Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shadows of the Empire: The Review

This book chronicles the timespan between ESB and ROTJ.  The very beginning of the book starts off very promising for Han and Leia fans.  Leia is consumed with thoughts of finding Han and contemplating her feelings for him.  As a Han/Leia fan I was pretty excited by this.  After all, if Han couldn’t be in the book, at least we could read about Leia missing him and wanting to find him.  Alas, that storyline quickly evaporates into something else entirely and it is such an abrupt change that I actually marked the page of the book where she totally stops thinking about Han altogether.  It’s page 99.

So then we get to what this book is really all about.  Basically it’s about Vader’s quest to find Luke - his son and Luke’s quest to become a Jedi and resist the pull of his father and the dark side.  I’m not saying it’s not a good book.  There were some redeeming qualities to it.  I’m just saying it’s not much about finding Han or anything like that.

The basic plot revolves around Vader and Prince Xizor, head of the crime syndicate Black Sun and their competing attentions for favor with the Emperor.  Xizor has a personal vendetta against Vader because the Dark Lord of the Sith had killed his entire family during some experiment gone awry.  Seriously, how many families did Darth Vader tear apart?  Anyway, both Vader and Xizor have the Emperor’s ear and they secretly pit against each other, spying and reporting on the other’s activities.  Xizor, having found out that Luke is Vader’s son, decides his revenge against Vader will be achieved by killing Luke Skywalker.

As I said, we start off with Leia completely consumed with thoughts/plans of rescuing Han.  She and Chewie are on Tatooine trying to find out about Boba Fett’s whereabouts.  I actually enjoyed the subtle relationship developing between the Princess and the Wookiee throughout this book.  Leia isn’t exactly pleased to have the ‘walking carpet’ as a permanent shadow, but you can tell the two are bonding in their own way. 

When she was still thinking of Han, Leia thought this:  “Leia liked Chewie okay, but here was another reason to find and free Han – so he could call the Wookiee off.”

There was a cute part while Leia and Chewie were sitting at a bar together waiting on Lando.  Chewie continued to ward off would be suitors that were interested in Leia.  She finally tells him that she can take care of herself and does so when the next guy comes around, finally having to point a loaded blaster in his face to help him get the hint.  Chewie merely chuckled at her technique.  Then this remark ensued:  “Nobody likes an obnoxious Wookiee,” she said.  But she smiled.  That point went to Chewie and she was woman enough to admit it.

I guess what I really like about this, as I thought about it, is that anyone who wanted to really build a life with Han Solo would have to be able to get along with Chewie.  And I don’t think just any woman could do it.  I never doubted Leia could/would, I guess it was just nice to get a glimpse of it.

While Leia is still fixated on rescuing Han, they head to a planet where Boba Fett’s ship is supposed to be docked.  They hook up with an old buddy of Lando’s called Dash Rendar, who acts every bit the mercenary that Han had in Episode IV and he is a crackerjack pilot.  Okay, maybe Han is in this book?  Anyway, right before they takeoff on the dangerous errand of tracking down Fett, Leia thinks this:

She was about to risk her life again, and that wasn’t something you got used to doing, even when it was necessary.  That she was going to risk it to rescue Han somehow made it worse.  That she would be that…vulnerable, to want something – no someone – so badly was scarier still.  She could justify putting herself at risk for the Alliance; that was of galactic importance.  But to do it for the love of a man…?

If you liked that, read it again, because we’re getting pretty close to page 99. 

Okay, so Boba Fett evades them and they meet back up with Luke only to find out that someone rigged a droid on one of the Alliance’s X-Wings to try and kill him.  This is page 99, folks.  This is where the real story starts and from here on out the only thing Leia is worried about is finding out who is trying to kill Luke. 

Luke is sent to Tatooine to keep an eye out for Boba Fett and to build his lightsaber.  Leia pays Dash Rendar to keep an eye out on Luke without Luke knowing.  Leia deduces that Black Sun may be able to help them find out who is trying to kill Luke so she, Lando and Chewie head to Rodia to try and get a meeting with the head of the crime syndicate.  Oh, and during all of this there is stuff going on between the Vader, the Emperor and Xizor.

While biding their time at a casino waiting for their contact, Lando and Leia have some moments as well.  Such as this, when Leia tells Lando that she doesn’t gamble:

Lando grinned.

“Something funny?”

“Princess, you’re the biggest gambler I’ve ever met.  But you don’t risk money, you risk your neck.”

Leia had to grin a little at that.  He had a point.

Okay, so you guys know how I ‘tabby’ parts of my book.  Well, from here (page 119) I don’t have another tabby until page 243.  There is some stuff that happens in there.  Like, somebody arrives at Ben’s house on Tatooine and tries to kill Luke (hired by Xizor).  Dash Rendar saves him and Luke finds out that Leia hired a ‘babysitter’ for him and is not very pleased.

Vader and the Emperor and Xizor all in different ways work on a trap where they deliberately release plans to the new Death Star to fool the Rebels via the Bothan spy network.  This subplot explains Mon Mothma’s line in ROTJ, because ‘many of Bothans die’ during this whole escapade.  Anyway, Luke and Dash receive a message droid intended for Leia (where her password is Alderaan, really?  Who couldn’t guess that?) that is from the Bothans about said plans.  Luke and Dash head to Bothawui where they meet with the Bothans and agree to intercept the plans by attacking a fertilizer freighter that is secretly transporting the computer terminal with the plans.

With some difficulty, they capture the computer and then Luke brings it to Kothlis to be analyzed by more Bothans.  Luke sends Dash to find Leia on Rodia and tell her about the captured plans.  Meanwhile, Leia, Lando and Chewie meet with Guri (Xizor’s human replica droid (HRD)) to try and gain admittance to Black Sun.

Dash catches up with Leia and tells the group about the plans.  Leia and Chewie decide to go with Guri to meet with Xizor and vow to meet up with Luke when they are done.  Meanwhile, Luke gets captured by bounty hunters and is being held prisoner.  Oh, and in order to sneak into Coruscant, Leia is given the bounty hunter outfit that she will use in ROTJ to infiltrate Jabba’s Palace.

Okay, so now we get to the really interesting stuff of this book.  Old Prince Xizor.  This guy is a real horn dog.  Before he meets Leia he studies captured holo-images of her at every angle and dreams of what he is going to do to her.  They make it very clear in the book that his HRD Guri takes care of all of his needs in every way when needed.  But apparently he doesn’t need his droid very often because he exudes these pheromones that act like a drug on humanoid women that makes them find him irresistible.  Dun, dun, dun.  In walks Leia to this plot.

That next tabby I told you about (p. 243) is where Leia meets Xizor.  She falls an unknowing victim to his pheromones and has a strong reaction to him.  This first meeting has Chewbacca present and nothing happens.  After they take Xizor’s leave for Leia to dress for dinner, she thinks this:

What she had felt, what she had wanted to do, well, that wasn’t like her at all.  Besides she was in love with Han. 

Well, at least she’s thinking about Han again…right?  Hold on to your breeches, it gets better.

First, I’d like to point out that while Leia is dressing and contemplating her situation she is having a conversation with her subconscious.  This ‘voice’ sounds an awful like Han to me and not Leia.  It uses the word ‘sister’ while she chastises herself and I like to think that maybe that was Han trying to talk some sense into her from his carbonite prison.  But too bad Leia, as usual, talks back.  A little something like this:

And her little voice said, Really, sister, who do you think you’re fooling here?  You want to look good for him, admit it.

Yes, all right, so what?  She wasn’t married.  There wasn’t any law against flirting a little, was there?  She wasn’t going to do anything with the head of a criminal underground, now, was she?  What could it hurt to dress up a little?

Well, that little argument didn’t go well.  Good thing she had Chewie with her because when she came out of her suite dressed for dinner, this happened:

He stared at Leia.  Turned his head to one side quizzically.

“What are you staring at?  I put on some clean clothes, that’s all.”

Chewie said nothing.

Leia felt a sudden stab of guilt.  Chewie and Han were like brothers.  She hadn’t done anything wrong, but she felt like she had, so she tried to explain it:  “Look, we need Xizor’s help.  There’s no reason I can’t look nice; maybe it’ll throw him offguard.”

Still silent, Chewie raised one eybrow.

Leia felt herself flush.  “Who is the diplomat here, anyway?  I don’t tell you how to fly, you don’t tell me how to conduct interviews.”

Finally the Wookiee said something.  He punctuated it with a wave of one hand at the door, then at Leia.  She didn’t understand the comment, but she had a pretty good idea of what he was trying to convey:  Chewie didn’t approve.  Would Han?

Yay for Chewie!  Unfortunately, Leia just snaps at him from here and then has an entire internal dialogue where she reminds herself that she is not married nor committed and she even brings up Han’s noncommittal answer on the platform of “I know”.  Things are not looking good here, well, maybe they are for Xizor…

Okay, when she sees Xizor he is wearing this sheer material and I’m pretty sure the book pretty much states that she could see his wing wang.  You be the judge:

He was big under the thin cloth, hard and muscular, and if there were any visible anatomical differences between him and basic stock humans, she couldn’t see them.

Moving along…

She’s spiraling under his control, electric sparks at his touch and all that jazz and then this happens:

She tried to bring an image of Han to mind.  But all of a moment, she couldn’t see his face.  It was as if she had somehow forgotten what he looked like

Doesn’t this exact same thing happen to Leia in COPL?  How many times can this happen to the same woman?  I guess in this instance we can blame the drug-like pheromones, but still.

He kisses her and she returns it with a ‘fire of her own’.  And then this:

Would this be so bad?  To let him continue?  To save Luke?

Xizor moved his mouth from hers and put his lips on her neck, slid down her shoulder.  The dress’s strap fell off on that side.

Not just to save Luke.  To enjoy this to the fullest, did she want to do that?

She did not.  No.

But she did want it, at the same time.

His hands moved on her.  Oh, yes…

And that’s how that chapter ends.  Yep.

But, have no fear.  Chewie breaks everything up and snaps Leia out of it.  She soon realizes that she was under the influence of some drug but she is still unsure of how Xizor is drugging her.  Anyway, she does think of Han once she is thinking clearly again.  First she asks for his forgiveness for being so weak and then this:

When she saw him again – well, if she saw him again – maybe she would tell him about it.  Then again, maybe not.  No point in upsetting him, right?

Okay, so now she and Chewie are on to Xizor and they have also figured out that it was him that was trying to kill Luke.  Chewie escapes to get help and Leia does get to knee Xizor in the nuts.  Here's a little visual for you:


Luke has also escaped the bounty hunters just in time to avoid being captured by Vader.  So now, Luke, the droids, Chewie and Lando are headed to Coruscant to rescue Leia.

When they arrive on Coruscant, Luke leaves the droids on the Falcon and instructs them to fly it if they have to, to which Lando says this:

“There’s a happy thought,” Lando said.  “Han knew that, it would thaw him out faster than a laser torch.”

While heading Leia’s way, Luke is able to reach out to her to let her know that they are coming.  Vader, who is also on Coruscant, feels the ripple in the Force from their connection and senses his son, but he senses him in two different places.  He is confused and thinks he is experiencing some kind of ‘echo’ in the Force since there couldn’t possibly be anyone else still alive that was as strong as Luke in the Force.  Of course, he is sensing Leia.

Alright, well, after the rescuers drudge through the underground sewer everybody ends up meeting up again when they finally find Leia.  Leia is able to outfox the foxy HRD droid Guri, too.  While planning their attack, Leia gets the thermal detonator that will also play a role in saving Han in ROTJ.  Finally, as they are trying to escape they meet up with Xizor and have a standoff during which Luke pulls out another thermal detonator.  Xizor agrees to let them go, knowing that he can chase them.  Lando sends yet another thermal detonator down the trash chute which will totally destroy Xizor’s castle.  They have 5 minutes to escape and everybody scatters – including Guri and Xizor and all of his guards.

So, during this desperate escape, Luke decides to dawdle in a hand-to-hand combat with Guri in some kind of test of strength.  Really?  Anyhow, he wins in the end but then, of course, lets her go. 

Threepio and Artoo do end up flying the Falcon and I have to say, it’s pretty funny.  Han was probably turning over in his carbonite!  And when Leia finds out she just keeps repeating, “I can’t believe you let the droids fly the ship.”  Until Luke finally asks her to stop saying that.

Once back in the Falcon, all the group has to do now is get off-planet.  There was one part I thought was cute, when they came under attack and Luke sends Leia and Chewie to man the guns, Leia says, “You heard the man, furball.  You want dorsal or ventral?”  I just thought her calling him furball was cute and kindof showed where their relationship was as they had definitely been through a lot together at this point.

Of course, the Falcon escapes but not before Dash dies and Vader destroys Xizor’s skyhook, presumably with him in it.  Although, it is left with a shadow of a doubt as to if he escaped.  The book ends with Luke making the recording for Jabba and sending the droids to his palace.

Okay, so overall this book was an enjoyable read.  Prince Xizor was an interesting villain and if you are a Luke fan they dwell a lot on his journey to becoming a Jedi, which I do actually like to read about.  

If you are strictly Han and Leia?  You probably aren’t missing anything much, although as I said, it does cover some of the growing relationship between Leia and Chewie.  

 Han and Leia factor, IMO, would be about a 3 Stars.


  1. Wing wang? Really? Not that I didn't wonder the same thing at that point, but I've never heard it described in those terms and it definitely made me laugh :)

    I read this book when it first came out and again before I wrote a story close to 10 years ago now that involves Xizor coming back. I had forgotten just how little time they actually spend with Xizor. I didn't realize Leia's entire interaction with him was summed up in such a short period of time.

    Leia's lusting for Xizor does not infuriate me anywhere near the same way it does in COPL. I had always considered it a drugged up response. And even when she starts coming to her senses she starts saying things about how it is not like her to act that way around a stranger. Or ANY man. So, see? More proof they didn't do it on the way to Bespin ;) I thought the beginning said a lot about Leia's character as well. She dreams of the carbon freeze and wakes up thinking about how she won't let herself cry about it. She will get even. That is the determined Leia I know.

    I loved her interactions with Chewie as well. And as you said, Dash Rendar, well, do we really need to bring in a character who is pretty much just like Han since Han is in the book? You could just go one book without a wise-ass smuggler, but at least Leia doesn't develop feelings for him.

    I do like this book, and I always have. So in spite of Leia almost jumping into bed with a big, green alien (she was drugged!) it does take something to make me enjoy a Han-free book. I always thought that Xizor was a really cool villain. I mean, the guy isn't afraid of Vader OR the Emperor. Although I was not a fan of the idea that Xizor was apparently in the room with the Emperor when he contacted Vader in ESB. I somehow doubt the Emperor would let anyone else sit in on his phone calls. It also seemed to me that they left it kind of ambiguous as to whether he died in the end. Which of course is why I wrote a story that brought him back!

    Anyway, I'll agree with the 3 star assessment. I would recommend reading this book to almost anyone. Not because it's the greatest book ever, but I did find it enjoyable. You just need to remember that it really isn't about them going to find Han. They do try in the beginning, but then they get all sidetracked. And I do love the way Leia doesn't take any crap from Xizor once he's onto her. Even after he locks her up he apparently asked her later if she wants to take a bath with him. She had a quick answer for that one. Or when she's stalling before he realizes the pheromones aren't working and she starts removing clothing - which includes a sheer dress that was over a bodysuit anyway, so really reveals nothing more, and then her shoes. She refuses to go any further. This is not the kind of woman who sleeps with someone to get what she wants.

    The book also moves really fast. You don't often find more than two or three pages before we're moving on to see what someone else is doing. And we get the unique perspective of seeing what is going on in Vader's head, which we don't get to see often since of course he's dead in most of the books! Kind of chilling to see how ruthless he really is. I don't think you'd regret reading this book. As long as you remember Leia was drugged. That whole thing got worse than I thought I remembered it, but don't worry, it's over quick!

  2. Oh, and lastly, I love that you included the picture of Leia kneeing Xizor in the groin :)

  3. I remember playing the video game and thinking Dash was made to be cooler than Han (not that he all). He was all beefed up and scruffy looking, and his ship looked like someone sliced off a piece of the Falcon. There's a conversation between them at the beginning of the game about something, which is on Hoth. I can't remember much of the actual story beyond that. I did remember a sewer level though, and a swoop bike thing with awful controls.

    Anyway, I also did read the book! I liked it alright. It was nice seeing Leia think about Han here and there, and made for an interesting bridge between the movies. Leia almost getting herself some green alien wing wang, as Push would say, was a little...uncomfortable. I think he got further with Leia than I've ever seen Han get.

  4. Oh, yes, Dash's almost-Falcon. Actually, my brother had all of the toys for this book. Xizor, Dash, disguised Chewie with awesome flat-top haircut and even Dash's ship. Yes, even in toy form it was like a slightly-rearranged Falcon.

    Wow, you made a really good point that Xizor may have actually gotten further than Han ever got. It really sucks when you put it that way!

  5. I liked the developing relationship between Leia and Chewie. and I liked Luke being confused about whether to beleive Vader or not. and Leia missing Han of course.

    Gotta say I was a tad creeped out by Xizor. I somehow missed the implications of the wing wang thing but now that you've pointed it out, EWWW. I guess if Han can have a "humanoid female wriggling on his lap" at the cantina, Leia can have a little alien encounter of her own. so long as she ended up kneeing him one in the end. In fact I wrote a scene once where Leia tells Han this story and he is totally impressed that she could resist Falleen pheremones. Must go find it.

    I totally love the bit where the droids fly the Falcon and while we are on the subject of random fanfic moments inspired by this book I once wrote an entire scene where Leia and Lando and Artoo try to keep Threepio from telling Han about it after they rescue him.

    I refuse to consider the fact that Xizor got further than Han did. even if they didn't do the deed on the way to Bespin. I mean, come on ladies. pheremones or no, if you had to pick who was getting to second base, wouldn't you pick Han Solo over the green alien?

  6. I've decided that his wing wang was covered, but just left evidence that there was one underneath there somewhere. The picture doesn't make it look like he was out for all to see. And as far as him getting further than Han, while I do think there had to have been some more kissing, I gotta say that if Han Solo was kissing my neck I am pretty sure things wouldn't stop there!

    This is making me rethink the story I wrote though. I had Han more upset at this when she told him, I think I should've made him madder. Why was nobody around then to tell me it was out of character?

    And you guys are right, love Threepio and Artoo flying the Falcon and Leia just not being able to believe they let them do that.

  7. I haven't gotten to this book yet. But really looking forward to it, especially after the reviews. My husband liked it too.

    Julz, I'd be interested in that story. Real curious about how Leia will explain this. Zyra, did you post yours on

  8. Just to clarify, when I said Xizor got further than Han, I was referring to how much they tend to "show" in the EU. ;P

    Zyra, which story was that in?

  9. Agreed, julz. I want to read!

    Yes, mine is "Shadows of the Past" and I should probably just say that Xizor is in it in the summary but want it to be a surprise but then maybe more people would read it if they knew before. It was the first fic I wrote, and it was like 10 years ago now, before I knew all the things I know now! I did edit it before I published it finally, but it could definitely still be better, I think, though I still like the premise, anyway. To sweeten the deal I'll tell you there is gratuitous Han/Leia showering at the end...

  10. Julz, I want to read all these stories you are alluding to. Seriously...

    Elivagar, I know what you mean. I can't ever recall Han getting to nibble on Leia's naked shoulder...EVER!

    Zyra, as for the clothes in the pic. Well, the book did say that Leia had a bodysuit on under her dress, but Xizor was able to kiss her shoulder and I doubt the thing was long-sleeved (as pictured), so I think their clothes were enhanced for a broader audience...

  11. Nope, I've made up my mind: no wing wang! That is my final answer ;) And when he was kissing her and taking her dress off, she still had the bodysuit on underneath. Maybe he wasn't exposing more skin?

    I love how worked up I get over fictional characters.