I had initially suspected that any book focused exclusive on Darth Maul would just have one shallow action scene after another without any depth. Fortunately, I was wrong. Shadow Hunter is a refreshingly good entry into the Prequels Expanded Universe. It has plenty of action, but even better it introduces several strong characters.
In fact, the best thing about Shadow Hunter is that by focusing mostly on new characters, Michael Reeves can create a lot more suspense. After all, how many Star Wars books have you read only to think, "I know he's not going to die." Here, while it seems like certain characters would have to die, it's not clear. The suspense is cleverly played up right through the very last page. The main character is Lorn Pavan and his sidekick droid I-5. The duo learn the secret of the Trade Federations alliance with the Sith and the blockade of Naboo (essentially, the events of Episode I). They eventually meet up with a Jedi, Darsha Assant, who brims with pride at being a part of the order. The interesting personal interactions come when we learn that Pavan hates Jedi, Assant lacks confidence, and I-5 has a great sense of humor. It's great to watch the characters grow, and I only wish we could have more of them.
Even with Darth Maul himself, Reeves is somewhat coy. The book doesn't tell us much about Darth Maul's past, and at first I was disappointed. However, after reading it, I appreciate the fact that Reeves left an air of mystery around the character. While this book was written before Episode II, any Star Wars fan can remember how disappointed they were when we learned Boba Fett was a little punk clone. We sometimes get into Maul's head, but even then he's a cool, efficient killing machine, without much introspection. What we really get from Maul is how his looks and aura simply terrorize his opponents. Overall, thank you Michael Reeves for not diminishing or demeaning this character in any way.
The only other 'main character' is Obi-Wan (still a Padawan), although he plays a peripheral and frankly useless role in the novel. My guess is that LucasBooks wanted him thrown in, and Reeves reluctantly agreed - but wisely kept him from participating in the main story.
I agree with other reviewers in that Reeves' writing style isn't the most fluid. He tends to "tell" more than "show." Nonetheless, it's more than suited to the task and never interferes with the narrative. I also appreciate that he employed a larger vocabulary than most Star Wars novels (even words I didn't know). It's nice to see an author willing to push his audience.
My only complaint about the story is that the Neimoidian subplot is dropped about a third of the way through. Reeves spends a good deal of time at the beginning of the book with Nute Gunray and friends, but we never really revisit them at the end. I mention this only because Reeves portrays the Neimoidians so well I would have liked to have seen more of them.
Overall, Shadow Hunter is one of the best prequel books I've read and will probably appeal to readers who like action as well as strong characters. It's convinced me to try Reeves' newer series Coruscant Nights.
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About the reviewer
Dominic J Nardi (FreeDom4)
I am a recent law school grad with an interest in Southeast Asia legal issues. Unfortunately for my checkbook, ever since high school I have been addicted to good books. I have eclectic tastes, although … more
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