The Big Problem with Heir to the Jedi

Heir to the JediI cannot talk about Heir to the Jedi without revealing spoilers. I’m too emotionally invested in Luke Skywalker’s life. If you’d like to read a non-spoiler opinion, let me direct you to Bria’s review over here. However, if you’ve already read the book, or just don’t care about being spoiled for the end, proceed at your own caution.

(I’m serious.

Major spoilers abound after the cut.

You’ve been warned.)

I wanted to like Heir to the Jedi. I really, really did. It’s about Luke Skywalker, it’s by a new author, and it’s written in first person point of view. Only one other Star Wars novel — I, Jedi by Mike Stackpole — was written in first person, and I love that book. The idea of reading Luke’s first person POV really intrigued me, as did some of the early chatter saying this was going to be really funny. Wait a minute — you mean to tell me someone actually remembered that Luke is funny and not just a morose, serious Jedi? Count me in!

As you might be able to predict by the title of this post and the preceding paragraph, I did not like this book as much as I’d hoped. It suffers from two fatal flaws of writing: it’s dull and has poor pacing. It took me almost a month to finish, which is saying a lot considering it’s not very long and it stars my favorite Star Wars character ever. I just couldn’t get into it. Until the major plot started several chapters in, I found myself wondering, “what is this book about anyway?”

Now that all these books are “canon”, I can’t complain too much about a boring book that’s easily ignored. If it wasn’t for publication date, Heir to the Jedi would be considered Legends, just like the other two previously released “Empire and Rebellion” books, Razor’s Edge and Honor Among Thieves. Because it came out out when it did, however, Heir to the Jedi was promoted to canon status. I found myself worrying about the precedents this book might set — that Luke would think he shouldn’t have attachments, or that he would know too much about the old Jedi Order, or a myriad of other things that would contradict my interpretation of his character and make me dread The Force Awakens.

Nothing like that happens, though, and until the second to last chapter I was content to shrug my shoulders and call the book enjoyable but forgettable. That’s not to say the book is all bad. Luke’s characterization was good. I liked how Hearne used Artoo. And there is a wonderful scene that shows off Luke’s piloting abilities and had me drooling a bit. (Of course, the cover is fabulous.)

But what happens at the end of the book sets a horrible precedent for Star Wars going forward. You see, throughout the book Luke and Nakari Kelen, the female lead, spark up a relationship that’s kind of adorable. If I had been more emotionally invested in the book, I’d probably be writing fanfic about them right now. Nakari had a lot going for her: she had a ton of spark, she was competent while still having flaws, and she was a human woman of color (who are sadly lacking as major characters in the Galaxy Far, Far Away). For all those reasons and more, Nakari Kelen was a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe. She was one of the reasons I was ready to tell people to go ahead and read the book, despite it being a little dull.

Notice my use of the past tense when taking about Nakari. There’s a reason for that.

She dies at the end of the book.

I’d heard the spoiler before finishing the book, and even though I was prepared for it, I still cringed when I read that scene. Then I got angry. Really angry. I mean, are we seriously going to start out the new canon by fridging yet another female character? And not just a random female character but another one of Luke Skywalker’s love interests? And a woman of color to boot?

I’ll spell it out for you: T-R-O-P-E. Multiples of them. And not good ones, either.

What year is this? Did no one inform Kevin Hearne that all of Luke’s love interests in Legends died, or had something tragic happen to them? Let’s recap for the unfamiliar:

  • Mara Jade (they almost lived happily ever after until she was killed by Jacen Solo/Darth Caedus to further Luke’s manpain and advance Jacen to the level of Sith, not that I’m bitter or anything)
  • Callista (lost her ability to use the Force, and was later absorbed by Abeloth and killed by Luke)
  • Akanah (was also absorbed by Abeloth and also killed by Luke)
  • Gaeriel Captison (parted amicably with Luke after The Truce at Bakura, later returned and was killed during the first Corellian insurrection)
  • Shira Brie/Lumiya (defeated by Luke, returned during the Second Galactic Civil War and was killed by Luke after he assumed she murdered Mara)

Those are just Luke’s major love interests. And now we can add Nakari Kelen to that list.

I once wrote a humorous fanfic about Luke being a serial killer in order to make fun of how ridiculous it all is. And it would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad. The new canon had a chance to start with a clean slate, and bring back awesome characters and plot points and locations from Legends. Instead it brought back Luke’s love interests dying, and fridging awesome female characters, and treating POCs like crap.

Excuse me while I go roll my eyes really really hard.

The only positive thing I can say about Nakari dying is that Luke didn’t fall into despair afterwards, succumb to the dark side, or think that this is proof he should never be in a relationship. The section where he senses her death and processes his grief is actually very well written. I just wish it hadn’t been at the expense of Nakari. Nakari’s death is pointless, doesn’t serve the plot at all, and is uncharacteristic with what we’ve learned about her character. I understand that perhaps Hearne and the Story Group wanted to make clear that Nakari won’t return in later books or even as Luke’s wife in The Force Awakens.  But she didn’t need to die in order to do that. She and Luke could have mutually decided not to pursue a relationship at the end of the book. Or perhaps they had some kind of relationship but it eventually fizzled out, because not all relationships last. Perhaps she survived and helped Luke process his grief in a different way. Any of those ideas could have worked and the book still ended the same way.

IT’S TWO THOUSAND AND FREAKING FIFTEEN. What message does this convey to the Star Wars audience — especially when a lack of diversity in all aspects is coming under scrutiny lately, and after the Legends reboot rendered so many great female characters non-canon? Nakari was a human woman of color and having her as a major character (and a love interest for Luke Skywalker, the hero of the freaking galaxy) was really, really important. 

And fridging her is not okay.

Inside: Nakari chilling with a bunch of other Star Wars ladies.

Inside: Nakari chilling with a bunch of other Star Wars ladies.

5 thoughts on “The Big Problem with Heir to the Jedi

  1. It's worth noting that no where in this article did Nanci say "It's not okay to kill a female POC ever" or that the story/author were racist for killing Nakari. Yet the overwhelming response on Twitter is along the lines of "It's racist/misandrist to say you can't kill a character just because they're female/POC."

    What Nanci has said, here, is that it's kinda gross to kill a female POC to advance a white man's pain/story. Because it's a tired trope that people like Gail Simone have been poking fun of for YEARS. She's the one that coined the term "fridging" ages ago. So that's why we get annoyed/upset when stuff like this happens, because it's such an antiquated and problematic trope.

    • Especially when there are any number of other things that could have given Luke a brush with the dark side. Like Ben dying. Or Owen and Beru dying. Or Biggs dying. But nope, it has to be this awesome woman he just met.

  2. I totally agree with you here. The banter between the two was one of the few things I enjoyed about what was a dull, episodic roller coaster plot. I knew they'd have to write her own at the end somehow, and the more lovey-dovey they got, the more I feared it would be by killing her off (once her ship was destroyed, I was almost sure of it). It was lazy, insulting to the character, and totally pointless for Luke's journey.

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