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|Cover artist||Cliff Nielsen|
|Series||The Dark Nest Trilogy|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Publisher||Del Rey Books|
|July 26, 2005|
|Preceded by||The Unifying Force|
|Followed by||The Unseen Queen|
The Joiner King is a science fiction novel set in the Star Wars expanded universe. It is the first book in the Dark Nest trilogy of novels by Troy Denning. It is set 35 years after the Battle of Yavin (35 ABY). In the chronology of the Star Wars novels, The Joiner King takes place after the final book of The New Jedi Order series, which is The Unifying Force, and before the second book of the Dark Nest trilogy, which is The Unseen Queen.
Six years after the Yuuzhan Vong War ended, all of the survivors of the Mission to Myrkr back in Star by Star, except for Hapan Queen Mother Tenel Ka Djo, respond to a call through the Force. They all leave their current posts and travel into the Unknown Regions. After this happens, an envoy from the Chiss Ascendancy, Mitt'swe'kleoni (Tswek for short), comes to the Jedi Masters' Council on Coruscant to file a complaint. He asks why the Jedi Knights are involved in a border dispute with an enemy of the Chiss who Tswek refuses to give the name for. None of the Masters give an answer, but Luke Skywalker agrees to look into it. He takes his wife Mara, their son Ben, and Saba Sebatyne into the Unknown Regions in order to learn what the Knights are up to. When Han and Leia Organa Solo discover this, they join the Skywalkers and Saba in their journey after they rendezvous inside an insect-like hive in space, which is filled with beings from all over the galaxy, along with strange insect beings. The Skywalkers, Solos, and Saba all meet up with Captain Jae Juun and his rude copilot Tarfang, who agree to take the group to the planet Yoggoy, where they will be able to find the Jedi Knights.
On Yoggoy, instead of meeting any of the Jedi Knights, the Skywalkers, the Solos, and Saba all meet up with the leader of the strange insect beings that populate the world of Yoggoy, UnuThul. As it turns out, UnuThul is the badly burned and psychologically scarred Raynar Thul, a Jedi Knight who was taken by the Dark Jedi Lomi Plo and Welk during the Mission to Myrkr. UnuThul reveals that the ship that Plo and Welk took him in had crashed onto the surface of Yoggoy while the Yuuzhan Vong War was still commencing, and the insect beings who now call themselves the Colony took Raynar in to repair his badly burned form to the best of their abilities. A side effect of being with those of the Colony is that they eventually become part of their hive mind. Due to Raynar's Force-sensitivity, however, he had accumulated such power that he actually become the leader of the Colony, and he helped them expand their territory from Yoggoy. When asked about what happened to Lomi Plo and Welk, Raynar tells the group that he has never even heard of them before. Afterwards, as the Skywalkers, the Solos, and Saba find evidence that the Colony is really the long-lost species of the Killiks, the clan is attacked by dark blue Killiks. They survive the attack and confront UnuThul about the matter, who denies any knowledge about it. Regardless, the Skywalker-Solo-Sebatyne clan leave Yoggoy for Qoribu, where the Jedi Knights are fighting alongside the Killiks against the Chiss. Leia figured this out because when the clan visited the crash site of the ship that brought Raynar to Yoggoy, she saw a vision of her son, Jacen, telling her this information. As it is, Jacen had previously visited the Yoggoy crash site and had a vision of his mother visiting the crash site, and he decided to tell the vision where the Killiks and Jedi were fighting the Chiss.
At Qoribu, where the Skywalker-Solo-Sebatyne clan plan to confront the Knights, they are once again attacked by the mysterious blue-black Killiks. They once again survive the attack, and they confront the Knights as expected on Qoribu's moon of Jwlio. From this, they come to an agreement: some of the Knights will stay behind in order to save Lowbacca from Chiss captivity, as he was lost in the previous battle against the Ascendancy. Jaina and Zekk are the ones who stay behind, but strangely enough, they don't sense Alema Rar's intent to come with Han and Leia back to Ossus. This prompts suspicion from Han and Leia just as Saba gets into a fight with a mysterious figure who is no doubt Welk. Saba is injured thanks to Welk and a couple of his blue-black Killik assistants, and she is knocked into a coma as a result. Before she was knocked out, however, she was able to discern that the remaining Killik who attacked her went to the Skywalkers' ship, the Jade Shadow. The Millennium Falcon takes a wounded Saba and a suspicious Alema back to Ossus.
Ben gets in trouble by Mara for eating too much gelmeat. In Ben's defense, he says that it was really his new Killik friend who did it, which Mara takes to be a lie. Meanwhile, Luke looks into R2-D2's systems in order to find out what the cause of the strange malfunctions that the astromech droid has been suffering. Luke finds a recording of his father talking to a mysterious woman, which R2-D2 denies any knowledge about. Luke becomes suspicious of R2-D2's motives after this.
As the Millennium Falcon travels back to Ossus with Alema and Saba, Leia subtly interrogates Alema in order to understand what she is really up to. When Alema refers to herself as "we," the conversation awkwardly ends on Alema's part, and Leia knows that something more is going on. Later, after the Falcon undergoes a mysterious malfunction in hyperspace that was no doubt caused by Alema, they end up in an unnamed nebula and land on a planet full of plant life that, strangely, has no animal or insect life on it. When Leia and Alema go to repair the Falcon, Alema betrays her and everyone else on the ship, as Leia suspected, and she fights Leia and her Noghri bodyguards, Cakhmaim and Meewalh. Although Alema is able to defeat the Noghri, Han is the one who defeats Alema by activating an escape pod that knocks her unconscious. Later, after the Falcon is repaired, they take an imprisoned Alema the rest of the way back to Ossus.
On Ossus, the Jedi Knights are tested for the hive mind that shared with the Killiks as Luke and Mara meet with a representative from the Chiss, Chaf'orm'bintrano (Formbi for short), in order to clarify the conflict between the Ascendency and the Colony. Formbi explains that the war between the Killiks and the Chiss goes beyond that of the border conflict, and was even somewhat responsible for the plot against the Fel family back in Force Heretic II: Refugee. Then, after Saba is healed from the injuries she sustained in her fight with Welk, Mara is quickly informed that there is indeed a blue-black Killik that had sneaked aboard the Jade Shadow. Realizing that Ben wasn't lying about the gelmeat, Mara rushes to her son's room and fights the Killik infiltrator. She defeats it, and has it tested along with Alema and the Knights. Alema and the Killik have the strongest connection, as the other Knights don't seem to feel what Alema and the Killik feel. Jedi Master and medical healer Cilghal concludes from this blue-black Killik, whose nest is of the Gorog as it turns out, that it and Alema are part of an unconscious nest among the Colony; this explains why UnuThul was unable to explain their presences. It wasn't because he lied about them, but rather, it was because he was unaware of their existence.
Meanwhile, computer slicer Zakarisz Ghent accesses more of R2-D2's memory files and finds another recording of Anakin Skywalker talking to the mysterious woman that has to be his wife, and therefore, is Luke and Leia's mother. They, along with their friends and family, find the time to watch the newly found footage.
Back to the main plot, the Jedi Knights are able to sneak out of their captivity and elicit the help of other allies in order to help the Killiks fight the Chiss. Tesar Sebatyne enlists the help of Raynar's mother, Aryn, while Jacen seeks out the help from Tenel Ka Djo. Tenel Ka reveals that she was able to withstand UnuThul's call through the Force by locking herself in her room until the call passed, as she couldn't leave her duties as Queen Mother of the Hapes Consortium. Tenel Ka agrees to lend the Killiks the assistance of the Hapan fleet if Jacen will agree to sleep with her. Jacen complies, and so does Tenel Ka.
The Jedi on Ossus hypothesize a way to get rid of the Gorog, which they nickname the Dark Nest (hence, the title of the trilogy). They put tracking beacons on all of the ships on the Academy's hangar bay and have Alema and her fellow Gorog take one to return to the Dark Nest's base. They follow Alema and the Gorog back into the Qoribu as the Killiks and their new allies engage in an all-out battle against the Chiss forces. Luke and Mara follow Alema and her Gorog friend down to Qoribu's moon of Kr, and they battle off and kill and wound many of the Dark Nest before they confront Alema and Welk. Mara is wounded in combat, but she survives a suicide bombing from the Gorog she fought on Ossus by putting a Force shield around herself. Amidst the smoke cloud that followed the explosion, Mara saw a mysterious image lurking there. Alema escapes the conflict, though severely wounded.
Meanwhile, Luke ends up in a one-on-one lightsaber duel against Welk. Though both put up a good fight, it is inevitably Luke who wins and ends Welk's life. Soon, all of the other Gorog on Kr are killed by the Skywalkers' backup forces, and the Battles of Qoribu and Kr end. UnuThul investigates the bodies of the Gorog, and they find Dark Nest cells filled with Chiss captives that are being used for Gorog offspring. This explains both the Dark Nest's motivation for going to war against the Killiks, as well as why the Chiss were going against the Colony. UnuThul agrees to let the Chiss have Qoribu, and the Hapans help the Killiks relocate to the unnamed nebula that the Solos found before Alema was revealed as a traitor. The Chiss return Lowbacca back to the Jedi, and UnuThul separates his fellow Knights from the rest of the Killik hive mind, their purpose in defending the Colony now over. Jaina and Zekk, however, due to their extensive time with each other, have an unbreakable hive mind with each other, which makes it awkward when it comes to Jaina's relationship with Jagged Fel.