Biweekly Book Review: Cataclysm

Just as quickly as Phase 2 started, so it begins to come to an end. Yoda concluded Phase I by saying all answers to the predicament facing the Jedi lay not in the future, but in the past, something that is becoming increasingly clear as the mysteries of this Phase begin to resolve, bringing with them hints at what to expect in Phase III. It’s a long road to the end, and Cataclysm by Lydia Kang kicks things off in action-packed fashion. Let’s dive in.

The Story

Following the failed Eiram-E’ronoh peace treaty signing after the Battle of Jedha broke out, the Path is feeling bolder than ever. All roads lead to Dalna, as Jedi from around the galaxy converge on the planet at the request of Gella Nattai, pursuing the escaped Axel Greylark, who is in the company of a Path member, and doesn’t seem all that bothered by it.

The Path and the Jedi make their last stand in a conflict that will shape the politics and attitudes of the region for decades to come.

What Worked For Me

The highlight of the Phase II adult books has been, for me, the dynamics between Xiri and Phan-Tu, and between Gella and Axel. For Xiri and Phan-Tu, there’s something really sweet and compelling in their single-minded determination to do the “right” thing and marry for the sake of peace, but once that’s done not really knowing what to do with each other. They haven’t really had time to live as a married couple, or experience what togetherness in peace time really feels like, so instead they’re left to cobble together a semi-relationship amidst all the chaos.

Where Xiri and Phan-Tu can’t figure out how to make being together work, on the flip side we have Gella and Axel, who both seem to want to be together but can’t ever seem to make that work. Gella being a Jedi and Axel being physically incapable of staying out of trouble probably has a lot to do with that, I’m guessing. These two are so damn Reylo-coded, with him being the son of a politician and a pilot besides, and her being a Jedi conflicted with how she fits in the order of things. Both of them carry around these wildly incorrect assertions about how much they have failed as people, and they challenge the other to see things from their point of view.

Beyond the relationship side of things, I loved that this book shed so much light on the mysteries of the Path and how they would grow to become the Nihil eventually, as well as why the world of Dalna mistrusts the Jedi so much in Phase I. There’s something really satisfying in a story that decides the mystery has been teased out long enough, and it’s time to start answering some questions.

The book also gave me a brand-new appreciation for Chancellor Greylark. Generally, I find myself empathizing and identifying more with the younger characters in the narrative, rather than with the parents. It was the case with the characters of the Sequel Trilogy who bucked against what their parents wanted for them and it was equally true here with Axel. But Chancellor Greylark is so well written in her wants, her feelings about Axel and his trouble-making ways, that I found myself actually seeing her side of things. I understand her hesitation to bail him out, when she has constantly had to do so. Both her and Axel were two sides of a misunderstood coin, something that can be patched up with simple communication, and is by the end.

What Didn’t Work For Me

What didn’t work for me isn’t so much a failing of the book as it is a frustration with the phase, and that is that there just isn’t enough time with these characters. Yes, it is always a good thing for a book to end on hope rather than tragedy and this one certainly does, but it makes me sad we won’t know what happened to them beyond likely a passing mention in Phase III. We’ll never know how Gella and Axel’s relationship grew, we won’t know how Xiri and Phan-tu’s marriage both succeeded and failed, given the state of Eiram and E’ronoh in the flashbacks of Into the Dark. This is interesting stuff, and excellent character work, and we deserved time devoted to exploring that.


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