REVIEW: Star Wars: Shadow Games
When the Star Wars novel with a working title of Holostar was first announced, I was filled with glee. Lots of my friends were filled with glee, too. In fanfic back in the day, when the Beyond the Saga board moved as fast as The Saga board and competition was so fierce between the two that they split the twice-yearly community awards, tales were spun that included some notable holostar characters. Could it be, we thought, that they finally decided to do a Wynssa Starflare book? Or if not her, the other holostar – not quite as popular as Wedge Antilles, Tycho Celchu, and Wes Janson of the X-wing series, but well-known and well-liked – Face Loran.
Later, those hopes were dashed – literally – when it was revealed the story centered around Dash Rendar, a character from the Shadows of the Empire novel and videogame. As a long-time Star Wars EU fan, you get used to disappointment – Chewbacca, Anakin Solo, and Mara Jade died, Jacen Solo fell to the dark side, and Squibs keep popping up in books with the persistence of a sinus infection – but part of being a fan is accepting the heartache in hope that in the end you’ll be rewarded with some greater good, a lesson learned, insight into the myth, or a darn-tooting good tale. (This probably explains why there was so much fan excitement when it was revealed that Face would be appearing in Aaron Allston’s upcoming X-wing: Mercy Kill.) So I’ve been willing on almost every occasion to give the creative parties the benefit of the doubt.
I was familiar with author Michael Reeves, having liked his Medstar duology. Honestly, not much he has written beyond those two books has tickled my fancy, though, and I read and reviewed his co-author Maya Bohnhoff’s original story The Meri. It wasn’t my apathy for either of the authors’ recent work that turned me off from reading Shadow Games; it came down to a matter of time and money.
Time is a valuable commodity, and it takes 6-10 hours to read a book and another 3-4 hours to reread parts and write a fair review. For someone who used to buy every Star Wars book, money has now become a matter of supporting the kinds of books I want to read – and a tale about a pop-princess being saved by a videogame character from fifteen years ago is about as uninteresting as the Twilight-y character Vestara Khai. Sales figures are as enigmatic as a happy ending in the recent Star Wars EU, but only one copy sold at my local bookseller. And while Shadow Games came and went on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble website bestsellers faster than Jaina handed her engagement ring back at Jag upon hearing the word no, the book did achieve a one-week ranking of #23 on the New York Times paperback bestsellers list. Considering paperback sales have been in a downward spiral for over the past two years, I’m not sure that says much of anything.
I have to admit that some part of me felt like I should read Shadow Games, but it came down to an issue of priorities, and this book just wasn’t making the cut. Then one of those unexpected emails popped up in my inbox from a reader who has made thoughtful commentary in response to some of my blogs. She’s even challenged my opinions at times, and I’m glad she does. The point of the blog isn’t that any one opinion is right; it’s that some opinions weren’t being heard. So I was excited when she asked about the possibility of participating in the blog and that she’d like to write a review for Shadow Games.
Megan isn’t new to blogging; she has a wonderful blog of her own that discusses many different topics, including The Clone Wars, videogames like Halo and Mass Effect, and Thundercats. She will be the fifth fangirl to contribute to this blog, and each woman has brought a different perspective about the books they’ve read, storytelling, and female characters. Megan’s review of Shadow Games will be the first of hopefully many more contributions, as she also has an upcoming wrap-up blog planned for TCW’s Slaves of the Republic arc. Linda Hansen-Raj, now cementing herself as a regular contributor, is also working on an interview with a popular Star Wars author, which hopefully will drop in January, as well.
Thanks, ladies! In light of the increase in submission requests, I’ve added submission guidelines to the blog. Every voice matters; take the opportunity to be heard.
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2 thoughts on “REVIEW: Star Wars: Shadow Games”
First of all: really good, thoughtful review, Megan!
Like Fangirl, time is an issue for me. I’m selective about the books I read (and spend money on, for that matter). I also think that the “Holostar” tease, intentional or not, ended with a terrible let-down when the protagonist was revealed to be Dash Rendar.
I’m a character-oriented reader. If I don’t find myself invested in a character quickly (say, within a chapter, possibly two) then I’m gone. Shadows of the Empire is a book I read and quickly stowed away as forgettable, plus I’m not a gamer. Therefore, Dash has never interested me. I can think of many other “Holostar” ideas that would have had much more appeal, either with characters I already enjoy or with brand-new, intriguing ones. (Sorry, Dash!)
This is my frustration with Star Wars fiction: the critical choices being made about plot and character don’t make sense to me as a reader, consumer, and Star Wars fan from Day One. For the most part, the books I’d like to read haven’t been written so far, and those that are, often don’t attract me.
It may be a false assumption on my part, but I feel like a marginalized audience. Because of this, Megan’s last sentence really rings true for me: It’s decent space adventure fare that doesn’t do anything particularly new for the Star Wars universe.
IMHO, what would add to the Star Wars universe is more and better use of characters that already have a much broader audience than the single-novel and gamer-oriented Dash Rendar.
Thanks, Mary! Although he wasn’t mentioned much in the review, it was partially the promise of Eaden Vrill, a new character, that drew me to Shadow Games. Dash, for me, reads pretty much like a younger Han.
There’s definitely a disconnect between what fans are clamoring for and what choices about plot and character are being made in the EU. Hopefully our voices will be heard in the coming years.
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