Okay. This book is a bit of a contradiction for me. Why? Because I really, really liked it from a Han and Leia perspective, but have mixed feelings about it regarding probably all else. But this is a Han and Leia blog, with a Han and Leia rating, so I’ll concentrate on what I liked because that’s what we do in the EU. Am I right? Of course I am.
The great aspect about this novel is that I can honestly say that wherever Han and Leia appeared, their dialogue seemed spot on and just really enjoyable and they were together a lot and there was a lot of kissy time and implied ‘relations’. All of that, in itself, will get me to recommend this book to any Han and Leia fan. As for the story itself, I sort of know what went on but not really (especially so on the Luke storyline) – but the more you read some of these novels the more you just become a little bit accepting of that (or at least I do).
First, there are two storylines throughout this book: Han and Leia (mostly on Belsavis) and Luke on a ship named the Eye of Palpatine. I’ll have to be honest and say that, although I read all the “Luke” parts on my first read of this book a year or so ago, on this time around, I chose to ‘scan’ through most of Luke’s storyline and for that reason, I understand what happened to him and his ‘girlfriend’ even less so than the rest of the novel. Let me just say that it is the weirdest ‘love affair’ I have ever read about and it continues the nasty habit that Luke has of falling in love with any girl that says more than two words to him.
The book begins on Ithor, where Han and Leia and the entire gang (the twins, Anakin, Winter, Luke, Chewie, Artoo and C-3PO) are celebrating some big meeting that is also beautiful to look at. Right off the bat I liked the way the author paints Han and Leia together in this setting (it’s a sort of mini-vacation for them). She really gave nice little glimpses of their normal relationship that I devoured eagerly.
For example, Han is getting dressed for the big event and Leia is surreptitiously watching him out of the corner of her eye. The book then says, she saw him pose in front of the mirror, and carefully tucked away her smile. A small tidbit, I know, but I liked it. Han also asks her for the Smashball scores while she is going through her diplomatic update (as Chief of State) and she scans to the end and gives them to him. I liked all these little things right away. But of course, their vacation is short-lived because something needs to hit the fan soon, right? Right.
Some crazy guy shows up during the meeting screaming incoherently: “They hid the children in the well. Kill you all!” And there was a “Solo!” interjected in there intermittently for good measure. Once the maniac is captured, they find out that he is an old smuggler friend (Drub McKumb) of Han’s that is emaciated and near death and could very well be giving him a warning instead of trying to kill him. While researching the paperwork and other belongings of Drub McKumb, they begin to deduce that there may have been a hidden cache of Jedi children somewhere down some well called Plet’s well or Pletwell.
Here we are at the point in the book where all our characters are going to head their separate ways on their way to save the galaxy. The good thing? Han and Leia stay together (with Chewie and Artoo) and head to Belsavis to investigate this Plet’s well. Luke goes off with Threepio (a welcomed change of pace) and two of his students (Cray Mingla and her fiance’, Nichos – a man who had a disease that led his “spirit” to be transitioned into a droid body to keep him alive – don’t ask for more explanation than that). Oh, and Winter keeps the kids.
For the rest of the novel, Han and Leia are researching this ‘well’ and the missing Jedi children who were apparently hidden when Order 66 came down. It reads exactly as how I would imagine Han and Leia living after they got married, working together or at least when they were apart, thinking about the other one and checking in or worrying about them after a while. Luke, gets captured by a battlemoon, the Eye of Palpatine, and limps around and tries to escape for the rest of the book.
The planet Belsavis, from what I understand, has some big biosphere dome thing erected over half the planet or something and the rest is a frozen tundra, maybe? I’m grasping at straws here. But under the biosphere dome it is very hot and humid and the planet exports exotic silks and coffees on some floating, rotating flower beds. Anyway, while talking about the vine-silk made on Belsavis, Leia thought this:
Leia refrained from saying that a quantity of vine-silk sufficient to make a decent dress would cost enough to support a good thirty percent of any planet’s total economy. Which was why Han’s gift to her of a gown and tabard of the stuff a short time ago had reduced her to speechlessness. Her friend Winter had picked them out. Han still had a weakness for clothing completely unsuited for the Chief of State, and had learned not to trust his own judgment on things to be worn in public.
Han gives her gifts! And likes her to dress scantily! Yes, yes he does.
There are so many embraces in this book I don’t know if I can mention them all, or fully explain their context, but who needs context, right? This is the first embrace I have on record:
A pair of strong arms encircled her from behind. Han said nothing, just gazed out past her, and Leia leaned back into his strength, closing her eyes and letting her mind drift.
Throughout the novel, strange droid malfunctions keep occurring that perplex the Belsavis residents (it has been going on for awhile) and now the Solos. Mainly they have been chalking it up to the humidity.
Meanwhile, Luke is badly injured on that battle moon and he hobbles around and figures out that the thing has some set program to go from planet to planet and pick up stormtroopers and then head to Belsavis and destroy it. (Yes, Belsavis is where Han and Leia are). The only problem is that its program went into motion about 30 years late and instead of picking up stormtroopers, it picked up a myriad of weird aliens from Sand People and Jawas to Gamorreans and they have all been ‘programmed’ by the “Will” (the battlemoon’s main brain) and they are warring with each other onboard this ship.
Moving on… So, in Chapter 8, our favorite couple goes out hitting some cantinas to find some smugglers who might know something about Drub McKumb and this well (because heretofore they cannot find any underground wells or caverns). I highly recommend anyone to just read this chapter, Chapter 8. It’s really fun. I’ll be hard-pressed to quote everything I would like to quote from it. But I’ll try.
Firstly, Leia thinks how she enjoys not being recognized and being out with Han like this:
Here they were just a lanky man with a scar on his chin and a smuggler’s habit of watching the doors, and a cinnabar-haired woman in a dress that Aunt Rogue would have locked her in her room before permitting her to wear in public.
A female bartender calls Han “sugardrawers” and “angelpants”. No, I am not lying. And Leia was called “pretty eyes” and told that she was “way too good for the likes of him” in reference to Han. To which she replied, “I know.” Later, when they are on their way back to their room, Leia calls Han “angelpants” playfully. I can’t reiterate enough how much fun this entire exchange was for me to read. It really was.
So then we have the first ‘missing moment’ opportunity that happens in this book. When Han and Leia arrive back at their bungalow after imbibing in drinks all day long at the bars:
“You know, Han…” Leia paused at the top of the wooden ramp that climbed the high, broken stone of their house’s foundations to the wide front door. “That’s the first thing that drew me to you. The childlike innocence of your heart.”
He caught her arm, grinning; she tried to duck away to open the door but he pinned her, a hand on either side of her shoulders, their eyes, laughing into one another’s, his body warm against hers. “You want to see how innocent I can be?” (Yes! Yes, I do!)
She reached to touch the scar on his chin. “I know how innocent you are,” she said, meaning it, and their lips met, isolated in the still cloak of the mist.
And then Chewie and Artoo show up! But, I will say, that there is already a fanfic written that leaves a little time (and action) between the kiss and when that inevitable interruption occurs…
Now they are back in the bungalow and Leia is going to go research the hall of records. I really wonder just how scantily clad Leia was dressed at that bar when this passage says this: Leia hunted out a dark green-and-violet tunic slightly more respectable than the garment she’d worn to go touring the bars of the Row – she owned underwear more respectable than that particular outfit, for that matter – and more comfortable shoes.
I love that Leia would ‘dress for the occasion’ and not be above that, you know? And I’m sure Han loves it, too.
Before Leia left to go off on her own, she said goodbye to Han. What a novelty! (and what a little goodbye):
Leia asks if he’ll be alright and he ensures her he will and then:
He made a show of checking his pockets. “And I know I picked up a card in the bar for order-in dancing girls.”
“Just make them sweep up the confetti when they’re done.”
They kissed again, and Leia strode down the ramp to street level.
Wasn’t that so fun and cute? Maybe it’s just me, but I doubt it. Anyway, that was all in Chapter 8! Seriously, just go to the bookstore and read Chapter 8.
While Leia is gone, they even mention that Han calls and checks in with Winter and talks to the kids on the holo. Wow!
Also, it seems everybody gets lucky in this book, apparently. Because at one point, Mara Jade calls late on the holo and Leia notes: She wore a gold chain around her neck and a shirt Leia recognized as belonging to Lando Calrissian.
Now that I think about it, this may be the most ‘sexy time’ book in the entire EU. Somebody disagree with me?
This was another interesting wardrobe note: Han crossed his legs and pulled the dark-patterned native sarong he wore up to cover his knees. What? What is he wearing? A short dress? Is that right? Regardless, that’s a mental picture I wouldn’t mind puzzling out for a while to come…
I will also say that Leia has A LOT of childhood memories and references in this book and some nightmares related to the Death Star. Some of it was due to the fact that several of the scientists that had created the Death Star had recently been hunted down and murdered and some people were blaming Leia – saying she got her ‘smuggler friends’ to do it for her (which isn’t true).
Anyway, I thought that this was all handled exactly as how I would think Leia would be assaulted by random memories and thoughts and how she would deal with them or be haunted by them, etc. I really liked this small subplot that was woven throughout the book. I don’t think enough EU authors address her memories and loss of her planet and how it would affect her every day.
This is one occasion where Leia was deep in thought and Han came to check on her:
Leia turned sharply. She’d folded back one of the metal shutters to step out onto the balcony, and the diffuse light from the orchard fell in a muzzy bar into the room behind her, picking out the hard edge of Han’s arm muscle, the sharp points of collarbone and shoulder, the small scar on his forearm. The dark print of the sarong (again, is he in a dress?) he wore was like the black-on-black mottling of a trepennit’s hide, lost in the shadows of the room.
She didn’t answer. She wasn’t sure what she could have said, and she’d long ago learned that lying to Han was impossible. In the sticky warmth of the night his hand, dry and cool from the air-conditioning of the house, was a welcome strength on her bare arm.
Very little dialogue, but so much said there – I think. There was lots of hugging and talking following that exchange where Leia shares some of those feelings/memories that have been stirring up and about her nightmares. I’ll give some excerpts:
Leia sighed, feeling as if it had been years since she’d last relaxed enough to breathe. It was good beyond words to feel his arms around her, his body pressing into her back.
Then a short bit later:
She pulled his arms more closely around her, closing her eyes and drifting in the scents of soap, and his flesh, and the thick, slightly sulfurous murk of the night.
Oh, yeah, and yes - we are going somewhere here folks, so strap yourselves in:
His grip tightened around her, holding her fast against his body. He knew she had dreams. He’d waked her up from them, and held her against his chest while she cried, too many times to count. She felt the breath of his lips move the hair at the crown of her head. “There was nothing you could have done.”
“I know. But at least once a day I think: I couldn’t save them, but I can make those who did it pay.” She turned in his arms, looking up at him in the misty apricot light. “Would you do it?” (this is referring to killing those Death Star scientists)
Han grinned down at her. “Like a shot. But I’m not the Chief of State.”
“Would you do it to please me?”
He laid his hand along her cheek, leaned down to kiss her lips. He said softly, “No. Not even if you asked.”
He led her inside. As he stopped to close the shutters behind them, Leia paused by the room’s small table, where a half dozen shallow cakes of colored wax floated in a great glass bowl of water. She flicked the switch on the long stem of the lighter, touched in turn each wick. The drifting lights painted wavery circles of amber and daffodil on the ceiling and walls. Her eyes met Han’s over the floating candle flames; she let slip the shawl she’d worn over her shoulders, and held out to him her hand.
END OF PARAGRAPH. FADE TO BLACK. Now, that’s what I call a missing moment! Anyone feel free to fill that one in!
And just to solidify things, early that morning, Artoo mysteriously attacks them. Han and Leia both slip some boots on and this is said:
Looking a little ridiculous – he wasn’t wearing much besides the boots – Han crossed the bed in two strides to her side.
Yep, they were naked and now Han is standing naked in his boots being nearly electrocuted by Artoo. Another nice mental picture…
So, Artoo is now malfunctioning like the rest of the mechanicals on Belsavis. In order to keep him from killing them, Han has to mess him up pretty bad and Chewie spends a great deal of time rewiring him and fixing him but they have to put a restraining bolt on him because they don’t trust him now.
There’s a really good chunk of introspection from Leia about when Alderaan was destroyed and what time of day it was and what her family might have been doing at the time. I can’t quote it all, but it’s in Chapter 13 if you are interested. I will quote this:
She wondered what they’d think now, those aunts, if they could see her married to a man who’d started life as a smuggler, whose parents had been nobody-knew-who. If they could see her as Chief-of-State, after years of dodging around the galaxy in the company of a ragged gang of idealistic warriors with a price on her head.
She honestly didn’t know if they would have been aghast or proud. When she was eighteen, she hadn’t known them well; hadn’t known them as an adult knows other adults.
And they had all died before she could.
So, now Leia is heading back to the hall of records to research more of these droid malfunctions. She asked Han if he wants to go with her, but he says he is going to go off to do some further research at someplace called the “Jungle Lust”. When he asks Chewie to join him, he asks with a ‘suggestive wiggle of his hips”. Before they go their separate ways, Han makes sure that Leia doesn’t plan to take Artoo with her (since he had tried to kill them the night before). Then Leia thinks this:
Leia hesitated. She had had it in mind as a matter of course, but then, it hadn’t been her scantily covered anatomy Artoo had been firing bolts of electricity at not twelve hours ago.
Okay, just what part of Han’s anatomy was Artoo firing at?
Anyway, Leia agrees not to take Artoo and Han gives her a ‘quick, hard kiss’ before he departs and then Leia goes back and gets Artoo any way. She feels a bit guilty for lying to Han but she is trying to ‘trust her feelings’ like Luke had been teaching her. And she thinks this:
Han would choke. (If he knew she was taking Artoo)
But then, she thought, her love for Han was the greatest triumph she’d ever seen of ‘looks wrong, feels right.” So he didn’t have any room to talk.
Of course, Leia never makes it to the hall of records. Instead she recognizes a few members of the Ancient Houses and decides to follow them out to the frozen tundra instead. There are a few references to some things she picked up in the Rebellion, like when she muttered a word she’d picked up from the boys in the old Rogue Squadron and when she assembles some weaponry swiftly, deftly, as the boys in the Hoth dugout had taught her when it looked as if they weren’t going to get out before the Imperials came in.
There’s something I like about showing that side of Leia, you know? The last thing she does is tell Artoo that his final command is to go and find Han no matter what happens to her. And then they descend into the tunnels of Belsavis.
I guess I should get back to Luke. So, there is this female Jedi (Callista) that sacrificed her life 30 years ago to stop this battlemoon from doing what it was designed to do. Somehow her spirit was sucked into the computers of the ship and Luke allies with her to stop it from destroying Belsavis while he somehow falls in love with her. I’m still confused as all get out as to how this could happen and if Luke was dreaming or what, but this is what the book says:
After Callista had left – or perhaps while she still lay in his arms, her head pillowed on his shoulder in the aftermath of loving – he had drifted into deeper sleep.
Okay. So, Luke got lucky with the ship’s computer system somehow. Can you see why I really don’t want to expel much energy into trying to figure out this part of the novel? Ew.
Okay, so basically there is this Force-adept boy (that may or may not be Palpatine’s heir – probably not) that can control droids with the Force. Together with some of the members of the Ancient houses and some corporation big wigs, the boy’s mother plans to take control of the Eye of Palpatine and restore the Empire and control the galaxy or something. Leia is captured down in the tunnels and they sedate her heavily. Artoo escapes because the boy can’t control him. Seems like the boy (Irek) has to memorize the droid’s wiring to control them and of course, Chew had rewired Artoo to fix him.
There’s a cute part when Leia (while heavily sedated) rises out of her body to go and take a look around. When she looks down at herself she thinks: Cray’s right, she thought. I really do have to be more diligent about applying that Slootheberry Wrinkle Crème around my eyes.
I just thought that was cute that she would think of that while in the middle of all this other stuff.
Well, the Eye of Palpatine finally arrives, but Irek is unable to control it because of what Luke has been up to during his time aboard (maybe it’s because Luke had relations with it). Anyway, Leia is trying to escape and things get very tense but Han and Chewie show up right in time. Irek and his mother get away. Luke escapes with all the refugees but Cray Mingla, Nichos and Callista all perish when the Eye of Palpatine explodes over Belsavis.
While getting ready to leave the planet, Mara (yeah, Mara showed up – but that was another story – not really relevant) spots an escape pod and reels it in. Luke thinks that it is Cray Mingla. Cray had wanted to die with Nichos but Luke thinks she must’ve changed her mind. When they open the escape pod it is discovered that somehow Callista was able to transfer her soul into Cray’s body (with Cray’s help/permission) and he is beside himself with happiness and they kiss and hug and cry and such.
While Luke and Callista are talking and holding hands, Han tries to hurry them up so that they can leave on the Falcon. Leia says:
“Let them be for a while.”
“He can kiss her on the ship,” said Han good-naturedly.
I love that line from Han.
In the end, Callista finds that she no longer has the Force but she agrees to accompany Luke to Yavin because they love each other so much. Double ew.
I guess that’s about it. Like I said, the Han and Leia time in this book was well-worth the read in my opinion and I would give it a Han and Leia factor of 4 at least. Maybe 4+. [EDIT: Zyra and I were divided on this rating, but due to several comments, we're going to go with a 5 star on this book as far as Han and Leia fans go.]
And if anyone is interested in tackling either one of those missing moments – knock yourself out and send it/them to me or Zyra!