Saturday, July 19, 2014

Nitpickery -- Starcraft: The Shadow Hunters, Dark Templar Saga

Hey y'all.  So I'm back with another one of the Dark Templar Saga.  This time, it's the Shadow Hunters.

I'm not really sure who these shadow hunters are supposed to be, but m'kay.

So Shadow Hunters is the second of the Dark Templar Saga, and like the second out of most trilogies, it's very hard to judge by itself.  It's just the nature of book number two to have the beginning and end chopped off.

I do feel that this book, in a sense, is even more a particular way than the first: emotionally sound, logically questionable.  Thus, the people who are more emotional or seek emotional things in stories will like this a lot better than people who expect the story to make sense.  Nitpickers?  Well, we get to enjoy looking at all the stuff that went wrong.

Lol, I'm kidding.  Slightly.

Strangely enough, this book is actually better than the first one.  Sure, a lot of stuff doesn't make sense, and there's a lot of assuming and strange character choices in this book.  Valerian seems to guess what's going on too well, the Protoss characters don't question the fact that Jake has a person in his brain (or anything else, for that matter), and Zamara is as underdeveloped as ever.  Rosemary, on the other hand, actually gets to do interesting stuff.

But let's not get too far ahead before putting on a quick book summary.  Nitpickery is spoilers!

So the last book left off with Jake and Rosemary escaping together in a ship stolen from Ethan Stewart, Rosemary's former lover.  They head off to Aiur because Zamara says so, where they encounter both aimless Zerg and Protoss survivors.  In the attempt to get some of the khaydarin crystals that Jake saw in his visions in the last book, Rosemary is captured by the Tal'darim (referred to most often in this book as The Forged), who are a collection of Protoss survivors who have become addicted to a drug known as sundrop. This drug enslaves them to Ulrezaj, a dark templar who has now become an extremely powerful dark archon.

After an attempt to force Rosemary to work for them by addicting her to sundrop, the local leader of the Tal'darim  is captured by the non-Taldarim Protoss (referred to as Those Who Endure or Shel'na Kryhas), who clean the drugs from his system.  This is about the time that Zamara informs Jake that he's dying.  Her presense in his mind forced his brain cells to multiply too fast, resulting in tumors. It's Zamara's plan to take a khaydarin crystal from the caves and then get a defunct warp gate to take them to Shakuras, where the Dark Templar will remove Zamara from his mind and store her on the crystal.  Things aren't so simple, however, as Valerian hasn't given up his search, Kerrigan is now interested, and Ulrezaj himself shows up for the kill.

The stakes just went up, no?

I don't know, the whole "all three races fighting for one thing" just doesn't work for me as a novel gimmick.  I mean, the whole point of Starcraft is all three races fighting for dominance.  Can't the novels just fill in gaps or be character studies, or maybe just tell the story of a nobody in the Starcraft realm?  Anything that involves a gimmick not already used by the games?

At least the prologue actually makes sense this time.  It shows the last fight of the Protoss on Aiur before going to Shakuras, and how some Protoss were left behind.  It also introduces Ladranix, a Protoss who becomes important later in the book.  It's still too fancy, but since it serves a purpose to the rest of the book, it's alright.

Chapter one, however, is a return of the Starcraft official novel tradition of using overblown, melodramatic narration to re-introduce the character who least needs an introduction: Kerrigan, Queen of Blades.  It also does a nice little recap of how she feels about Mengsk, Raynor, and Zeratul, because why the heck not?  I guess they need some way to introduce Kerrigan so that she can take notice of Jake, but eh, it'd be more mysterious if they just skipped this bit, and let the first appearance of the Zerg be when they're attacking the ship with Ethan Stewart on it.  That way there'd be more tension.  Still, I do like the idea that Kerrigan suspects Mengsk is somehow trying to create a human/Protoss hybrid.  That's pretty funny.

And yes, I did say Ethan Stewart.  Apparently Rosemary didn't do such a good job killing him.  Ethan's men managed to stabilize him, and Valerian tried to transport him away so that he could find out what's going on. That's when the ship taking him gets attacked by the Zerg, and Kerrigan infests Ethan so that she can find out what's with the psionic presence she detected (reference to the mini-Khala at the end of the last book), and apparently make him her consort.


While interesting, the whole consort thing comes out of nowhere.  Especially since there's no real reason for Kerrigan to pick Ethan over anyone else.  He's some guy who happens to be available. And if the Queen of Blades is so desperate for a guy that she's willing to take the first one she gets her hands on, well, that's desperation for sure.  You'd think she'd at least invade a planet, infest several guys, then pick the one she likes the best.  I dunno.  Really, it's just a cheap way for Ethan to return.

I guess I'll go ahead and talk a little about Kerrigan now.  She's not a huge part of the story, but she does go through absurd lengths to get at Jake Ramsey with the 'Toss in his head.  When first reading this story, I had to wonder why she wanted Zamara so much.  Sure, she might have thought Mengsk was up to something at first, but when she gets Ethan, she'll know what he knows -- that Zamara is a preserver that holds the history of the Protoss in her mind.

For the longest time I didn't get why this would be anything more than a curiosity to Kerrigan.  After all, if you're at war with a country or people, then having a history book of their origins doesn't have a whole lot of practical purpose.  Then I get near the back before finding out that Zamara isn't a historian -- she apparently carries all the memories of every Khalai Protoss, from the important to the mundane, the obvious to the secretive.

Okay, so why wasn't that emphasized?  As is, if a reader has a ditzy moment and skips some narrative, they won't get it.  Any why wait so late to mention this? Still, it's freaky that Kerrigan may well get hold of every memory of the more recent Protoss, who may know things like strategy, locations, technology -- all things that could prove important for enemies of the Protoss to know, assuming Kerrigan has a way of extracting this information.

Now that I think about it, there's actually no need to go after Jake and Zamara for this.  Zamara's been trapped in a temple for a decade (based on statements made in the first book, though this may be incorrect because it's a calculation made by one of Jake's team), and thus she's out of the loop for information on the Protoss.  And since this trilogy defines the Khala as a giant mental connection between all its followers, then anyone in the Khala becomes more important for Kerrigan's purposes than Zamara.  Up-to-date information can be gotten by simply snagging any Khalai 'Toss who happens to be convenient.

Or maybe Kerrigan just wants to use Jake/Zamara's blended state for genetic research.  I dunno. Maybe it says in the last book.

Speaking of motivations, let's swing on by Prince Valerian and see what he's up to.  Oh great, another bit where he swings a sword around.  Amakakeru ryu no hirameki.  Anyway, apparently Valerian never wanted to hurt Jake or his crew, as is made obvious by the narrative.  So...why wasn't this emphasized in the first book?  Apparently I missed a bit in the first book where Whittier was supposed to have screwed things up to have Jake and his team interrogated, and someone pointed out a page number for me (Firstborn 114).

Thing is, all this bit does is have Whittier call Valerian naive.  It doesn't show that Val's interest in Jake was purely friendly, or that Whittier took any specific action that resulted in Jake and his team being in danger.  All it showed was that Whittier himself wasn't entirely on Val's side.  Valerian was clearly using R.M. as his informant during the first book, and she went through great lengths to make sure Jake's team didn't find out about her.  Why the sinister methods if Valerian's motives weren't sinister?  Why not just make it a clean, honest dig?  And why not just call Jake directly when he's staying at Ethan's place so that Jake understands his intent?  Ethan was one of Valerian's associates, so Ethan could just sit Jake in front of a screen for a talk with the prince, not telling him who it is until Val appears on the screen.

While the dark things said about Valerian during the latter half of the first book are assumptions made on the part of those who don't know Valerian, it does create a strong impression in the mind of the reader.  So I was pretty surprised when the narrative goes out of its way to say that Valerian wanted to hang out with Jake as "fellow lovers of archeology" and talk about stuff.  Seems very out of place when Val's violence and secrecy was emphasized in the first book, and part of me suspects that it was Blizzard's intervention to make sure Val doesn't come across as evil.  But why kill the mystery?  Why release tension when Jake and Rosemary have been struggling so long to escape the guy?

Whatever.  Let's just do some talking about our main characters again.  So they fix a problem with a tracer on their ship, and start planning out on where to go.  Zamara suggests Aiur, and they have a conversation about possibly trading khaydarin crystals to Valerian if he lets them go.  I like this conversation, because it's the only real time where Zamara is having a real disagreement with Jake and showing some personality.  She has a right to be pissed that these two humans think it's okay to give the heritage of her people to some prince just to save their own skins.  Unfortunately, this conversation gets shelved and is never referenced again.  Aw.

So Valerian has managed to find them, but by using the tracker on their ship as a decoy and doing a series of short jumps, they believe that they've escaped him.  Only not.

"It leaps, Devon; we can't follow it if we don't know its destination."
"True enough, but think of what we know of human nature.  You've been discovered, you know where you're heading, you make a run for it -- silly as it might sound, even if you're planning a jump -- wouldn't your first instinct be to flee in the right direction?"
Valerian smiled slowly.  "Yes.  Yes, it would be." He called up a star chart of the galaxy and smiled.  "Of course.  They're heading for Aiur."

They're assuming Jake and Rosemary are jumping towards their destination here.  Why would they be?  You can call it human nature to go for a destination, but because Rosemary is supposed to be an intelligent criminal, she'd probably realize that the whole idea of a diversion is to make their pursuit think they're going somewhere else.  Hence, she'd be going away from Aiur, not towards it. And that's assuming that Rosemary knows where she's going.  How does Valerian know she has a destination at all?  What if she was just random jumping?  Sure, Zamara told Rosemary where to go, but Valerian doesn't know that.

Whatever.  Rosemary's apparently a moron, so she made it easily guessable where she and Jake would go.  Meh.  Though it is strange that Valerian would assume she's going to Aiur, when she could have been just meeting up with some Protoss that happened to be in that general direction. Distances in space are huge, so there's a lot of potential for diversion, like space pirates, or a sudden need for ship's maintenance, or whatever.  Valerian's lucky, I guess.

Hey wait, why didn't Zamara try to contact some Protoss for help?  Sure beats leading two ill-prepared humans through the jungles of Aiur, or hoping Valerian doesn't catch them before they get there.  It's also pretty weird that Zamara would assume that there's no Zerg on Aiur.  "No reason for them to linger"? Hardly.  The Overmind wanted Aiur, so we can guess that something about the planet has meaning to the Zerg.  Even if Aiur was just a symbolic conquest for the Overmind, there's no reason why Kerrigan would give it up.  After all, throughout Brood War Kerrigan's actions were meant to spite and demoralize her enemies.  What better way to demoralize the 'Toss then by having their homeworld?  Of course, that false assumption does make it funny when Jake and Rosemary arrive and fight off Zerg themselves.  Hehee.

After a bit of wandering, Jake and Rosemary encounter some Protoss survivors, the Shel'na Kryhas, who take them in.  And holy prologue, Batman! It's actually relevant!  The main Protoss of these survivors is called Ladranix, and was there when Fenix and Raynor defended the warp gate, as the prologue describes.

Too bad he's boring.  He's the only one of the Those Who Endure that gets any lines, and yet he doesn't do anything interesting.  None of these survivors react at all to the fact that there is a Protoss being inside of a human head.  Does that happen so often that the Protoss don't find it weird anymore, or something?  What about bigotry?  Are all the Protoss here okay with a couple of humans running around their homeworld? How do they feel about going out to find food for them?  Why are they trying to find food for the humans? Why are they willing to go along with Zamara she says she wants to get a khaydarin crystal, despite it being dangerous because of Tal'darim settlements?  Besides the fact that all these things are convenient to the plot, that is.

Before I get into the Tal'darim, let me ask one more thing: why haven't these Protoss been rescued? It isn't explained here.  It's been four years since the fall of Aiur, and nobody ever thought to come back and get them, or look for survivors, or simply observe Zerg activity?  Sure, I always imagined that some Protoss stayed on Aiur, either because they couldn't accept the Dark Templar, or because they didn't want to give up fighting for their home.  Either way, is Protoss society so cruel that they would willingly abandon their own? It's not even a matter of having an operational warp gate.  The Protoss could just send some ships back to Aiur.  Shades of Vietnam, I guess.

But now to the Tal'darim.  In Starcraft 2, they confused me, because they're obsessive weirdos whose motivations are unclear, and Raynor literally kills them for money.  No, really, he's after some artifacts that he wants to sell, and he shoots a bunch of Protoss who happen to get in his way.  Sure, later on they turn out to be bad, but at first they're just some people guarding artifacts.  What right does Raynor have to take those artifacts, when clearly someone else has a stronger claim? Apparently the former BFF of Tassadar thinks he has all the rights.  Jerk.

That, however, is the game.  Once I found out that this story involves Tal'darim, I really hoped that it would explain properly where the Tal'darim came from, and why they're so bad that maybe it wasn't such a bad idea to shoot them all (it's still a bad idea from Raynor's perspective, but Christie Golden isn't responsible for Starcraft 2).  Instead, the Tal'darim are sympathetic.  Apparently they were once part of Those Who Endure, but then Judicator Felanis (remember: all Judicator are evil, every last one) strayed off to form his own group, eventually swaying a lot of other survivors to join him.

It turns out that the Tal'darim are addicted to a drug called sundrop, and this is the substance that keeps them under the thumb of the "god" Xa'vator, who is really dark archon Ulrezaj.  Sundrop is apparently so addictive that it keeps them not simply in servitude, but willing servitude.


While this speaks well of the book, it doesn't really have anything to do with the Tal'darim of Starcraft 2, whose fervor seems genuine enough.  Nor is Tal'darim belief explained in any way other than drug-enforced servitude.  No beliefs are presented here that these Tal'darim could have in common with the ones in SC2. So...if there's no apparent connection between the two, why bother calling them by the same name?  I'm gonna be really disappointed if it turns out that all the Tal'darim are drug crazed dope fiends.

I complain, but this is actually the part of the book where things get interesting.  Like Firstborn, the first hundred pages are really boring.  They have more to do with the rest of the book than the early pages of Firstborn, but Shadow Hunters doesn't begin all that well.  Sure, it's sort of fun to be confused by Kerrigan suddenly wanting a consort (ew...), but making it very, very obviously clear that Valerian isn't out to do harm reduces the tension, and nothing that happens to this point is very exciting.  Also, Golden isn't great at describing battles.

However, all that turns around on page 162, where Rosemary, sent into the caves alone to snag one of the khaydarin crystals, is captured by the Tal'darim.  This is where we find out they're all drugged out, and one of them, Alzadar, smears some sundrop on her neck, forcing her, by use of addiction, to spy for them.  This was the part where I sat up and paid attention.  This is real conflict, where the main characters are in a situation where they can't just walk away and give up on everything.  They have to figure out logically what to do next, and the consequences of a misstep can be death.  This is a tension I hadn't felt throughout the rest of the story, because so many of the side characters were too willing to help the main characters.  It's nice to have real antagonists whose motivations and methods are clear, and also are really dangerous.

The scene where Rosemary finally gives in to the drug and agrees to spy on her friends is amazing.  It's especially potent because Rosemary's established as a former drug addict, and this brings her back to where she was in the past.  She spends several days struggling with her addiction, letting the chemical dependency force her into betraying Jake to the Tal'darim.  She eventually manages to resist, because she's developing feelings for him.  Thus the Shel'na Kryhas find out what happened to her, and they begin trying to cleanse her mind of the sundrop.  It's a bit too convenient that the Protoss can do that, and that they aren't even the slightest bit angry at her or the Tal'darim for it. Maybe they're the kind of people that are nice enough to help Rosemary without condemning her, but it wouldn't kill them to show a dang emotion.

Anyway, they use Rosemary to capture Alzadar, whom they also cleanse from sundrop.  He agrees to help the Shel'na Kryhas because....I dunno.  He's a nice guy, I guess.  Pretty strange for someone so loyal to Xa'vator and addicted to suddenly change around, but I'm getting to that point where I'm a little worn out by these books. For now I'd just like to move on.

Guess what?  This book has flashbacks too!  They're not as offensive to Protoss history this go-round. They're also not as extensive, which is a bit disappointing, because I was hoping they would explain more of the Conclave's actions toward the Dark Templar, and why the Dark Templar find the Khala so offensive if, in this trilogy, the Khala is apparently a huge link that promotes understanding and negates conflict.  I was hoping there'd be some sort of downside to the Khala, or that Dark Templar tradition somehow offended traditional Khala followers, or something.

I mean, sure, the whole linking brains thing is freaky and I don't blame others for feeling the same way, but if the Khala is so good, why bother severing oneself away from it?  It made Savassan and Temlaa all...magical or whatever. I'm not blaming the Dark Templar here. I'm just saying that there needs to be an obvious downside to the Khala so that the DTs have a logical reason to reject it.  It makes them look culturally backwards to reject it out of hand, particularly when apparently the Khala is responsible for ending the Aeon of Strife.

Thing is, Khala Protoss have argued in Starcraft (Tassadar and Aldaris), so clearly the Khala doesn't erase all differences as Christie shows it doing.  By making the Khala too perfect and some sort of mystic crystal thing instead of a religious/political philosophy, she cheapens a conflict that is very deep in Starcraft.  She makes it illogical for a Dark Templar to want to avoid it.  This problem could have been mostly solved by giving the DTs a distinct belief system of their own, centered around the idea of the void or darkness,which DTs are always talking about in the games.  Then this obsession with shadow could spook the Conclave, giving them what appears to be logical reason to destroy the DTs, and also giving the DTs a strong reason to separate themselves from the light side of the Protoss.

But no, the Conclave just decides out of nowhere to kill some people for not accepting the Khala.  I feel like part of the story is missing at this point, as the Conclave just state that the DTs are severing themselves. There's no explanation of why the DT felt the need to go to this extreme.  Are they angry about the Khala? Was someone trying to force them?  Were they trying to show that people don't need the Khala to be happy?  Cutting off a part of one's body isn't a light decision, and isn't the first action undertaken by sensible people when they want to make a point.  Something had to happen to make the DTs that desperate.  It's not as if readers can simply take the Conclave's stunted explanation for what's going on.  They're not the Dark Templar, so they can't explain Dark Templar motivations.

Thing is, why are the Conclave waiting so long to get mad at the fact that certain people don't want the Khala?  It's been about two thousand years since Savassan became Khas (according to a flashback).  Why did it take so long for the Conclave to get scared of dissenters?  Think about it.  The Khala is responsible for getting people to understand one another after a long period of war and devastation.  Wouldn't the ensuing peace feel more threatened earlier on, when fewer people understand the Khala and tribal tension still rules the day?  Then the title "dark templar" would make sense -- as though the DTs themselves were a tribe that would have become Templar under the Khala's regulations, but rejected it because they wanted to walk their own path.

The Conclave, or any authority associated with the Khala, would have greater reason to fear the Dark Templar if the Aeon of Strife were still within memory.  Surely dissenters would have had to existed sooner, and not just DTs.  Maybe some who think the khaydarin crystals have a narcotic affect on the Protoss, or that the whole Khala thing is a Shelak trick.  Why are dissenters suddenly an issue now, and not earlier in the past 2,000 years?

Bah, whatever.  The flashbacks aren't a huge part of this story, and all they really do is summarize what we already know about Dark Templar history.  They don't add much new to the lore, or explain anything about DT culture.  The only things of note here are Raszagal's presence and Adun's death. Raszagal is magically someone whom Adun met, simply because she's a familiar character.  Her role in the story means nothing.

Adun, however, is portrayed as dying for the sake of the Dark Templar when they're about to be exiled.  By using Dark Templar powers in conjunction with Khala, he stops a fight between the DTs and the Conclave, only for the intense energies to zap him out of existence.  Which would work a lot better if it wasn't caused by the Conclave acting like idiots.  They're going to start a fight with the departing Dark Templar at the point where they've got basically what they wanted?  Wow, that's really dumb.  Just let Adun see them off and be done with it, morons.

Sheesh.  So why do the followers of the Khala listen to these mofos again?  Clearly the Conclave isn't intelligent enough to see out a simple task, and they don't appear to give a flying rat crap about anyone but themselves. Nobody with a brain would listen to these losers.  You can cite tradition all you want, but (1) these books never establish why the Conclave was formed and why it gives them the right to boss anyone around, and (2) no one follows a leader out of pure tradition.  Either people trust a leader for his wisdom, fear him for his cult of personality, or abandon him and do whatever they want, while pretending in name to follow.  As is, it just makes everyone look like morons.  After all, who's the real dummy?  The bad leader, or the person that follows him?  Seriously, Golden, stop reminding me of Shadow of the Xel'Naga already.

That's as much as I feel like talking about flashbacks.  They add nothing to the lore of the book, and make complex conflict look unrealistically simple.  Yawn.  Oh, and by the way, Golden, the plural of "Judicator" is "Judicator".  It's not "Judicators."  You did play the game before writing this trilogy, right?

So anyway, Zamara reveals her plan to Jake: she intends to take a crystal from the khaydarin caves so that she can download herself into the crystal and leave Jake's mind.  She needs to, because Jake has developed tumors, and the longer she stays in his mind, the more likely it is that he'll die. Okay, makes sense, good tension.

Apparently her plan after snagging one is to go to the warp gate that Raynor and Fenix destroyed in Brood War, fix it, and then go to Shakuras so that the Dark Templar can put her inside the crystal -- only DTs can do that, apparently.  Seems strange that only they would be able to, but it's nice that the Dark Templar get a unique trait for once.  It makes up a little for the fact that there are no Dark Templar in this book, other than in the flashbacks.  Apparently the sundrop drug acts like a temporary way to separate someone from the Khala, but that hardly counts.

Jake, Rosemary, and several Shel'na Kryhas go into the crystal caves together to get one (why they didn't do that in the first place is beyond me, but whatevs), and snag a crystal.  Only then do they find out that Ulrezaj has been using his acolytes to feed from -- he's a dark archon now, and dark archons ordinarily run out of power and vanish forever.  Ulrezaj clearly doesn't want that end.

I guess I should talk about Ulrezaj.  Ulrezaj comes from the Enslavers campaign, a downloadable set of missions where Ulrezaj is a Dark Templar who hates the Aiur Protoss and wishes them dead.  I don't remember a lot about that campaign, only that he was defeated.  That must explain the whole archon thing, where he has to merge with others to survive.  As far as this book goes, he gets almost no development.  We learn that he is composite of several entities, and that he wants the preservers like Zamara to all die out. Shadow Hunters doesn't touch much on his background, but simply labels him Xa'vator, a name he uses to fool the Tal'darim.

Ulrezaj wants to kill Zamara because...well, here's the quote from the Starcraft wikia: "Ulrezaj sent at least one Dark Templar assassin after preservers, protoss who hold the memories of dead Khalai, believing they 'know too much' and could threaten him."  Uh, mm'kay.  Since apparently preservers are a Khalai phenomenon, it would seem more dramatic if Ulrezaj wanted to destroy the opposing side of Protoss history, but alright.

Let's beast through this ending.  Jake pulls open a container in the wall, where inside are dead Protoss bodies.  Alzadar recognises them as dead Tal'darim, and that's when they figure out that Xa'vator is nobody's friend.  Then Felanis and the other Tal'darim show up.  Apparently Felanis knew all along who Xa'vator really was, but before he can do anything about Jake, the Zerg show up.  And then Valerian's men show up, offering Jake, Rosemary, and the Protoss with them a way out.  They pretend to go along with it, then hijack the dropship sent to pick them up, before heading to the warp gate.

Now, keep in mind that this warp gate was reduced to rubble by Raynor and Fenix in Brood War, and the area surrounding it is a battleground between Zerg, the remaining Protoss, and Valerian's men. Yet somehow Zamara and co. think that going after this warp gate is a better option than leaving with Valerian.  And Zamara has Rosemary repair this warp gate while Ulrezaj joins in the fray.  Um, if the warp gate were even the slightest bit repairable, then Raynor and Fenix failed horribly at their job. They were supposed to destroy it so that the Zerg couldn't use it to get to Shakuras.  You'd think that this would render the gate nothing more than shards of metal and whatever else the Xel'Naga used to build it.

Also, was the warp gate always Xel'Nagan in origin or is that an SC2 era retcon?  I don't have an original Starcraft manual, so I'm not sure.  It's not really important.  I just wanted to know.

In any case, Zamara relies on Rosemary's ability to take instructions from a historian to work on a technology nobody present invented and should have been destroyed, all while a battle is going on between the Zerg, the Protoss, and newcomer, super-powered Ulrezaj.  And this is a better option than leaving with Valerian.  Yeeaaaah.  Good thing that Jake had a flashback that taught him Adun's trick of using Dark Templar powers in conjunction with Khalai powers, and he can teach the dwindling Protoss survivors this trick to take down Ulrezaj.

Um, how does Jake plan on carrying out this plan if there are no Dark Templar around?

But they [the Tal'darim] had also been changed by the Sundrop.  They, like the dark templar had done so long ago, potentially could summon storms of devastating power.


So the trouble with defining the Dark Templar as a group who simply don't want to join the Khala is that there's no reason given for them having their own distinct power.  It's like saying that Protoss are weaker for believing in the Khala, and that they could "summon storms of devastating power" simply by existing.  Could the Protoss do this during the Aeon of Strife?  Was the Khala intentionally meant to keep the Protoss weak so that would never happen again?  Not likely, given that Tassadar was told to go blow up worlds in Starcraft.

The logical Starcraft fans would assume, before reading this, that the power of the Dark Templar comes from them studying the void of space.  Yet the Tal'darim, by taking an addictive narcotic, are suddenly just as powerful as a real Dark Templar, simply because they can't access the Khala.  That's pretty insulting to the Dark Templar, if you think about it.

Alzadar: Hey Zeratul!

Zeratul:  Yes?

Alzadar:  Dude, I'm totally just like you!  All it took was a sweet ride on a sundrop!

Zeratul: ....

Eh, I'm ready for this to be over.  I've got to get back to my videos of a let's player glitching out Mega Man 6.  So anyway, the dumbest plan ever just so happens to work, and Rosemary and a bunch of Protoss disappear into the warp gate and head for Shakuras.  At first reading, I somehow got the idea that Rosemary had disappeared just like Adun, because of the Protoss using Adun's trick from the flashbacks.  Yeah, there's a reason why I read these books twice.  Anyway, it's just them leaving through the gate, and the book just cuts off there.

*insert cute ending joke*

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