I’ve always been a big fan of Star Wars novels ever since I discovered them in my early teens. Recently, I’ve been re-reading one of my favorites, Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller, an Old Republic-era story from the Star Wars Legends series.
Knight Errant is a stand-alone chapter in a comic book series of the same name, also by Miller. Set a millennia before the movies, the novel follows Kerra Holt, a brand-new Jedi Knight trapped alone in Sith-controlled space. “Sith-controlled” as in little petty kingdoms headed by Sith despots fighting each other in endless war to be the number one yellow-eyed king of the hill.
Based on some very unscientific poking around the web, I’ve come to the conclusion that Knight Errant the novel, while generally liked, is not considered among the best the franchise has to offer. While I think this reputation is undeserved, as the author’s first novel, there are some weak features that’s worth addressing before getting to the things that were done well.
The story is somewhat episodic, reading like three related short stories. Although several supporting characters who find themselves along for the ride with Kerra and Kerra’s own goal to find a safe haven in Sith space unify the story somewhat, it’s still about as modular as the comic series it accompanies.
Miller has an annoying habit of summarizing large chunks of dialogue, to the point of over-saturation. It’s a really annoying habit (one he, thankfully, dropped in his later writing), since it distances the readers from the now.
While I do rank Kerra as one of my favorite Jedi characters from the franchise, I will concede that her personality isn’t that developed. She just isn’t as complex or has the personality quirks that the franchise’s other female characters have — like Leia and Rey from the movies, Hera Syndulla and Kordi Freemaker on the TV shows, or Mara Jade in the books.
So, with that in mind, why do I enjoy this book so much that I think it beats out some of the more technically better-written entries in the franchise? I think it has a lot to do with the supporting characters and setting.
For the villains we get several of the different sections of space the novel visits.
The big ones are the feuding brothers, Daiman and Odion. The former has a god complex, thanks to his hard metaphysical solipsistic worldview, while the latter wants to become the first (and only) being to commit complete, galactic-wide genocide. We also get the cold calculating Arkadia Calimondra, who prefers to use good PR to hide her underhanded power dealings, and even an alien who’s set up the perfect totalitarian regime — at the cost of his own free will. All these characters have their unique quirks and ideas for how to run the perfect Sith empire. The trap of making new Sith characters just copies of Emperor Palpatine is avoided.
For would-be allies, we get a Narsk, a Bothan spy who’s agenda is constantly changing as he deals with his successes and setbacks (not necessarily in that order), and the crew of the Diligence, a mercenary ship trying to stay free from becoming slave soldiers for some Sith warlord. These characters all operate under the similar idea of trying to make the best of the situation but go about it in different ways. Their frustrations at the troubles and insanity of life under the Sith can be quite amusing, too.
Finally, there’s the different planets we visit. We get run-down urbanized worlds and park-like places, an ash-covered wasteland, to the off-brand version of Hoth. Each of these locations is given its own atmosphere and as the story goes through them, more layers are peeled away about the inner workings.
The elements of the characters and settings capture the feel of the movies in a way that a lot of other Star Wars novels don’t. The story reads like a high adventure story with colorful characters spanning space, with one situation to deal with after another. I’m not normally fond of Star Wars novels set during the Old Republic, since they seem so detached from the movies. Knight Errant, however, stands on its own and is an interesting story in it’s own right beyond the fact that it has a movie title stamped on its cover.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to finish…
– Miller’s annotations for Knight Errant (as well as annotations for the parent comic series and Miller’s other writing) can be found here. Miller also created a mini-atlas about the sector stories are set in.
This interview, published around the time of the novel’s first printing, also shows some of Miller’s thoughts on his writing and the series’s development.
– Much of the backdrop of the novel (specifically the Republic’s decline), was originally created for Star Wars: The New Essential Chronology.
– Darkknell, one of the planets visited in the story, was originally created for the Original Trilogy-era anthology novel Tales From the New Republic, edited by Peter Schweighofer and Craig Carey
– For fans who want to experience the entire Knight Errant series, your reading list is as follows:
- “Influx”: An optional online-only short story prequel (read here)
- Aflame, the trade paperback that collects issues one through five of the comics
- Knight Errant the novel
- Deluge: The trade paperback that collects issues six through ten of the comics
- Escape: The trade paperback that collects issues eleven through fifteen of the comics