Sunday, February 12, 2012
Champions of the Force: The Review
This week we read the last of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, wrapping up mostly the story line of Luke settling in with his new academy and Leia solidifying her place in the New Republic. The book begins where we left off: Luke is severely injured, really almost dead, and the students at the academy have no idea what to do.
Han, Leia and the twins arrive on Yavin to see Luke. Everyone is understandably quite nervous, and as Han says he isn't looking forward to it Leia agrees and reaches out to squeeze his hand (Zahn equivalent of a kiss, right?) and Han squeezes back "tighter and longer than she expected him to." It's quite sad when they walk in to see him, Leia very grim, Han carrying a twin in each arm and telling them that maybe they can help their uncle Luke get better. The twins ask if he is simply asleep and Leia says that he is, in a way. Jaina decides that maybe if she kisses him he'll wake up, so she goes to kiss him and Leia actually thinks for a moment that it just might work but of course he doesn't move.
Han squeezed Leia's waist so hard that it hurt, but she didn't want her husband to stop holding her. Oh, the poor Solo family. Cilghal is starting to work her healing powers but mostly the students don't really know what to do. Leia asks what happened and Han is quite unhappy to inform her that it was Kyp. Han feels guilty that it's Kyp's fault and decides that he's the only one who Kyp might listen to, so he decides he has to go find him. Leia is not thrilled with this idea but in this case at least this particular mission/separation actually kind of makes sense.
The Jedi students seem almost ready to just give everything up but Leia gives them a really good pep talk to make them snap out of it, and even Han seems amazed at her yet again. But then Leia senses a great disturbance in the Force, as do the other students and even the twins are crying. What happened? Well, Kyp was back at it again.
Kyp had decided his next stop would be Carida to take out those who killed his brother. Well, first he tries to find out what happened to his brother, and he is told that his brother had died, so he decides to, well, crush their sun since that's kind of his ship's thing. He had been conversing with that Ambassador Furgan and they were toying with him to keep him around long enough to take him out, but the Sun Crusher has some pretty strong armor. When they realize they are in big trouble they actually find Kyp's brother, Zeth, and let him go so that maybe Kyp will stop whatever destruction he had set under way, but it's too late. Kyp tries to save his brother and he almost has him, but the sun explodes, taking his brother with it among presumably millions of others. Although not Furgan. So the brother he thought was dead turned out to be alive, except he wound up killing him anyway because he had gone all Dark Side. Not a good day for the poor kid.
This disturbance sort of wakes Luke up, except he is more of an ethereal presence, hovering over his own body and operating pretty much on the same plane as Exar Kun when he manipulates the students. Luke isn't dead but he can watch what is going on and Exar basically tells him of his plans to use his Jedi students.
It's finally time for Han to go:
Standing in front of the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo held Leia in a long embrace. The oppressive humidity of the jungle moon clung to them like wet rags against their skin. Han hugged Leia again, smelling her scent. The corners of his lips drifted upward in a wistful smile. He could feel her trembling against him-or perhaps it was his own hands.
"I really do have to go, Leia," he said. "I've got to find Kyp. Maybe I can stop him from blowing up more star systems and killing more people."
"I know," she said. "I just wish we could arrange to have our adventures together a little more often!"
Han tried unsuccessfully to give her his famous no-care grin. "I'll work on it," he said; then he kissed her long and hard. "Next time we'll manage." He bent down to gather the twins in his arms.
Oh, good. A proper goodbye. Or at least as good of one as we can get in a PG-rated book. I don't know whether to be irritated about the comment on the not having adventures together or glad that at least Leia recognizes that fact and doesn't like it. Han even kisses her one more time before she leaves. And there is a little allusion to the fact that Jacen claims he's talking to some of the animals on the planet, the beginnings of his affinity for creatures.
While all of this is going on, Lando wants to go check out Kessel as a business possibility, he's still trying to pick up Mara who has no interest, and Chewie and Wedge and Qwi are heading back to the Maw to free the Wookiee slaves. But more importantly, remember that guy Terpfen who betrayed Ackbar? Well, now he also knows of a plot to go and kidnap Anakin Solo, and he rushes to Yavin to warn Leia. This is where we learn other flaws in that plan to "hide" him there. Leia doesn't know how to get to Anoth. It was for Anakin's "protection" that only Luke and Ackbar knew how to get there. Luke is practically dead and Ackbar is hiding out on Mon Calamari. Yeah, good planning, guys.
Leia leaves the twins with the Jedi to take Terpfen to find Ackbar so they can go save Anakin and Winter. Again, in this crazy situation, I sort of understand leaving the kids behind. Leave them in presumed safety to hopefully save another one. After they're gone Exar Kun sort of riles up these flying creatures to attack and kill Luke's body, and somehow it seems the twins can hear and see Luke in his ethereal form and Luke sort of manipulates Jacen's body so he can use the lightsaber to fight off the attack flawlessly. I have to say it's kind of funny to picture a two-year old wielding a lightsaber like a Jedi master. The other Jedi understand that the twins can hear Luke, and they tell them that Exar Kun is causing trouble.
Lots of things happening in lots of places. Han has found Kyp and it takes some time for him to gently convince him to surrender. It's a good thing Han is acting rational here. Can I just mention that Han seems a lot more understanding here when this kid goes crazy than when his own son goes dark side later? But anyway... The Jedi students all band together and manage to defeat Exar Kun and Luke finally wakes up. But, much more dire, Winter and Anakin are under attack. Once again, I know that there are some defenses in place, but was it really a good idea to leave this baby protected by only one person? Leia and Terpfen have gotten to Ackbar though, and they are on their way to help.
As you might imagine, they get there before Anakin is taken away. Leia comes face to face with Furgan, who has finally gotten the baby from the nanny droid (even Winter gets nanny droids to help) and says, "Give Anakin back to me," Leia said, her voice dripping with greater threat than an entire fleet of Star Destroyers could convey.
Yeah, can you imagine how scary Leia would be in that situation? They of course manage to save him, and Leia is left holding and soothing her youngest child. See? No good can come of leaving your child to be raised alone on some hidden planet!
Han had taken Kyp back to plead his case before Mon Mothma, who grows closer to death every day. Understandably they are not happy with him, but Han tells them it was as though he was possessed. They decide to let him go back to train with Luke. After that, Han goes back to Yavin and is reunited with his family:
Han Solo set the ship down in front of the Great Temple. He bounced down the landing ramp. Leia and the twins practically tackled him as they rushed to greet him.
"Daddy, Daddy!" Jacen and Jaina cried in peculiarly overlapping voices. Leia, back from Anoth, cradling the one-year-old against her chest, squeezed Han and gave him a long kiss as Anakin played with her hair. The twins jumped up and down against Han's legs, demanding the attention that was their due.
"Hello there, little guy!" Han grinned down at Anakin; then he looked deep into Leia's eyes. "Are you all right? You've got a lot of details to tell me. That message you sent wasn't very explicit."
"Yeah," she said. "You'll get the whole story, when we have some quiet time, just the two of us. I'm glad all of our children are home to stay, though. We'll protect them ourselves from now on."
"Sounds like a great idea to me," Han said, then chuckled and shook his head. "Say, weren't you telling me that I shouldn't go off and have adventures by myself?"
Oh, that was a nice little reunion and just the kind of thing I'd picture. The kids all excited to see their daddy, Han super excited to see his kids, a nice hello kiss and some teasing about which one of them is worse off going alone on their adventures. There's really nothing else to add to make that better. Except for the fact that it appears that they are going to keep Anakin with them instead of sending him back into hiding. Finally!
Kyp is reunited with Luke and of course Luke is forgiving and gives him a chance to redeem himself, which he does. Unfortunately for Han, he almost immediately leaves again, much to his dismay. He had promised Lando, still without his own ship, a ride to Kessel where he is supposed to meet with Mara and take over the mines. Moruth Doole had been hiding out, and they deal with him by leading him to those scary spider things who take care of him once and for all. Things seem like they're going quite well until they see what looks like the Death Star.
It's not quite the Death Star, but a prototype that is more of a wire frame but still quite capable of a lot of destruction. Always another super weapon. The last chunk of this book goes back and forth between a lot of action. Mon Mothma learns that the source of her issues is not a disease, but rather a poison that was given to her through that drink Furgan threw in her face in the first book, obviously completely planned out. Terpfen tells her of this and also informs her that there is no cure. So close to death, she resigns and just after Leia thinks how nice it would be to be a normal person with less galactic responsibilities, Mon Mothma tells her that she has to be the new Chief of State. Well, that kind of messes up those ideas about working less. At least Admiral Ackbar also decides to come back.
Luke decides that in order for Kyp to prove his faithfulness to the Jedi he must destroy the Sun Crusher, so he also heads back to the Maw where they intend to send it. Crazy battles ensue. Han, Lando and Mara are flying the Falcon against the Death Star prototype. Kyp joins in the fray, Chewie and Wedge are in on things and there is far too much action to get into here. What you basically need to know is that the Death Star gets sucked into the Maw and the Sun Crusher follows after it, presumably with Kyp still on board. Except just before it disappears for all eternity, a message cylinder fires from it, which is far too small to fit a human. Unless that human is a Jedi, who pretty much breaks every bone in his own body to stuff himself inside there. So Kyp is pretty severely injured, but alive, but to Han's relief.
Everyone finally comes together again back on Coruscant. There is a debriefing in which Leia is apparently making eyes at Han (I wonder what those eyes are saying?) and they bring Cilghal to see if she can heal Mon Mothma even though she has had barely any training. Of course she does manage to heal her, but even though she will live, she decides that Leia should still be Chief of State. Leia, rather than maybe turning down the position to be with her family more or something, just takes it. Oh, well.
But, we get one last nice little moment for Han and Leia before the book's end, when they are at the opening of new towers to replace the ones that Ackbar destroyed in that crash:
Han stood beside her, dressed in the diplomatic finery that he obviously found uncomfortable, but she thought it made him look dashing. That seemed no consolation to her husband as he chafed under the rough and stiff formal dress.
He must have sensed Leia looking at him, because he glanced down to give her a roguish smile.
He snuggled closer, slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her tightly against him. The wind whipped around them.
"Feels good to relax," he said. "And it's good to be with you, Your Highness."
"I'm Chief of State now, General Solo," she said with a twinkle in her eyes.
"Maybe I should order you to stay home more often."
He laughed. "Think it would make any difference? You know how good I am at following rules."
Leia smiled as the wind stirred her hair. "I suppose the two of us will just have to work out a compromise," she said. "Why does it seem as if the whole galaxy conspires to keep us away from each other all the time? We used to have adventures together!"
"Maybe it's payback for all the lucky breaks I've had," he said.
"I hope your luck comes back soon, then." She snuggled against him.
"Never quote me the odds." Han ran his fingers up and down her back, making her skin tingle. "I feel lucky enough right now." The wind picked up and the hollow music lifted higher.
Well, the whole universe conspiring to keep them apart thing is kind of irritating, but it is quite nice to see Leia thinking of how dashing Han looks, him trailing his fingers up and down her back affectionately, and lots of snuggling.
Wedge and Qwi are apparently starting a relationship, and we get one more set of creepy lines between Winter and Ackbar about how they will be seeing more of each other and how enjoyable that will be (I totally almost just threw up) and back on Yavin at the new academy, Kyp is back and everything is back to normal.
This book, as I said earlier, has a lot of action. Almost the entire final third is battles. Battles on Anoth to get Anakin, battles with a Death Star prototype, battles to save the Wookiee slaves, just a whole lot of action going on. I will say that this book focused a lot more on characters other than Han and Leia. But, as was true in the book before this one, the moments they share together are quite nice. There is always some sort of physical affection - hand-holding, arm squeezing, kissing, snuggling - and of course they do appear to actually love each other and want to be around each other. For that reason I'll give this one a 3.5. It's not quite as good as the one before if only because I feel like as soon as they get together in this book, they are apart again. But aside from Leia once again letting other people tell her what to do all the time, they do act like I'd expect them to act. And I still just love the visual of the little reunion when Han comes back to Yavin and Leia has all three kids.
Overall a fairly enjoyable read, although there were a lot of chapters with a lot of stuff about the Imperials and the Jedi and stuff that may not be as interesting to those of us here. It's shorter than the other two books though and the chapters are a lot shorter and it all moves pretty fast. Pretty enjoyable series overall.