Review: Cloak of Deception, by James Luceno

(Originally posted on Amazon 4/12/2003)

cloak of deception

Lately, I’ve become more convinced than ever by the argument that George Lucas erred when he decided to make the story of the Fall of the Republic as three movies; he should have made it a television series, or at least three separate mini-series’. The reason? There is far too much going on around the characters, far too much subtle nuance coloring motivations and actions, to adequately cover in a handful of two-hour snippets. Thankfully, at least, there are the novels to fill in the gaps, and I’m pleased to say that Cloak of Deception does so admirably.

The novel is arranged something like a Ludlum thriller minus the phonebook-like page count: bad deeds are afoot, some not very nice people are either manipulating or being manipulated into positions for unknown reasons, an audacious plan is set in motion the purpose of which we do not know, and it’s all up to Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan Obi-Wan to gather up the clues and save the day. The action starts from practically the opening page and it never really lets up, and it all leads up to an ending that is as thrilling as it is clever. If you like action-filled stories, it’s hard not to like this one. The writing is well done and even has a somewhat droll sense of humor to it, and the pace keeps you guessing long enough to want to turn that next page.

But how does this all connect with my first point? Well, along the way we get a good dose of the machinations and tensions going on within the Republic, especially those centering around a certain Senator from Naboo. One of the really nifty aspects I like about Cloak of Deception is that it attempts to maintain the fiction that we really don’t know that Palpatine and Sideous are one and the same (which we are not suppose to “officially” find out until the third movie). This gives the story a certain degree of mystery, a “what the hell is this guy up to?” quality that is curiously missing from the first two movies. Politics plays a major role here, and the action is a symptom of something going on that is much larger and far more ominous than most of the characters know. You can’t fill all of this in over a mere two hours; you can only skim the surface and gather up the chunks at the top, and unfortunately the movies suffer somewhat because of this. Still, as I said, at least the novels are there, and Cloak of Deception fills in a lot of the sorely needed background behind The Phantom Menace. Overall, a very good entry in the series.

4 Stars out of 5 Stars