Book Review: Traitor

I’ll begin by saying that this book was better than I thought it would be, but not as good as I’d hoped it would be.

What do I mean by this statement? Well, I’ll try to explain throughout the rest of the review. For the sake of those fans who have yet to read the book, I’ll try to remain as spoiler-free as possible.

I have to admit that this novel was probably one of the most well-written Star Wars novels I’ve ever read. This dialogue was believable, if not strange in some sections. The language was fairly eloquent sometimes, but never really grew repetitive; The exception being some of the lines exchanged by Vergere and Jacen throughout the book.

Yes, Jacen is alive. Sort of.

What happened to me being spoiler-free, you ask? Well, Del Rey makes no secret of his being alive on the back of the book, so why should I bother pretending otherwise? After all, like you thought he was really dead.

Nevertheless, this book surprised me. As I’ve said, I had hoped it would be better. Then again, maybe I should rethink that statement.

Because this book strayed so far from what I expected, I automatically judged it, based on my expectations. Which is wrong. It’s like falling to the Dark Side of the Force. One thing we learn, reading this book, is to reevaluate our opinions of everything we’ve ever known.

I think a lot of fans don’t like the New Jedi Order because it did what they didn’t expect. Chewbacca’s death was, in my opinion, what either bolstered a fan to the NJO, or pushed them away. Hindsight being better than foresight, maybe Chewbacca’s death should have occurred later in the series. And maybe not.

But maybe some fans dislike the series simply because it doesn’t do what they think it should. That’s absolutely the reason why I continue to like the series.

Traitor flies in the face of everything I had begun to call cliche with the NJO. I thought I had it mapped out and could predict the final moments of the series. But Jacen’s revelations in Traitor shine new light on the changes that have occurred, illustrating just how disparaging the situation is.

Matthew Stover wrote a wonderful novel, full of introspection, intrigue, and deep meaning to a series that desperately needed it.

Though some sections were so disorienting, I found myself struggling to make any sense of it, most of the book falls under the age-old category of ‘page-turner’ with a slight twist. Most page-turners keep me entertained to the point that I can know, keep in my mind that it’s interesting. Traitor kept me so involved, I was surprised to find that I’d read 150 pages in one sitting. I don’t even remember flipping the pages.

Some fans will find huge problems with this book, as it revolves almost solely around Jacen. I was at first surprised by the extremely short Dramatis Personae at the beginning. After reading the rest of the novel, however, I realize that the Dramatis Personae is actually a bit inflated, including characters who are rarely discussed throughout the book.

Personally, I found the book more involving because of its focus on one character. Most books flip around from scene-to-scene, character-to-character, back-and-forth. When written well, that type of style can be wonderfully dramatic, succeeding just as well as a single character novel. But Traitor is involving because of its single character. The flow feels never-interrupted and reads wonderfully well. We’ve read other single character books in the NJO: Conquest centered on Anakin Solo and Dark Journey was centered around Jaina Solo. But neither of those novels succeeded on as many levels as Traitor. I would easily compare this novel to the uniqueness of I, Jedi, which was written completely in the first-person viewpoint.

In Traitor, we begin to see how important Jacen Solo is not only to the Jedi, but to the entire series. Suddenly, New Jedi Order takes on a whole new meaning.

Matthew Stover has surpassed many of my fondest hopes for this series by delivering a pleasant, surprising read, and I would gladly welcome him back to the Star Wars universe, were the choice mine. He has certainly given me my favorite NJO paperback, if not my favorite novel of the entire series–to date, anyway.

Well, I seem to have gotten off on a tangent (which I often do). I highly recommend this novel. The rest of the New Jedi Order will hinge greatly on events on this novel.

My only gripes: The story is sometimes horribly hard to follow, and can take a concerted effort to continue reading. A couple of lines get overused once or twice. My biggest problem is the cover. For such a good book, why give it such a horrible cover? The term “never judge a book by its cover” has never been more appropriate.

Remember, everything I tell you is neither the truth or a lie. It’s just my opinion.

– Reviewed by Bradley K. Brown