During the Clone Wars a new threat to the Jedi emerged. The Jedi Council learned that on the planet Ord Cestus, a new type of droid was being manufactured. This new droid was nicknamed the "Jedi Killer" and when given the opportunity to test their powers against a non-lethal version of the JK, the Jedi discover that this droid may actually be force sensitive and is able to "sense" what its opponent is going to do before the action is done. This is similar (if not the same) as what the Jedi are able to do. An example of this is the ability of Anakin Skywalker to be able to pod race in Episode One. A whole line of these droids in the hands of the Separatists could potentially mean the extinction of the Jedi and the destruction of the Republic.
Ord Cestus is still a Republic planet, but with the Jedi Killer droids, the question is: for how long? Obi-Wan Kenobi and Kit Fisto are sent to Ord Cestus to take care of this problem, diplomatically if possible, by other means if not. Obi-Wan works with the leaders of Ord Cestus to try to resolve the JK problem peacefully, but Kit Fisto starts sowing the seeds for a rebellion in case diplomacy fails. With Fisto are a squadron of Clone Troopers to help set up the rebellion.
One of these Clone Troopers, A-98 (or, Nate) was engineered to be one of the elite. Nate is in a leadership position and we see the training of the Clone Troopers through his eyes and "The Cestus Deception" gives us our first chance to really get to see the life of a Clone Trooper. Steven Barnes could have easily given us a story that barely touched upon the Troopers, but he didn't, and the Clones have now been humanized in the Star Wars Universe.
"The Cestus Deception" was a rather good prequel era Star Wars novel. It expanded upon the Clone Wars, giving the reader bits more detail about what is happening and how many smaller events are making up the whole of the Clone Wars. Something else that "The Cestus Deception" did was also touched on in "Shatterpoint". There is a change in the nature and role of the Jedi. The Jedi are not soldiers and they do not fight wars. It is against their nature. When thrust into the Clone Wars, which the Jedi have no choice but to fight as they can, they are forced to do things that would not be considered very Jedi-like. In doing so, the Jedi individually have to struggle to maintain their balance in their actions. Obi-Wan and Kit Fisto are put into such a situation in "The Cestus Deception" and while their actions seem to be out of character, they struggle with what they are required to do. For me, this helps put this novel into a greater context of the Clone Wars and the affect of the wars on the Jedi.
The political intrigue and the sections on the Clone Troopers made "The Cestus Deception" a fascinating entry into the Star Wars universe. Like the other Star Wars novels, this was a fast paced story and was easy to read. For fans of the Star Wars novels, this is worth the time to read. For newcomers to the series, i would recommend being at least familiar with the two prequel films (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones) to give sufficient background.