Star Wars: Jedi Trial (David Sherman and Dan Cragg)
Jedi Trial is about Anakin's ascension to knighthood. Set on the planet Praesitlyn, where a Confederate army has gained control of a major communications hub, Anakin and Master Nejaa Halcyon try to outmaneuver and out plan their Confederate counterpart, Pors Tonith. Jedi Trial's plot is actually decent, reading like an extended battle scene because it essentially is one, featuring ceaseless skirmishes between Republic and Confederate forces. Some of the action is told from a detached point of view, to give it a more tactical feel, and this different perspective on a Star Wars universe that usually favors desperate operations and small unit battles was appreciated. The stakes are suitably high enough without going into cliches involving superweapons and the like.
The side plots are a bit of a drag, mostly involving awful characters (more on this later) doing boring things while our heroes accomplish their objectives. Some potentially great sub plots for both Nejaa and Anakin are left out completely, or barely touched upon to make room for these awful characters. The space battle at the end of the novel felt forced and tacked on, lasting less than ten pages.
Characterization was a bit on the thin side, even among the main characters. While this is the story of Anakin's ascension to knighthood, he isn't even the central character in the story. Odie and Erk, two soldiers garrisoned on Praesitlyn, and their developing romance, take center stage. There are two problems with their relationship, both of which haunt basically every other character in the novel as well. Firstly, most of the development of their relationship is handled in just two or three sentences summarizing what happened (Anakin and Nejaa bond in the same way, as does Anakin and Grudo, a Rodian soldier). Secondly, their dialogue is absolutely awful, as bland as it gets. Besides some really cheesy phrases, the dialogue between these two mostly consists of them pondering their current predicament, deciding they are doomed, and then saying some comforting words to one another. Erk proves exactly how much he loves Odie twice in the novel when he refuses to leave his post during a Confederate assault that threatened to overwhelm them. He follows this up by abandoning Odie in the middle of a Confederate base towards the end of the novel. Odie forgives him for nearly getting her killed twice, and they get married at the end of the novel.
Anakin is characterized accurately, but for some reason his development isn't central to the novel by any means. His relationships with Grudo and Nejaa had potential, but the authors settled for brief summaries. This, coupled with a lack of any real development in Anakin's character causes Anakin's development from padawan to full fledged Jedi Knight to feel somewhat hollow.
Tonith is pretty much a flop when he is being portrayed. He comes across as intelligent, but unbelievably prissy and nonthreatening. Even though he matches wits with the Jedi for most of the novel, all he does in his scenes is scheme, get berated by Dooku or Ventress, and threaten defenseless prisoners. His defining character trait is that he drinks some disgusting sounding variant of tea, something that is referenced in the majority of scenes he is in.
Nejaa, an interesting character mentioned only briefly in previous works, was horribly under used. He has attachments in the same way Anakin does, going as far as to have a son with the woman he loves. His character could've provided Anakin with guidance and advice, but instead the only discussion they have on the subject is a very brief talk about how much they love their spouses. The minor characters were fairly cliche as well, the exception being Grudo, whom could've served as another sort of mentor for Anakin, but instead was barely used and killed off early.
Descriptions of action and scenery are adept enough, the real problem with the writing style here is in the way the authors try to develop relationships and write character interaction. A few short sentences describing your characters bonding is NOT the way to create likeable, realistic characters. The largely horrible dialogue could've been overlooked if there was any substance in the way the characters interacted. The authors violate show, don't tell in various other ways too. Much of the early invasion of Praesitlyn is glazed over, and the space battle at the end is extremely boring for the same reasons. The authors were simply too lazy to expand on their ideas or offer real character development.
The plot showed promise, and could've further developed Anakin's character at a crucial juncture- his promotion to knighthood. Unfortunately, awful, lazy characterization, and bland original characters render the plot meaningless.