The author of this book, Kevin J. Anderson, performed a fantastic feat. Before you get too excited, let me tell you what that feat was. He wrote a book where Han and Leia are together the entire time. They even take a steam/bath type thing together. And yes, contrary to the way some other authors write Han/Leia, he writes them as if they actually care about one another and are happily married. Yet (and this is a big YET) Darksaber is maybe the most boring book I think I have ever read.
How did he do this, you ask? Well, let’s get on with the review and find out.
Also, one more unrelated item. Does anyone else have weird/mixed feelings about the name of this book? I mean, considering that the last book had the Eye of Palpatine, I just wondered what attribute the Darksaber may have gotten its name from? Ew. Double ew. I know. But you know you were thinking the same thing…
The book starts out with Han and Luke on Tatooine. (Okay, already, I know you are calling me a liar because I said that Han and Leia were together for the entire book – but it’s just like one chapter. Shoot me.) They are dressed as Sand People and apparently going back to Ben’s place so Luke can converse with his former mentor to figure out a way to get Callista’s powers back. Let me just say that a barf bag is probably warranted for the entire Luke/Callista love affair plot line. Damn, were they trying to make Mara look good? Because Callista sure made Mara a welcomed sight for me, I’ll tell you.
Anyway, even though his entire life has been centered around the galactic-important task of rebuilding the Jedi Council, Luke – I guess – feels that Callista’s missing Force powers are the most important thing ever now. Basically, all that happens is Han and Luke arrive at Ben’s. Luke places a telepathic plea for Ben to answer and doesn’t even get the machine. He even uses Leia’s “You’re my only hope line”, which I thought was goofy.
But could you imagine if Ben did use all the energy reserves he had left to answer Luke and then, instead of Luke having some galaxing-ending problem that he needed help with, he was like: “Hey, Ben. Can you help my girlfriend out? She really needs the Force so we can connect better in our relationship?” And then Ben places his hand over his eyes and shakes his head as he mutters, “I told Yoda that we should’ve trained the girl.”
But that didn’t happen and Luke and Han leave. But not before Luke vows to expend all of his energy searching the galaxy to find the answer ‘one way or another’. Really? Don’t you have an academy going on somewhere with a bunch of people you recruited? Uh-huh. You do. Makes me think of Yoda’s question “Will he finish what he started?” I guess that’s another big NO. You know, I’m not even that much of a Luke fan and it really irritates me the way they write him sometimes. You know? Like he’s an idiot.
I do have a tabby on the first chapter, though. As a side note, Han and Luke go to Jabba’s old palace to investigate why people have been ransacking it lately and what they might be looking for and on their approach, Han and Luke have this conversation:
"We should reach Jabba's palace by tomorrow," Luke said with weary hope.
"I can't wait," Han said. "I mean, we had so much fun the last time we were there."
Oh, Han. I love his sense of humor. And he does have some thoughts about Leia and the kids while he and Luke are on the way to Jabba’s:
He thought of Leia and their three children back on Coruscant and fantasized about the peaceful life of a small yet successful trader. But Han grimaced behind the bandages: such a quiet life would be a greater torture than any vicious punishment the Sand People could devise.
Would it really, Han? In a way I tend to agree with his thoughts here. I think he and Leia would get bored living a totally normal existence. But I have to think that there is some more happy medium between the boring life of a successful trader and the life that they are getting. But that’s just me.
I will say that I really enjoyed the Han/Luke relationship in these first chapters. It’s nice to see Han having fun with his brother-in-law and talking. While discussing the wacky monks that now inhabit Jabba’s palace, they have this conversation:
Han snorted and looked into Luke's pale blue eyes. "Good thing Jedi don't go for nonsense like that."
Luke smiled at his friend. "I seem to remember you called the Force a 'hokey religion' when I first met you."
Han looked away, embarrassed. "Well, I've gotten smarter since then."
Aw, embarrassed Han. It’s so cute.
So, Luke and Han discover that the Imperial Remnant is building another super weapon. Oh, how exciting. Man, I have a feeling when I reread this review in a few months or years, I may think I was too harsh. But, I’m going with it.
Han and Luke return to Coruscant to tell Leia (the Chief of State, remember?) about the super weapon. All Luke is thinking about is Callista, though. And the author delves into this idea that really infuriates me. The idea that two Jedi (Luke and whoever he falls in love with today) can have a better relationship than a non-Jedi couple (Han and Leia). As indicated in this line:
Following threads of the Force, he and Callista had connected with each other's personalities from the very first. They had linked like two pieces of a precise puzzle. Callista was right for Luke, and he was right for her. Being Jedi, they knew it in a way that few other lovers could understand.
Whatever. At least he says ‘few other lovers’, so I guess he’s leaving a little leeway there. But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this ‘ethereal’ love that two Jedi can share. Give me a break.
I guess I have to note that there is an entire storyline regarding Durga the Hutt and how he is building this new super weapon. He is using Bevel Lemelisk, the engineer behind the Death Star design. But Bevel had been killed and resurrected by the Emperor several times over and he is a bit ‘off’ now. But, good thing for the good guys, nobody seems to notice or care about that. As part of his plan to steal the designs of the Death Star from the old Imperial Palace, Durga calls on Leia as Chief of State and proposes an alliance between the Hutt cartel and the New Republic. It’s merely a rouse (which Han and Leia suspect) and some little monkey-lizard things he brings with them successfully infiltrate the palace and steal the plans.
Did I mention that there is absolutely NO kissing in this entire book between Han and Leia? Well, there isn’t. So I’m left to point out the small, insignificant gestures that we are given, like this one as Han and Leia prepare to receive Durga:
Leia leaned over and whispered to Han as they passed into the echoing room. "Han, the Hutt crime empire is very powerful, and we'll need to show them diplomatic courtesy. We've got to at least pretend to be civil."
Han rolled his eyes, then pulled his elbow against his side, pressing her hand to his ribs in a warm gesture. "Pretend?" Han said. "Pretending happens to be one of my strong suits. You just watch."
After the meeting with Durga, Han and Leia decide to repay his visit and go to Nal Hutta to try and see what he is up to. They bring Wedge Antilles and Admiral Ackbar along with some of the Republic fleet and disguise it as a practice exercise.
Also, Admiral Daala is still alive and in a bloody coup, takes the lead of the Imperial forces along with Vice Admiral Palleon (Thrawn’s old second). Daala does think something that I thought was worth noting:
Shadows haunted Daala's eyes, memories of failure and a snuffed fire of revenge, but the green of her irises flashed molten when she thought of how simple it would be to strike effectively against the clumsy New Republic. Even now, the Rebels still hadn't managed to secure their hold on the galaxy, though the Empire had given them years in which to accomplish it.
She’s so totally right, isn’t she? Why is the New Republic so doggone clumsly anyway? It’s like they got what they were fighting for and then didn’t know what to do with it. They were much better and organized when they were Rebels, weren’t they? That’s another thing I don’t like about the EU, this underlying theme that the Imperials are always more organized than the ‘Rebels’ and it’s usually a bit of luck and spit that gets the good guys by in the end. It gets kinda old. Do you agree?
Man, I’m really being hard on this book. Sorry. I can’t help myself.
But, there is something interesting that happens back on Yavin. Callista meets Mara Jade (as Mara stops by to talk to Luke) and the subject of Mara’s interest in Luke and LANDO is addressed:
"So, you're Skywalker's new lady?" she (Mara Jade) asked (to Callista).
Callista wished she could read the emotions behind Mara Jade's visage. The other woman was good at masking her expressions, and Callista didn't know what to make of their conversation.
"Yes I am," she answered. "And you must be Mara Jade. I've heard about you."
When Mara nodded briskly, Callista raised her eye-brows. "I also heard hints that you might have been interested in Luke yourself at one time."
Mara frowned again in distaste at her stew, but took a large mouthful. She swallowed, took a drink, and finally let loose a short laugh. "Who told you I was ever interested in Luke Skywalker? When I first met him, the thing I wanted most in the universe was to kill him. I thought that way for a long time...." She shrugged. "Sometimes it still seems like a good idea to me." Mara took another bite and chewed slowly. "Not a great basis for a long-term relationship, you think?"
Callista shook her head. "No, I suppose not." Even without her Jedi powers, Callista wasn't sure she believed Mara's answer. "Aren't you with Lando Calrissian? I heard something about you two being a hot item."
"Calrissian? You've got to be kidding!" Mara actually blushed and turned away to take another drink before she could cough on her quickly swallowed mouthful. "We're still good business partners in a very profitable operation at the spice mines of Kessel right now-but I think Calrissian was more interested in chasing me than in winning me... which is fine as far as I'm concerned."
Mara wiped the corners of her mouth. "Well, good to meet you." She stood up, smoothing out the wrinkles in her flight suit. "Give Skywalker my regards. I've got to be heading out. Just stopped by to drop off a message."
Mara left without so much as a nod of acknowledgment to the other Jedi trainees, while Callista wondered about her mysterious message.
Old Callista going head-to-head with Mara Jade. You go, girl. And Mara totally denying having anything to do with Lando…hmmm. Interesting. And I don't even remember what Mara's message was. I think they just had her show up to dispel the Lando rumor...
Okay, interesting part over, onto my next rant.
Luke is now going to travel to Coruscant to see his sister and to ask for some time alone with Callista. WTF?!?! How can he even have the balls (excuse my language) to ask her this or have this conversation with her? She has been married and has three kids and hasn’t had any time alone with Han and you think you can make a case for some time alone with your new crush? GAH! I can’t even. But I’ll quote the conversation:
"Leia," Luke said, "I have a request, an important favor to ask."
She sat up straighter, looking at Callista and then at her brother. "The last time you asked for a favor was to let Kyp Durron destroy the Sun Crusher. " She bit her lower lip. "But I suppose that came out all right."
Luke relaxed. "Nothing so monumental this time (you can say that again)," he said. "Callista and I have a lot of things to work out between ourselves. We need some time alone so we can devote our attention to reawakening her Jedi powers. She could be one of our strongest Jedi, if she regains her affinity for the Force. She could teach me a lot. I think the only way we can crack that wall around her is if Callista and I work together. Intensely." He grasped her hand. "We need a week or so alone, to focus on salvaging her powers, not a thousand other problems. No distractions."
Leia smiled wistfully. "I know exactly how you feel...." Then she became serious. "I can't order you around, Luke. There's no need for you to ask my permission."
Leia looked at Callista, and Luke could see that her face held a whirlpool of conflicting emotions: the need to see her brother happy, the desire for Callista to be his equal again, and her own need to keep Luke focused on training new Jedi Knights to strengthen and protect the New Republic (ya damned right, Leia!).
But Leia loved her brother very much, and her choice was clear. "Take all the time you need. I wish you the greatest success." She looked up. "Or should I say, may the Force be with you?"
So, if you remember, Han had called Cray Mingla the ‘blonde with the legs’ and it is Cray’s body that Callista now inhabits so when Luke and Callista are leaving, Han says this:
"Now do I get to hug Callista?" Han said, and came forward to give her a brief embrace as Leia laughed. Chewbacca blatted something, and Han waved him aside. "Nah, Chewie-you can hug Threepio if you want."
"Well, the very idea!" Threepio said.
I love that. And I love that Leia just laughed at him. See, I do love some things about the book. Not many, but some. Like when Han and Leia are discussing (while at a little, cute family dinner together) Durga’s visit and what they are going to do (before they decide to visit Nal Hutta) and Leia says this:
Leia smiled. "I know." She felt her face grow warm, fixing her attention on the challenge. She squeezed Han's hand in both of hers. "Okay, we've had closed Senate meetings, and I've heard enough discussion to make a statue fall asleep. So what are we really going to do?"
See? They work best when they are working and thinking as Rebels…
Upon their arrival at Nal Hutta, Leia and Han do have this nice conversation:
Leia sat next to Han at one of the discussion tables in her ready-room, and she reached over to clasp his hands. "Thanks for coming with me, Han. I'm glad we're finally going somewhere together, instead of splitting up all the time."
"Yeah, I like it too," he said with a lopsided grin. "It's a nice change. "
Yeah, I like it, too. I’m glad you guys notice these things. I’d like it better, though, if y’all (yes, I’m from the South, too) kissed every once in awhile, huh?
I think we have discussed before how Han gets most of all the best lines. Where, here’s a cute little part where he is teasing his old pal, Threepio:
"Didn't we tell you, Threepio?" Han said mischie-vously. "As a matter of state necessity, we're going to present you to Durga the Hutt. He'll be your new master."
"What?" Threepio cried, raising his arms in sudden shock. "Oh, no! You must be joking. I'm doomed! Please, I urge you to reconsider this, Mistress Leia."
Leia elbowed Han in the ribs. "That's mean, Han!"
"Just kidding, Goldenrod," he said and slapped the protocol droid on one hard metal shoulder.
"Kidding?" Threepio made a flustered sound. "Why, that wasn't at all funny!"
Again, Leia laughs at Han and they seem really like I would picture them, but…IDK, there’s just not much else to say. Since Durga is not on-planet when Han and Leia arrive, they are greeted by his assistant (Korrda) and showed around Nal Hutta while they wait for Durga to arrive. This cute little dialogue happens upon their arrival:
Korrda seemed pleased. "I hope you find my Basic acceptable. Lord Durga insists that all his entourage learn the language so that we might better work with the New Republic. Might I offer you suitable hospitality in the meantime? "
"We can't be sure quite what a Hutt means by hospitality," Han said quietly. "As I recall, I've experienced a little of it myself."
Korrda made a hissing, sizzling sound that Leia identified as a strained laugh. "Ah yes, Han Solo-I am aware of your dealings with the defeated Jabba, may his name be spoken with scorn. He is a worthless worm. No Hutt respects the memory of one whose empire has fallen. You will be pleased to note that the Hutts have lifted the bounty on both of you as an initial overture of peace."
"How very... heartening," Leia said with an acid-sweet smile.
Korrda suggests that Han and Leia partake in the luxury of a Hutt bathhouse while they wait. I immediately got visions of Dagobah’s swamp and apparently, so did Leia:
The concept of a Hutt bathhouse made Leia's stomach churn, but she forced a smile. Han raised an eyebrow skeptically, and clasped her hand under the table. "It's for the New Republic," she said in a martyred tone.
She will do just about anything for the New Republic, won’t she?
But they find out that they have a ‘human’ section that is full of steamy, clean, fresh water and she and Han partake of some ‘bathing’. We can only assume that they have some sort of bathing suits on, since they actually speak with Durga when he arrives while they are ‘bathing’. But the author never really explains what they might or might not be wearing. Even with all the possibilities this scene may have presented, we only get this, though:
"Should we talk?" Han whispered.
Leia slipped an arm around his waist. "No," she said. "We have nothing important to discuss at the moment, and there's no telling whether Durga's listening in. Let's just enjoy a moment of relaxation-for a change."
Han and Leia in a steamy bathhouse seemed promising, didn’t it? But alas, no.
Alright, I guess I’ve gotta cover some plot, don’t I? So, Durga is building the Darksaber in the Hoth Asteroid Belt. Lemelisk knows that mistakes are being made during the build but chooses to ignore them and hope for the best. Thank the goddess for bad guy incompetence. Daala is planning an attack on Yavin 4 where the Empire will once again try to wipe out the Jedi. Luke and Callista travel nauseatingly around trying to regain her powers. They begin by retracing Luke’s journey by going to Dagobah and ending up on Hoth and getting attacked by Wampas. Callista finds that she is able to touch the Force, but only through the Dark Side. They escape Hoth in a broken down ship and without a hyperdrive or engines, Luke places a distress call to Leia through the Force while he and Callista fight death under dwindling life support systems.
When Leia ‘receives’ Luke’s message she tells Han:
"It's Luke," she said. "He's in trouble."
"Do you know where he is?" Han said, his face filled with questions he did not ask. In their years together, Han had learned not to inquire about certain details of the Jedi, because he would never understand anyway. He no longer considered it a "hokey religion," but he still didn't comprehend it.
Han and Leia do arrive to rescue Luke and some New Republic forces are also there as they are tracking down the Darksaber. Crix Madine is captured and eventually killed and as the New Republic closes in on the Darksaber, the bad guys go to fire the weapon and discover that it is a dud and it kinda just blows up in their faces. Yep, dumb luck works every time.
I forgot to mention that Kyp Durron and Dorsk 81, recently knighted by Luke, went off on their own to infiltrate the Core systems and see what the Imperials were up to. They find out about the strike against Yavin 4 and escape. Daala strikes back at them by ordering an attack on Dorsk 81’s home planet of Khomm as part of her wrath of destruction. Kyp and Dorsk 81 are able to send a distress signal to the New Republic as they rush back to Yavin 4 to help the Jedi.
Palleon shows up at Yavin as the first wave to pummel the unarmed Jedi but, by combining their strength and tunneling through Dorsk 81 (which ends up killing him), the Jedi are able to fling Palleon’s forces out of the system and cripple their ships. Daala then arrives in her Super Star Destroyer, the Knight Hammer, and is surprised to find herself all alone as the Republic forces arrive, including the Millennium Falcon.
Han, Leia and Luke are just trying to return to the Jedi Academy so Luke and Callista can recover from their ordeal and are surprised to find themselves in the middle of a space battle. In fact, Han was so excited to be bringing Luke back to his students that he was broadcasting an announcement as he arrived in system. As he began to react to the battle, I guess he forgot to turn off his broadcast, but Leia reminding him:
"Han," Leia snapped, "stop transmitting your identification signals. You're drawing their attention."
"Uh, right," Han said with a sheepish look, and slapped at the comm system, switching off the beacon.
A transmission burst across their speakers, crackling at a high volume because of the power behind the Super Star Destroyer. "This is Admiral Daala, commander of the Knight Hammer. You will surrender immediately or be destroyed."
Han groaned. Chewbacca roared. Artoo squealed a shrill note of alarm. "Admiral Daala! Oh, my!" Threepio said.
Han toggled the communication system. "Daala, you are such a pain," he said, then snapped it off, dodging another burst of turbolaser bolts by flying in a figure eight past the Star Destroyer's targeting locks.
"Han, stop showing off," Leia said.
I love Han’s ‘you’re such a pain’ line.
Leia and Han drop Luke off as they prepare to join the Republic fleet. As Luke prepares to go down to Yavin 4 to help the Jedi, he says this to Callista:
Luke smiled at their confidence. "Callista," he said, "maybe you should go with Han and Leia on the Falcon where you'll be safer."
She shook her head vigorously, the short malt blond hair waving in the humid air. "Not on your life. I'm staying here with you."
He smiled gently at her. "All right, I'll protect you with my Jedi powers (gag). Just stay close."
She scowled, suddenly reminded of her inability to use the Force, but her face flushed with a fiery determination.
I really, really hate Luke’s line there. It’s not only insensitive to Callista’s plight, but just…wrong.
Shortly thereafter (I wonder why?) Callista leaves Luke to try and do something on her own. She goes up the Daala’s ship in a stolen TIE fighter and blows it up from the inside. Before she does that she faces Daala, but without the Force, is bested by the Imperial Admiral. Daala takes her personal escape pod and the Knight Hammer is destroyed along with (we think) Callista.
And yes, while the ongoing battle for all the lives of the Jedi is going on, Luke (when he notices Callista is missing) goes off and searches for her instead of fighting the Imperials. Man, Leia really got all of the priority processing genes, didn’t she? Eventually he realizes what she did and is, of course, devastated.
There’s a few things I like about the beginning of Chapter 55 (Yes, over 55 chapters and not a single kiss!):
The Falcon's engines roared as Chewbacca sat in the co-pilot's seat, grabbing the controls for liftoff. Leia strapped in, while Han Solo stood on the boarding ramp gesturing toward Kyp Durron. "If you're coming with us, Kyp-get moving! In the Falcon at least we can provide air cover."
Han's heart wrenched as he watched the young Jedi who had already been through so much, who had been helpless while his companion Dorsk 81 perished from his overloaded contact with the Force. With brittle movements and a hard expression, Kyp took one last glance around the jungle and the temples, then ran to the Falcon.
"Take us up, Chewie," Han called.
Threepio stood behind them flustered. "Oh, dear! You're not going to ask me to operate the gunwale again, are you, sir?"
Han dropped into the pilot seat and strapped in. "I don't know, Goldenrod. We might make a commando out of you yet."
"Thank you, sir, but that's not in my programming."
Okay, first, I think Han shows far more compassion for Kyp Durron than he ever ends up showing for his own children and that is just so wrong on so many levels. Not the Kyp part, that’s great and true, but the children part, of course. It’s…sad, really. And then, I just liked the little exchange between him and Threepio there.
Oh, and this is a little out-of-order since it’s before the Knight Hammer explodes, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to point out some more hand-squeezing (since that’s all we get):
On the bridge, Han gripped Leia's hand. They looked into each other's eyes and then stared out at the overwhelming tide of battle.
Daala makes it back to Palleon’s ship and surrenders control of the Imperial forces to Pellaeon in light of her defeat. Back on Coruscant, the New Republic hosts a memorial celebrating the victory and the lives of those they have lost, including Madine, Dorsk 81 and Callista.
Leia looked up, her dark eyes sparkling with unshed tears. An honor guard stood around the upper platform of the immense Imperial palace that looked out upon the towering skylines of the planetwide city. Han remained next to her, troubled but trying to hide it. He placed a comforting arm around Leia's shoulders.
Young Anakin and the twins, Jacen and Jaina, were dressed in stiff and uncomfortable finery, but they behaved themselves, seeming to sense the somber occasion.
As Luke looked at Leia's family, it struck home like a dull knife blade in the heart. He wasn't jealous of Leia and her marriage-he and his sister had very different lives-but he had longed for a similar future with Callista. Only Callista...
As two powerful Jedi Knights, they should have been a perfect pair. They could have been deliriously happy, precisely matched-and they would have been, if circumstances hadn't repeatedly conspired against them. Luke's face remained stony, a tired mask that hid his emotions... but his inner pain at the loss of Callista was so strong even Leia could sense it. She flinched, looking at him with concern-but she had her own overwhelming duties as Chief of State now. Luke nodded briefly to reassure her.
He felt as if he had been continually denied a facet of his humanity. Had becoming a Jedi forced an unknown choice upon him, that he would forever be blocked from the normal joys and loves other humans encountered? He hadn't realized the cost would be so high.
Callista is, in fact, alive and decides to go on her own journey to find the Force and regain her powers alone. She sends Luke a message letting him know and although broken-hearted, he accepts it and decides to dedicate his time and efforts to rebuilding the Jedi Order. Smart move, farmboy.
I'm rating this book a 2.5 on the Han and Leia scale. One point each because Han and Leia are actually IN the book and a half of a point for the rest of it... If anyone else LOVED this book or something, please let me know...