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Set in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, this book introduces a new evil element to the resources of the empire.
Luke, Leia, Lando and Chewbacca are desperately trying to locate Han Solo. Han was frozen in carbonite and taken by the bounty hunter Boba Fett. They feel that Fett will eventually take Han to Jabba the Hutt to collect the bounty, so they have been waiting on Tattooine for Fett to appear. Meanwhile, Darth Vader has pledged to the emperor to bring Luke to him alive so the emperor can force Luke's conversion to the Dark Side.
The emperor is also working with Prince Xizor. Xizor is a lizard-like humanoid that controls a galaxy spanning criminal organization called the Black Sun. Xizor harbors a secret grudge against Vader and thinks he has found a means of disgracing him in the eyes of the emperor. He means to accomplish this by the assassination of Luke Skywalker!
Although this was a good idea for a book plot, I thought it was rather poorly executed. Xizor is an interesting character, but the first 200 pages of the book meander along with a lot of repetitive scenes that don't really add anything to the plot. The action picks up in the last third of the book, but the book could have easily been 150 pages instead of 340. If you are the kind of person that needs to know everything about the Star Wars universe, then you should read it. Otherwise, spend your time reading some of the more well written Star Wars novels.
Reviewed by: Alan
Just after the battle of Endor and the destruction of the Emperor and the second death star, the Rebel Alliance intercepts a message from a remote Imperial outpost. They are under attack by reptilian aliens called the Ssi-ruuk. The mission of the aliens is total domination of the human race. The Ssi-ruuk use a process called "entechment" to drain human beings of their mental energy and use that energy to power their droids and ships' circuitry.
Leia sees this as an opportunity for the rebels to save Bakura and convince the planets inhabitants to join the Rebellion. But to defeat the Ssi-ruuk, the rebels must enter into an uneasy alliance with the Imperial forces based on Bakura. Even though the Imperial garrison on Bakura is almost defeated and will accept help from any source, can they be trusted not to betray the rebels after defeating the Ssi-ruuk?
Luke is severely injured from his battle with the Emperor. But when Obi-Wan Kenobi appears at the foot of his hospital bed to urge Luke to go to Bakura, Luke convinces the rebel leaders to let him command the rebel force sent to assist Bakura. Will Luke be healed sufficiently by the time they reach Bakura to command? Or will his weakened condition allow him to fall prey to the insidious Ssi-ruuk?
This was an enjoyable novel with plenty of action. The plot moves along swiftly and does not drag. The major focus of the book is on Luke, with less emphasis on Leia and Han. However, there is not a lot of character development in this book. It is a good continuation of the Star Wars saga and really drives home the point that despite the destruction of the second Death Star and the Emperor, the war with the Empire is far from over.
Reviewed by: Alan
Suddenly millions of people die, creating a huge disturbance in the Force. When it is felt by Luke and Leia, they both wonder if there is another super-weapon, like the Death Star, being used in the Galaxy. Then an explosion rocks the New Republic Senate chamber killing a number of senators. Calls are made for Leia's resignation as president of the New Republic. Even worse, some senators are trying to blame Han Solo for the explosion. Are these two incidents related, and if so, who is behind them?
While Leia desperately works to clear Han's name and find the source of this threat to the New Republic, Han and Chewbacca must travel to the asteroid cluster know as Smuggler's Run to investigate rumors of a sinister plot against the New Republic. Meanwhile, Luke attempts to track down Brakiss, a former student at his Jedi Academy who abandoned his training and turned his talents to the dark side. But Brakiss is just bait in a trap for Luke that has been launched by an evil master of the dark side. His dreams of galactic conquest include ruling as emperor with Luke at his side acting as his "Darth Vader." To accomplish this, Luke must be turned to the dark side...or die!
Rusch crafts an interesting, fast paced story without having to use the Empire as the usual source of problems for the New Republic. The main focus of the story is on Luke and his attempts to recover his lost student. During training, each student must confront their own inner fears and weaknesses, much like Luke had to in the cave during his training with Yoda. Not everyone passes this test and some students are lost to the dark side. Although Luke recognizes that each person is master of their own destiny and responsible for their own actions, he feels responsible and guilty for losing a student. Luke optimistically assumes that anyone can be turned back from the dark side, just as his father was at the end of his life. Is this a correct assumption? Rusch creates an interesting story to answer this question.
The side plot involving Han and Chewbacca provides some interesting action. There are no superfluous scenes or characters in this book and no parts of the book dragged. All in all, it is a well-crafted story that flowed smoothly. Star Wars fans will love this book and I believe even non-fans would find it engaging.
Reviewed by: Alan
Han and Leia's three children-Anakin and the twins Jaina and Jacen-are kidnapped. Leia is advised to wait for a ransom note, but since she can no longer sense the children through the force, she charges off in search of them. She discovers a disabled refugee ship whose children are also missing. The leader of the refugees is sure that Hethrir, a powerful imperial officer who was once a student of Darth Vader's, has them. Hethrir dreams of restoring the Empire to its former glory with himself as the new Emperor. Unaware of the kidnapping, Luke and Han are on the planet Crseih to investigate rumors of a lost group of Jedi. Crseih is suffering from odd quantum effects caused by the death of a nearby star. The star is steadily freezing itself into a perfect crystal. The crystallization process is causing a disruption in the Force, which dulls Luke's power. Han and Luke find a mysterious alien named Waru on the planet who seems to wield magical healing powers and who attracts a fanatical following of loyal believers. Is Waru the benevolent being he seems to be, or is there a darker force at work here?
There seems to be an almost endless supply of dark Jedis running around the galaxy that used to be attached to the Empire. Despite reusing this theme, the author carries it off very well in this novel. The two separate story lines converge at the end in a satisfying conclusion. Hethrir is an interesting villain and I always enjoy Luke and Leia going up against the dark side. The book once again proves that despite the defeat of the Empire, the repercussions of its death will send ripples throughout the galaxy for years to come. I found Waru to be more of a distraction than an integral part of the story, but it is always disconcerting to know that there are other strange beings from outside the galaxy that can threaten the safety of the New Republic. There is not a great deal of character development in this novel, but all the characters are familiar to us by now. A rapidly moving, well-constructed plot makes up for the lack of character development.
Reviewed by: Alan
Corran Horn is the grandson of a legendary, Corellian Jedi hero and he has latent force powers that have never been developed. Formerly an officer in the Corellian Security Force, Corran has distinguished himself as a pilot in Rogue Squadron, the X-wing fighter force that has plagued the Empire and pirate bands for so long. However, the latest pirate band to terrorize the universe seems unstoppable. Lead by an ex-Moff in an Imperial-class Star Destroyer, the pirates seem to have an uncanny knack for avoiding the traps set for them by the New Republic. Is there a security leak or is someone with the power of the dark side aiding the pirates?
Suddenly, Corran's wife disappears on a secret mission to locate the pirates' base. He begins to train at the Jedi academy that Luke Skywalker has just established, hopeful that developing his force powers will help him locate his wife. But disagreements with Luke over training methods cause him to leave the academy prior to finishing his training. He falls back on his security training and launches a dangerous plot to infiltrate the pirates and learn where his wife is being held. Can he fulfill his mission without abandoning himself to the dark side?
Corran Horn is an interesting character who has appeared before in the X-wing series. Stackpole does an excellent job of fleshing out his character in this novel. The first half of this book takes place at the Jedi academy and presents a view of the action in Jedi Academy Trilogy from Horn's perspective. You should read the trilogy first however, as the action in this book gives away a lot of that plot very quickly. The second half of the book contains fast paced action and exciting space combat sequences when Horn joins the pirates and goes on missions with them. Although I felt the book was rushed to a conclusion, it is still an interesting novel about a truly unique character. Hopefully, we will be seeing more of Corran Horn in upcoming novels.
Reviewed by: Alan
This novel takes place 8 years after Star Wars: A New Hope (the original movie). The New Republic has defeated the Emperor, but is still struggling to defeat the remnants of the Empire, which is still fighting on under the direction of various Grand Admirals and Warlords. The Hapes consortium is a group of sixty-three worlds that opposed the Empire, but have kept themselves closed off from the rest of the galaxy. They are rich, high-tech worlds that boast some of the finest military power in the galaxy. Now Queen Mother, leader of the consortium, has offered the military might of her worlds in support of the New Republic. But there is a price…Princess Leia must marry Prince Isolder, the Queen Mother’s dashing son. The majority of the galaxy cannot see how Princess Leia can refuse, including a jealous Han Solo.
Seeing himself as unworthy of Princess Leia’s hand, especially in the face of such a worthy adversary, Han Solo decides to take a major risk. Winning the planet Dathomir in a high-stakes sabacc game, Han kidnaps Leia and whisks her away for a romantic getaway to his newly acquired world in an attempt to win her heart again. Fearing strong reprisals from the Queen Mother, Luke Skywalker forms an alliance with Prince Isolder to pursue Leia and Han and bring them back. But the planet Dathomir presents a few challenges of its own, including an Imperial prison, a group of force-trained witches and an Imperial warlord’s shipyard. Can our intrepid heroes prevail once again?
The problem faced by the author of a Star Wars novel is that he must use the same familiar characters that we have all grown to love. To compensate, the author needs to develop an interesting plot line and unique settings for the novel. Wolverton does this admirably. The planet Dathomir is breathtaking while at the same time being extremely deadly. In the witches, he has created formidable foes (and friends?) for our heroes. The Imperial troops are the usual overconfident and lovably inept foes we have come to expect in the Star Wars novels. Most of the character development focuses around Han and Leia (not surprisingly) and their coming to grips with the fact that they actually are in love with each other. We are also treated to a few insights about Luke and his views on the Force, which set the stage for his creation of the Jedi academy in future volumes. The action is non-stop and, refreshingly, is not an endless series of space battles. However, the one space battle that is described in detail (when Han and Leia arrive at Dathomir), is cleverly done with Han pulling off one of the amazing stunts that kept him alive as a smuggler all these years. This novel is a solid addition to the Star Wars universe and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Reviewed by: Alan
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