Spoiler Level: Medium
OK, this is a little more like it. Now things are really moving.
The book says right out of the gate-- pretty much as a recap-- that Abeloth, the being that the Lost Tribe of the Sith encountered two books ago in Abyss, is the evil presence that people have been sensing in the Maw, and she's what's been driving the Jedi crazy. Well, thank goodness for recaps, because I hadn't connected those dots at all. It may be because I'm reading these books months apart as they're published (instead of all in a row like I did for Legacy of the Force and New Jedi Order) and my memory's just not that great so I didn't remember enough details to make the connection. Or it could be just that I'm not that bright. Either way, I'm grateful for them spelling it out for me right at the start of the book.
So the Lost Tribe of the Sith allies with Luke & Ben to try to take out Abeloth together. And it's the kind of uneasy alliance you'd expect it to be, with the Skywalkers always on their guard and waiting to be double-crossed. But the real fun comes with Ben and Vestara, who are seriously falling for each other. Ben entertains hopes that maybe Vestara is only Sith because she was raised that way, and that if she were given a chance she might turn to the light. Vestara, on the other hand, wants to turn Ben to the dark side just so they can be together as much as for any other reason. It's a romance that Vestara's father encourages her to use to their advantage, and makes Luke worry for Ben. He has no fear of him turning to the dark side, but doesn't want to see him hurt. I can't help but root for Ben and hope he gets to reform his bad girl.
And as to why Abeloth has a special interest in Luke, all I can say is man, poor Luke can't catch a break.
Daala's lost all her compassion in this book; she almost feels inconsistent with the Daala we got in the previous book, Backlash. In the last book she was starting to question herself and her methods; in this book, she's resolute in the rightness of her methods. But both books are consistent in that they portray her as wanting to do the right thing for the Galactic Alliance but just not understanding the right way to go about it.
Tahiri also finally goes to trial for her actions while serving Darth Caedus. I have to admit, I'm glad I'm not on the jury. On the one hand, yes, Caedus played on her feelings and manipulated her into something terrible, and now that he's gone she's found her way back to the light. On the other hand, she still did commit those terrible acts, and should be held responsible. Tahiri's lawyer is a great character, and the trial scenes are some great drama.
Considering this is Book 5 out of 9 there's a lot more major plot points resolved than I expected there to be, which is part of what makes the book feel so satisfying. But there's still some key unanswered questions, and some new questions as well.
Here's hoping I remember them when Book 6 comes out in December. ;)