This week I decided to review Star Wars: The Old Republic Annihilation by Drew Karpyshyn. The main character of the book is Theron Shan. Son of the Jedi Grandmaster and a Republic soldier later revealed to be the highest ranking officer in the Republic military, a Republic Intelligence operative. The book opens with him discovering a plot to sell Republic POWs into slavery and launching a successful rescue mission. Unfortunately in the process he disrupts a plan to uncover the network involved in the POW selling scam and ignores orders to leave Nar Shaddaa. He then meets with a Hutt to try talking him out of launching an attack on a ship’s crew including Teff’ith, a smuggler who was an ally of Theron’s on an earlier mission which saw the death of the Jedi who raised him. The attack has already been launched however so Theron races to the rescue. After succeeding in saving Teff’ith he returns to Coruscant. Meanwhile Darth Karrid, a Jedi sent to infiltrate the Sith who fell to the Dark Side, and is now commander of the most powerful warship in the Galaxy, is attempting to gain a recently vacated seat on the Sith Empire’s Dark Council by aiding her main rival in retaking a system he had lost then luring him into attacking her Battlecruiser so she can destroy him without angering the Empire’s leadership. Upon return and as punishment for disrupting the operation on Nar Shaddaa Theron is assigned to the analysis division focused on finding a way to destroy Karrid’s Ascendant Spear. In time he is returned to the field alongside Jedi Master Gnost-Dural, who trained Karrid and assigned her to infiltrate the Sith, with reluctant help from Teff’ith. First they are sent to obtain one of the Empire’s most secure coding devices then to sabotage the Ascendant Spear. The latter becomes a race against time to trick the Spear into diverting to the world of Duros, a major Republic shipbuilding center, and soon to be the site of a massive Imperial attack. Meanwhile Teff’ith, and Theron’s mother Satele struggle to convince Jace Malcom, Theron’s father whose still angry about never having been told about his son, to divert a Republic fleet to Duros, revealing that Imperial codes had been broken, and that the Spear will be there. All leads to a climactic battle with the fate of the Republic and the galaxy in the balance.
I give this book an 8.5 out of 10. It is by far my favorite recent Star Wars novel, of those I’ve read, and favorite The Old Republic era novel. This is the only novel set before the Prequel era where I feel the author viewed the space battles as more then something to skim over en route to the groundside action and lightsaber duels. It shows a balance that has become unfortunately rare in Star Wars novels of recent years. Despite this there’s one glaring error that annoys me. Ion weapons in Star Wars have been shown as disabling a ship, droid, or machine rather than destroying it all the way back to the first Star Wars movie but the Ascendant Spear is shown using her Ion cannons to destroy at least one hostile fighter. Not enough to ruin the book but, in my opinion, a mistake even basic research by the writer or a remotely decent editor would have prevented. The spy and commando portions of the book are incredible and, to me at least, up there with the best scenes focused on such matters that the Star Wars novels have ever had.