I recently had a chance to pick up and reread the now Legends novel Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover. The book originally released in 2003, and things were different back then. As a Legends book it no longer counts towards current continuity and Depa Billaba thanks the Force. In current canon she mentored a young Kanan Jarrus (Caleb Dume) before dying during Order 66. I’d take that fate any day over the hell she endures in this book. Shatterpoint borders on a verge of being a dark, almost horror type book. While, it takes place during the Clone Wars, readers will soon learn the true enemy is not the Separatists. It’s the jungle.

Shatterpoint was written by Matthew Stover. If the name sounds a bit familiar it’s because Stover is no rookie when it comes to writing Star Wars novels. He penned the book version of Revenge of the Sith as well as The New Jedi Order: Traitor. The Revenge of the Sith novelization is one of the three, not only best, but standout movie novelizations. In my opinion it is also the only one that is a must read! The movie offers the physical side of the war. The book encompasses the mental and explains many scenes that do not make sense in the movie. Either way, both of Stover’s books focus heavily on the dark side of the force and Jedi fighting against it. Shatterpoint is no different.

When someone reads authors like Claudia Gray and Timothy Zahn they enjoy, light, fast moving narratives that read quickly, yet fluidly. Stover favors a slightly more heavy handed writing style. His pace goes a slower and he gets very descriptive. I’ve read books that get so heavy handed and descriptive it bogs down the story. Stover’s story is nowhere near that, but it is a more measured read. Think of it more as a marathon than a sprint.

To Rescue the Lost

Depa’s better future

In Shatterpoint Mace Windu must travel to his home world of Haruun Kal, a vicious and dark jungle planet. His former Padawan, Depa Billaba, disappeared during her mission there, and only a dark recording exists that suggests things are not well. Mace must hunt down and rescue his former Padawan, but when he reaches the Jungle planet he learns battles cannot be won.

The Seperatists tried to take the planet, but could not deal with the jungle or its inhabitants. While they pulled back an eternal war rages between the ‘civilized’ Balawai and the force sensitive jungle tribes of the Korunnai. Friends become enemies that become friends and enemies. Overshadowing it all is the jungle. The Korunnai see the true war being waged is against the jungle. There is no right or wrong. Only survival. With limited, natural force capabilities and forearm shields that cut anything and can resist blaster bolts as well as lightsaber blades, they make a formidable enemy.

The problem is the war has raged for so long that the Balawai and the Korunnai dehumanize the other. Killing them isn’t even second nature, it’s first! I do not know if you can rightly say Depa falls to the dark side in this book, but she does fall to the jungle. Now Mace must not only find her, but rescue her. The problem he finds is what can one do when the person being rescued doesn’t want to be rescued? Mace begins to learn the price of war. How does a Jedi continue to be a keeper of the peace when they have to fight a war? Mace makes many hard decisions and must fight the darkness within himself. In the end not all victories feel like wins.

A Great Mix of Characters

Stover does a wonderful job creating his characters and using them to help readers feel the story. Windu does start off a bit whiny, but once the saber hits the road, he becomes the Jedi we think he is. Depa, on the other hand, walks the painful line between idealism and reality. The jungle has swallowed her whole, and the worst part is – she knows it. Depa never ‘turns evil’. She makes the choices she thinks she needs to make, and all the while she knows she failed her father and mentor, Windu. Depa continues to make the non-Jedi choices, but every time Stover brings the pain of making those choices to the surface.

The Kalawai don’t offer many characters of real note, except Lorz Geptun. Geptun is exceptionally smart and fancies himself a master Dejarik player. He taunts Mace when Mace comes after him about this. Geptun comes across as a little separatist weasel for most of the book, but Mace sees more. In fact Geptun not only plays heavily in the closing chapters, but his character goes on to have quite a future in the Legends story lines.

We meet many other characters during Windu’s journey like Chalk, Besh and Lesh, but the true standout of the book is Nick Rostu. Nick starts out as a bit of an antagonist to Mace, but as the journey unfolds Nick not only becomes a companion to Mace but a conscripted member of the Republic. Nick becomes an almost Kevin Hart type persona. He never shuts up. He second guesses everything and turns every other line into some sort of sarcastic joke. The running gag becomes Mace telling Nick to shut up so many times that Nick anticipates it. “Yeah, I know. Shut up Nick.” In some ways he’s the softer version of Han Solo in this book. He starts out the rogue/enemy, but morphs into this smart ass lovable guy.

Shatterpoint – Who’s the BMF Now?

An opponent even Mace cannot beat

Then we have Kar Vastor. Vastor is the Korunnai leader. While not a trained Jedi, he does have an affinity to the force that, added with his strength, skills, and killer forearm shields, cannot be beat. Stover makes him the typical testosterone-filled, alpha-male of the jungle. He takes his clan-brother, Mace, as a threat and challenge at every turn. In fact it’s this dance the two execute throughout the book that makes him all the more compelling. Mace Windu, one of the top 2 Jedi in the Order and greatest fighters, cannot beat Kal Vastor.

He even tells Nick as much after Mace duels Vastor, so how does one beat an unbeatable foe? This highlights much of the struggle Mace endures on Haruun Kal. Mace must find answers other than direct confrontation. It’s also Vastor’s influence that weighs so heavily on Depa, keeping her from returning to the Jedi ways. In fact the final battle forces Mace to be the Jedi he never thought he was. The internal struggle Mace endures while fighting Vastor makes for some brilliant commentary on what it means to be Jedi.

In the end, let’s just say the final fight between Vastor and Mace is pretty damned epic, but not in the normal way. It’s the psychological toll and journey that make it amazing.

Shatterpoint – Not Such a Bad Mother F…..

There is an old adage: You should never meet your heroes. So many times the side we see of a person and what we build them up to be, is rarely the person they truly are. This in many ways describes the Mace Windu in Shatterpoint. Between the bad ass persona Sam Jackson brings to most of his roles and what we know of Mace Windu, he gets built up as this bad ass Mother F***** who takes down entire platoons of Sep droids before breakfast. Being the creator of the Vaapad form of lightsaber combat also lends its mystique to his persona. When he uses it, he walks the line between the ways of the Jedi and the ways of darkness. In this book we see beyond that façade.

I’ve long criticized Mace Windu as the only Jedi to lose the war for the Republic – twice! The first time on Geonosis when he let his Dooku idealism blind him to the real threat, and again in Palpatine’s office when he failed to see Anakin as the true threat not Palpatine until it was too late. Ironically it is the first error that Stover uses to haunt Windu for the majority of this book. His failure on Geonosis makes Windu second guess everything he does. In fact it goes a bit too far and begins to make Mace into a whiny, fresh from the temple, newly christened Jedi Knight versus the season, council member, Jedi master he truly is. I had a hard time accepting this version of Mace, but then again the most confident of people hide the deepest fears.

Once the fighting and war truly swell up around Windu, he begins to become the Jedi Master we expect him to be. In fact I stopped several times throughout the book to reread portions. I would read a portion and say – no that’s not right. I would go back and reread it, but this time I’d read it as Sam Jackson would read it. Then the same scene popped so much more! One needs to read his parts with a scowl on their face.

Focusing on the wrong target

Shatterpoint – Why Name The Book Shatterpoint?

Once the fighting got going, I really loved this book and watching Mace make the winless choices he has to make. Stover keeps it dark and real. In fact most of the characters that start this book fail to make it to the end. Some deaths are just crushing, but the one complaint I had of this book comes from the title. Why name a book after a power if you aren’t going to use it?

Mace Windu possesses a power called shatterpoint where all the possibilities and weaknesses converge. It can allow Jedi to break the unbreakable at times or determine how to influence events to create major shifts in the balance of things. On Geonosis, Dooku was a shatterpoint, but Windu recognized it too late after thinking Jango was the key. In Palpatine’s office he thought Sidious was the shatterpoint until Skywalker interfered. Too late he realized Skywalker’s choices would determine the future. While Windu laments his failure on Geonosis, shatterpoint never receives more than a mention here and there in this book. One would expect to see Windu use his shatterpoint ability to win the day, but he doesn’t. I would have liked to see more focus on this ability and how Mace uses it if you are going to name the book after it.

Shatterpoint – Final Thoughts

I am normally not the biggest fan of Mace Windu. He possesses a gift like shatterpoint and yet manages to blow the war for the Republic – TWICE!, simply because he was too arrogant to see what was truly happening. Because of that I was hesitant to pick this book back up. The internal doubts and second guessing through the much of the first half of the book didn’t help matters either. Add in Stover’s slightly heavy-handed writing style, and it made the first part of the book a bit of a slog. Once things start moving and the Dejarik game begins between Mace and every other person on Haruun Kal, the book really picks up.

For every fight there is no easy answer. Mace, in many ways, embodies the the adage: Sometimes to win, you must lose first. Throughout the whole book, Mace does an intricate dance with all of his opponents. He takes ground where he can, gives ground when he must. This back and forth, the fight against the darkness, and the struggle to do the impossible make this a great read. Without spoiling the ending, let’s just say it is both epic and heartbreaking. Like I said at the start, not every victory feels like a win.

Matthew Stover knows the ways of the dark side.