Star Wars: Shadow Games
Once again, I've been putting off reading a Star Wars book - I know, shocking! Star Wars: Shadow Games is one of those books that takes place just before the original trilogy and stars Dash Rendar. I wasn't quite sure if I was ready for Rendar's backstory. I liked Dash just the way he was in Shadows of the Empire and Evolution and I was worried that a novel written this long after the original books and comics would ruin things. That being said, I had already bought the book and it was just sitting on a shelf collecting dust, so I figured I might as well read it.
Star Wars: Shadow Games takes place a short time before the events of A New Hope. Rendar, his Nautilan co-pilot Eaden and his semi-sentient droid Leebo are making an attempt at beating Han Solo's Kessel Run while delivering supplies to Nar Shada. Unfortunately, the attempt and the run in with Imperial authorities severely damages Rendar's ship. Limping the Outrider into a repair shop on Tatooine, Dash and his team just barely make it. But when they find out all that is wrong with the ship, they realize they need to raise some funding before it can be repaired.
Thus, Dash and Eaden head off to a cantina in Mos Eisley in search of work. They begrudgingly enlist the aide of Han Solo to deliver their merchandise to their original destination and find work as a security detail for famous holonet star Javul Charn. According to Charn, someone has been stalking her throughout her galaxywide tour and has just upped the ante by sending her an encoded warning against her life.
Dash and his associates figure this to be an easy job that will give them just enough credits to repair the Outrider and have them back on their way, transporting merchandise to the less than savory characters in the galaxy. But looks can be deceiving and they soon learn that Javul has not been completely up front with them. After a number of scary incidents, the group learns that Javul has more than one stalker working for the notorious underground crime syndicate known as Black Sun. One of those individuals may in fact be Prince Xizor himself, Dash's sworn enemy and a rival to Darth Vader for the Emperor's favor.
And there is one more secret that Javul has been hiding as well - her reason for this galactic tour is much more important than anyone could ever know. In fact, powers that be working underground against the Emperor have a vested interest in the tour Javul is undertaking. Dash soon realizes he has no idea what he has gotten his associates into, but once he's in, he's all in.
Despite the intergalactic setting and the cast and crew from the Star Wars galaxy, Shadow Games reads more like a mystery/thriller than a run of the mill Star Wars novel. There are no Jedi in this one, though Eaden has some Force abilities. I liked the idea that Eaden is a master of Teras Kasi and his meditations and battle abilities were quite interesting. Dash makes for a credible hero, but he seems a tad different from the character that appeared in the Shadow of the Empire series. Javul is an incredibly annoying character whose loyalties can never really be pinned down until the end. Han Solo makes a lengthy appearance here, minus Chewbacca who is back at home with his wife and newborn son. I must warn you that, although the authors did try, this is not the Han Solo we Star Wars fans are used to. Their version falls short of the mark, making this Solo a more snarky, less likable character than in the movies and the other tales in the Expanded Universe I have read.
There is action in this novel, but it wasn't all that interesting to me. Hand to hand combat, gun battles and space battles are all there, but they aren't written in very good detail and tended to be a bit flat when it came to that adrenaline rush I am used to when reading Star Wars action scenes. The book did get a bit more interesting in the end with the addition of the Anomid assassin Edge, but even he was beaten far too quickly for my tastes.
Quite honestly, I started this book with the famous Star Wars quote, "I have a bad feeling about this." In the midst of reading, I felt that this was more of a detective noir piece than a Star Wars novel. By the end, I understood the connection with the rest of the Star Wars Universe, but was honestly just relieved that I had finished the book. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone except diehard Star Wars readers who must complete every novel in the Expanded Universe. You can definitely get by without reading this book.