The Way of the Word

10. February 2011

Review: John Jackson Miller: Star Wars – Knight Errant

Originally published in 2011.

Knight Errant is a tie-in novel to Dark Horse’s new Star Wars comic series of the same name. Comic and novel star Jedi Knight Kerra Holt, who is a lone Jedi fighting in Sith space. The novel is set after the events of the first story arc of the comic series, and stand-alone.

Kerra Holt is hiding out on Darkknell, the world of Sith Lord Daiman, who is at constant war with his brother Odion. During her stay, Kerra finds out that the Daiman has set a trap for his brother. Using an academy ship and over 1,000 younglings (that Star Wars speak for “children”) for bait, Daiman wants to provoke Odion into an ill-considered attack. Odion walks straight into that trap. Kerra was just along for the ride, hoping for a chance to assassinate Daiman, but now she needs to save those children.

Enter the mercenary Rusher, and his artillery crew. And especially his ship. Kerra loads the children on Rusher’s ship, and off they go, looking for a safe place to drop them off. As if there were such a thing in Sith space. Their first stop is the Dyarchy, a strange world where everyone is mind-controlled by the teenage Sith Lord twins Quillan and Dromika. Kerra manages to abduct Quillan and takes him to the next Sith world, this one ruled by Arkadia – who turns out Quillans sister. There, Kerra learns the deepest secret of Sith space.

This novel was supposed to come out after #5 of the comic series. As it happened, it came out after #4, with one issue of the first story arc left to go. I’m therefore not sure just how stand-alone it really is. Miller references the comics quite a bit. Fortunately, I’ve read them. But I think I would understand the novel even if I hadn’t.

Miller has a very entertaining writing style, but sadly it doesn’t really cover up the novel’s problems. Daiman and Odion are too much comic book villains — they are crazy and over the top, something that can work in a comic (with the help of the art), but is less interesting in prose. The two are too much what they are. However, this novel introduces a host of new characters, most of whom are far better suited to prose storytelling. Quilland and Dromica (along with their regent) are nicely creepy, and Arkadia turns out to be quite the scheming supervillain. The mercenary Rusher has a considerable (early) Han Solo vibe and borders on homage, and the Bothan agent Narsk is complex and interesting enough to deserve a novel of his own. Comedy sidekick Beadle, however, is prone to a type of physical comedy that requires visuals to work.

All in all, the story itself is rather disjointed. Instead of a coherent narrative, it’s episodic, as if it had initially been plotted as a comic book storyarc. And that’s how it reads: like a comic without pictures. Most of the plot twists are telegraphed, the astute reader can predict them easily. All in all, however, Jackson hits all the points that are required of a Star Wars tale. It’s competently written and entertaining enough, but five minutes after you’ve put it down, you’ll have forgotten almost everything in it.

Verdict: mildly recommended, unless you’re a Star Wars fan, then recommended.

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