The bad part about having finished the Hyllyard City scenes is that the Hyllyard City scenes are finished. No more Luke and Mara. Sad face.
Time for another confession. I really don’t care for the end of Heir to the Empire. The battle of Sluis Van, even though it features Wedge being awesome, seems very tacked on. And it’s very convenient that Luke, Han, Lando, and Wedge all manage to wind up there. Maybe that’s just my bias coming through, because I’ve been so focused on Luke and Mara and Karrde over the past several chapters. I know that Thrawn’s been preoccupied with Sluis Van and there’s still a lot of mystery over what the plan entails. Still, it does seems like a bit of a letdown after the book moves off Myrkr.
Which is exactly where Chapter 00 begins. Karrde is amazed that one man, without the Force, managed to defeat so many stormtroopers. Get used to it, Karrde my dear. We learn that Lando needs medical attention, and that Aves was close to shooting him for his supposed betrayal, but he’ll be okay.
Karrde knows it’s only a matter of time before Thrawn realizes what has happened, and that Karrde was involved. It’s time to leave Myrkr. I always laugh when he tells Aves to take Mara with him to start the evacuation, and to keep her away from Skywalker and Solo. The man is smart, you gotta give him that.
Karrde says farewell to Han and Luke. Han says he’ll still get Torve’s ship out of impoundment, and Karrde also asks for a cargo ship to help move around supplies. Han says they’re low on ships, but he’ll get back to him on that.
The Millennium Falcon leaves Myrkr. I love when Luke gets the Force back–and I love that Zahn treats the Force as such an innate part of who Luke is. It makes sense with Luke being so modest. They also chat a bit about Mara, as Han is the first Luke/Mara shipper. What? It’s true! He says “You and she seemed to be hitting it off pretty well there.” Or maybe Han is just a troll.
Luke learns that the person in charge of the Empire is some lost Grand Admiral and they make plans to head to Sluis Van. Lando needs medical attention, they need to fix Luke’s X-wing, and Han wants to see about getting a ship for Karrde. He also tells Luke it’s wise to stay away from Coruscant for as long as possible, as bad stuff is going down with the Council. Sluis Van will be the last bit of peace and quiet they’ll have for awhile.
Famous last words, right?
Right on cue, the Empire is on the way to Sluis Van. In the midst of preparations Thrawn asks what’s the latest word from Myrkr. The troops haven’t made a report in 14 hours, 2 hours longer than Thrawn had ordered. As Karrde predicted, Thrawn knows Skywalker was indeed on Myrkr and that Karrde was involved with helping him escape. Thrawn will deal with him later. For now he has to concentrate on Sluis Van.
Chapter 31 starts off awesomely, with the first point of view chapter of Wedge Antilles! We love Wedge. He’s awesome. I can just imagine Zahn thinking, “Hmm, I need a pilot for these Sluis Van scenes. Why not use that awesome guy who survived two Death Stars?” And because of that, we eventually got the X-Wing Series.
Anyway, Wedge is a little annoyed because Rogue Squadron has been assigned escort duty for a freighter on its way to Bpfassh. They’re used to escorting people, not ships. But, whatever–Wedge thinks that getting off Coruscant might not be a bad idea, what with all the squabbling between Ackbar and Fey’lya. He’s also glad he never took any of those promotions, as it kept him safely inside his X-wing and away from politics and middle management. I love that Zahn was the one who started this characterization, and that Stackpole and Allston ran with it.
So Wedge is hanging out at Sluis Van, waiting to leave. Wedge notices an A-class bulk freighter without any escort coming in for docking, and his combat sense immediately starts tingling. A scan shows the freighter is empty, but he’s still worried. He orders Rogue Squadron to their ships, just in case. Woo-hoo, Rogue Squadron! He can’t have them sitting around drinking tea all day. (Actual line from the novel.)
They get out just in time for the freighter to blow up with no warning. And TIE fighters start swarming out of the no-longer-empty cargo bay. The battle for Sluis Van has begun.
Okay, I know I was kind of blase about this whole battle scene, and I still kind of am, but that visual is still pretty impressive.
Han and Luke are just clearing the outer defense network when the explosion happens. Then, directly behind them, an Imperial Star Destroyer shows up. Actually, several Imperial ships. They’ve walked right into an attack, surprise surprise. Han remarks that the Empire must’ve attacked Bpfassh and the other unpronounceable planets in order to round up enough ships and make the attack worthwhile. Luke gets a bad feeling about the truncated cone-shaped ships Wedge reports seeing, but he dismisses the idea. Not even a Grand Admiral would be crazy to use those in battle.
Pellaeon and Thrawn are monitoring the battle when Thrawn notices the Millennium Falcon in the battle. Uh-oh. He tells Pellaeon to have the spacetrooper mole miners concentrate on Calamari Star Cruisers. Maybe Luke’s idea wasn’t so crazy after all.
We switch back to Wedge, in the middle of a dogfight with the Rogues. While I love pilot fiction, reading dogfights still sometimes makes my eyes glaze over. Watching dogfights, on the other hand, is super awesome and I hope we get some in Episode VII. I digress. (Can I just note really quickly that Zahn doesn’t name the other Rogues yet? I like to think this was his way of leaving storylines open for future authors, if he thought there would even be future Star Wars books.)
Then, one of the Star Cruisers fires on him. It’s one of Lando’s mole miners, alright. Han realizes that the Empire isn’t there to destroy the fleet–it’s there to steal it.
They immediately try to disable them. This is where Nanci’s eyes glaze over because while it’s good writing I just want to get past the dogfighting and find out what’s happened. Give me the box score, okay? (Now you know why it took me so long to read the X-Wing series. Thankfully my worries were unfounded.)
Blah blah blah, more strategy and dogfighting, and then Han has it figured out. The mole miners ran on remote at Nkllon, which is why the Empire had to jam the signal there. Lando comes into the cockpit just in time to give Han the command codes. They get the mole miners working again, and tear through all the ships.
This, of course, makes Pellaeon very nervous. Thrawn orders the fleet to withdraw, and this makes Pellaeon very confused. Thrawn explains that they haven’t been defeated, merely slowed down. They have Mount Tantiss, so victory is still assured. I dunno, Thrawn, you seemed awful intent on the Sluis Van attacks. And now you’re okay with the defeat? Well, okay. I guess. Pellaeon is relieved and once again wonders what the Battle of Endor would’ve been like with Thrawn in charge.
Chapter 32 starts after the battle has ended, and Han defending their decision to destroy the ships rather than let the Empire have them. He gets a comm call from Leia, who’s arrived back on Coruscant. She tells Han to get back right away; Admiral Ackbar was arrested on charges of treason and removed from command. I’ll give you one guess who’s responsible–that’s right, Borsk Freaking Fey’lya. I knew I hated that Bothan! (It’s funny; I always forget how much of a jerk Borsk is in this series. I know he’s a jerk from the X-Wing series and the New Jedi Order, but I always forget that Zahn made him a huge jackass right from the beginning.) Han and Luke say they’re on their way back to Coruscant. They don’t know how they’re going to stop Fey’lya from pushing them into another civil war, but they’ll think of something.
And there you have it, kids. The end of Heir to the Empire, all tied up nicely into a bow with lots of scraggly loose threads for the next novel to take care of. In our next installment I’ll do a review of the full novel with my comments, observations, and more squealing.