Mogsy (MMOGC)'s Reviews > Revan

Revan by Drew Karpyshyn
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Oct 09, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: video-games, star-wars, science-fiction, media-tie-in
Read from November 14 to 21, 2011

I wanted to like this book, I really did. A month ago when I was so eagerly anticipating the release of Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan, I didn’t expect I would be starting a review for it this way, and I really don’t like having to be negative, but what can you do.

Granted, it is possible that my high expectations may have clouded my judgment. For one thing, I’m a big fan of Drew Karpyshyn — he wrote the Star Wars Darth Bane trilogy and also the Mass Effect novels that I found I really enjoyed. But more importantly, I’m also a big fan of the character Revan, having been obsessed with and emotionally invested in his story from the Knights of the Old Republic games. Still, I have a feeling that even the most casual of readers picking this up will find many problems with the writing and execution of this novel.

To be fair, I’ve been following Drew K’s blog for a while now, and on it he occasionally talks about the pressures of looming deadlines and the challenges of meeting them. His writing in Revan appears to be the latest victim of this restrictive time crunch, as it’s definitely not his best work. This is a shame for two reasons: 1) He’s usually capable of much better writing, and 2) I would have pegged him as the perfect author to tell Revan’s story, as he was intimately involved with the development and writing of the first KOTOR game.

Another reason why I think the book was a rush job is how well it started out in the first handful of chapters, versus how everything started unraveling and falling apart in the second half. I’d glimpsed some of the not-so-positive starred reviews prior to finishing the novel, and thought to myself, “Nah, this isn’t that bad.” But then I hit part II. And I began to understand.

First of all, in retrospect so much of the book felt like filler, lengthy exposition sequences and drawn-out descriptions. While I understand the need to bring readers up to speed with the events of KOTOR (for those who have never played the RPG or need a refresher — it’s been about 8 years since the game’s release, after all) I lamented the fact it came at the expense of scenes that actually required details and a more in-depth look. Instead, important action sequences and scenes that actually drove the plot forward or called for more emotion were completely glossed over.

Second, the book was so short. It’s not like there wasn’t enough to write about. Like I said, so much of the novel could have been fleshed out and made better. It just felt like the author needed it to be over and done with, fast.

Third, there was a very noticeable shift in focus by the end of the book. I thought I began by reading about Revan, but little by little, he started taking more of a background role, and by the final chapters it was clear the emphasis was more on the Sith character of the novel, Lord Scourge. I just found this odd, and I still don’t really understand the purpose.

Nonetheless, there is still plenty of Revan, which is one of the reasons why I couldn’t just toss this book aside. There will be answers to some big questions left behind by the ending of KOTOR and KOTOR II, and for this reason I don’t regret reading it at all. The Jedi Exile also plays a huge role, and it is in this book that she is finally identified and given a name — Meetra Surik.

However, speaking of characters, don’t expect many of the companions from the games to make an appearance. The three that get the honor are Canderous Ordo, T3-M4 and Bastila Shan. The rest like Mission Vao, Zaalbar or HK-47 are only mentioned in passing, or given some weak excuses why they couldn’t show up. Carth Onasi doesn’t even get a mention, and while admittedly he was one of my more whiny and annoying BioWare boyfriends, I couldn’t help but notice the snub. Ouch.

I don’t want to make it sound like Revan was all bad. I personally liked a lot of the dialogue, though I think I’m probably in the minority with regards to this. I definitely think dialogue-writing is Drew Karpyshyn’s forte, but while some lines might work well in a video game, I admit they don’t always translate well onto a page in a novel. Some plot points were predictable, but in general I enjoyed the story. And finally, like I said before, the book does manage to bring some form of closure. Sort of.

This does beg the question: Is closure — that is, a truly satisfying conclusion that emotionally invested KOTOR fans have been waiting almost a decade for — even possible for an epic story like Revan’s? Honestly, I believed the answer is yes. And I still do. Which is why I had such high hopes for Revan. Despite my biases, I still think it could have been the book to bring ultimate closure to the KOTOR series. If only Drew K had been given enough time.

So, to wrap this review up, you may find Revan interesting if you’re into Star Wars novels or game tie-ins in general. I say read this book if you’re fan of the character and the KOTOR games. You might end up disappointed, but you’ve come this far, so might as well finish up. Also read this book if you’re really into the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. There will be quite a few mentions of Revan and his adventures in the game, so knowing the character’s background might enhance the story behind those quests for you, but it’s definitely not required knowledge.

But if you don’t know much about the lore behind SWTOR and the Old Republic era and are thinking of reading this to get pumped for it, I would rethink that decision. For that, you’d be better off playing KOTOR.
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03/11/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-11)

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message 11: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Media tie-in books are not sold on the quality of their writing, but instead to capture enthusiasm for a related property.

That said, KotOR was a great game :)

Mogsy (MMOGC) Sigh, if only it managed even that. :P

Stuart Echoing my thoughts here about the novel - you word it so much more eloquently than I! :D

Lance Shadow the reason why it focused on Scourge by the end is because the book is intended to tie in too the MMO, hence the focus is to set up the lore for the MMO rather than conclude KOTOR. Scourge becomes an important character in one of the class stories of the MMO (he becomes the final companion for the Jedi Knight).
That being said "scourge" would have been a better title than "Revan" (or at least call it "Revan and Scourge"), but after reading Lords of the Sith I realized marketing for a novel can really leave you gypped from the material you wanted initally.
I think the focus on scourge you highlighted in your review is part of why many despised the ending, but for what the book was truly trying to do i thought it did well (but overall yes, Revan was not a good novel).

message 7: by Mogsy (MMOGC) (last edited Jan 19, 2016 02:01PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mogsy (MMOGC) Thanks for your comment! If you look at the date this review was actually written before the release of SWTOR so hence it does not make any comment on the storylines in the MMO.

I did however play my Jedi Knight class to completion, so in the end this book made more sense. But yes, it would have been better if it had been titled "Scourge" instead, because then it wouldn't have raised so many expectations that it would be Revan's story. Because it really wasn't :(

(But at least Scourge is an awesome companion.)

message 6: by Conor (new) - added it

Conor Added this one to my TBR a while ago despite not having much interest in Star Wars books and generally hating tie-in novels based on how awesome KOTOR was. After reading your review (and a few other pretty negative ones) I think I'll leave it to languish somewhere a long way down on my TBR. I'll just replay the KOTOR games for the billionth time instead :D

Mogsy (MMOGC) Good plan! :D

message 4: by B. (new)

B. Tollison This is a very well constructed review. Insightful and in-depth without giving away spoilers. It's refreshing to see criticism that is genuinely constructive, level-headed, and doesn't devolve into rambling and ranting (which can be quite common with 1 or 2 star reviews).

I'm a big fan of Kotor 1 and 2; and, after playing through them recently, really wanted to feel some kind of closure after Kotor 2's cliff-hanger ending (it's been over a decade and I'm still salty about there being no legitimate Kotor 3!).

I was on the fence about reading this one. I know Drew has written some good stuff, but, after reading yours and others' reviews, I think I'm gonna have to give this one a miss. As much as I want to conclude Revan and the Exile's story, this book doesn't sound like the conclusion I'm looking for. I'm not a fan of MMO's so I have no intention of playing SWTOR. I guess I'll just continue to lament what could have been.

Either way, great review!

Mogsy (MMOGC) Thanks! And I'm with you on there being no legitimate KOTOR 3. I love SWTOR but I can definitely see why it would have low appeal to folks who aren't fans of MMOs. Since reading this book and writing the review (I posted it even before release of SWTOR) there's been huuuge amounts of details added to Revan's story in the game, with even a related expansion. I might wookieepedia it or something, if you're interested! :)

Lance Shadow B. wrote: "This is a very well constructed review. Insightful and in-depth without giving away spoilers. It's refreshing to see criticism that is genuinely constructive, level-headed, and doesn't devolve into..."

I have to second B. on the level-headedness of this review. I have seen almost no reviews of this novel that are actually constructive criticisms of the book itself. Most of the reviews of this novel I read are petty grievances about how they didn't get to see all the KOTOR companions going on another quest with Revan, or the direction the characters' story went.
I personally think the book doesn't work because of the poor characterization (Revan, Meetra and Scourge are super bland and Bastilla is way out of character) and messy plotting (Scourge gets way to much of the book devoted to him), but despite that I still actually liked the ending and was ok with only having Canderous and T3 accompany Revan (I think it makes sense the others stayed behind).
Either way, I like how you reviewed this and regret not acknowledging it sooner :D

message 1: by B. (new)

B. Tollison Mogsy (MMOGC) wrote: "Thanks! And I'm with you on there being no legitimate KOTOR 3. I love SWTOR but I can definitely see why it would have low appeal to folks who aren't fans of MMOs. Since reading this book and writi..."

Thanks, Mogsy. I'll definitely check out that Wookieepedia page.

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