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X-Wing #8
X-WING # 8 Isard's Revenge
By Michael A. Stackpole
9.5 years after ANH

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This is the eighth book of a series of nine (so far) which highlights the exploits of the star -fighter pilots who get the job done when the fight against the Empire demands action-sequences.


The first four books, Rogue Squadron, Wedge's Gamble, The Krytos Trap, and The Bacta War, all written by author Michael Stackpole, formed a four-book arc involving the Rebel capture of the ruling planet Coruscant, and the defeat of the evil Imperial Security Chief, Ysanne Isard. The second series of fighter-pilot novels, Wraith Squadron, Iron Fist, and Solo Command were written by Aaron Allston, and involved the misfit, special-ops Wraith Squadron, and their attempts to locate and eliminate the vile Warlord Zsinj.

In this stand-alone novel, Isard's Revenge, author Michael Stackpole returns us to the adventures of Rogue Squadron, and specifically to unfinished business regarding Ysanne Isard.

The story picks up not merely directly following the defeat of Grand Admiral Thrawn at the close of the Timothy Zahn-authored trilogy of books about Thrawn, but actually drops us right into the middle of the final battle at which Thrawn met his demise. If you're reading along in timeline sequence…as I have recommended ad nauseum……it is great fun to end Zahn's The Last Command and immediately dive into the same battle, but this time in an X-Wing cockpit. From this battle at the Bilbringi shipyards, the action moves to the Ciutric Hegemony, and the New Republic's efforts……..both political and military….to undermine the Hegemony ruler, Imperial Warlord Admiral Krennel. And could it be that Ysanne Isard…… thought killed at Thyferra in the concluding moments of the Bacta War…. could it be that she somehow survived? And what of the fate of the war-prisoners she held for so long in the Lusankya prison ship?


Isard's Revenge is not Michael Stackpole's best effort, but it's still a rip-roaring good read. There is a very entertaining balance of action, humor, politics and human interest. Stackpole writes dog-fight sequences by far the best of any of the Star Wars authors to-date, and he's also up at the top in witty, (but true-to-character) banter. It is to Stackpole's great credit that we feel as connected to and vested in the people he has brought to the EU as we do to the film-provided protagonists. We have really gotten to know Corran Horn and his now-wife Mirax, Gavin Darklighter and his pilot-paramour Asyr Sei'lar, and pilots Ooryl Qyrgg, Tycho Celchu, and Nawara Ven. And the warmth we feel for movie characters Wes Janson, Hobbie Klivian, and Wedge Antilles comes largely from the fleshing-out they have received at Stackpole's hands. Isard's Revenge also includes more internecine Bothan politics…….now a staple in the EU, and a fascinating one to my mind……and there are some touching human moments, as when Gavin and Asyr, unable to conceive a child due to Human-to-Bothan biological incompatibilites, discuss adoption. Even Wedge's and Corran's droids, Gate and Whistler, have several marvelous "solo" scenes. (Is it just me, or are R2 units becoming the puppy-dogs of the Star Wars universe?)

There is nothing dramatically wrong with Isard's Revenge. It's just a little unfocused. The various storylines are more interesting in their set-ups than in their resolutions. The heavy-handed macho element, usually so refreshingly absent in these books, sneaks into the proceedings in a couple of places and diminishes the veracity of the action and the characters. And, too, as much as I appreciate a little "for those of you just joining the program" recapping…….senility taking its toll as it has on my brain…….there is a bit too much of it here. Good summarizing is a subtle art: too little and even the most avid fan can feel confused and lost, too much and a novel starts to read like a Clifs notes report.

One more item. As a fan of all the EU…..novels and comics…….I really enjoyed the inclusion of pilots introduced in the Rogue Squadron comics, and the blending of the Wraith and Rogue personnel, but be forewarned that even with all the filling-in and updating, if you haven't read the other X-Wing books, and if you have no familiarity with the comics, you might feel a little adrift. I mean one of the main bad-guys here, Admiral Krennel, is straight from the SW comics, and the resonance of his come-uppance only really works if you have some notion of his previous bad deeds in comic form.

All that said, Stackpole writes a good book, and "hanging out" with his Rogue Squadron is a lot of fun. He benefits too, from interjecting a story into the timeline written after books that post-date it in the chronology. He can subtly place events and people into Star Wars history, that weren't truly conceived until novels later in the continuum. Clever. Not as good as some, but better than most, and definitely worth a read.