This book starts right after ROTJ, with the Rebels still regrouping on and around Endor. The premise of the book is that an outer rim world (Bakura) has sent some sort of message capsule through space (Star Wars snail mail) that is intended for the Emperor. It is a plea for help against some invading aliens. The Rebels then have to decide whether or not to help the Imperial world. And, of course, they do.
We first meet Han and Leia fairly early on in the book and they are down on the forest moon aiding the Ewoks in cleaning up and tending to Leia’s blaster wound. The pair joins via holonet the discussion of whether or not the Alliance should answer the distress call. It is agreed that Leia, along with a small fleet, should be sent. The Alliance has hopes of forming an alliance with either Bakura or even perhaps the invading aliens. Han makes it clear that wherever Leia is sent, he will not be far from her. Luke has a quick moment of introspection on his ‘feelings’ for Leia but admits that that part of his life is over now (thank goodness) and as far as I can recall that is the last of the ickiness involving the inappropriate feelings of the Skywalker siblings in any of these books.
Luke is initially left out of the mission due to lingering health issues from his battle with the Emperor, but after a visit from Obi Wan advising him to go; he is made commander of the small fleet which includes the Falcon with Han, Leia and Chewie.
The Rebels arrive at Bakura while it is in the midst of fending off the invading aliens. Han and Luke make the call for the Falcon to sit out of the battle, keeping the chief negotiator (Leia) safe. Leia is not happy with their decision but reluctantly capitulates. As the rest of the fleet breaks off toward the battle, Han contemplates how good it feels to be back in the Falcon where he belongs:
He belonged in this cockpit, with good old Chewie in the copilot’s seat. But even that wasn’t the same. Leia sat behind the huge Wookiee, wearing a gray combat coverall belted around her waist, leaning forward as if she thought she ought to be copilot instead. Well. He’d give Leia everything he owned, the whole galaxy if he could swing it, but she wouldn’t bump Chewie out of that chair. Yeah, she’d handled the Falcon just fine during a couple of emergencies. But even a smuggler drew the line somewhere.
The way I feel about these particular thoughts is indicative of how I felt about the way Han and Leia are written during most of this book. Some of it is nice and I think rings true, but then some of it doesn’t. I can see Leia leaning forward and doing a little ‘back seat driving’ even, but I don’t think she would want to bump Chewie out of his copilot seat and I don’t think Han would think she did. And something just bugs me about the ‘even a smuggler’ bit.
Okay, so the Falcon makes its way to some safe port to wait out the space battle. There’s a small instance where Han wonders if Leia is insulting his ship. This insecurity/awkwardness will be dwelled upon during much of the first part of this book. Now, in some ways I can understand this…maybe. They really are just starting their relationship and when opening yourself up to someone you can start off being guarded. And I’m not the type of person that thinks everything was rainbows and unicorns for them after ROTJ. I can believe that their relationship had to have had gone through some growing pains. But for some reason, the insecurities that are alluded to in this book just don’t seem totally appropriate for Han, in my opinion. After everything they have been through, I just don’t see Han being sensitive to her remarks in this way.
Anyway, during their ‘down time’ we are treated to an almost infamous EU scene when, in anticipation of some alone time with Leia during their trip, Han recruited Chewie to fix up the main hold for the couple.
He only hoped Chewie had gotten it right. The big Wookiee was a master mechanic, but his aesthetic sense wasn’t, well, human.
As he leads Leia toward the hold under the false pretense that something on the Falcon needed fixing, Leia slowly catches on to him:
Abruptly Leia realized that was no combat glimmer in his eyes.
Han produces a bottle of something he had gotten from the old Ewok medicine man:
Han yanked on the plug. “Berry…wine of some…sort,” he grunted. The plug popped free. “Goldenrod about split a resistor translating, but the gist of what the fuzzy guy said was, ‘To ignite the heart that’s beginning to warm’.”
So that’s what he was up to. “Hey, we’re at war.”
“We’ll always be at war. When are you going to live?”
Leia felt her cheeks heat. She’d rather talk, argue, even fight with Han than hide out and sip… berry wine? ...with a battle going on. As Bail Organa would’ve pointed out, this man wasn’t even appropriate company for someone of her upbringing. He wanted to solve all his problems with a blaster. She was a princess by adoption, if not by birth.
First of all, I should mention that following this, Leia has some thoughts about accepting Darth Vader as her father and of course, she is not having an easy time of it. This will also be a recurring theme in this book (no, I don’t have a problem with this theme – just thought I should mention it).
Second of all, I don’t like Leia’s thoughts here regarding Han being ‘appropriate company’ for her. I think if she did have any reservations about that, she would’ve dealt with those thoughts long before now and especially before she ditched the Alliance and went off to rescue him. And although she might be surprised by Han’s effort here, IDK that she would be totally turned off by it as she appears to be. Amused, maybe? But I’ve got to think at this point that there are other things she would rather do with Han than talk, argue or fight.
Anyway, after a brief exchange, the pair makes their way further into the hold and find what Chewie had done in the name of romance. Apparently it was just a bunch of inflatable pillows, which didn’t impress Han much as he said:
“Wait till I tell that big wet-nosed furball-”
Still laughing, she braced herself against the bulkhead and shoved him over backward. He caught her hand and went down flailing.
Well, that wasn’t such a bad way to end a chapter…
Unfortunately the couple isn’t afforded much alone time as some of the alien ships find the Falcon’s hiding spot. Chewie comms Han and when the comm unit beeps in his pocket the book indicates that “Leia wriggled in Han’s arms” and that she had just been on the verge of relaxing. I thought it was cute as the two are reluctantly leaving their romantic hideaway in the main hold, Leia does a famous Han quote of “It’s not my fault!”
Plot stuff: We meet a human that is being held captive by the aliens whose name is Dev Sibwarra. Apparently these aliens (the Ssi-ruuk), utilizing Dev’s Force sensitivity (yes, this is the first of a long line of Force sensitives that our heroes will stumble across over the years) ‘entech’ humans – capturing their souls and powering their electronics (from small fighters to their large ship’s main systems). Dev is a tragic character, torn away from his Force sensitive mother at a young age and manipulated by these aliens, he receives several tortuous mind wipes to keep him in line.
The Falcon’s crew rejoins the battle after being chased from their hiding place and an unofficial truce is accepted between Peter Thanas (of the Bakuran military) and the Alliance. After temporarily repelling the alien invaders, Luke and the crew of the Falcon land on Bakura to work on the details of the truce. I liked at one part before they landed Leia was stating that she was extremely nervous and didn’t like the situation. Then this from Han:
Han eyed Chewie, who whuffled softly. Yeah, maybe she was picking up a sense of self-preservation. Skywalkers seemed to be born without it.
Our heroes meet with the Bakurans as the Falcon lands at a spaceport. During initial introductions, when Leia informs the Bakurans that the Emperor and Darth Vader have both been eliminated, Leia thinks that Luke wants her to say more, perhaps about Vader’s late turn to the good side. But Leia thinks this: Maybe Vader had died heroically, but ten minutes’ contrition didn’t make up for years’ of atrocities. I think this is definitely how she would feel.
Immediately following that, she introduces Han who was supposed to bow or at least shake hands. Instead, he stood aside with a flat, disapproving expression. At this rate, he would never make a diplomat. I can believe that Leia may have a quick thought such as this, but deep down she knows that Han is Han and that is why she loves him – not to be a diplomat. Of course, Luke bows beautifully just like she ‘coached’ him and of course, that’s part of the reason he didn’t end up with the girl! Well, that and the whole sibling thing.
They are all led to a conference room where Luke first stumble across a little romantic interest in this novel in the form of a young, attractive Bakuran female Senator named Gaeriel Captison. There’s some political truce talk and then as they are all leaving to find their quarters and get dressed for dinner at the Governor’s house, an Alderiaan stormtrooper does some quick, harmless flirting with Leia – much to Han’s chagrin.
Everybody gets dressed for dinner. Luke wonders in what ‘pre-Alliance adventure’ did Han find his outfit and I drew a mental picture of that tight black number that he had to wear when he was a magician’s assistant in the Han Solo trilogy novels. But I’m sure that’s not quite what he had on. Anyway, it’s hinted that Han and Leia had a fight regarding whether or not it was appropriate for Chewie to accompany them to dinner seeing as how Imperials are notorious for their intolerance of aliens. Han won the argument but ‘lost the war’ as Leia ignored him for the rest of the evening.
In the morning, an apparition of Darth Vader appears to Leia asking for forgiveness and after a curt conversation, she asks him if he plans to ask Han for forgiveness as well. Vader replies ‘only through you’. And Leia says this:
“I can almost forgive you torturing me. And the evils you did to other people – because those drove so many worlds into the Alliance. But cruelty to Han…no. If you want to go through me, you won’t get his forgiveness. Never.”
Unfortunately, right after defending the nerfherder so eloquently, Leia leaves her room and runs into Han in the common area. When she mumbles something about ‘he can’t do this to me’, Han immediately assumes she is talking about that flirting Alderaanian and asks her as much. She flies into a fit over his ‘petty jealousy’ and Han just about storms out of the apartment before she calls him back and apologizes.
She takes her hair down, somewhat provocatively and they kiss (of course, I’ll share it):
“I’m sorry,” she whispered, straightening her neck. She held her lips near his chin.
Accepting the invitation, he bent and kissed her. She felt her life energy draw up into the kiss until nothing existed but barely perceptible movements of Han’s mouth. She flattened her hands on his shoulders. His legs shifted toward her. All perception vanished but the taste of his breath. Her pulse quickened in her ears.
The comm center blatted behind him.
Yep, that’s about right.
I should probably have more plot stuff to share, but suffice it to say, they are still trying to figure out a way to fight the aliens and there are some people they trust on Bakura and some they don’t.
Later on, Luke and Leia are talking and Luke senses Leia ‘tingling with eagerness’. He says: “Let it flow, Leia. He loves you.” She admits that it has been rough between her and Han but that they went walking and talked a little. Luke realizes he must’ve interrupted something earlier (he was the one who rang their comm unit) and then he asks Leia if she and Han would be opposed to having children. Leia says, “That isn’t an issue.” And then proceeds to tell Luke about her visit from Vader.
Finally, Luke tells her, “Go to Han. I’ll leave you alone.”
Okay, so this is where people speculate that Han and Leia consummate their relationship in the EU since their relationship seems much better throughout the rest of the book. Well, let me tell you – if it is it is VERY subtle. First of all, we don’t see or hear from them for quite a while (go Han!). But we do have this exchange between Luke and Han that hints heavily that something happened:
“And it is my imagination,” Luke came back, “or are you just a little more pleased with yourself?”
Han paused midstep. “What’s this? I suppose you’re going to ask my intentions toward your sister?”
Okay, maybe that isn’t too subtle.
So, things start happening here on Bakura. The bad Bakurans turn on our heroes and Luke dresses Threepio up in stormtrooper armor and sends him off on a speeder toward the Falcon and an unsuspecting Chewbacca who ends up blasting the ill-disguised droid. That was pretty funny. Leia is kidnapped and Han goes off to her rescue. When Luke reaches out to ‘feel’ for Leia, he thinks this:
In that instant, he found Leia. Very busy, very excited. Han had obviously found her.
Now, of course, she is busy and excited trying to escape, but I thought that sounded funny, you know what I mean…in light of their previous conversation. Okay, maybe I’m weird.
A few things that I noted during the ensuing action. At one point, back up in the space battle, Han states that they won’t shoot the Imperials first and then thinks: There wasn’t much future for a smuggler with a conscience. Evidently the Alliance was stuck with him. And then that girl that Luke was crushing on, she has to make some tough choices and while doing so she thinks (as inspiration): What had Leia Organa endured as an Imperial senator? I like to think that Leia inspired many, many people that she might not even be aware of.
So, at one point during the battle the Bakurans turn on the Alliance and a hasty retreat is called by Han after losing their one, big cruiser that they had brought to Bakura. After Han tells everyone to hi-tail it, Leia adds over the comm: “Scatter the fire of the Rebellion. It will flare up everywhere the tinder is dry.”
When Leia enters the cockpit a short while later, Han waved one soot-streaked hand gallantly at the co-pilot’s seat. Little gestures like that – not pillows or berry wine – made her love him.
So basically at this point, Luke is stuck on board the alien mothership, thought to be dead or definitely dying and the Falcon is about to perform a suicidal ramming to knock out the remaining Imperial forces. Han tried to get Leia to take an escape pod and save herself but she will have no part of it. Of course, Luke manages to stay alive and the Falcon doesn’t have to ram the ship and everything works out in the end.
After the battle is over, Luke asks Leia if Han can land the Falcon on some spaceport roof and Leia responds: “Han can land the Falcon on an ice cube if he wants to.” It doesn’t say, but I have to imagine that Han appreciated that compliment.
After Bakura overthrows their Imperial rule and agrees to join the Alliance, Luke gets to kiss Gaeriel but he must leave her to lead Bakura while he goes off to rebuild the Jedi Order. Leia makes a small sort of peace with Anakin Skywalker, deciding that if he was watching over her it wouldn’t bother her that much. And that was pretty much it.
As usual, I totally murdered the plot synopsis – I know. But as always, you can read that sort of thing on Wookieepedia if you are really interested. I rated this book as a 3 but Zyra thought it was a 3.5, so I’m going to go with an official 3+ stars to meet in the middle.
I didn’t quote a lot of it, but Han and Leia are very childish and unHan/Leia like at the beginning of the book in my opinion. I think that Leia pretty much treats Han like a stupid idiot and I don’t know how he put up with it. It is just not as I see them at this point in time (if ever, I mean even pre-ESB I don’t think she would’ve treated him like an idiot). Like I said, growing pains in their relationship – yes. But not like this. But the story wasn’t bad and these Ssi-ruuk aliens show up again in a later book, I forgot which one but Jaina is in it and older so it’s a pretty long way away.
Sorry this review was late but holiday traveling and all that held me up! Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving!!