Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller (2011, Del Rey)
From a certain point of view, this is the “oldest” book I’ve reviewed so far, despite the fact that it was published earlier this year. Knight Errant is set a full millennium before the events of the Star Wars movies. Most current fans are familiar with this and other much longer ago periods in the galaxy far, far away, but this was new territory for me.
During this time, much of the galaxy is dominated by Sith lords who have carved out feudal territories for themselves. As you’d probably assume, all of these governments are wildly oppressive, and the Sith spend most of their time and resources on wars among themselves.
Knight Errant is part of the story told in the Dark Horse comic of the same name.
I haven’t read these comics yet, but Miller does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed. The novel’s protagonist, Kerra Holt, is a lone Jedi who has been stranded in Sith space and continues to wage guerilla warfare against the Sith. When the fighting between two Sith brothers leaves Kerra and mercenary captain Jarrow Rusher with a ship full of child refugees to handle, Kerra’s mission changes. She must find a safe place for them.
Miller appears to have a real talent for coming up with colorful villains. My personal favorite is Daiman, who believes himself to be the creator of the universe, but there are several others: Odion, a sort of barbarian-king; Quillan and Dromika, siblings who jointly mind-control an entire planetary population; Arkadia, a ruthless pragmatist; and Vilia, a matronly old woman who may just be a Palpatine-level mastermind.
The plot moves along in an episodic fashion, with the crew of Rusher’s ship carting the refugees from one Sith dystopia to the next, in hope of finding someplace remotely tolerable. Kerra and Rusher spend most of the book arguing about whether or not this or that planet is suitable for the children (Rusher wants to get rid of these kids and get back to his job), and they learn a lot from each other about the tension between ideals and reality.
Given that there are nearly two thousand of these refugees, it seems to me that more than one of them should be a character with a name and personality. They are treated as the driving plot device, with little to no development.
Miller is able to compensate for this a little through Kerra and Rusher, who are both strong, well-drawn characters and good foils for one another. The book’s final reveal, which ties its events together, didn’t quite knock my socks off, but it was a pretty good surprise nonetheless.
Knight Errant isn’t a perfect book, but its protagonist and setting are good enough to peak my interest in the comic series, as well as this era of Star Wars fiction.