Sunday, January 29, 2012
Jedi Search: The Review
This book is the first in the Jedi Academy Trilogy which comes almost immediately after the Dark Empire comics in the timeline. Anakin has been born, but he and the twins are still off in hiding with Winter. Leia is busy being a diplomat and sending Han off on missions as it is still implied that they don't spend much time together, and Luke has taken it upon himself to start up a new Jedi academy to teach a new generation of Jedi.
The book begins with Han and Chewie getting themselves into pretty deep trouble almost immediately. Han had been sent off to Kessel to do some negotiating with them to maybe get them to join the New Republic. Han has some prior experience there, and it was determined that he would be a good choice to go. Unfortunately, almost the moment they come out of hyperspace, there are TIE fighters after them, and they are not so much interested in negotiating and are set on taking the Falcon down hard enough to destroy it and anyone inside.
As you can imagine since there are many books after this one, they do survive the crash, although they are in pretty rough shape. After receiving some much-needed medical attention - though without the aid of any pain killers as it is implied the entire experience is quite unpleasant - they are brought before Moruth Doole, who runs the operations on Kessel and happens to have a bit of a past with Solo, spice running, and Jabba. He is not a fan of Han's, and Jabba happened to take one of his eyes, which he certainly now blames Han for. Doole suspects there is a lot more to this visit than just New Republic negotiations so he wants to interrogate Han, which frightens him except he realizes that for once, he really doesn't have anything he needs to hide.
Doole takes some Glitterstim which is so powerful it actually enables its user to probe the minds of others, which is quite useful in interrogation, although Han becomes enraged at the idea that using it could allow him to see memories he had of times with his children or some of his more private moments with Leia, but of course those are not the kinds of things he is most interested in seeing. He becomes further enraged when he realizes that his visit was not with malicious intent and he decides that rather than face the wrath of the New Republic in retaliation, he will send Han and Chewie to be slaves in the spice mines where they will never be heard from again, and he will erase any evidence that they ever made it to Kessel in the first place. This book doesn't start off well for Han and Chewie.
While all of this is going on, back on Coruscant, Luke has decided that he wants to start a Jedi academy. In order to do this, he obviously needs both a place to have it, and students with Force potential. After three movies telling us that there are no Jedi left in the galaxy, Luke quickly realizes that there must be Force sensitives out there somewhere, many of whom have no idea that they hold any special powers at all. So he wants to go on a mission to find them, with the aid of this scanner thing that sort of reads people's auras to see if they have the Force. Note that there is no mention of those stupid midichlorians.
Leia spends a lot of this book frustrated over a lot of things. You get the impression that basically she has no control over anything she wants in her life. Han is gone. Her children are sequestered. The New Republic is demanding far too much of her time. Early on, when Luke is discussing the Jedi search, she says this to him:
"Sometimes it wears on me not to have my own children here. I've been with the twins for only a fraction of their lives. I can count on one hand the number of times I've visited the baby. I haven't had time to feel like a mother. The diplomatic chores won't give me a rest." Then she looked directly at him. "And you're about to go off on your great Jedi hunt. I feel like I'm missing out on life."
Then Luke tells her she could be a very powerful Jedi if she wanted to be. Ugh, I'm sorry, but if my brother was trying to dictate the course of my life like that, I'd probably punch him. Even though he's a lot bigger than me. Poor Leia, not getting to see her kids and constantly letting other people dictate what she "should" be doing instead of just listening to her heart. Why does she never just take control of her own destiny? She's too strong to let everyone else tell her what to do. Anyway... she does tell Luke that she wants to fit being a mother into things somewhere, and Luke comes back with saying that if that is her destiny then he needs to find other Jedi to train. Um, damn right you need to find other Jedi! Why does being a Jedi take precedence over everything else in life?
Fortunately, at this point Luke and Leia part ways for a bit and Luke goes to see if he can find any leads on possible Jedi since it quickly becomes apparent that "the last of the Jedi will you be" should have been followed up with, "except for like a couple hundred other beings scattered throughout the galaxy." Artoo and Threepio are scanning the archives and searching for evidence of anyone who maybe displays any behavior that might be explained by Force ability; miraculous feats of strength or predictions, podrace winning, exceptional runs of luck at gambling, whatever. With a lead in hand, Luke heads of to Eol Sha to check out this guy named Gantoris.
Meanwhile, Leia is still at home, all by herself. She has to get up in the middle of the night to talk to the ambassador of Carida, Furgan, who is incredibly unpleasant and impolite and doesn't seem to care that he is keeping Leia awake in the middle of the night to talk with him. While waiting for his call, Leia laments that she misses Han. See, he has been gone for several days, and he hasn't called. Instead of immediately realizing that she should be worried that he hasn't checked in, she spends her time being annoyed that he is being so inconsiderate and is probably off having fun with old smuggling buddies while gambling and drinking.
Oh, there are a lot of things wrong with that. I'm not sure I know anyone in any situation would not maybe become concerned if their husband went away for a week and never called. I mean, given the incredible technology in the Star Wars universe, I think we should assume that under most circumstances, they can talk to each other whenever they want, no matter how many lightyears apart they may be. I kind of see Han and Leia as the type who would probably talk daily when apart, don't you? And that's just if it was a normal couple and not two people who quite often find themselves in the face of death. Would her first instinct really be that he was just being irresponsible? And to suggest such a thing implies that this happens often. I'm sorry, I just don't see it. At least she does think to herself that she never sleeps well when he's not there with her. I'd think she probably doesn't get as much sleep when he is there with her either, for very different reasons.
To be fair, later on it is implied that she prefers to think of him as being irresponsible mostly to spare herself from worrying and not allowing herself to think of the worst possible scenario, but still, don't you think she might have raised some alarms and, I don't know, maybe tried to check on him? Moving on...
Back on Kessel, Han and Chewie are being sent down to work in the mines after the Falcon gets overhauled and wiped of its serial numbers to make it harder to identify. At this point, Doole, who not only has a mechanical eye but is a fairly disgusting, Jabba-ish being who happens to walk upright, decides he is ready for some "mating" and goes off into a section of cells that house his slave girls, who as you can imagine, aren't so interested in mating with him. Fortunately that scene ends just before you throw up, though not before you start to taste it a little in the back of your throat.
The spice mines are not pleasant. First of all, it's pitch black. And that doesn't mean hard to see, it means literally so dark your eyes can't adjust because there is not a speck of light. It is also frigid, though they are given thermal suits to wear. As they are unceremoniously introduced to the mines, they learn that a lot of the slaves have recently been disappearing without a trace, which of course is not such good news to be hearing, but they aren't really expecting to be seen or heard from again at this point, anyway.
Once settled into their spots in the mine, they meet someone named Kyp Durron, who Han only knows by name at first, and his voice is a bit ambiguous and he has no idea what kind of person - even if it's male or female - he is speaking to. He only knows that whoever this is has been stuck inside for a long time and is very excited to hear from someone on the outside. Kyp's whole family was taken by the Empire, his brother he hasn't heard from in years and his parents were killed in the mines already.
After some more mining in the dark, and being led around in complete darkness - spice must be mined in the dark or it gets ruined - finally they get led back to the light, where Han learns that Kyp is just a kid.
Meanwhile, Luke is trying to convince Gantoris to come with him on his Jedi search mission, and Lando is working on something similar after visiting with Leia - and thinking it's not like Han not to check in for days, even though Leia insists that yes, it's just like him to be so irresponsible - and being sent off to check out on another possible Jedi lead in this guy named Tymmo, who apparently makes a lot of money betting on, believe it or not, blob racing. Thus begins a very long and involved chapter on Lando, Artoo and Threepio watching blob races that are described in great detail as they navigate the - not kidding about this - blobstacle course, and then them finding Tymmo and discovering that he is a cheat who had run away from his very, very... um, needy "wife" who he was chosen as consort for and who he has desperately tried to escape from because she is smothering him and has completely exhausted him. In the end he surrenders and Lando apparently will receive an impressive reward from his wife for his safe return - although the poor guy does briefly entertain the idea that execution, his punishment for cheating, might be a better alternative. Seriously, this chapter goes on forever and I really have no idea if it is important to the plot at all.
Back on Coruscant, Leia is anxiously awaiting the return of the twins, Jacen and Jaina. They have turned two, and apparently this is the magical age in which it becomes okay for Jedi children to be raised by their own parents rather than a nanny on a hidden planet. This is close to a week after Leia first started worrying about Han being missing. Has she sent out a search party yet? Nope. Instead:
Han should have been back from Kessel two days ago, but still she had heard no word from him. He'd probably fallen in with some of his old smuggling buddies, had too much to drink, gambled far into the late hours, and completely forgotten about his other obligations. It was a good thing Chewbacca had sworn a blood oath to protect him, because Han was going to have to face her when he got back, and he was going to need a Wookiee's protection. How dare he forget something like this?
Seriously, Leia? You're not maybe just a little more concerned? Has Han actually been acting that careless that he wouldn't realize or care that he was missing the return of his children? Think about it! Okay, maybe it's easier than thinking he's hurt or captured or dead or two of the three, but don't you think by now you should try and look into it? This is beyond frustrating, and this isn't even the end of it.
Anyway, the twins have finally come home. Leia of course is incredibly excited to see them in spite of the conspicuous absence of their father. It's both lovely and heartbreaking when she's reunited with the kids because of course she finally gets her children back, which she's thrilled about, but Jacen asks where his daddy is and Leia just feels anger when she has to tell them that he's not there. And of course we also have to be sad that Anakin still has to stay sequestered by himself with Winter. Leia promises herself that she will make up for lost time with them, but she can sense fear and trepidation in them. Ugh, the poor kids are afraid of their own mother because she's a virtual stranger. Should we thank Luke or the authors of the EU for this gross injustice?
Leia shows them their "new" home and their bedroom and of course they are slightly uncomfortable with the whole thing. So what does she do on her first night with her children who have been gone for two years? She kisses them goodnight and leaves them with Threepio. Seriously? Okay, she got to visit with them here and there, but don't you think a mother getting her kids back might want to be the last person her kids see before they fall asleep? Maybe be the one to read them a story instead of the creepy, cold, protocol droid? Oh, the immense frustration.
So Leia leaves them with Threepio, even though they are not happy, don't want to sleep and don't want a story from the stupid droid, and she goes back to deal with diplomatic things. While she's busy, the twins are expressing great frustration through lots of crying, which leads to annoyance from Leia and her inability to be able to figure out how to deal with them. The whole thing maybe was an attempt at humor, and maybe could've been kind of funny first, if it was like, the first night or two Leia (and hopefully Han) had their kids home, or if it was I don't know, maybe a teenage babysitter dealing with some unruly children, but the fact of the matter is that this is Leia, a mother of two-year olds who should know how to take care of them and if for some strange reason she was just seeing them for the first time in a very long time, I don't see her being frustrated in quite this manner. Frustration, yes, but more because she was upset that her own children weren't comfortable in their own home with their own mother than annoyed that these two unruly twins wouldn't just, in the words of Samuel L. Jackson, go the f% to sleep!
Oh, but to infuriate us further, Leia thinks she should go in and check, and Winter, who is way more of a mother to them than that lady who actually gave birth to them, tells her in her infinite motherly wisdom that they are just testing her limits and she shouldn't go check on them. I'll admit I'm not a mother, but crying when you're trying to go to sleep in uncomfortable surroundings at the age of two seems like more of a legitimate reason to be upset than just toddlers testing their mother's limits. It's like Leia is suddenly clueless on how to raise kids, while Winter is the author of several books on the subject or something.
Wait, it gets even better. Then Leia mentions how this is something she's probably going to have to be stuck doing all by herself and Winter finally asks where Han is.
Not wanting Winter to see her flustered outrage, Leia stood up and turned her back. Over and over, she had imagined possibilities of Han hurt, lost, attacked ... but she found it safer to believe other possibilities. "He's flying around in the Falcon with Chewbacca. He should have been back two days ago. He knew when the twins were coming home, but he couldn't bother to be here! It's bad enough we've been practically nonexistent as parents for the first two years of their lives, but he can't even spare the time to greet Jacen and Jaina when they finally come home."
Seriously, is Leia really this dense? Or does she really hate worrying that much? I can see her maybe not wanting to worry initially, but after a while, seriously, she'd have to know something was wrong! But Winter is not only smarter when it comes to being a mother, but also as a wife:
Winter gazed at her, not blinking. Winter's intense periods of thought always unsettled Leia. "Let me tell you this, Leia. I think I'm right. If it were anyone else on a mission like this, two days overdue and no contact for a week or so, you would be concerned. Very concerned. With Han, you are making an assumption that he is just being irresponsible. What if something happened to him?"
"That's crazy." She turned away again, to keep Winter from seeing that the same worries had been plaguing her.
Winter's grave expression did not change.
"According to the reports I have seen, Kessel is relatively hostile territory. Not only the spice mines, but the Imperial Correction Facility, with some powerful defenses in place to keep prisoners from escaping. The entire system has been out of contact with us for some time."
Winter paused, as if accessing other memories. "When Mara Jade and Talon Karrde unified some of the smugglers two years ago, Jade noted that Kessel might cause certain problems. Shouldn't you check with a diplomatic contact there to make certain nothing has happened to the Millennium Falcon?"
Leia blinked her eyes, annoyed at Winter's suggestion, though she had thought of it herself dozens of times. "Seems like overreacting, doesn't it?"
Winter regarded her calmly. "Or are you just unwilling to show your concern because it would embarrass you?"
Leia doesn't even respond to this, it is where the scene ends. We all know Leia is a strong woman and she's not going to sit around and cry at the thought that her husband is missing, but she seriously wouldn't be worried at all or would be too embarrassed to admit to being worried? She could at least admit it to herself! I think the concept of stubborn Leia is taken a bit to the extreme here. And it almost just makes Leia seem kind of heartless and certainly doesn't paint Han in a very good light if she apparently thinks it's normal for him to be so inconsiderate.
Well, finally this conversation prompts Leia to contact Kessel, and she gets in touch with Moruth Doole. Of course Doole denies everything and says that Han never made it, and given how difficult it is to navigate the area he maybe isn't such a great pilot and disappeared in the Maw. At least Leia has enough faith in Han's piloting to know that that can't possibly be true, and his answers also seem far too rehearsed and quick to not arouse some suspicion, so the conversation ends inconclusive, though Leia at least stops thinking Han is just being a jerk. And fortunately at the end of this conversation she felt "very foolish for being angry with Han." Finally!
Back on Kessel, Han loses his temper just a bit and lashes out at some of the guards, which doesn't end all that well, but later he admits that he realized that it was the day that Jacen and Jaina were coming home and he is furious that he isn't there to see them. See, not only is he not irresponsible and thoughtless, but he can keep track of days while captured and enslaved on a planet with no sense of day or night.
Sometime after the brawl with the guards, it is decided that some of the slaves will be going on a mission down one of the, well, scarier tunnels and they ask for volunteers. This is a scary mission because it is where some of the slaves had disappeared. Han suspects maybe this is because there is a possible chance of escape, and he also suspects that due to his outburst earlier, he will probably be forced to go anyway, so he volunteers himself and Chewie, much to Chewie's chagrin, and Kyp decides he wants to go, too. So, doing what he does best, Han thinks on the fly and gets them all away from the guards and starts a not-so-smooth escape because for quite a while, they are still mostly just lost in the darkness of the mines. Just in time, too, because Doole decided that just having him in the mine as a slave wasn't good enough. Now that the New Republic was onto him, he needed Solo and the Wookiee killed with no trace left.
Oh, and elsewhere, Luke is now on Bespin, in the grand tradition of only utilizing like seven planets in the entire galaxy throughout the EU, where he picks up another possible candidate in Streen. That's really all there is to say about that, so back to Han, Kyp and Chewie...
They are still trying to escape, and Skynxnex, who is one of Doole's henchmen and also has a not-so-good past with Han, is trying to find them and kill them, which riles up a chase very similar to the mine car chase in Temple of Doom, except the mine cars are floating and Short Round isn't there to work the brakes. To make matters worse, there are also these giant spiders down there in the dark that could very well also kill them. In all, the spice mines sound like tons of fun. But the good news is that they find an escape shaft out of the mines that happens to lead to a shipyard so they can maybe get out of there. This is especially important since nobody seems intent on sending a rescue mission.
Luke makes it back to Coruscant and plays with his niece and nephew by levitating them in mid-air. Jedi are weird. Once again nobody seems to really care to actually ask where Han is, and Luke thinks this:
Luke realized that he hadn't seen Han since his return; but because of their busy schedules, seeing Han and Leia in the same place at the same time was a rare occurrence anyway. It was a wonder they had somehow managed to have three children!
Luke, trust me, we are all wondering how they managed to have three children if they never see each other. We can only assume that Han is quite the sharp shooter. Luke senses concern in Leia but doesn't say anything until Lando finally comes bursting in after realizing that she hasn't heard from Han and hasn't told anyone about it. Leia admits that she finally talked to Doole yesterday and suspects something had happened to him. That's right: yesterday. And she still hasn't done anything about it. Seriously, let's reverse roles here for a second: if Han heard Leia had been missing for days and days with no sign, do you think he would just sit back and not do anything about it? I don't think Leia would, either, so this Leia isn't quite acting like I would expect.
Finally Luke and Lando offer to go off and find him because Leia admits that the New Republic resources are limited and apparently even though she abandoned the Rebellion to get him out of carbonite after one trip to Bespin, she won't go after her husband and the father of her children when she knows he's missing. It at least implies that it seems what she wanted all along was for Luke and Lando to go and find him. At least she's sort of doing something now.
Back on Kessel, Han, Chewie and Kyp manage to steal a supply shuttle and work to make their escape, which as always is a lot more complicated than they'd think. With a lot of pressure on them, they have no choice but to go into the Maw, which holds a very large chance of death, but is really their only possible chance of escaping. But Kyp insists he can show him the way. I think I forgot to mention that Kyp maybe has the Force, as he had come into contact with another old character you may remember named Vima-Da-Boda, who was an ancient Jedi who came to Kessel briefly and told Kyp of his power.
Before they escape, Han gets one last punch to the gut when he sees his own ship being flown against them. But before he can get really furious, they disappear into the Maw and hope that the bad guys aren't stupid enough to follow them.
Once again back on Coruscant, Luke had brought Gantoris, potential Jedi, back with him from Eol Sha, which is basically uninhabitable due to some crazy stuff on the planet like volcanoes and earthquakes. It is decided that the refugees will be relocated to Dantooine, and Wedge is put in charge of that job. Mon Mothma comes in to remind Leia of the visit with that jerk ambassador from Carida, and she also inquires about Han but Leia once again brushes it off like it's no big deal. At least Mon Mothma takes a moment to tell Leia that she is doing a very good job. So we know she's not totally heartless.
Then it is time for Winter to say goodbye and go back to take care of Anakin in hiding. I don't believe we are ever told who the heck has been watching him while she's been gone. It's quite sad because the twins are very sad to see her go and don't seem that interested in hanging back with their own mother. I mean, why should they be? She makes a driod tuck them in and tell them stories at night. Leia still feels like a stranger to them, but tells them that their daddy will be back soon and they will have fun together.
Later, Leia attempts to give the children a bath and they get into an argument over when the bubbles get added, and of course Leia stubbornly insists on doing it the opposite way that Winter did, just to show them that things are different and this is their home, even though they keep asking to go home, which to them would be back with Winter. Leia gets all frustrated again and wishes Han was back. It might almost be a sweet scene if it weren't once again for the fact that it's like Leia has no idea how to be their mother.
Well, Han is kind of busy himself because they have a bit of relief at making it through the Maw without getting sucked into a gravity well, but the relief is short-lived as they stumble upon some Star Destroyers just hanging out in the middle of nowhere and decide they need to make a quick exit. Well, they don't get a chance for that and are taken aboard where they come in contact with Admiral Daala. I had forgotten where she came from, and anyone who is still reading the EU knows that she continues to hold a very prominent role.
Anyway, this group of ships has been holed up for so long that they don't even know the Emperor is dead. Actually, they don't even know about Tarkin or the first Death Star, either. It is unheard of for a woman to be an admiral, so Han has a feeling he's in trouble.
Meanwhile, Luke and Lando finally make it to Kessel and Lando poses as an investor and Luke is his associate. He uses the name Tymmo, so far giving us our only indication that reading twenty pages about blob races had any relevance to the plot. They get Doole to show them around and try and probe and figure out what happened to Han, Chewie and the Falcon.
Back in the Maw, poor Han is undergoing some tortuous interrogation at the hands of Daala and her relentless questioning. The only thing is, under the circumstances, Han doesn't really have any secrets to tell. None of the information is classified or really even not common knowledge among just about anyone. He just has to tell her about the destruction of the Empire and the New Republic, but that doesn't stop him from undergoing some torture at the hands of some sort of thing that makes his muscles spasm like crazy. And to top it all off, once he's told her everything and endured that, she sends in a probe droid just to make sure. Han doesn't have much fun in this book.
Daala leaves him and goes to talk to one of her scientists about yet another weapon that they had been working on while stuck in the Maw, called the Sun Crusher. Guess what it does? She also isn't too thrilled not just about the fall of the Empire, but apparently Tarkin was her... oh, gods, I have to say it: lover. Ooops, there's that vomit taste again... anyway, that is part of the reason she gained such a high rank and why she is in charge of these Star Destroyers. The only good news is that the information made her realize she has the most powerful group of ships left in the Imperial Navy, most likely.
On Coruscant, Leia finally gets to meet Ambassador Furgan, the jerk from Carida who just acts worse and worse. He belittles Leia's rank in the New Republic, talks about how the Jedi should've been wiped out and accuses them of the possibility of trying to poison him. He also demands all of Leia's attention and when she brings the twins with her to the reception, they get stuck with Threepio. At least Leia is "worried to the point of nausea" much of the time since Han has been missing. Well, it's a relief to know that she still thinks about him sometimes.
The ambassador finally decides he wants to say something, and what does he have to say? Basically that there is no chance they're joining the New Republic and he throws his drink in Mon Mothma's face. Yeah, he went to an awful lot of trouble to make that point, and off he goes with his little entourage and Leia is furious at having wasted so much time on the guy and you can't blame her.
But back to Han, because we're not done with him yet. He is a wreck from enduring lots of torture and gets brought before another woman, only this time it's not Daala. It's Qwi Xux, and apparently she is the one who designed the Death Star and she wants to hear what it was like since she never got to see it. It seems she's only an innocent scientist and had no idea what it had truly been intended for, in spite of what most of us would consider to be kind of an obvious name for something meant to cause a lot of death and destruction.
Han can barely speak at first from being such a mess, but fortunately she has no intention of harming him, she just wants to hear about her designs. Han gets angry once he finds out that she designed the Death Star and World Devastators, and she seems oblivious to what they had done and thinks they were just meant to mine materials from otherwise dead planets. Han tells her that the Death Star blew up Alderaan, his wife's planet, and she doesn't believe him. She had viewed the interrogation but apparently some parts had been left out. She starts to slowly realize she has been manipulated, and then she tells Han about the Sun Crusher.
Luke and Lando are still busy with Doole and they ask to see the ships, spotting the Falcon right away and asking to inspect it "randomly." Of course they know for sure it is Han's ship and they take off in it.
Oh, but poor Leia, back at home and still feeling frustrated. The twins are sick and irritable and she's still leaving them mostly to Threepio (why not just keep Winter there?) and tending to her duties and being interrupted a lot with calls for all sorts of things. Someone even tells her that sick children don't make the New Republic stop functioning. That's kind of rude, don't you think? Mon Mothma shows up and at least just this once shows more compassion and says she's sorry that the kids are sick and that Han has been missing and offers some help in picking a new location for the Jedi Academy. The only good thing here is that Leia realizes that if things quiet down it just gives her too much time to think and worry about Han. Poor Leia, life basically sucks for her right now.
Though maybe not as much as it sucks for Han. He wakes up, very uncomfortable in his cell but apparently he had at least been having a nice dream about Leia, as it is alluded to being probably the only pleasant experience he's had in three weeks. Qwi comes in and says she has been given permission to interrogate Han again, except that's not really what she has in mind as she takes out a stormtrooper and helps him escape now that she's learned that she has been betrayed and lied to all this time. They go off and get Kyp and Chewie.
Kyp had been scheduled for termination as he held no real use for them, and Chewie had been sent to do labor basically as a slave just like when Han had first met him. But Han and Qwi make it to save them and they all make their way to escape. Han apparently never second guesses the fact that Leia hasn't sent anyone to come find him yet:
Han desperately wanted to see Leia and the twins again. They filled his thoughts more and more, preoccupying him at times when he should have fixed every iota of attention on the peril around him. He ached to hold Leia again--but thinking of her while he wore a stormtrooper uniform seemed to taint the emotion.
Well, at least one of them wants to see the other again. They go to escape and of all the things to escape in, they steal the Sun Crusher so Daala can't use it. They evade the Imperial forces and move to leave the Maw, which is incredibly dangerous but fortunately Kyp uses the Force to get them out, but then Han spies someone flying the Falcon and gets very, very angry. He contacts it on his private channel and is quite glad to hear Lando's voice from the cockpit. They coordinate with each other and finally escape Kessel.
And finally, for the first time in the book, with ten pages to go, Han and Leia are in the same place at the same time and even talk to each other. And there's even some kissing:
The reunion was everything Han had imagined. He had spent a lot of time thinking about it during the long hyperspace flight back to Coruscant.
Leia and the twins met him the moment the Sun Crusher and the Millennium Falcon touched down side by side at the high landing platform. Han backed out of the Sun Crusher's hatch and began climbing down the ladder, but Leia ran forward and hugged him before he managed to get all the way down.
"Glad I'm back?" he asked.
"I missed you!" she said, kissing him.
"I know," he said with a roguish smile.
She put her hands on her hips. "What? You didn't miss me?"
Han turned away sheepishly. "Well, first we crashed on Kessel, then we were stuck in the spice mines, then we got captured by a bunch of Imperials in the middle of a black hole cluster. I really didn't have a whole lot of-“
When Leia looked as if she were going to punch him, Han reacted with a grin. "But even through all that I don't remember more than about two seconds when I didn't miss you with all my heart."
Leia kissed him again.
Oh, well, that's sort of a cute reunion I guess. I mean, they're happy to see each other, they're not super mushy and of course throw some teasing in there, and they even kiss more than once. For the EU, that's not too bad. Han then says hello to his kids, who say they remember him but he doesn't quite believe them - so yeah, that kind of ruins it a bit - but he says he'll make it up to them. I hate this whole thing that just makes them seem like neglectful parents! But that's the end of that maddening stuff, because we only get to see them all together for like three paragraphs.
To end things, we get one last reason for that whole blob race thing when Lando receives a very large reward for having captured Tymmo the consort and returned him to his wife and decides he might go back to Kessel and see what potential is there, not to mention the ship he had to leave behind in their hasty exit. I forgot to mention that Doole was killed in the skirmish there, thankfully.
Han brings Kyp to Luke as a potential Jedi and is quite proud of his little protege, which is kind of cute. And Luke senses that Kyp is quite powerful in the Force and will be a perfect candidate for his Jedi academy. In the end, Luke sets up his new academy back where it all started, on Yavin IV.
Okay, that was quite a summary. So, what do I think of this book? I've got some mixed feelings. I do enjoy reading it to a large degree, and I know I'd read it over before just for the sake of reading it, although it has been a few years until I just finished it again. It's a fairly quick read and has a much simpler plot to follow than the Thrawn trilogy, and certainly a lot less characters to follow. It's kind of cool to read the beginnings of Luke starting the next generation of Jedi and having Han find one potential candidate of his own. Also interesting to be reminded of where Admiral Daala came from.
It's also interesting to see Leia's frustrations as it seems for the first time she truly has to try and balance being a politician with motherhood. Honestly, it doesn't even seem like she enjoys her job, she simply feels obligated. And she's got Luke pestering her about being a Jedi and again, it just gets annoying feeling like she just sits back and lets everyone else tell her what to do instead of doing what she wants. Why does she seem to let everyone walk all over her?
And poor Han, as this is the beginning of a string of times throughout the EU in which he is captured and has to endure quite a bit during his captivity. Several bouts of interrogation here, serious medical attention needed after a terrible crash in which the patient's comfort isn't considered at all during treatment, and this isn't even anywhere near the worst we'll read about in coming books. And come on, his wife obviously doesn't have a very high opinion of him if she thinks he's just goofing off somewhere with his old buddies. I just don't see Han being so careless. Do I see him maybe goofing off with his buddies? Sure, if he runs into them. But do I see that sort of thing making him forget about Leia, not call, and forget about his kids coming home for the first time in years? No, absolutely not.
And really, truly, I don't see Leia thinking that badly of him, either. I guess maybe I can buy that she just finds it easier to think about him being irresponsible than to worry about him, but she's a woman of action. She's not just going to sit there and not even try to get in touch with him and see if anything happened. Sorry. So for all of the little things I liked in the book, there were certainly things that frustrated and annoyed me. Another example being that I enjoyed the fact that the kids finally got to come home - or at least two of them - but it is almost infuriating to read about how pretty much incompetent Leia seems when it comes to taking care of her own kids. The whole situation is ridiculous in the first place, the idea that they were raised somewhere else for two years, but it just gets made even worse by making her seem like an idiot when it comes to kids. I think the guys from Three Men and a Baby did a better job. It's almost like at times she finds them more annoying than actually loving them like, you know, a mother might love her children.
That said, Han's side of things is very... Han. He mouths off to authority, he takes matters into his own hands when it comes to his escape - which as I said is a good thing since his wife isn't sending anyone to help him - he makes things up as he goes along and he actually misses his wife and is enraged at the thought of missing seeing his kids come home. I like Han's interaction with Kyp, too. He definitely makes a good "big brother" type.
So, the Han and Leia factor here? It's a tough call, because the book does focus on them a lot, although they are not together really at all. Add points for Han being Han, take away points for Leia thinking badly of him, not acting like Leia but add points for her really missing him when he's gone, add points for her getting the kids back and even sharing a few, normal moments with them, but take points away for her having no idea how to deal with her kids. Add points for kissing but take points away for them only spending one page of the book together.
I'd say it at least deserves a 3+ if only for the fact that I've read it a few times, so as a Han and Leia fan, it must have some redeeming qualities. And for every annoying moment there is usually a good one to compensate.
As for missing moments, I'm sure there is something there for a more private reunion for Han and Leia once he's home. This can be with or without the kids, or start with the kids before moving on to what happens once the kids are in bed. I would think that is a pretty big moment for them, being home with at least two of their kids and getting to raise them from then on. Or maybe you can get into what exactly Han's dream was about when he dreamed of her.
I'd put this book higher on the list to read than a lot of others in the EU, so if you haven't checked it out and are looking for something to read after you read those other really good books, you should certainly consider it.