Shield of Lies by Michael P. Kube McDowell Audiobook Review

The second part of McDowell’s ‘Black Fleet Crisis’ Trilogy takes the three separate storylines from ‘Before the Storm’ and throws the characters headlong into their adventures.

Split into three parts, the first part focus’ on Lando, Lobot, R2-D2 and C-3PO as they make their way through the lost ship, the Teljkon Vagabond, which is blasting its way through Hyperspace, even taking out an Imperial Frigate that they happened to come across. They learn that the ship is alive and is able to recalibrate itself to accommodate the passengers on board.

The second part focus’ on Luke Skywalker and the Fallanassi woman, Akanah who is searching for her people. She has Luke travel to numerous planets, under the pretence of finding her people but she is really searching for her father a Gang Leader who has lost his long term memory to a drug addiction. After learning that she would have no relationship with him, she continues quest to find the rest of the Fallanassi people, including, supposedly, Luke’s mother.

Leia is busy with the building situation with the Yevethans. The New Republic army is gearing up for war and as much as Leia want to avoid it, she knows it’s going to happen and she has to remain in control as the Chief of State. Once the decision is made and a large number of New Relublic forces are killed in a surprise attack, war is inevitable. Leia has Han take command of the Fleet, but he is kidnapped by the Yevethans on the way which leads to members of the High Council along for Leia to resign her post.

McDowell really steps up the game for the second (audio)book of his trilogy. With the set up out of the way in ‘Before the Storm’, the heroes really get into their storylines in ‘Shield of Lies’. However, and this could just be for the audiobook, each of the plot lines are told individually, there’s no cutting back and forth, which was a huge detriment in my opinion.

The first part focused on Lando’s story, and whilst by the end the story had found its direction, for the most part it’s all about a group of people wandering around a ship and on the outside, the political fallout because the Vagabond has vanished again and the New Republic forces searching for it get pulled away except for the Commander who, with a small crew, continues their search for the ship. Whilst not the weakest storyline, I’m struggling to see how it will fit with the overall story other than the Vagabond arriving out of Hyperspace slap-bang in the middle of a battle and Lando, Lobot and the Droids save the day in some Deus Ex Machina style of finale.

The second part was Luke and Akanah, which is still the weakest of the storylines. Luke is being dragged around on a wild-goose-chase and it’s all coming across like an elaborate manipulation by Akanah who just wanted a Jedi protector and used Luke’s desire to learn more about his mother to get what she wants. It’s a real deviation for Luke’s character and quite disappointing to be honest.

The storyline that really held my interest and was the one I was most looking to hearing. The situation with the Yevethans has escalated and the New Republic is helpless. Leia’s position as Chief of State is also in jeopardy, she doesn’t want to enter a new war but Nil Spaar is forcing her hand with every planet the alien race conquers. The Yevethans take countless lives in their attacks and when the New Republic forces do respond the Yevethan tactics cause a horrendous defeat. By the end, when Leia puts Han in charge of the fleet and he is captured, Leia just goes to show how strong a leader she is, she doesn’t act impulsively whatsoever and instead remains calm and collected, much like how she acted through ‘A New Hope’ after Alderaan is destroyed.

Far more enjoyable than ‘Before the Storm’, which in hindsight was acting as a way of setting up the trilogy (something I didn’t consider when writing my review), ‘Shield of Lies’ does pick up the pace in terms of the story, however, the format of keeping each of the stories separate falls flat for me, especially feeling the slog of finally getting to the part I was most looking forward to.

However, some of my issues with the first book, predominantly the characterisation of Luke were alleviated somewhat. Luke feels more like himself, rather than how he acted in ‘Before the Storm’ which was completely unlike any version of Luke we have ever seen, and whilst still not the best version of Luke, McDowell has gotten closer to the character we all know and love.

Getting to see the inner workings of the New Republic is different, with a lot of Leia’s part focusing on the politics of the oncoming Yevethan conflict and how tied Leia’s hands are it’s a great insight into the Galactic Council, and something I went on to enjoy years later in Claudia Gray’s ‘Bloodline’.

A definite step in the right direction but far from the greatest Star Wats book of the nineties, I’m hoping that the third part of ‘The Black Fleet Crisis’ Trilogy, ‘Tyrant’s Test’ can steer the ship in the right direction for a grand finale.

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