I’ll go ahead and fess up before we even start this. I like these books. Actually, I love these books. In fact, these books have a very special place in my heart because they are the reason why I tumbled head first into the Expanded Universe. Dark Apprentice is the first Star Wars book I stumbled upon after my grandmother bought me two random Young Jedi Knights books. The YJK had already made me fall in love with the Solo twins, Tenel Ka, and Lowbacca and when nine-year-old Bria picked up Dark Apprentice for the first time, there was no turning back. I do recognize that these books certainly have their faults but I could never hate them. Instead, I am forever grateful to Kevin J. Anderson for writing books that were my gateway drug. Therefore you have been warned of my nostalgia for this trilogy. Onward!
In retrospect, it’s possible that this trilogy is what started my “Han and Leia are the worst parents ever” way of thinking. I do, however, make this comment with love for the Solo family to my friends. But seriously: why would you ever let these two raise your daughter? (I’m looking at you, Tenel Ka.) Somewhere out there about ohhhh 30 years farther into the time line, Winter is shaking her head and saying “It’s not my fault” for what happened with the Solo children.
Okay, I shall stop ragging on the Solo’s questionable parenting skills. For now.
The subtitle of this book should probably be “Han Solo Has A Series Of Really Bad Days”. Honestly, it takes some serious talent to go from getting tossed into the spice mines of Kessel to stumbling into a secret Imperial research facility and being subjected to interrogation. On the other hand, he does manage to escape intact and with a new sidekick. Shut up, I love Kyp Durron. He gets the long con character development over the course of the EU and I love it so freaking much.
As for Luke, it’s about darn time he decided to try and rebuild the Jedi Order! I get that he’s worried about having a new Vader on his hands but I would’ve thought that Luke would’ve gotten over his worries there earlier. But then again, I’m always surprised when Leia isn’t more trained in the Jedi arts than she is.
The blob races, on the other hand, make me laugh because of how ridiculous they are. Really? Blobs? You didn’t even try on that one, KJA. Aside from that though, I find the book to still be an enjoyable read.
I really love that KJA made the decision early on to not name all of the members of the Jedi Academy’s Inaugural Class. For starters, it allows for books like I, Jedi and also it’s great that he left room for new characters in the future to have that as a part of their background.
Poor Wedge Antilles though. I can’t really defend the menial tasks he gets assigned with these books and I’m not even touching the Qwi thing. I’ve mentally decided that he’d been injured in some sort of combat mission prior to this book which is why he’d been given ground control things to do. Or else he was on spice. You know what? That’s how I’m going to excuse any and all out of character actions in the Expanded Universe from now on. HOLD ON WEDGE. WINTER WILL BE THERE SOON TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE DANGERS OF SPICE.
Speaking of Winter, we’re going to talk about the giant fish in the room, aren’t we? I’m sorry, that was a terrible joke but I’m keeping it in anyways. One of the wonderful things about reading these books when I was 9 is that the whole Ackbar/Winter subtext completely flew over my head and all I saw there was a beautiful friendship. Now that I’m 23? I do the mature thing and stick my fingers in my ears and sing “LA LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU” every time it comes up. If I don’t recognize it then it can’t exist. Done. Issue settled.
And then there’s Kyp. Oh Kyp. You’re going down a path I cannot follow. Stupid Sith Lords always messing things up. Kyp started out as a good kid. He really did. I’d say that at least he hasn’t blown up a planet yet but a nebula wasn’t really a good start…
Oh. And every time Lando tries to hit on Mara, I laugh hysterically. Gold star, buddy, you tried.
Champions of the Force
Ohhhhh Kyp. Kyp, baby, you try so hard. But then you just mess things up. Like a planet. BUT YOU TRIED. You can join Prince Zuko on a quest to regain your honor.
Although Cilghal was introduced in the previous book, I decided to talk about her here because one of the aspects that I really love about her character is the Jedi healing ability. It’s nice to see a character who embraces the “not warriors” part of the Jedi job description sometimes.
Even though I know that the scene where Jacen uses Luke’s lightsaber to defend his body is somewhat ridiculous, it didn’t feel overly so when I was reading this time. A little bit, sure, but Luke was clearly working through Jacen. It could just be me but I think that it actually managed to work better in practice than it does in theory. (Strange, I know.)
Actually, the thing that bothers me the most about these books is that KJA keeps referring to Winter as “Leia’s personal servant”. I believe that aide, assistant, or close friend would all be much better descriptors there. Regardless, she kicks a lot of butt when the Imperials attack Anoth and she defends Anakin.
I do get a chuckle every time from the Maw scientists with their inability to do anything that’s not in their in case of emergency guide. You almost have to feel bad for the stormtroopers who were left behind and who get to deal with their floundering. They have to follow procedure. It’s just very amusing to read.
Overall, the book feels a little weaker than the others in the trilogy, mostly because this one is spent tying up a lot of different plotlines: Exar Kun, Mon Mothma’s sickness, Anoth, Admiral Daala, and possibly another that I’m forgetting. It does partially make up for it with the Maw/Kessel/Death Star/Daala battle at the very end but it doesn’t have that same sort of tense climax as The Last Command.
A part of me is surprised every time I start reading this book and it’s in first person. The best part, of course, is that it works really well.
Obligatory Tosche Station request to let Stackpole write We, Jedi about Valin and Jysella. This just goes to show that the diversity in the Expanded Universe when it comes to genres and writing techniques is definitely a positive. Also, I think that this is the thinnest almost 600 page book I’ve ever seen. Has anyone else noticed that the paper is super thin?
I mentioned earlier that one of the really great things about the Jedi Academy Trilogy is how KJA deliberately left some of the members of the inaugural class unmentioned to allow for other stories to be told and I, Jedi takes that opening and runs with it. Occasionally, it does feel like a bit of a stretch when Stackpole comes up with reasons why Corran wasn’t present or why he doesn’t say anything at a meeting but overall, it works awesomely.
One of the definite strengths of the first half of the books is that we get to actually see more of Luke teaching at the Academy and we also get to see more of the students who didn’t hop on the dark side express. Kam Solusar is one of those characters who definitely benefited from more page time. And then, of course, we get lots more Mara Jade. I like to think that if Kyp is the head Mean Girl of the Jedi Academy that Mara and Corran are definitely the Janis and Damien. “That’s Corran Horn Keiran Halcyon. He’s almost too Corellian to function!”. Jokes aside, I really do love the friendship between Mara and Corran. Getting to see more of her brief stint at the Academy is nice as is a more detailed look into why she ended up leaving. But then again, I’m not really one to turn down more Mara Jade.
Other small things I love about this book include the entire time that Corran returns to Corellia and visits Rostek Horn and also when Corran flies against the Rogues and he gets to “see” how his squadron mates think. If Tycho’s thought process doesn’t make you respect him then I don’t know what will. Also, I’d like to point to almost that entire section of the book as proof that cockpit skills are about way more than Force ability and that they are unique to each individual and that people should not underestimate non-Force users nor overestimate Force users when it comes to the flying. Rant over.
The one negative comment I’ll make is that after Tavira in this book and Daala and then all the ‘Isard totally slept with Palpatine’ hints in the past groups of books? I’m sick of female Imperial villains who apparently used to sex to at least help them get to positions of power. I’m not trying to slut-shame at all. I just… dislike that this became a thing especially since we didn’t see it occur with any of the male villains during the era. On the other hand, Tavira is a pretty effective villain for this particular story especially given how much we’re in Corran’s head for the entire story.
Also, once you know that Stackpole was writing this book and coordinating things with Zahn while he wrote the Hand of Thrawn books, so many things snap into place and make sense. SO MANY THINGS.
And that brings us to the end of the Jedi Academy books but do not weep or despair because we’ve got something very special in store for you. Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll be live streaming as I read my way through The Crystal Star. Fair warning: my commentary as I read will not be family-friendly vocabulary so watch/listen at your own risk. I’ll announce the livestream on my twitter, @chaosbria. Until next time!