t seem to be enforced. My best reviews are written by a sci-fi author, and they’re still there.

Other authors have contacted Amazon to demand to know why this is happening, and Amazon claim ignorance. They say that it’s most likely because of the reviewers removing the reviews, accidentally reviewing the book – I can’t quite get my head around that one – or leaving the site (Goodreads). That doesn’t quite allow for the fact that I asked one reviewer if she knew why her review had disappeared from my book on Amazon, she emailed Amazon to ask why, they said they would put it back, and then never bothered. So what the hell are they playing at?

But that’s enough ranting about the somewhat disgraceful Amazon.

I received one such review just the other day, from The Review Hart. I requested the review months ago – just after I published Acts of Violence, in fact. She scheduled me for August, and I forgot about it. With terms like ‘haunting’, ‘spectacular’, ‘gripping’, and ‘fantastic’ dotted throughout, the review turned out to be very much worth the wait. And it’s a 4-star review which means A) people are more likely to pay attention to it than a 5-star, and B) it’s less likely to be deleted by Amazon.

In fact, reading the review kind of made me want to read the book!

In other news, we have a more definite date for the next anthology, Wyrd Worlds II: September 20-21. Mine will be the first story in the book, and is a sequel to Kira.

Force War

(Part 1 / Part 2)

Force War is the third and final part of Dawn of the Jedi. It takes place a year after Prisoner of Bogan. The Rakata have attacked. They have cut a bloody swathe through the system’s planets, and even attacked Tython itself. The allied forces – the Je’daii and all remaining non-Force sensitives have joined forces against this common enemy – have blunted the Rakatan attack on Tython, and the bloodthirsty dark siders have fallen back. Daegen Lok has been asked by the Je’daii to lead their forces, and Xesh now fights alongside them.

Flesh Raiders

The Rakatan ground forces are mutated lower caste Rakata, Flesh Raiders, little more than beasts. They do not wield the Force, but they do fight with forcepikes (basically forcesabers, but with more hilt). They are strong and incredibly bloodthirsty. They are joined by a number of Force Hounds. Shae Koda’s presence and bond with Xesh is the only thing keeping him from being overwhelmed by the dark side. He has begun to learn the balance of the Force, but knows that only the dark side will serve him in battle.

After a tough battle, we see that tension is running high. It’s not only the strain of war, but the forcesabers. The weapons require the dark side to operate, and the Je’daii are finding it increasingly difficult to keep balance within themselves while wielding one. We also see that something more is developing between Xesh and Shae, which isn’t exactly surprising. Xesh seems willing to allow these feelings, while Shae is more reluctant, leaving with a weak excuse when things are getting too intimate.

It seems the Rakata are losing their connection to the Force. They have been commanding slaves more than they have been commanding the Force, and it is slowly leaving them. This is why Tython is so important to them. Not only will the planet restore their connection to Force, but it is also the location of the galaxy’s last remaining infinity gate (those Kwa Stargate things from part 2). This gate was the main one, and requires no connecting gate in order for the Rakata to travel wherever they want in the galaxy. As powerful as they are now, they will be unstoppable if they take Tython.

Tau

Remember the final revelation of Prisoner of Bogan? That Xesh has had memory blocks put in place by the Predor? He is beginning to have dreams about this. The blocks are perhaps beginning to fail. Drawn by the distress she feels through the Force, Shae wakes Xesh from his nightmares. Knowing that they could both die, she decides there no reason not to keep her ‘secret’ any longer: she’s in love with him. But Xesh doesn’t know what love is. The best he can do is tell her that she’s about the only person he doesn’t hate, and that she calms his anger. What a romantic. He also tells her that his name is not Xesh. He gave himself a name from the only word he remembers of his native language: Tau. Shae is now the only person to know it. Which is nice.

Now comes a bit that kind of confused me. Tasha Ryo, one of the three journeyers who were, I thought, meant to be main characters, took a backseat after part one. She is now a Seer, a Je’daii who basically sleeps all day to get visions. These visions are not clear and must be deciphered, much like normal dreams, I suppose. The reason I was kind of confused was that for some reason, I thought this was Tasha’s mother the whole time. So even though they keep calling her Tasha, I kept thinking “I wonder where Tasha is”. So, I’m an idiot. Anyway, Tasha sees a vision that leads Xesh to locate, through his old Force Hound astral travelling tricks, the location of the high Predor. They attack this planet.

Unfortunately, Trill is still about, and still a spy for the Predor. She tells him that the Je’daii are coming, and he has an ambush waiting for them. Sek’nos Rath is taken down in the battle, and taken prisoner. He becomes one of the many Force sensitives powering the Predor’s ship. Xesh, his memory block still keeping him from recognising Trill, is tricked into entering the ship, and she knocks him unconscious.

Shae feels that Xesh has been lost to the darkness, and resolves to save him, despite her master’s scolding at the emotional bond they now have. Said master also tells her that he must take command of the Je’daii troops, as Lok has disappeared.

Je'daii Master

This is where my complaint at the start of part two comes in. Predor Skal’nas is removing the memory blocks from Xesh’s mind, and we see that he ordered Xesh to kill his own master and sabotage the ship over Thython, so that Skal’nas would be the one to take the planet. However, if you recall the beginning of Prisoner of Bogan, Skal’nas is angry that Xesh and his master have not contacted him. This doesn’t make sense, leading me to believe that this was a twist the writer came up with quite late on, perhaps even after part two had been printed.

With the memory blocks gone, Xesh remembers some of the more terrible things he has done, and how he actually quite enjoyed it. It is easy for Skal’nas to bring Xesh back under his command. He is a Force Hound once more. Not only that, but he quite happily tortures Daegen Lok who, we find, has been taken prisoner. Xesh uses Lok’s own mind twist against him. Lok’s madness is sanity and truth to Skal’nas: he has found the infinity gate. Remember that chasm under the Anil Kesh temple, that drives people mad if they try to descend? That is where the infinity gate is located.

Next, Skal’nas uses Xesh and Trill to draw the power he needs to find all the Je’daii Seers through the Force, and blind them. The Je’daii’s only advantage is taken away, and the Seers are blinded both physically, and to the Force. The Je’daii are forced to retreat.

Now all they can do is wait on Tython for the Rakatan assault. The only up side is that, because Skal’nas wants the infinity gate, they cannot bombard the planet from space. Skal’nas launches the attack, but takes Lok and Xesh in a shuttle craft to the Anil Kesh chasm undetected. Almost undetected. Shae’s bond means that she senses them break through the atmosphere, and goes after them.

Sek'nos Rath

Meanwhile, Sek’nos Rath isn’t about to become a minor character. He gathers all of his pain, rage and hate and unleashes it, freeing himself and all the other Force sensitive slaves powering the ship. They kill their guards and join the fight. But Sek’nos is more interested in taking revenge on Xesh.

While the battle rages, the blinded Tasha Ryo once again activates the ancient holocron, hoping for guidance. It seems not all is lost. The Rakata arriving on Tython fulfills the true purpose of the holocron. “It is time,” A’nang says, “for Tython to awaken.”

Down in the chasm, Predor Skal’nas reveals that he knows how to reach the bottom without being driven mad by the infinite gate’s defenses. It is a simple symbol that he and Xesh must hold in their minds: the symbol of the Tho Yor that brought the Je’daii to Tython all those years ago. They leave Lok chained up and descend. It isn’t long before Sek’nos and Shae arrive. She and Lok follow their quarry. And so begins the final issue.

Sek’nos, left behind and thinking there is no way Shae and Lok could survive the chasm, is confronted by Trill. He hates her almost as much as Xesh now, and in an impressive but very short battle, he defeats her. His rage nearly overpowers him, but at the last moment, he spares her. The last we see of either of them is Sek’nos walking away, carrying the unconscious Trill.

Below, Lok is in battle with Predor Skal’nas, while Shae fights Xesh. She will not kill him, but he doesn’t seem to be interested in anything she has to say. They fight is interrupted when Lok tries his mind twist on Skal’nas. The pure evil in the Predor’s mind is too much for Lok, and Skal’nas strikes him down, and activates the infinity gate.

Above, at the core of Anil Kesh, Tasha has been guided by the holocron. A’nang tells her that it is time to awaken the Tho Yor. But he needs a Je’daii seer. Blinded is not severed; she can be reunited with the Force, but it will cost her ‘mortal shell’. This is quite a sad scene, but I can’t entirely put my finger on why. Tasha hasn’t been a prominent character to get attached to, yet she is likable. Perhaps it’s because she’s so young, or already been through a lot, or…who knows. But it’s a good, sad scene. This is on reflection, of course, as the first time round I didn’t realise it was Tasha. Again: idiot.

Said scene shares alternate pages with the battle below. Shae, in one speech bubble explains to Xesh/Tau what most of the world doesn’t understand: what love is. It seems enough to bring him back to the light. But if he needed any more encouragement, it comes in the form of Skal’nas striking Shae down with Force lightning. Xesh attacks in rage.

Tasha Ryo

Above, Tasha’s final moments are filled with selflessness. To protect the remaining worlds from the Rakata, she falls into the stream of energy flowing through the centre of Anil Kesh. In her last moments of life, her sight is restored, as is her connection to the Force. She finally understands the purpose of the Tho Yor.

And so do we. All nine of the Tho Yor awaken with a bright yellow energy. With immense power, they strike out and destroy each and every Rakatan ship. And the infinity gate below.

Skal’nas’s rage at this doesn’t help him. Xesh still slices him open and he falls into the weird…flesh-eating water.

Apparently, Lok is still alive, as is Shae’s trusty flying rancor, who swoops in to save them as the place falls apart…naturally. It wouldn’t be a climactic finish if the walls weren’t crumbling around their escape.

The penultimate scene shows Lok refusing to hand over his forcesaber. All the other Je’daii have done so, because of the way the weapon skews the balance of the Force. But it has served Lok too well to give it up. Nor will he submit to being sent back to Bogan, apparently. Instead, he sets out to hunt down the Flesh Raiders who escaped into the wilds after the battle.

Xesh – or rather, Tau – and Shae are heading through a forest. Even after everything, the Je’daii masters have put their trust in Tau, and in the Force, and allowed him to remain on Tython. The two are setting off to explore the planet, and the balance of the Force itself. With a kiss, they walk off into the…moonset.

Force War was, unsurprisingly, packed full of little but action. I enjoyed it, and I certainly liked the idea of the forcesabers corrupting the Je’daii. In the end, even the most powerful masters were beginning to feel themselves tipping more towards the dark side. Even enjoying the killing. That issue with Skal’nas and the memory block remains the only real issue I had. Although, Xesh going back and forth between good and bad got a little bit annoying. He’s evil; he’s ok; he’s bad; he’s good; he’s evil; he’s good again.

I was disappointed to see Lok was still alive. I’d hoped that Skal’nas had killed him, but sadly not. As far as I’m concerned, he’s still a villain. Not the main villain of this story, but he was driven mad in the chasm, even if his vision was true. He wants nothing but power, and the forcesaber will probably only make things worse. If they are working on another graphic novel, dealing with this, then that’s okay. Otherwise, I would have preferred that he die.

Hawk Ryo

I was a little disappointed that Hawk Ryo was barely in this one, as he was probably my favourite character. He was a bit like a tougher, more gritty Han solo, but with Force powers. The little tin star denoting his rank as Ranger helps make his look pretty good too.

The story between Xesh and Trill was left unresolved, which was a bit of a shame. Xesh’s actions caused her to become the hate-filled dark sider that she is, and she is taken prisoner by the Je’daii for it, while Xesh goes free with his new love. I would have been perfectly okay with Trill turning out to be the hero at the end, turning to the light side and stopping Skal’nas, while Xesh just…died. Although he was a good enough character, I never really gave much of a damn about him, whereas I felt sorry for poor Trill.

Lastly, I would ideally have liked to have the typical hero gathering to end things. All of the surviving main characters gathered together in one scene to have some kind of closure for all of them. But never mind.

So, overall, this was the second very good graphic novel that I’ve read, and has made me want to find more, particularly with the same artist. Although in places the art wasn’t what it could be, there are some very good images, and you can feel the tension and the heat of battle, and hear the forcesabers and the music.

I’d probably give Dawn of the Jedi a 7 or 8/10 So in short, I highly recommend this for anyone, whether you normally read graphic novels or not. Remember: I don’t.

Part 1

Part 2

Prisoner of Bogan

The hunt begins!

(Part 1 / Part 3)

This has turned out to be longer and more detailed than the last one, since I remember it better. I’m not quite sure what it is. It’s not a review, but it’s…something.

Prisoner of Bogan

Part two of Dawn of the Jedi – Prisoner of Bogan – begins with Predor Skal’nas using the Force to violently throw Trill about. If you’ve forgotten, Skal’nas is the main (‘High’, perhaps, I don’t remember) Predor of the Rakatan Infinite Empire. Trill is his Force Hound – a slave strong in the Force, and trained to hunt down Force sensitive planets.

Skal’nas is angry that he has lost contact with his subordinate, whom he sent to find Tython (home of the Je’daii, if your memory’s that bad). He’s taking it out on Trill partly because he’s evil and that’s what evil characters do, and partly because she failed to locate Tython, but his subordinate’s Force Hound, Xesh, succeeded.

Now, this confuses me. I didn’t think about it the first time round, but now I’m glancing through the pages again to ensure I’m not lying to you, this makes no sense to me. A revelation in the final part of the graphic novel makes me wonder if the writers were making it up as they went. Which is fine, of course, as long as you don’t leave inconsistencies. But I’ll say more about that in the last part of the review.

Trill assures her master that, while she may not be able to locate Tython, she can track down Xesh. Apparently, she has a ‘brood link’ with him. She and Xesh had already had a minor altercation in the first part of the graphic novel, showing that they have some issues with each other, and this mention of a brood link tells us there must be more than we had perhaps assumed.

Xesh is coming to the end of his second month of exile on Tython’s dark moon, Bogan. He believes that the Je’daii exiled him here not to find balance, but because they fear his power. There seems to be some hope, though, as he remembers Shae Koda. He remembers the light side emanating from her. He doesn’t know it, but she has kindled the embers of the light side within him. But for the moment, he sees these feelings only as a weakness.

While deep in thought, Xesh is attacked by Daegen Lok, Bogan’s only other prisoner/exile. Lok uses a ‘mind twist’ on Xesh, to make him think he’s suffocating. This is an irritating little version of the Jedi mind trick, and Lok uses it fairly often. It got on my nerves a bit, for some reason. Perhaps because I’d like to think the Je’daii he uses it on wouldn’t be so easily tricked. Xesh gains the upper hand regardless, but Lok’s words make Xesh realise that he, too, saw a vision of Xesh before he crash landed. I’m not entirely sure why, but this makes Xesh let Lok go.

Daegen Lok attacks

Lok takes his new friend to a cave. Here, he tells Xesh about the vision he had when he descended the chasm under Anil Kesh. Lok wasn’t alone. He was accompanied by his friend, Hawk Ryo, who denied seeing the same vision as Lok. The vision that caused the Je’daii to declare him crazy and exile him to Bogan. Yes, the Je’daii are kind of dicks in this graphic novel. Apparently Xesh and his forcesaber were part of this vision, and Lok wants Xesh to help him create more forcesabers with which he can prove to the Je’daii that his vision was true. Next, he takes Xesh to a crashed fighter, downed during the war Lok himself ended. Xesh uses his power to recharge the ship’s energy cells and they depart for a planet rich with the kind of crystals Xesh needs for a forcesaber.

Elsewhere, the Je’daii forge master tests the forcesaber, finding it to be stronger than anything he has, and seemingly indestructible. He also can’t activate it. Neither can Shae Koda, the only person other than Xesh to have done so. They determine that it is the dark side of the force that powers the forcesaber, hence why she used it while angry, but not now. Hawk Ryo appears from nowhere and in a pretty good, if slightly ominous scene, activates the forcesaber with no trouble. Impressed, the forge master asks him to keep the weapon, and report back on his findings.

Trill

Trill is searching for Xesh. She remembers their childhood. Even as children, the slaves of the Rakata were brutal to each other. She used her untrained Force powers to put down the leader of their little pack when he challenged Xesh. From there, they swore blood oaths to each other, vowing to always protect each other. But the brutality of the Rakata would not allow these oaths to be kept. For the Rakata’s pleasure, they would later pit the two against one another in a fight to the death. Xesh defeated her, but persuaded his Predor that she should be a gift to the high Predor, as she would make a decent Force Hound. To Trill, denying her a ‘good death’ is an even worse betrayal, but it seemed to me as though this was the only way Xesh knew of protecting her. This was actually a pretty sad scene, and made me feel sorry for Trill. The art and the writing here makes her devastation, rage and hate come alive. She locates Xesh, and sets a course.

Tasha Ryo is shown, by one of the masters, an ancient holocron. The master has been unable to activate it, but believes that she might. He is correct. With only a touch, she activates the holocron, and an alien by the name A’Nang of the Kwa speaks to them. He explains that they were brought to Tython in the same way that the Je’daii were. They spent their time spreading ‘civilisation’ and technology to other planets. They show him a skull, taken from the wreckage of the Rakatan ship. It is the only species they have been unable to identify. The holocron scans it. ‘Rakata!’ he declares, ominously, and the holocron swiches off.

Sek'nos Rath Falls

Meanwhile, the escape of Lok and Xesh has been discovered, and the other two journeyers are dispatched along with two masters and two rangers – including Hawk Ryo – to track them down. They find the two on the crystal-rich planet and attack. Lok uses his mind twist again to convince one of the masters that she is on fire. In saving her life, Sek’nos Rath plummets to his apparent death. But die, he does not. Instead, he is recovered by Trill. She hides her Force sensitivity from him and pretends to be a simple thief who saved his life. This is how she will get close to Xesh and the Je’daii.

While the master, her body manifesting the burns her mind is convinced she has suffered, is rushed to a medical facility, Xesh creates a new forcesaber for Lok. But it seems the saber alone won’t be enough to convince the Je’daii he was right. He needs an army, and he knows just where to find one.

The remnants of the upper hierarchy of the Je’daii’s enemy during the war aren’t pleased to see the man who killed their leader and put down their rebellion. With a little persuasion from the forcesabers, they are partway convinced to follow him, when they are rudely interrupted by Hawk Ryo. Shae Koda has used the connection all the journeyers inexplicably have with Xesh to track him.

Hawk chases Lok down and fights him, forcesaber on forcesaber. The two old friends exchange some meaningful dialogue about Hawk seeing the same vision Lok did, but denying it to save himself from Bogan. This betrayal hurts Lok still. Lok steps backwards off the high ledge and plummets. But Hawk realises that it was all a mind trick, distracting him while the real Lok escaped.

At the same time, Shae is chasing down Xesh. She takes him down and rages at him about his betrayal. She still believes that he has killed Sek’nos. Again the fight is short, but shown with some impressive panels. This time, Shae has two swords to try to counter the forcesaber’s power.

As Xesh begins to fight back again, a giant…squid thing breaks through the ground and grabs Shae. It pulls her down into a watery cavern below. Ignoring his instincts to leave her to die, Xesh dives into the cavern after them. His rage fuels the Force, and he stops the creature’s multiple hearts. Shae has been held under the water too long, and has passed out. Xesh breathes life back into her, and takes her prisoner.

Back at one of the Je’daii temples, the holocron is activated again, and the A’Nang returns from it to tell them about the Rakata. He is shamed to admit that it was they, the Kwa, who enleashed the Rakata on the galaxy. Misjudging the Rakatan’s nature, they gave them advanced technology, including ‘infinity gates’ (the Stars Wars version of Stargates). The Rakata focused on the dark side of the Force, and used it and their new technology to devastate and enslave planet after planet. The Kwa managed to destroy the infinity gates, slowing the Rakata a little, but were still defeated by them. A’Nang’s last helpful tip is that if the Rakata are coming to Tython, then the Je’daii are doomed.

The masters conclude that Lok’s vision is coming true.

Daegen Lok's Forcesaber

Back on Hawk’s homeworld (the Twi’lek world of Shikaakwa), Ryo and another ranger meet up with Sek’nos Rath and Trill. She is still successfully hiding her true nature from them all. The Je’daii attack Lok and Xesh as they try to assume command of the planet’s leading clan – the Ryo clan, that of Hawk’s brother. Sek’nos goes after Xesh and Shae, who has been rendered docile by another of Lok’s mind twists. They fight, but Xesh defeats Sek’nos. Trill appears as Xesh escapes, but we’re surprised to find that he doesn’t recognise her. She is glad to see this. Clearly there is more going on than we realise.

The beginning of this part’s climax is Hawk confronting Lok just in time to save his fellow ranger. Lok uses his mind twist to force the vision they shared into Hawk’s mind. Hawk is the first one strong enough to force him back out, and throw him hard against a wall.

Xesh intervenes in time to save Lok. While Hawk is distracted by Xesh, Lok cuts off his leg, which I wasn’t expecting. A bit unpleasant. This act jerks Shae back into reality, and she joins the fight. Xesh half-heartedly fights her while she tells him he has to choose between freedom and slavery, light and dark. Lok makes the mistake of calling himself Xesh’s master. Xesh turns on him and knocks him down. Lok tries to use his mind twist on Xesh, but the Force Hound’s mind is not somewhere he wants to go, and it defeats Lok.

Shae talks Xesh out of killing Lok, is reunited with her friend Sek’nos Rath, who she still thought was dead, and they all live happily ever after. Well, they don’t.

Hawk admits to the masters that he shared Lok’s vision. With one difference. It wasn’t Daegen Lok he saw leading the Je’daii. It was Xesh.

Prisoner of Bogan ends in dramatic fashion with Trill reporting back to her Predor, who gives the order to prepare the fleet. The last, full-page panel shows a rather imposing fleet of ships heading for war. Not only that, but it leaves us with one last reveal: Xesh didn’t remember Trill because the high Predor has places blocks on his memory, in order to use him as a spy.

Rakata

This was a much more complicated, action-packed, story-packed part of the Dawn of the Jedi graphic novel, and was probably my favourite of the three. The battles between the Je’daii and Xesh/Lok looked very good, for the most part, and you could almost hear the music and the humming of the forcesabers. As with the first part, I think there was only one thing I didn’t like about this part, and that was the start, where Predor Skal’nas was annoyed that he hadn’t been contacted by Xesh’s master, but you’ll see why in the final post tomorrow. Although, I also didn’t really like how easily Lok and Xesh defeated the Je’daii over and over. Yes, Lok was a general in the war, a hero and pretty powerful, but still…some of them were masters!

Part 3 – Force War

Back to part 1 – Force Storm

Force Storm

Force Storm is the first part of Dawn of the Jedi. It starts off with an alien race investigating a strange pyramid-shaped object that has landed on their planet. It’s called the Tho Yor. The aliens can sense something from it through the Force, though they don’t yet know about the Force. We then see several other races encountering their own Tho Yor (I think there are nine of them).

Force Storm

The Tho Yor transport these aliens to the centre of the galaxy, to a planet called Tython. Tython itself is alive with the Force, and is consumed by raging Force storms. The artwork up to this point was very nice indeed and, more than the story, kept me turning the pages.

Many years pass (I don’t remember how many, but lots!), and these aliens now call themselves Je’daii. Unlike the later Jedi, who were light side only, they seek a balance inside themselves, between the light and dark side of the Force. There are two important things to note in this early part of the graphic novel (I refuse to refer to it simply as a novel!). First is that one of the Je’daii temples, Anil Kesh, was built over a vast chasm. No one has ever reached the bottom of this chasm without going mad. The Je’daii cannot see the bottom of the chasm with either their senses or their sensors.

The second important thing to note is that not all of the aliens were Force sensitive. Those who were not were in too much danger from Tython itself to remain. They were forced to say goodbye to their Je’daii friends and family, and spread to other planets. Eventually, there was an uprising of non-Force-users against the Je’daii. It was only ended when a Je’daii general, Daegen Lok, killed the uprising’s leader.

Lok later tried to descend into the aforementioned chasm. He claimed to have had a vision of a powerful, dark army marching on Tython, and of himself leading the Je’daii to victory against this foe. The Je’daii claimed that he had simply been driven mad, and exiled him to Bogan, one of Tython’s two moons. Bogan and Ashla are the dark and light moons, representing, of course, the two sides of the Force. On Bogan, Lok is meant to meditate on the balance of the Force, to regain his sanity so that he may return to the Je’daii. But that’s for later.

Rakata

Force Storm also introduces the Rakata. I’d encountered these aliens in the game I mentioned in the previous post, KOTOR. I knew a little about them, but didn’t remember much. The Rakatan Infinite Empire is purely evil. The Rakata wield the Force, but only the dark side. They invade, conquer, and then eat their enemies. Force sensitives are captured alive and imprisoned in torture capsules. The dark side energy their pain, anger and fear causes them to emit then powers the Rakatan ships.

The Predors, the Rakatan leaders, use Force Hounds to find Force sensitive planets. These are slaves strong in the Force, trained specifically for this task. I think this is a very early version, in some ways, of the Sith’s rule of two – master and apprentice – except that there are many Predors, each with Force Hounds, who answer to one, main Predor. One such Hound is Xesh. He is brought before the main Predor, Skal’Nas. The Predor’s own Force Hound, Trill, has sensed a planet strong in the Force, but is unable to locate it. Xesh is stronger, and finds it easily: Tython.

On Tython, we are introduced to three Je’daii journeyers. Shae Koda is training a flying Rancor with her master. Tasha Ryo is arguing with her crime lord father when an assassin strikes. Her strength in the Force allows her to easily defeat the assassin. Sek’nos Rath is practising Force lightning to show off in front of a couple of girls. He is quite an interesting character for me, because he is a Sith. Not the Sith we know from the films, but a member of the Sith race, which has supposedly become extinct by the time of the KOTOR games, which themselves are set thousands of years before the films. It was the first time I’d seen a true Sith in anything I’ve watched or played.

Each of these journeyers sees a vision of a man in dark armour: Xesh. They feel that the Force is directing them, and each follows it to a dangerous canyon. Here, they meet up and we see that they already know each other. There is some mildly unpleasant back and forth between Shae and Tasha, but it’s pretty weak, and we never really know why Shae seems to dislike her. It’s made all the weaker a bit later when they’re fighting for their lives, and Shae is as worried about Tasha as she would be for anyone.

No sooner have they arrived at the canyon than a ship hurtles out of the sky and nearly crashes into them. It’s worth noting here that the closer Xesh came to Tython, the worse the Force storms on the planet became. The creatures on its surface become more active and more aggressive. The Je’daii don’t know the cause, of course, but Xesh is so dark in the Force that it is throwing Tython out of balance. There is also the fact that Xesh has sabotaged his master’s ship, causing the deaths of all the Force sensitives powering it. The death of so many is felt by all the Je’daii, as well as contributing to the unbalance of Tython.

Xesh

The journeyers reach the crashed ship, and Xesh emerges. For the first time, he is not wearing his helmet, and we see that his face is branded. He says only one word in the final page of the issue: ‘Death!’ It does make sense. He says it in response to something they say. He doesn’t just walk out and shout ‘Death!’ That would be stupid.

Xesh refuses to believe that the Je’daii mean him no harm, and he attacks them. His powerful ‘forcesaber’ easily cuts through their swords, and it is only Tasha’s strength in the Force – and the fact that she uses no weapon but the Force – that prevents him from killing them all right away. Even her strength isn’t enough, however, and Xesh escapes.

Meanwhile, Shae’s master and a couple of Je’daii Rangers are searching for the source of the turbulence on Tython. They know it is centred around a dark presence, and assume that it came in the ship that crashed, so they set out to track it, and their journeyers.

Xesh finds himself dazed and confused, partly by the crash, and partly by the noxious gasses of the canyon. He hallucinates about the Rakatans he has betrayed and killed, but these hallucinations turn out to be savage beasts, out for his blood. As he fights them, he is attacked by a saarl (some variation of, or perhaps slightly different name for, the saarlac from Return of the Jedi). The journeyers arrive in time to save him from it.

The saarl, however, is not something one usually fights, and the journeyers have little chance of surviving its attack. Not only that, but thanks to the Force storms, this saarl has gained the ability to…well, vomit electricity at them, basically.

Xesh, despite being saved by the three, takes the opportunity to escape and leave them to their deaths. He takes the high ground and watches the fight. While he watches, it becomes obvious to him that these three are very different to anyone he is used to. He expects them each to leave the others to die. When Tasha is knocked out, he thinks the others will leave her to distract the saarl while they escape. He is surprised to find that they fight all the harder to protect each other, selfless and, in his eyes, weak. However, there is something about Shae Koda that intrigues him. Little does he know, it is the light side of the Force that shines from her; something he has never felt.

Saarl

Thanks to this, Xesh finds himself diving off his perch and slicing the saarl open with his forcesaber to save the journeyers.

At this moment, the rangers arrive with Shae’s master. He immediately recognises that Xesh is the eye of the storm. He connects with the storm through the Force in an attempt to return it to balance, but its power is too great. Thinking that the storm has killed her master, Shae takes up Xesh’s forcesaber in anger and nearly strikes the dark warrior down. She does not, however, and he is returned, unconscious, to a temple of healing.

As part one winds down, Xesh realises there is more to the Force than just the dark side. The journeyers know that the Force guided them to him for a reason, and that he can be taught the balance. But the Je’daii masters refuse to listen to them, and banish Xesh to Bogan. Even though he knows nothing of the light side of the Force, they expect him to meditate on it, and find balance. This is a weak excuse to imprison him, really, and the journeyers know someone so steeped in the dark side will not gain balance without help.

As you can see from the screenshots I’ve included, the artwork is very nice. Only a few times throughout the graphic novel was a I confused about what I was seeing. I had little to complain about in the first issue, except what I’ve already said about the weak interaction between the three journeyers.

Part 2 – Prisoner of Bogan

Part 3 – Force War

Dawn of the Jedi

Yes, I know the blog posts – when they actually come – are mostly about games and graphic novels at the moment, but it’s not going to become a habit. Probably.

Batman Hush

I’ve said before that I don’t really read graphic novels, and while this is still mostly true, there have been a few times when I gave in to temptation. The first time was when I’d just finished playing Batman Arkham Origins and, being underwhelmed, perhaps disappointed with it, wanted more Batman. The only thing I could think of was a graphic novel, so I got Batman: Hush and it was very good. I subsequently read two and a half other ones and they put me off graphic novels again. For me to enjoy a graphic novel, it has to have very good art as well as story. Sadly, too many of them have what I would call pretty crap art, so that puts me off. I can’t really see myself becoming an avid reader of graphic novels, even with good art and story, because of the way they’re written. For a novel writer, it can be confusing and at times frustrating to read, since dialogue often has to tell the reader what is happening in lieu of narrative (among other ‘issues’ (pun semi-intended)), and it becomes very forced and unrealistic. But that can be – not to sound too snobby and arrogant, of course – forgiven, if it’s good overall. But now I’m rambling.

This time, with all the hype about Star Wars Episode VII coming up, a handful of games and the Clone Wars final season on Netflix, which…they…let’s just…F*#%ING NETFLIX! The final season of Clone Wars (among many, many other films and TV shows) is exclusive to US Netflix. I would have less of a problem with that if I weren’t paying the same amount for less content. In fact, because I have a southern Ireland Netflix account and my bank is UK, I’m actually paying more for less content. But making it exclusive to Americans… I’d like to see them make it exclusive to white people and see if they get away with that. In this day and age…oh, never mind. What was I saying?

Oh, yes. All the Star Wars hype made me re-watch Episode III – the writing of which was a lot worse than I remembered – and go back and play Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. Then I watched the final season of Clone Wars (yes, Netflix, I used a browser extension to get around your xenophobia, you p#*cks!). Then I wanted…more! More Jedi, more Force, more Star Wars. So again, I began to wonder if there were any good Star Wars graphic novels. I found a list of them, and looked for some screenshots to check the art. Everything seemed decent, so I got a three-part graphic novel, Dawn of the Jedi.

Dawn of the Jedi is set, as far as I know at least, as far back in the Star Wars timeline as possible. Technically, I suppose they could go even further back, but no one has. It tells the story of the early Je’daii, a group of people of several different races sensitive to the Force, and their struggle against the evil, dark-side-wielding Rakatan.

Lightsaber

Because I’m only coming to the end of my review of the first part of the graphic novel, and it’s longer than I intended, I’ve decided to post all this in four parts:

Force Storm

Prisoner of Bogan

Force War