Once upon a time, there was a girl named Nanci.
When Nanci was 11 years old, she saw Star Wars for the first time. And promptly fell in love with Luke Skywalker. She loved everything about him: his farm boy earnestness, his hot-shot piloting, his skills with a lightsaber. She loved that he was brash and courageous and kind and loyal and optimistic even in the face of certain death. She loved everything about him — yes, even the “Tosche Station” line.
(Yes, she did choose the name for this podcast and blog.)
People told her that one day, she’d grow up and stop loving Luke so much. That Luke was a character for kids to look up to, while Han is the character adults loved.
That never happened. Nanci stayed firmly on “Team Luke” despite all arguments to the contrary. (His relationship with Mara Jade helped solidify her lifelong devotion.)
But even so, things started going sour.
The Expanded Universe lost its luster. Luke stopped being the character Nanci believed him to be. Even amazing one-offs, like Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, weren’t enough to make Nanci happy.
She still loved Luke, even if he’d lost his way in the Expanded Universe.
Then the reboot happened.
(Spoilers for the book and some rumors about TFA under the cut.)
Everything we knew about Luke’s legacy — helping form the New Republic, rebuilding the Jedi Order, and starting a family of his own — was thrown into question. Rumors flew about Luke’s role in The Force Awakens — that he’d be a hermit with little screen time. That Han had the biggest role of the Big Three. That Luke never got married or a had a family or even started the Jedi Order.
We still don’t know if any of those things are true. Luke Skywalker at the time of TFA is still a huge mystery. All we know is that Kathleen Kennedy asked J.J. Abrams a simple question — Who is Luke Skywalker? — and that got him to say yes to directing the film. We know that the second teaser trailer uses Luke’s lines from Return of the Jedi and implies that family is still very important in the continuation of the saga. We also know that Luke will have a very sweet beard.
That brings us to today, and Jason Fry’s “Journey to the Force Awakens” novel — The Weapon of a Jedi.
A novel I fell completely and utterly in love with.
Weapon is one of three middle grade novels that came out on Force Friday centering on each of the Big Three. At first, the announcement for these books made me go “meh.” We just had Big Three novels set in the Original Trilogy era: Razor’s Edge, Honor Among Thieves, and Heir to the Jedi — a novel that sadly did not meet my expectations. However, one tidbit about the Luke novel jumped out at me and grabbed my attention.
It’s written by Jason Fry.
It’s no secret I love Jason Fry’s work, from The Jupiter Pirates series to the Servants of the Empire quartet. And to have him writing my favorite character ever? SIGN ME UP. Of course, I was a little trepidatious. For some reason, it’s really easy for authors to get Luke totally wrong. But I had faith.
To use a baseball analogy, fitting for this author, Jason Fry knocked it out of the park.
Weapon is short and to the point, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a punch. The story starts off with Luke and Wedge Antilles on a mission with Commander Narra (another Expanded Universe purge survivor). WE GET TO SEE LUKE AND WEDGE FLY TOGETHER. THEY’RE BROS. LUKE SAYS THAT THE FORCE HAVING HIS BACK IS ALMOST AS GOOD AS WEDGE HAVING HIS BACK.
Immediately I knew this was going to be a fantastic novel.
Luke is then sent off on another mission with Artoo and Threepio, and that’s when things start to go wrong. He’s stranded on Devaron, and the Force leads him to an old Jedi temple. There he learns more about the Force, and eventually faces his biggest fight yet. It’s a short, compact story fit for a middle grade novel, but that doesn’t mean it lacks nuance or complexity. (Jason Fry is a master of using really complicated ideas in his young reader stories, as evidenced by his other books.)
The scenes with Luke learning to use the Force blew me away. A lot of people (myself included) have claimed Luke during the Original Trilogy era (especially before he trains as a Jedi in Empire) is boring. That he doesn’t really become a complex hero until after he learns about Vader being his father. I think most of that is because we already know the story’s end points. Nothing huge can happen for Luke. He’s still pretty much a novice Jedi in Empire. But somehow this novel manages to portray Luke as both highly skilled in and highly ignorant of the Force within the span of a few pages, and it makes perfect sense for what’s happening in Luke’s overall story. Mostly, I loved that Luke was allowed to be frustrated and upset, but then turn calm and confident. It showed immense growth over a short number of pages.
I can’t talk about this book without spoiling the framing story. All three of the OT novels come with a prologue and epilogue set during The Force Awakens era. The framing story of Weapon doesn’t include Luke, which is telling in and of itself. They’re truly banking on the mystery surrounding his character. Instead, Jessika Pava (Blue Three), who I’m assuming is a pilot in Poe Dameron’s squad, meets See-Threepio while on droid duty. When she learns that Threepio knows Luke and Artoo, Jessika channels me and freaks the frack out.
“Do I know Luke Skywalker?” Jessika asked incredulously, scrambling to her feet. “Of course I know him! Well, I mean, I’ve never met him, but everybody knows Luke Skywalker. He defeated the Emperor, and they say he’s the best star pilot in the galaxy.”
OH, MY HEART.
In those few lines, every fear I’ve had about Luke’s role in TFA was smashed into oblivion. And that’s not even getting into the promise Luke makes at the end of the book:
“I will become a Jedi. I will rebuild the Order. And one day I will come here again. I swear it on the memory of Obi-Wan Kenobi. And my father. And all the Jedi who walked these halls.”
Cue intense flailing from which I will never recover.
Even disregarding the framing story, this book is everything I wanted it to be. Just like Luke himself, it gave me hope. We’re living in a brave new world of Star Wars — new post-Return of the Jedi EU, clothing for women and girls on sale at stores like Target and Kohl’s, Star Wars on TV and a new movie every year.
And Luke Skywalker — the Luke I fell in love with so many years ago — is still there. He’s still the beacon of light. He’s still the new hope for the galaxy. His stories will stand the test of time.
We might not know exactly what’s to come for Luke in TFA, but I know that we — and the legacy of Luke Skywalker — are in good hands.
(Also, the Phil Noto art inside the book is AMAZING.)