Coruscant has one nasty underworld, makes you wonder just how effective those peace keeping Jedi actually are!
Cover Art By: David Stevenson
Written By: Michael Reaves
I remember being very fond of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter when I read it all those years ago. Now that I revisit it I find that some of the fondness remains but not as much as I would have thought. I think at the time I was giddy to be reading anything about Darth Maul, but now that time has passed and I am less enthused for a story about him the flaws in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter are more apparent. That’s not to say it is a novel riddled with flaws, it’s more an even mixture of material that works and material that isn’t up to snuff.
If I may wax poetic for a moment, it’s my blog so try and stop me, one of my favorite aspects of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter was minimal at best, fleeting in actuality. It’s one throwaway paragraph but in that paragraph Darth Sidious muses about the Force as one entity, that even though he himself has been guilty of ascribing the labels of dark and light to the Force, it isn’t so. As an adherent to the one Force, or Potentium, theory I was giddy as all get out to read that bit of dialogue. It’s the small things that make me happy, but mostly it’s the sign of the literary entity that is Star Wars occasionally opening itself up for introspection that causes the giddy butterflies in my stomach.
It is in the moments when it questions that the non-hunt portions of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter are at their best. For instance, the Jedi are supposed to be the protectors of the downtrodden and defenseless, but is that really the case? Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter clearly puts forth the case that the Jedi are more interested in protecting the powerful and influential than they are in protecting those who need their protection the most. This is further enforced by the entirety of Star Wars material published. Think about how often you see the Jedi involved in smaller matters, matters not of a global scale that involve the common man, the truly downtrodden and oppressed? Not that often, at some point in time the Jedi became involved in global politics and never looked back. Whether that is a good or bad thing I’ll leave up to you.
Above all else my favorite aspect of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter is without a doubt Lorn Pavan’s justified hatred of the Jedi. They took his child and then denied him access to his child, I don’t care what the Jedi’s beliefs are, this is an abhorrent practice. The fact that the Jedi from the Rise Of The Empire Era viewed this as no big deal is a startling sign indeed. They took the Force sensitive children of people the galaxy over, some parents were more willing than others, and then denied the parents to ever have any more access to their children. There isn’t any way to justify that, and sadly that is also where Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter takes a major misstep.
I do find myself increasingly frustrated by authors who go to the edge of inventive storytelling, of questioning the Star Wars universe as we know it and then pull pack. I may not be the biggest Karen Traviss fan, but at the very least she isn’t afraid to question and shake things up. When I read Michael Reaves begin to moralize away the quandary he had created in the Jedi taking Lorn’s son and denying him further access I shook my head in disgust. Instead of following through with the thread he had been creating the entire novel Reaves frittered it all away, instead opting to try and somehow morally justify what the Jedi had done because Lorn found that he liked a Jedi in Darsha Assant. If he had followed through with the abhorrent Jedi practice thread Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter would have been able to overcome its other misgivings, but alas he skulked back into the protective shell of safe storytelling and refused to take a chance.
With that I believe my waxing of the poetic is done and it is time to get down to the nitty gritty of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter. If we knew nothing of Darth Maul previous to this story it would function just fine as a slow stalker type story. Darth Maul: Saboteur ensures that we do in fact know of Maul previous to Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, and that creates a problem. In Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter Maul is dumbed down considerably, lacking any of the stealth or smarts he showed in his previous appearance. Darth Maul feels less like a Sith Lord and more like a non-thinking brute. If we didn’t have previous material to work off of that wouldn’t be a problem, but we do and thus the dumbing down of his character didn’t gel with me.
I didn’t understand the easy recognition by the main troupe of heroes that Maul is in fact a Sith. The Sith are long thought extinct, yet Jedi, droid and everyone else immediately identifies Maul as a Sith. It came too easy to them, almost as if they had the knowledge that we as the reader possessed. To add on to that, Maul is supposed to be incognito and stealth like, but man oh man is he doing a heaping helping of recognizable damage to the underworld. Lightsaber deaths everywhere, massive explosions, killing police officers, battling Jedi, and so on and so forth. For someone who is supposed to make sure the Sith’s existence remains a mystery he sure does make a big racket.
Let’s steer this direction back towards the positive. I was enamored with the odd way Reaves chose to portray the fighting and action scenes. They had a serene quality to them, and it fit the tone of the story. It was odd at first but as I continued to read the serene nature of the writing in those scenes gelled with the rest of the novel and I understood what Reaves was going for.
Another aspect of Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter that immediately jumped out at me was the thoroughly depressing ending. I like a good depressing ending every once in a while, and you can’t get much more depressing than the ending found in Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter. The bad guys win, our main hero is dead and his possible love interest, and the other main hero, is snuffed out before she has a chance to be anything but a possibility. Most depressing of all is the fate of I-Five, a thoroughly interesting and dynamic character who is given a terrible fate that he is powerless to stop. I’ll take one depressing with a side order of more depressing and a tall glass of really darn depressing, thank you very much.
All in all Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter is a decent read. The action pieces are well done and at times I liked the horror like aspect of Maul stalking down his prey. I especially liked the introduction of a character such as I-Five and some of the questions the author raised about the Jedi and the Force. Unfortunately he did a one eighty on the most important of those questions and did spend a great deal of time making out the main villain to be a bit too idiotic. It’s not a great as I remember it, but Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter remains an interesting, if shallow read.