After Dark Horse comics had taken readers a hundred years into the future, they decided to go in the exact opposite direction, launching us some 25,000 years before Anakin was even a wink in the Force’s eye. The name of the comic series was Dawn of the Jedi, and since it was so removed from anything we’d ever experienced, it only made sense to start in a visual medium. A year after it started, a tie-novel was released, overlapping a bit with the first volume release of the series. The novel, titled Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void, written by Tim Lebbon, is a deeper look at a very interesting era for the burgeoning leagues of Force users. It also feels like a classic Star Wars tale as it’s full of familial drama which effects the galaxy at large, but it hits a few old-timey bumps along the way, making for a mostly enjoyable entry in an unknown era.
In this day and age, the Jedi are Je’daii, who live on the planet Tython and strive for a balance between Ashla (Light) and Bogan (Dark) as represented by two moons which orbit their planet. The Je’daii send out Rangers to the rest of the nearby Settled Worlds to maintain peace and order (though sometimes for the Je’daii’s gain first, citizen’s second). They aren’t the Jedi we all know from the films and the EU novels to date, and the Je’daii’s secrecy is more enigmatic and questionable here than some of the later Jedi’s methods.
Mythical Tho Yors (think the pyramid ships in the Stargate series frequently used by the Goa’uld) carried the denizens of Tython and the few neighboring planets to their new homes even thousands of years before the events of the books. So while they call each planet home, they aren’t living on their actual homeworlds. This minor technicality forms the basis for a cult called the Stargazers and the driving force for one of the characters in the novel.
Yes, there’s lots of new stuff to digest here and thankfully Lebbon doesn’t info dump (like in the way I kind of did above) all of this era’s oddities and eccentrics. Instead, he slowly brings forth the information, though at times it does feel like you were already supposed to know some of the era’s history and general make-up. I read the Dawn of the Jedi comics prior to this novel and having done so, while beneficial, isn’t necessary for the enjoyment of the novel. It just makes Lebbon’s lack of info dumping an easier pill to swallow.
Into the Void follows Lanoree Brock, a Je’daii Ranger (supposedly) comfortable with her balance in the Force, who is summoned home to Tython by the Je’daii Masters for a special mission. She’s enjoyed the relative silence and loneliness of being a Ranger, especially as a way to cope with her brother Dalien’s death some years before. It’s not a spoiler (heck, it’s on the back of the book!) to mention Dal is actually alive and well, leading the Stargazer’s cult and seemingly hell-bent on a mission which could jeopardize the entire galaxy. The Masters send Lanoree after him, giving her the vague parameters to stop him at all costs.
The story unfolds between both the present and the past, with the past focusing on Lanoree and Dal as Je’daii Journeyers’, where they must travel to each of the nine Temples around Tython to complete their Je’daii training. Dal, for a reason I’m still confused on after reading the book, turns himself away from the Force over the course of his and Lanoree’s Great Journey. I really enjoyed the events of the past, as it’s a unique and interesting way to train those in the ways of the Force. In fact, death awaits many of those not up to the task while traveling between temples, whereas the Jedi Order of the Prequel era kept their younglings isolated and safe under one big roof. There’s a reason why this old-timey Order doesn’t start them when they’re young babes and it makes for a much more interesting process.
And while the segments in the past are meant to give readers a sense of the troubled but somehow still loving relationship Lanoree and Dal had as children, it left me unsure about the reasons for Dal’s choice for tuning out the Force and what besides familial bonds keep these two together. Not only that, but the Masters, even though they see and know the problem, continue to let him go on this Journey and trust just Lanoree to adjust Dal. It feels a bit forced that they don’t step in more here, but then again these Je’daii aren’t as easy to understand as the ones of the more current eras. Even though Lanoree sees what he’s becoming and knows she can’t really help him, she feigns ignorance and simply hopes everything will be okay. Her continued ignorance by choice doesn’t seem to mesh up with her overall persona in the past (and definitely not in the future, but that’s understandable), so it felt like much of what happens then was more avoidable.
In the present, Lanoree zips slowly around the known star system in a search for her brother, teaming up with her alchemy master’s confidant Tre Sana for most of the novel. Tre is a Twi’lek with an unheard of third lekku, something which forced him to become a dangerous and secretive man due to stigma and ridicule he got from the ‘defect.’ He has several skeletons in his closet, and while Lanoree has a big one of her own, she tries to uncover his past, something made harder by the fact that her master augmented his mind to be blocked from Force users. Their budding relationship provides some much needed humor, but it’s full of stuff we’ve mostly seen before and it seems to operate on the assumption you’re okay with trending familiar ground.
But what isn’t familiar ground is how relatively slow space transport is during the time period; there’s no ship going .5 past lightspeed here. Instead a journey between the planets, while not as slow as our space travel, are just reaching sublight engine speed. To compensate for this, especially since travelling back and forth in time to stop the Stargazers is part of the novel’s ticking clock feature, Lanoree finds herself on the wrong end of a few knocks on the head or serious injuries. She’s frequently being knocked out, helping narratively (and literally) pass by the time from the slower travel speeds. Normally, this is acceptable and understandable, but it gets used a little too often and becomes very obvious as more of a literary conceit than lack of skill on Lanoree’s end.
Her capability, and strength of character, are stand out features in the novel. They’re also the only reason I can possibly understand the Masters letting her deal with Dal both in the past and the present alone, because as focused and centered as she makes herself out to be, Lanoree has issues of her own. Her inner monologues and thoughts help connect readers to her and the world around her. But she’s also not someone you can be completely sympathetic with, making her a much more interesting character than someone who has no qualms with the doing the right thing. It might not be as involved as Matthew Stover’s Mace Windu in Shatterpoint, but it certainly does the job here.
Here are a few other things:
- Her experiment teased ever so gradually throughout the novel? Let’s just say towards the end I could begin guessing it, but it wasn’t something I expected initially at the start of the novel and likely won’t forget for a long time. Jedi of the current eras wouldn’t trifle with something like it, but this era’s balance-act Je’daii are more cutout for such a skill.
- The trip between temples were talked up quite a bit for being extremely dangerous and full of hardships, so it’s a shame these moments are glossed over pretty quickly.
- Every time Lanoree has the element of surprise, she doesn’t use it very well, or not at all. I only point it out because her stealthy skills are purportedly very good, but we only get her bumbling up the element of surprise instead.
- Into the Void ends literally at the beginning of the first issue of the Dawn of the Jedi comic. Speaking of which, both the hardcover and paperback release of Into the Void contain a preview of the comic series!
- This book does a better job of showing a sister intent on redeeming her brother, and grappling with the fact she might not be able to, than the entire 9 book series Legacy of the Force.
It might initially be off-putting, but Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void does a solid job of giving readers a deeper glimpse into an era usually reserved for guessing and fan-fiction. On top of that, Lanoree Brock is a protagonist we don’t always get in Star Wars novels (not just her being a female) as she’s someone who balances precariously on both sides of the Force but isn’t worried about the falling into one, but rather giving up on being a part of both. These Je’daii might not be completely familiar and travel at slower speeds, but they certainly deserve more exploration, and while we won’t be getting more for awhile, Into the Void is well worth the read.
+ Balancing Je’daii
+ Slow, but steady era-building
– Dal’s motivations
– Overuse of being knocked out
– Tre and Lanoree’s relationship
Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth.
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