Legendary Adventures: The Old Republic: Deceived

 Legendary Adventures #4: The Old Republic: Deceived

-Spoiler Review-

It’s hard to know, at the beginning of an adventure, what types of perils and troubles you will face on any journey. The Legendary Adventures have been no different: from exploding temples, to destruction in space, through hand to hand combat, against droids and clones, I have been wearied and delayed in relaying my last report. But wait no longer: read my experience of Star Wars: The Old Republic: Deceived!

For a lot of fans like me, who weren’t too interested in the video game world, our only experience of BioWare’s TOR series was through the cinematic trailers. One of the most breathtaking ones was entitled Deceived, in which the Jedi Temple is sacked by a Sith Lord, a Twi’lek, a gunship full of Sith, and Mandolorian warrior Shae Vizsla. As the gunship crashed through the wall of the Temple, we were treated to the image of Sith upon Sith fighting their way through the Jedi Temple as Jedi were killed left and right. The focus of the trailer was the fight between Darth Malgus and Ven Zallow, Jedi Master. The battle ends with the death of Zallow as Malgus watches the Sith Army invade the planet.

The book with the same title explains who exactly was deceived in the video. The book starts with Jedi Aryn Leneer and Master Dar’Nala, who are on Alderaan during peace talks with the Sith Empire. The representatives for both the Republic and the Empire hope to come to end the long running war, which recently hit a stalemate. During the peace talks, Darth Malgus secretly leads the aforementioned assault on the Temple, meaning the Republic was deceived about the true purpose of the peace talks.

To add dimension to the story, Aryn Leneer is revealed to be the former Padawan to the late Zallow. Not only is she furious about the death of her former Master, but she is mad that the Empire was able to pull a fast one on the Jedi. While they discussed peace, no matter how futile the attempts, apparently the Empire never had such plans. The death of Zallow becomes the impetus for her role in the novel: revenge. Her revenge causes her to act in very un-Jedi like ways, but not in a way that was interesting. Instead of seeing a lot of nuance – why revenge? did she never learn about the dangers of the Dark Side? – we see a flat chase for Malgus ensue. When we see these stories, like a young Force wielder being tempted while running toward the darkness, we usually see them grapple with it both in themselves and with others. In this novel, we don’t see any internal fight: Aryn can simply give up the Jedi way quickly. Revenge as a motivation isn’t too compelling without anything else: a picture of the relationship lost, more in-depth analyses of what was taken, etc. The rest of the novel focuses on her search for, discovery of, and confrontations with Malgus.  I would have loved to see more of the struggle in herself about the quality of revenge; instead, the whole debate is externalized with her counterpart, Zeerid. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I would have loved to see the novel address her inner turmoil a bit more pointedly. This has been heavily critiqued before, so I won’t necessarily re-tread every argument here. All I will say is that this left Aryn to be rather flat for most of the novel, and her major growth occurs too close to the end to feel like she was a well-rounded character. I will talk a little more about the issue of women in this novel further into the review.

On the other hand, Darth Malgus surprised me. It’s no secret that I usually don’t find villains very compelling: they’re usually one-dimensional, have no goals except “be evil”, and we don’t know what drives them. Not only that, but I felt that Malgus was the prototype for this model: his armor, reminiscent of Darth Vader’s, was met by a scarred head and a piece of machinery around his jaw, like Malak’s. Thankfully, Malgus did not end up as a carbon copy of either. Instead, we meet a fully rounded Sith Lord. Malgus discovers that the Emperor, Vitiate, had no plans to keep Coruscant after Malgus destroyed the Jedi. Rather, the Emperor planned to use Coruscant as leverage to gain a holding in the Outer Rim and to reclaim some of their former standings. This angers Malgus and causes him to fight with fellow Sith Lords Adraas and Angral over the purpose of the Sith and the validity of their goals.

Not only is Malgus painted by his ambition, but we learn more about him through his foil, Eleena, a Twi’lek slave. Again, Eleena is not a well-rounded character. Instead, she is merely a slave who loves her Master. She even addresses him by his given name, Veradun, rather than his Sith title. Malgus loves her, and has no qualms in admitting that, and uses his position and rank to give her better treatment than some Sith warriors. His relationship to her throughout the novel challenges him as a Sith, asking where his loyalties lie by privileging her a priority over everything else, and whether she will distract him from his final mission. Unfortunately, Eleena is always acted upon by others in this book, given very little of her own autonomy. Aryn captures her at one point and uses her as leverage to gain a fight with Malgus, while Malgus kills her because of the weakness she exposes in him. Fans use the term “fridging” to talk about killing women in fiction to further a man’s story: Eleena a stark example of this concept.

There is one more character I have failed to mention. Zeerid Korr, known also as Z-Man, was a Naval officer turned smuggler. His daughter, paralyzed from the waist down, relies on Z-Man’s money to be able to keep up some semblance of a life while living with her aunt. This causes Z-Man to start making spice runs for a shady organization, from whom he has kept his daughter a secret. We meet Z-Man as he is offered a large deal, one which he thinks would be able to get him out of debt and make enough money to buy his daughter a new hover chair. Instead, he meets with Aryn, by the will of the Force, or for the sake of the plot, someone whom he is already friends with.  The two travel to Imperial occupied Coruscant to find info on Malgus. Along the way, Z-Man teaches Aryn lessons about herself and the futility of revenge.

This message, in the end, seems to get mangled unfortunately. Vrath Xizor, a former Imperial sniper, learns of Z-Man’s daughter. Constantly put in danger of having his daughter’s existence exposed, Z-Man has to decide what to do about Xizor’s knowledge. After a full novel telling Aryn that revenge isn’t worth killing over, Z-Man ends up killing Xizor to hide his secret. Now, Xizor did not do anything to Z-Man to warrant revenge (as I said before, it was Z-Man’s fear that he would be exposed that motivated him), so the stories are different. In the end, the lessons from Z-Man became more hazy and muddled than they were supposed to be. While Xizor does nothing to harm the daughter directly, Z-Man still considers killing him throughout the novel. This is not revenge, so it is not entirely analogous to Aryn’s problems with Malgus. But it would have been cool to see an ethical debate come out of this: what is the difference between revenge killing and killing for self-preservation? Aren’t they both murder in some sense? If not, how is one justifiable? Even if the novel never reached a satisfactory conclusion, this conversation would have boosted the book a bit more in my mind.

Though the characters were all over the place in terms of development and growth, I found the cast to be mostly enjoyable. The plot helped, too. The Sacking of Coruscant, wonderfully shown to us in the trailer, is written well. Battle scenes are well-written and most of the dialogue is good, too. It was the details which got me. For one, and you’ve probably noticed this, is that a novel taking place thousands of years before the movies features a Vizsla and Xizor. I know, they may not be related, but that’s a sort of connection I neither wanted nor needed. It was a minor detail, but merely changing their last names would have probably helped me enjoy the novel more. Secondly, the book moved from space fantasy to space sci-fi. In one scene, Kemp had to figure out how to use Star Wars lingo to describe Aryn taking a taxi to an airport. (It’s hard to describe why is this is strange without quoting an entire two pages of the novel, but that this is literally what happens without reading the sort of messy scene in the book.) In another scene, Malgus uses the Holonet, essentially a version of Google in space in this novel, to figure out the name and some info on the Jedi (Aryn) who is chasing him. It’s hard to imagine a fully armored Malgus using Google..and the narration doesn’t help here, either. It’s a minor nitpick, to be sure, but these details were almost too real, but then covered, unsuccessfully, in Star Wars skin.

Other than some truly minor nitpicky details, and some flat-characterizations of the women, Deceived was mostly a good novel. Those interested in The Old Republic can’t avoid reading it, but even those who aren’t interested would still find a book worth reading.
Catch up with our previous Legendary Adventures so far at the links below. Are you on your own Legendary Adventure? Share it with us! Use the hashtag Legendary Adventures and join in the conversation.

Legendary Adventures:
“Scourge” | Knights of the Old Republic: Revan  | The Lost Tribe of the Sith

Star Wars Young Reader Reviews:
Adventures in Wild Space: The Escape (Prelude)
So You Want to be a Jedi? 
Beware the Power of the Dark Side! 

Star Wars Comic Book Reviews:
Darth Vader: The Shu-Torun War
The Force Awakens 1-2

LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures Reviews:
“A Hero Discovered” 1×01 | “The Mines of Gabralla” 1×02 | “Zander’s Joyride” 1×03 | “The Lost Treasure of Cloud City” 1×04 | “Peril on Kashyyyk” 1×05 | “Crossing Paths” 1×06