"If you want to survive out here, you focus on the job" - Good advice for this "mixed bag"
Kerra Holt is stuck in Sith space (for how she got there, see Star Wars: Knight Errant, Vol. 1 - Aflame). Isolated from fellow Jedi and deep in enemy space, Kerra struggles to stay alive and try to do her Jedi duty. But things get complicated when she attempts to kill Daiman, a Sith lord at war with his brother, Odion.
I've been wanting to read this book pretty much since it came out. It is the first Star Wars novel to follow a female main character (whose name isn't Leia or Mara). There are definitely not enough female protagonists in Star Wars, so I was excited. Actually reading the book, however, I started to run into troubles.
Kerra Holt is our female protagonist; only, in the first 119 pages, she appears in a mere 55% of them. And that includes other people mentioning her by name or as the "female Jedi". Not very encouraging, when your supposed lead female character takes a backseat to other characters. But besides that disturbing fact, I couldn't wrap my head around who Kerra was. She felt like a very typical Jedi and not a remotely interesting one at that. In my review of The Old Republic: Deceived, I found Aryn's Jedi story to be rather stereotypical; after reading "Knight Errant", I wished Kerra's journey could be half as interesting as Aryn's. Towards the end, Kerra undergoes some conflict, but it is very minor and pretty much obscured by the huge action sequence, that I'm not quite sure what, if anything, Kerra learned or overcame. This does not mean I hate Kerra as a character; I just wish that Miller had pushed her a little harder and brought out more uniqueness (for instance, other than a comment she makes about how she isn't well-endowed when donning a stealth suit, there is nothing that distinguishes her from a male Jedi).
But while Kerra didn't really gel with me, I found other characters did. Brigadier Rusher was awesome; I thought he was interesting, clever, and likeable. His affinity for history and canes made him stand out; I loved his neutrality, but I also liked how he and Kerra worked off each other. Their banter was fun, without any sexual tension or messy romance to ruin it. And while it might have been "cute" to see Rusher and Kerra pair up, I'm glad they didn't. Not every frakkin' story has to be a romance after all (ESPECIALLY when it stars a female lead).
Kudos also to Miller for including a major Bothan character, Narsk. If you read many of my Star Wars reviews, you will probably be familiar with my complaining how human-centric it is. Miller definitely is NOT guilty of that at all. Narsk was a well-written character; he had skills, he was clever, and he was NOT stereotypical for a Bothan (double yay!). I will say that some of the twists in the plot concerning him got to be a LITTLE convenient and/or confusing, but overall, I liked Narsk.
My last favorite character is Beadle Lubboon, a Duro side character. He ends up the butt of the joke a lot for being a klutz, but I found him adorkable and sweet. One of the funniest scenes involves him and Kerra: Kerra tries to get him to speak Duro to a fellow Duro couple, but Beadle doesn't even know the language! I definitely wouldn't mind seeing more of Beadle in the future.
Before I complain much more, I want to congratulate Miller on making this book feel like it takes place WAY before "A New Hope". A problem I've had with The Old Republic books (Fatal Alliance and Deceived) is that they don't feel like they are thousands of years in Luke's past; they feel concurrent. Not so with this book; Kerra is stuck in Sith space with no outlet. The way the Sith act feels very much like the Darth Bane books (which is good, because KE happens before Bane). And I know this is silly, but the way Daimon paints himself as a god felt like something that would happen in an older setting.
As for the plot...oh, boy, did I have problems with it! It takes a good 250 pages before the plot really kicked into gear and I really got invested into the story. Fifty pages? No sweat! One hundred pages? I might be tempted to call it quits. But 200+?! That is just nuts! The entire book felt like three short stories, honestly, and while this format might work for a graphic novel trade paperback, for a novel, I'd like more cohesion. I need to start getting connected to the characters, I need to start seeing where the plot is going to come in (and the real plot does not appear until that 200+ page mark), and I need to start feeling there is a reason why the author wrote the book and why I need to spend time reading it. As for KE, I had to force myself to read it, and even then, I only usually read a few pages at a time. Up until that 200 page mark, I had no desire to know what was happening, where our characters would end up. If I hadn't been reading it for book club (and because I am a completest), I would have given this book up long ago.
What is the plot that was so problematic? Well, it's this: the book opens with Kerra on Darkknell trying to kill Daimon, a Sith. She travels to Gazzari to kill him, only she arrives in the middle of a battle. After rescuing a bunch of children and escorting them to Rusher's ship, they travel to another world run by Sith twins. After Kerra kidnaps one of the twins, a Sith Lord, Arkadia (who is a woman, so shouldn't it be "Lady" like it always has been?), escorts them to Syned. And THAT is where the real plot takes off. So that stuff before answers how Kerra and these people got to Syned...but WHY did we need to see it in such detail, I have no clue.
And then the REAL plot gets so convoluted at the end! First Arkadia is bad...but then she isn't...but then it's someone else... And Narsk is now working for Arkadia (the convenient arrangement I brought up earlier), but no, his real boss is someone else... GRRRRRRRRRRRRR! I got so confused! And then the last 5 pages totally turns it around AGAIN!
Maybe I've been out of the loop or perhaps I've not been paying attention, but this book seems WAY more violent than most Star Wars novels. We have your typical battles--blaster, lightsabers, Force powers, etc.--but then Kerra describes pulling her lightsaber out of one guard and into another and what a challenge it is. Maybe it is also because Kerra had just finished saying these guards weren't 100% complicit in the evil-doing, but I found the whole thing a little bit violent for me (and typically, I don't even blink an eye at lightsaber fights or whatnot).
Last complaint: this book is in dire need of a character list. With all the brand-new characters (TONS of new species, occupations, names), this book would have been LOTS easier to read with a character list. So publishers: Stop putting Character Lists that contain only Skywalker and Solos and start creating them where they are really needed!!
"Knight Errant" is a mixed bag for me. It had an incredibly slow start, and it was a challenge to become invested in anything--story, characters. It did perk up at the end, but should it really take 200 pages and a mountainous action scene to make me moderately interested in how the confusing story should end?
If you are considering reading the Knight Errant comics to prepare for this book, don't feel like you have to in order to understand the story. Volume 1 only introduces you to Kerra, Odion, and Daimon, and while it does answer how Kerra got to be in Sith Space, the novel doesn't make a huge number of mentions of the comic. Of course, I have other complaints about the comic, which you can follow the link to read.
If you are dying to read about a female Jedi that kicks some @ss, then this isn't a bad novel. However, don't be surprised if you find yourself snoozing halfway through the book.
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