Clone Wars Gambit: Siege (Karen Miller)
Siege takes place immediately after the events of Stealth. The Jedi make their way to a small village, and much of the rest of their story concerns their efforts to ride out a siege by Separatist forces. The concept of a siege starts off strong, as Anakin and Obi-Wan are pushed to the brink to protect the village from a fierce theta storm. They also must earn the villager's trust, as the Lanteebans are extremely leery of Jedi. All of this works wonderfully on its own, and it is successful enough for the first half of the book to be compelling; the problem here is repetition.
While Anakin and Obi-Wan are confined inside the village, basically two things happen over and over. First, Anakin tires himself keeping the shield generator up, while Obi-Wan attempts to heal the citizens. Second, they are confronted by an angry villager, and must defend themselves. It gets really old, and there is absolutely no variety in their plotline. Sometimes one of them will snap or show signs of cracking, but the tedious nature of events make it very hard to stay focused on the story. The resolution is also somewhat boring, as it is concluded with the two doing precious little to save themselves.
The sub plots aren't much better. The first one, concerning Ahsoka's growing relationship with dying Jedi Taria Damsin, is groan inducing more so because of the characters than anything else. Taria is portrayed as being absolutely perfect, and it is annoying beyond all belief. Characters like this are always tricky, but the weird thing here is that the author goes out of her way to show the human faults in all the other characters (Obi-Wan in particular). Not to mention, this plot doesn't really go anywhere. Taria conveniently gets elected for the mission to save our heroes, despite the fact that she is dying, and she "saves" them without really doing anything.
A slightly better sub plot is the political events surrounding the crisis on Lanteeb. Yoda, Bail, Palpatine, and Padme have major roles here, and this is probably the strongest plot in the book. Padme and Bail's quest to relieve Anakin and Obi-Wan was good because it played to their strengths as characters (unlike Wild Space, where Bail randomly became a swaggering adventurer). It also gives us good insight to Yoda's perception of Palpatine, as he continually goes out of his way to keep Palpatine from hearing anything. This is probably the most consistent part of the book, though it has its slow, pointless moments too.
The villain, Lok Durd, is still really bad in Siege. He never comes across as menacing, and ends up possessing just about every irritating, cartoonish trait that a villain could have. He is smug, incompetent, petty, whiny, and cowardly. He is clearly no match for the Jedi, and he gets through the novel without directly challenging Anakin or Obi-Wan. Grievous and Dooku make cameos, but Durd is the focal point here, and he is a pitifully bad villain.
The author does a great job of characterizing the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin. She effectively highlights the differences and philosophical gaps between the two, while maintaining the sense of brotherhood between the two. Individually, they work out well too. Obi-Wan reflects on Qui-Gon quite a bit, and shows plenty of compassion. Anakin is motivated by a desire to save everyone, and reflects on his mother and Padme often. The decision making dynamic between the two is also authentic. Obi-Wan is more cool headed, while Anakin is emotional and at times irrational. Taria throws an interesting wrench into Obi-Wan's character, and the dynamic between the two. It was odd to see that Obi-Wan, renowned as a detached Jedi, had multiple love interests in his younger days. Anakin's jealousy and anger at Obi-Wan's perceived hypocrisy led to one of the better conversations in the book.
The rest of the characters don't fare nearly as well, however. The Lanteebans are never really fleshed out, and the only one that had any kind of emotional resonance was Greti, a young girl that helps Obi-Wan heal injured villagers. Bail and Padme are realistic on the surface, but somewhat shallow overall. Ahsoka is characterized by her slavish devotion to Taria, and Taria is characterized by her absolute perfection. Durd continues to be everything bad about Star Wars villains. Bantena, the scientist, manages to redeems herself, but her character was never particularly compelling, and often more than somewhat unrealistic.
The prose suffers from the same repetition present in the plot. Obi-Wan and Anakin are described time and time again as being tired and near the end of their rope. This is a theme throughout the entire second half of the book, and it gets old fast. The constant descriptions of Taria's beauty are also overdone and needless.
Unfortunately Lanteeb still isn't very developed. The Lanteebans look and act exactly like humans, except for a bizarre speech pattern that is somewhat reminiscent of Yoda. This isn't quite as endearing coming from a random human, as opposed to a sagely Jedi master. The flora and fauna of the world are never touched upon, and overall the world building process in this series has been very disappointing. Only a bit about the villages and people of Lanteeb is revealed here, and the other mysteries of the world, and even little finishing details like animals, are never expanded upon.
The few action scenes that take place here aren't very exciting. While Stealth had a fantastic initial sequence, the only standout scene here is when Anakin must summon all his power to keep the shield wall intact. The only antagonists are battle droids, and they make for terribly dull adversaries in all but the most skilled writer's hands.
Due to a lack of action and repetitive plot, Siege is a dull read. Devout Obi-Wan/Anakin fans should check it out for one of the better characterizations of the duo in the EU, but everyone else should stay away.