Sunday, April 8, 2012

Before the Storm: The Review

This is the first book in the Black Fleet Crisis trilogy. I recalled liking this series enough to read it more than once. And upon my most recent read it occurred to me that the fact that Han and Leia have literally about five scenes in bed probably had something to do with it.

The book begins with a bit of a flashback to the battle of Endor where we learn of Nil Spaar, a Yevetha who led his people in a little rebellion of their own against their Imperial masters at the Koornacht Cluster. This is the guy who is about to cause Leia a lot of headaches and a lot less sleep.

But before any of that happens, we learn that things have actually been pretty peaceful around the New Republic lately. This being the first book that follows after the children had been kidnapped and subsequently reunited with their parents, we learn that Han has basically been relegated to stay-at-home dad. It's a bit more "official" than that though as Han tried to resign so he could make sure he was always home to protect his family, but instead of accepting said resignation, Admiral Ackbar assigned Han to the president of the Senate - that would be Leia - as liaison for domestic defense. "You are to assist her in whatever way she sees fit. Do you understand?" I think both Han and Leia would be happy to hear that.

I think it is quite in character for Han to take matters like this into his own hands when it comes to his kids. It is quite obvious that nobody else can be trusted to protect them. Although it is kind of difficult to believe that he would be content in this sort of position for long, it does seem like a sacrifice he'd be willing to make. The book alludes to the decision:

There was nothing to be done about it now except to try not to compound the mistake. On the first night the family was reunited, with Leia crying tears of relief as they held each other, Han had silently vowed never to leave the children without the care and protection of a parent again.

There was no disentangling Leia from the business of the government, but Han saw his own position differently.

So Han is taking a very active role in the raising of his children - finally. He's sitting back and worrying mostly over his now seven-year old twins and five-year old youngest child. The first we see of him in the book he is worrying about much simpler things than the kids getting kidnapped. No, instead he's concerned because apparently Jacen is getting a little pudgy because he's too busy trying and failing to move things with his mind rather than just trying to move. And apparently he is always happier to be playing alone, though Han blames himself and Leia since the children must be sheltered to ensure their safety. He also recalls his own childhood and days of "rough and tumble play" although this might be a bit contradictory given that a couple of years later some other books were written to tell us that Han had anything but a normal childhood of playing outside. But he certainly wouldn't have been a chubby kid.

So Han's days were now spent at the president's residence, which he shared with Leia, trying to make up for lost time. But he was discovering that children made the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive look dependable and predictable by comparison. Little Anakin was Han's loyal ally, but the twins tested him early and often.

I guess I had forgotten that there was at least a decent stretch of time where Han and Leia did take care of their kids. Remember when we were talking about peaceful times between the books that weren't exactly worthy of stories? Well, looks like this book alludes to some of that. Here comes a long quote to just tell you about the more normal "routine" that has taken over at the Solo household:

"But, Dad, Winter let us-"

"But, Dad, Chewie always-"

"But, Dad Threepio never" Sentences beginning with those constructions were banned from the household by the end of the first month. "It's not fair! " followed soon thereafter. With Leia backing up his edicts down the line (discreetly negotiating her dissents with him in private), all three children eventually acknowledged Dad as boss of the house.

But he worried about the day he thought must inevitably come-the day a disagreement would turn into a fight he would lose. Raising Jedi children, he decided, was like raising Ralltiir tigers-cute as they were when young and much as they might love you, they still grew long, deadly claws. Han would never forget the afternoon Anakin had an hourlong, Force-assisted tantrum. Every object in the playroom was shoved or thrown against the wall, leaving the youngster alone in the middle of a bare floor, kicking his heels and pounding his fists.

One mercy was that all the three children were basically good-hearted.
Another was that playing with the Force seemed to make them sleep longer and more deeply. Unfortunately, Anakin and Jacen both had their mother's stubbornness-neither could be readily compelled to do anything they didn't want to. And Jaina and Jacen both had a streak of irrepressible mischief, which Leia blamed on Han-both could be regularly counted on to do something you didn't want them to.

They had established a new family ritual that seemed to please everyone. When Leia came home, they would all climb into the vortex pool in the garden and spend half an hour or more being carried around by its currents. The kids could play-Anakin had suddenly begun to love the water so much that Ackbar proudly called him "my little fish"-or just cling to Mom and Dad, while for Leia and Han it was therapy, a sigh of relief at the end of a long day.

Then, while the children were off with the valet droid, dressing for dinner, Han and Leia retreated to their own bedroom for what they jokingly called "the daily briefing." It was as much a part of the ritual as the pool-a chance for them to rail, complain, or simply entertain while swapping stories about their day.

Okay, that big, long stretch there gives us some very valid proof that at least for a good stretch of time, the Solos were sort of like a normal family. I love the idea of their little end of the day routine, the whole family swimming together and then Han and Leia going off to talk about their day before dinner. This is a very nice little picture and I must say I can't really complain about it. It's nice to see that the kids think of Dad as the boss, as opposed to say a few books ago when it was like they had no idea how to take care of their own kids. And you certainly feel for Han trying to figure out how to take care of Force sensitive children. And I also love the discussions of which traits the kids got from which parent.

This sets up a scene of Han and Leia in their bedroom discussing normal parent stuff, like Han wanting Jacen to be more active and Leia, being the mom, defending him.

"He said, 'Why do I have to be strong? Someday I'll be able to go anywhere I want, or get anything I want, just by thinking about it--like Uncle Luke.'" Han shook his head. "He doesn't seem to have noticed that Uncle Luke doesn't look a bit like Jabba the Hutt."

"Neither does Jacen!" Leia said defensively.

"Give him time."

"You're exaggerating."

Then Leia brings up the fact that Luke has gone off on some quest and neither one of them has heard from him in months. I think not hearing from Luke for months might be a bit of a stretch, but hey, Han and Leia are just hanging out in their bedroom talking at this point in the book so I'm not going to complain too much. Leia is worried, of course Han knows Luke can take care of himself. By the end of this conversation they are both just lying on their backs, exhausted on the bed, while Han tells Leia about some fight Jaina and Jacen had earlier that day. Silly, I know, but I really do like reading about them being pretty normal like that.

We briefly cut back to Luke who is quietly landing on Coruscant in the middle of the night, but then we immediately go back to Leia sitting up in bed in the middle of the night after she and Han had been asleep. Obviously they were exhausted after some good sexy time. She senses that Luke is there but she can tell he doesn't really want to be found. Han being Han, just wants her to relax.

"He'll tell us when he's ready," Han said, drawing Leia down into the comforting circle of his arms.

"Sleep, my princess. Mornings always come too soon."

End of chapter. I told you they are in bed a lot in this book. Anyway, Leia spends her working time trying to figure out what is going on with this Nil Spaar guy, planning some negotiations and such. Han goes to see the Falcon because he finally took it in to have it seriously restored. This is something he would've done himself but with his family and everything he just doesn't have the time. She's faster and quieter and lighter and totally fully functional and Han pretty quickly misses all of her creaks and quirks. Han isn't so happy at first as he feels like her history has been erased, but his attitude changes quickly when he learns that she's twenty percent faster.

They take her out for a spin and Chewie tells Han that she's perfect, to which Han replies, "I hate perfect." This definitely sounds like Han to me:

"That's right-hardly a sound. She's as tight as a new boot, " Han said, stopping and turning on his friend. "Listen, buddy, I hate new boots. I like my boots covered with scuffs, worn just this side of falling apart, with room for my toes and a little roll in the heels. All those noises they took out, that's how I used to know when I was pushing her. How am I gonna know how hard we're hit next time we're in a scrap?"

Chewbacca shook his head and growled his disgust.

"I thought you'd understand," Han said plaintively. "Chewie, they replaced the cushions on the acceleration couches." His tone was rich with indignation. "Don't they understand why people keep old furniture around the house? That's not my
Falcon. It feels like I'm sitting in somebody else's ship. I tell you, I'm gonna have to take a whole day to go around with a wrench and start loosening things-" Somewhere in the middle of Han's tirade, Chewbacca stopped listening to him.

Aw, poor Han. Someone made his ship all shiny and new and not like he remembers her. Because of his little test drive, Han is a bit late coming home and he finds Leia in the back yard with the kids who are all lying on their backs in the grass.

"I thought you'd be back long before this, " Leia said, with a hint of impatience in her voice. "I had to postpone an appointment with Senator Noimm."

Han looked down, embarrassed. "Sorry, honey," he said, sitting beside her and reaching for her hand. "There were problems at the yard."

"And I'll bet you caused most of 'em," she said, leaning over to kiss his cheek. "Right, Chewie?"

The bronze-furred Wookiee looked away, shifted his weight from one foot to the other, and scratched his head distractedly.

"It's okay, Chewie," Han said. "I'll rat on myself, so you don't have to." He nodded toward the children, who had neither moved nor made a sound since he and Chewbacca had arrived. "What did you do to them, kill them?"

Jaina giggled at that, spoiling the effect.

"It's an exercise," Leia said.

"What, to see who can levitate the longest?"

Again, I like these little family moments in this book. First of all, Leia is watching the kids and she couldn't leave for her meeting because Han wasn't home yet. You know, like a normal family instead of one who passes their kids off to a nanny or, even better, a protocol droid. And I like that she's sort of irritated but at the same time she very quickly lapses into some humor. And okay, one more cute line from Han from this scene: "The best discipline I know is the sentence 'Wait till your mother gets home.'"

The kids go off to swim in the pool and Chewie stays behind, telling Leia how crazy Han is being about his ship and Leia asks if Chewie is as upset as Han about someone else working on his "jalopy." Han gets defensive.

"Oh, right, fine, you're the practical one, and I'm the hot-tempered one," Han said. "Have you ever heard such character assassination?"

"Don't worry, dear, " Leia said, patting his hand." I won't let him change how I feel about you."

Chewie asks if he can go back home to Kashyyyk for a visit. Remember how he has his own wife and kid that he totally ignores? I guess we shouldn't feel too bad for how Han and Leia are treated in these books given the fact that Chewie almost never sees his family. Han is reluctant to let him go and even more reluctant to let him take the Falcon, but Leia finally gets him to relent. Then Han and Leia are left alone.

When Chewbacca was gone, Leia drew Han into a gentler and more agreeable embrace. "I'm proud of you," she said. "He'd never say anything to either of us, but he still hasn't stopped feeling awful inside about the kidnapping of the kids."

Han did not have to ask Leia how she knew about Chewbacca's private pain. "It wasn't his fault."

"You'll never convince him of that. He feels guilty for failing us. And he feels guilty for neglecting his own. He really needs to go home and get his confidence back." She drew back and smiled up at her husband.

"And from what I hear, looking after Wookiee children is good practice for looking after Jedi children."

"Maybe I should go with him."

"You don't need to," she said, and kissed him.

"Yeah, well, fine," Han said. "I'll tell you this much, though. Luke'd better come teach the kids how to flap their arms and fly. Because I'm never giving Jacen the codes to the
Falcon. Not in my lifetime, anyway."

"Why? Didn't you start piloting everything in sight as soon as you could?"

"Of course I did," Han said indignantly. "Why do you think I'm worried?"

I'm coming close to Push already on over-quoting from the book but when there are a lot of cute moments, I think they should be highlighted. I mean, we only get to read so many kisses, right? And I can definitely see Han being reluctant to give his kids reign of his ship. It's only too bad Jacen doesn't turn out to be anything like his dad.

Luke contacts Han to talk to him but he tells him he doesn't want to talk to Leia. Leia really wants Luke's help with the kids and teaching them about the Force but Luke is busy with his own thing. He seems to have some sort of notion that he's going to find out some stuff about his real mother. It should be noted that this book came out a few years before Episode I and anything he "learns" in this book has absolutely nothing to do with Padme. So we're sort of left wondering if there was some other plan in place or if this was meant to be a facade.

Anyway, Luke only wants to talk to Han because he knows Han won't pester him about coming to help with the kids and Leia would be too stubborn to accept whatever answers he has about what he's doing. Something about going into hiding like Obi Wan did, or Yoda when he was on Dagobah. Han is used to Luke being a bit nuts so he just listens and promises to pass on the information, after he asks Luke if he'll put off his mysterious excursion and come help with the kids for a bit. Of course Luke says no and they part ways.

It is finally time for Leia's first meeting with Nil Spaar, but she is completely exhausted. From yet another tidbit of them in bed:

Anakin had awakened from a terrifying nightmare in the small hours, and Leia had allowed him to climb into bed between her and Han in the hope that it would help him sleep. But the unfamiliar presence of a third little body had forced her into unnatural sleeping postures. Worse, Anakin had become a restive sleeper, and she had found herself aware of his every move, coming fully awake time and again as he turned and squirmed beside her.

Han, Leia had been annoyed to discover, slept through it all, including his own snoring.

I know, I am ridiculous for enjoying such a simple little bit of Anakin going into Mom and Dad's room when he has a nightmare and getting into bed with them. Really, I'm pretty easy to please.

Anyway, Leia is kind of a mess before her meeting with Nil Spaar since she is basically completely exhausted and overwhelmed and it has been requested that she meet with him alone. He is a bit tough to read and says that he isn't really there to join, nor is he there to oppose them, but he wants an agreement between equals. Leia goes back to confer with her people, all the while trying to remain the diplomat and gain Nil Spaar's trust even though the others are a bit more suspicious. They don't come to an agreement, and Nil Spaar leaves and later cleans himself thoroughly and refers to Leia and the New Republic as "vermin." You pretty quickly know that he is up to no good.

Luke is off in the middle of nowhere meditating. Man, that guy is weird. No wonder his only girlfriend to date was Callista, who he originally found in a computer. Anyway, he is interrupted by this mysterious woman named Akanah who claims to know something of Luke's mother. She says his mother is one of their people. She even claims that it is possible that his mother is still alive. "Who saw her fall? Where is her grave?" She even tells him her name, or one of the names she was known by, was Nashira.

Okay, I know this is not the author's fault because they obviously didn't know what was going to happen in the prequels, but again, given all of the technology and such it seems odd that it would be so incredibly difficult to figure out who Luke and Leia's mother is. Yeah, remember that elaborate funeral with thousands and thousands of people as Padme's body was paraded through the streets? But apparently we can't find her grave...

Anyway, Akanah is going to bring Luke to learn more things about Nashira and Luke decides he needs to tell Leia before he goes because she deserves to know and she has some memories of their mother that he does not. Again, contradictions here. Once again, Leia senses Luke's presence as he gets closer and we get another scene of Han and Leia in bed, but it's kind of irritating:

Without warning Leia sat bolt upright in her bed, breaking Han's embrace.

"What is it now?" he asked plaintively.

"He's coming here tonight."

"Who is?"

"Luke. " She threw back the soft coppery sheet and climbed out of bed. "He's coming to see us."

"How do you know?"

"I heard his voice. You know, what you fondly refer to as that semi-mystical twin thing?"

"Well-he's not ringing the doorbell yet," Han said hopefully. "It'll take him a while to get here."

Leia seemed not to hear him. "It's about time. All I have to do is tell him about the way the kids were today-that'll give him the whole catalog of problems."

So they were in bed fooling around a little bit and Leia realizes Luke is coming and immediately runs off. Aw, come on, like Han said, it's not like he's right there!

As she was speaking, she moved toward the bedroom door. When she reached it, she stopped and turned back toward Han, still sitting bare-chested on the bed in a jumble of sheets. "No, I'm sure you're wrong. That's not why Luke's coming here. He seemed--excited. Almost happy."

Han surrendered. "All right. Whatever you say. Where are you going?"

"I've been keeping notes on the children. I want to bring them up to date before Luke arrives." She threw him a quick smile and disappeared through the doorway.

"I guess we're done here, then," he said to himself.

Sighing, he climbed out of bed. "I've got a bad feeling about this. Oh, yes, I do."

Can you imagine Leia leaving Han in bed like that? I can't. To make it more tolerable I'm going to tell myself that they'd already done it twice that night so it's not really that bad.

Luke shows up a bit later, in the middle of the night, and Leia still assumes he's there to help with the kids but he quickly tells her that he's found out some new information on their mother. Leia is not at all happy about this news and basically tells Luke to just leave. Han is trying to keep everyone calm and after Leia storms off he tells Luke that Leia has been having a rough time with these negotiations that have apparently been going on for a month now and the twins have been giving her trouble and for the millionth time Luke tells Han that she'd do so much better if she drew on the Force. Shut up about the Force already, Luke!

We learn that Leia's mind has been probed to see if they can unlock the mysteries of their mother, and Leia has accepted that it's the past and her children are the future. Then she tells Luke that apparently on a constant basis their are random women - sometimes not even human - who come to her and claim to be her mother. She has never told Luke this and I can imagine that would be quite upsetting. And here comes a long quote, some of which you've probably read here already:

"Listen to me-we're never going to have a tidy family tree," Leia snapped. "Why can't you realize? We're never going to know our parents better than we do right now. We're never going to have fond stories of our grandparents to tell our children. We're better off telling them about Owen and Beru, about Bail-the real people who cared for us, protected us, loved us like we were their own. You make too much of blood."

"It's more than blood-" Luke began.

"I don't care," Leia said, slapping the top of the bar with the flat of her right hand. The noise was so sudden and loud that it made Han jump. "You can't invent a normal childhood for us, no matter how much you turn up about Mother and Father. And if you do find the truth, as you call it, you just might find you don't like it very much. You might end up wishing you'd let them stay dead."

"Could anything be worse than what we already know?"

"I'd rather not know the answer to that question," Leia said curtly, pushing herself back from the bar so violently that her stool toppled to the floor as she slipped off it. "You and I are foundlings, Luke. That's how it is, like it or not. Our family tree starts here-with this family, and these children. And they're going to know their parents, and their uncle, and all our wonderful friends."

Leia's face and voice filled with a rising fury as she spoke, fury at the world, the past, at Luke, at all who stood as obstacles to her vision of what should be.

"My children are going to have normal family stories to tell their children, little funny stories about everyday nothings, stories where no one dies too young or has to carry a burden of shame. I'm going to see to that, with your help or without it-"

Han approached from the doorway. "Leia-"

"Nothing matters more to me, do you understand?" she demanded, jabbing a finger in Luke's face. "Nothing. So you do what you think you have to, brother-go wherever you have to with whoever you want to, chasing whatever shadow of a hint of a promise of a clue you like. I don't care about any of it. Don't ask for my help again. And don't bring the past into this house. It's all just pain and death. You wallow in it if you want to. I've had enough of it for ten lifetimes."

I can appreciate Leia's feelings on this matter but it is very upsetting to me that after all she tries to do for them her sons both die young, one after turning Sith, and, well, lots of other awful stuff happens. But let's pretend it didn't. I do think this is a natural reaction for Leia and at least she does want her children to have a normal family life and appears to be trying to give them that.

Luke leaves and we are back to this whole weird thing with the Black Fleet and Leia's negotiations. Ackbar and some of the others are still worried about this fleet that might come to attack them, even though apparently it has been missing for ten years. Leia tells them this whole thing is ridiculous but they still want to have some military force out there even though Leia thinks this will show the Yevetha that they don't trust them.

In the end they decide to send the Fifth Fleet, which was apparently going to be going out anyway, to search for this mysterious Black Fleet but Leia tells them to stay away from Koornacht so as not to make it look like they don't trust Spaar. After all of this, Han and Leia have another conversation... in bed. Leia apparently wakes Han up, so let's just assume that they totally did it a few hours earlier. Leia is talking out her issues with these negotiations and just feeling generally overwhelmed and like she really shouldn't be the president, and Han keeps reminding her that she is doing a great job and sometimes people just aren't going to like what you do. She says that it takes someone special and Han tells her, "You are something special, boss lady." And then:

"Half the time I feel like an accident of history. What happens if you and Luke don't get it into your heads to rescue me? Poof. No Princess Leia."

"I seem to remember a certain feisty young princess taking charge of her own rescue," Han said dryly. "I don't know if any of us would have gotten out of there without all of us."

I like that quote of Han's and he's probably absolutely right about that!

"The point is, I could easily have died on the Death Star," Leia said. "I don't doubt that my father was capable of killing me to get what Grand Moff Tarkin wanted."

"You never have talked about that."

"I don't like even thinking about it," she said.

"He didn't know you were his daughter."

She smiled sadly. "That says something, doesn't it? Oh, listen to me-I'm sounding more and more like Luke all the time. This is why I hate looking back. Nothing good comes from looking back."

"So why are you doing it?"

"Because you asked me why these negotiations matter to me," she said. Then she quickly amended her answer, saying, "No-that's not fair to you. It's not your doing. I've been lying here for an hour afraid to go to sleep, and I can't think of anything else but."

"Oh," said Han. "Did you dream about Alderaan again?"

"Twice in the last week," said Leia. "And that's another reason to question myself."

"Because you have bad dreams? Anyone who was there would."

"Tarkin said I had dictated the choice of targets for the Death Star's demonstration, " Leia said softly. "I haven't been able to make myself stop hearing that. I still see the explosion." She looked away. "And sometimes I can't help feeling as though they died because of me. That I survived because I betrayed them. And what kind of qualification is that?"

"Nonsense. They died because of Tarkin," Han said. "He only said that to manipulate you. I hate to see that it's still working."

"Memories have a long reach," she said, settling back against her pillows. "I just realized something else, Han. About why this matters. And it's a better answer to your question than my doubts about belonging where I am." She shook her head slowly and closed her eyes. "My father did so much to divide the galaxy. I feel as though I have to do what I can to unite it."

"You can't take all that on-"

"I can't not take it on. I have my demons, too-Luke's not the only one. That's why you can never ask me to walk away," Leia said. "I don't know if I belong in this job, and it makes me bone-tired and half crazy sometimes, but I want to be here. Here, maybe I can make a difference." She turned to her husband in the darkness. "That's all I'm trying to do in that room with Nil Spaar, Han-make a difference. Is that wrong?"

Han reached for her hand and squeezed it affectionately, forgivingly. "No. There's nothing wrong with that. But you might think about throwing in a vacation here and there, when you start to feel the walls closing in. Let someone else mind the store for a while."

"There isn't anyone else, " she said, with a hint of sadness. "They come here to see the president. So that's who I have to be."

Poor Leia, right? Dealing with being the president when she doesn't want to be, still haunted by dreams of Alderaan and the idea that it was her fault. Man, that is not good. At least she feels comfortable enough to talk about these things with Han and at least they are both there in the same place at the same time. And how many bed scenes is that now?

Back to the negotiations, Leia is still inclined to be trusting and everyone else is still very skeptical. The fleet is going out no matter what and Leia decides she needs to have someone she trusts completely go with them to make sure she knows what's going on and has someone on her side. Who do you suppose is perfect for that?

"Why me?"

"You're the only person I trust completely," said Leia. "And you have all the necessary clearances in place."

"What about the kids?"

"I've already talked to Winter. She's willing to come back and take over while you're gone."

Han glowered. "That's not the way we decided it was going to be."

"It'll be all right. I'll spend more time here."

"You know A'baht's going to hate this," said Han. "Commanders always hate feeling like they're being watched. And he's gonna take it out on me."

"You'll bear up."

"He's gonna expect me to be in full uniform. I'm gonna have to
shave every morning-"

"I know I'm asking a lot, Han. The chances are it'll be a long, boring deployment. I hope it will be."

"So why am I going?"

"Just in case I don't get my wish."

He combed his fingers through his hair, then scratched the back of his neck vigorously. "Son of a-How you get me to do these things-" Leia hugged him and rested her head on his shoulder.

"Thank you, darling."

"Yeah, that's how." He sighed. "I'm gonna need to catch a shuttle up tonight, aren't I."

"By nine or so. They're holding a Fleet four-place for you at Eastport."

"Then I'd better go in. I need to pack."

Her arms tightened around him. "I already sent the valet to pack for you," she said. "You need to stay here and hold me until the last possible second."

"Right," said Han. "That's what I was about to say."

Ugh, so Leia is being second guessed and has to send her husband away to make sure that she isn't totally blind sided by anyone completely ignoring her orders. At least she is obviously reluctant to let him go and quite obviously is going to miss him, even if it is her own fault for sending him off. And after so much time at home I can definitely see Han having trouble with the idea of a uniform and daily shaving, even if Han Solo was always remarkably clean-shaven throughout the trilogy.

So eventually Han reports for duty and he basically just wants to go to his quarters, which he does. He is not having fun.

Nothing felt right-being away from Leia and the kids, going off alone without Luke or Chewbacca, resenting Leia for asking when she knew he could not refuse her, hating his own inability to say no. Somewhere he had lost the independence he had once cherished as his most precious possession, and the worst part was that he knew he had given it up freely.

No-the worst part was that here he was, on his own, and he couldn't remember how to enjoy it. It didn't feel right to be alone.

Aw, I can definitely see Han being like this. So independent for so long but once he has a wife and a family just about the last thing he wants is to be alone. I'll briefly mention that Lando is off with Artoo, Threepio and Lobot. Remember Lobot? What the heck was that thing on his head, anyway? Is it an accessory that anyone can wear or if you take it off he'd die or something? Anyway, I'm not even going to get into what was going on there because I almost fell asleep during all of those chapters and lack the patience to look at them again and write them up here. But if you are a Lando fan, he does get some action and some substantial page time. Luke is also still of with Akanah meditating and thinking that he is sensing his mother, but again, we know whoever they're talking about isn't his mother.

Back to Leia, who is continually being naively trusting and totally manipulated by Nil Spaar while everyone who is supposed to be backing her up is questioning this trust. Now Nil Spaar is accusing Leia of having planned to hold his fleet captive and betraying him. He says that Leia has been lying this entire time and they are holding them captive on Coruscant and won't let them leave.

Leia is disgusted with the whole thing and orders that they open the shield and let them leave even though everything has simply been misinterpreted. She is just completely overwhelmed really at this point and second guessing everything. She leaves to go home and tells them she is seriously considering resigning. Leia contacts the Fifth Fleet, and General A'baht, who Han was watching, had disobeyed some of Leia's orders and sent out some spy probes. She relieves him of command, and tells Han - who is alarmed at how bad Leia looks when she calls - to bring the fleet home. Really she mostly just wants him home. Then, he finally arrives:

Leia Organa Solo waited hopefully, eagerly, behind the gate for the Fleet shuttle to land at Eastport 18. The moment the shuttle's engines were cut, she brushed past the gate supervisor's earnest cautions and ran out onto the landing pad. When the hatch hissed open and the boarding stairs unfolded, she was already waiting at the bottom.

Han was the first to appear on the top step, wearing his lopsided grin and carrying his flight bag over one shoulder. Taking the stairs in three long strides, he tossed the flight bag down and gathered Leia up in a hug so deep and warm that it almost began to drive away the icy chill that had invaded her spirit since the collapse of the Yevethan negotiations and her humiliation by Peramis and Nil Spaar. She hid her tears against his chest.

"It's gonna be all right," Han murmured into her hair. "You should hear about some of the bad days
I've had."

Leia laughed despite herself and hugged him fiercely. "Let's go home."

"Can't think of one good reason not to, " Han said, bending to pluck his flight bag from the ground. "Don't make too much of it, hon, but I kinda missed you."

Man, are you feeling for Leia enough in this book? She is a complete wreck. At least Han is home and they're both happy to see each other. That night, Ackbar goes into their house because apparently he has been given clearance. Literally he can walk all the way into the house and right to their bedroom:

There was no sound from the direction of the children's rooms, which was a relief-he was not ready to deal with their eager energy. Ackbar supposed that, with Han's return, the whole family had been up late.

Sleep in as long as you like, children, he thought with a melancholy tenderness. Sleep in while you can.

Ackbar followed memory and the floorboard glow strips through the darkened halls to Leia and Han's bedroom. Out of consideration for the children, the door was closed but not secured. He hoped his friends were not busy mating.

"Open," Ackbar told the housecomm. "Lights."

When the bedroom was suddenly flooded with light, Han reflexively spun over on his back and sat bolt upright. Squinting, he sighed away the rush of adrenaline when he recognized Ackbar. "You," Han said gruffly. "It's a lucky thing for you I don't sleep with a blaster anymore."

"Not luck," the Calamari said. "You told me, after the time you and Jaina scared each other half to death."

Seriously? He can just waltz right into their house and go in their room? I mean, of course it's funny to think of Ackbar hoping his friends aren't busy "mating" and of course given Han's recent return we can assume that after a good reunion with the kids, once they were in bed Han and Leia definitely had a much more intimate reunion by themselves, but why, exactly, couldn't he have like, called them? This is just crazy to me, but anyway...

Ackbar says he needs both of them to come with him right now, and we get another classic Han quote: "Let me find my pants," Han said resignedly. "Leia, tell me again why we gave the fishhead a key to the front door-" So at least we now know for sure that Han's pants were hastily removed before he got into bed ;) And like he said, why would they give him a key?!??!

They go and watch a recorded message from someone who was under attack by Imperial ships, specifically at least one to be believed as one of the missing Black Fleet, and Leia is feeling completely at fault here. She's a complete mess. Again she basically just wants to resign because she was so wrong and she feels as though she is being shown these things to show just how naive she's been and instill the severity of her wrongness, but Ackbar tells her he wants her in that position and just wanted her to see how much work still needs to be done. She is so uncharacteristically relenting that when Han stays behind with Ackbar after Leia leaves, he has to ask, "I have just one question-who was that person, and what have you done with Leia?"

Leia essentially completely withdraws from her duties and from everyone. She just wants to go home and sleep for days. We learn that Ackbar's key had been deactivated - which probably should've happened a long time ago - but Admiral Drayson knows he has to go speak with her and Han lets him in.

Jaina, in turn, quickly sensed her mother's dark mood. "Mommy, who's that? Do you want me to make him go away?"

"No-no," Leia said with a quick smile, and tousled her daughter's wet, stringy hair. "Jacen, Jaina, take Anakin inside. I want you all dry and dressed when I come in."

For once the children obeyed without argument.

Leia thought it a telling sign that the stress and chaos of the last weeks, of the last few days, was affecting them as well.

Aw, Jaina wants to make sure her mommy isn't so mentally drained. Seriously, I'm stressed just reading about Leia in this book. Apparently Han isn't even being much help to her right now.

"You know, if security is supposed to keep unwanted people out, the security around the president's residence leaves a great deal to be desired."

"Your husband admitted me, Princess Leia."

"Did he," she said. "Well, my husband leaves a bit to be desired himself lately. What do you want?"

He brings her a recording of a Yevethan ship colonizing another planet. No, not good things. Drayson leaves and Leia pulls out her commlink to call Han. "Han," she said. "You can stop hiding from me now. Where are you? Please-come talk to me."

Han goes and watches the recording and agrees that something needs to be done. Leia decides the Fifth Fleet has to go back in and Han had sensed that would happen and had left it ready to go at a moment's notice. Leia tells him he has to go and he tells her she needs to send A'baht back in, not him. She disagrees since he had disobeyed her orders and Han tells her that what he had done was the right thing to do even if it wasn't following orders, and Han himself had disobeyed some orders. Leia wonders if it is because she is a woman that nobody seems to want to listen to her anymore. It's all quite frustrating. Han reminds her that he's just as bad at taking orders from men and that it's all right if she just admits her mistake and regains the fleet's trust by sending back in their General.

"I have Bail Organa's stubborn pride," she said quietly. "It's hard for me to admit when someone else was more right than I was."

"If you weren't headstrong, you wouldn't be my Leia," Han said with a crooked, affectionate grin.

Well, that is certainly true. Leia decides to go see him personally to reinstate him to the fleet. "You're doing the right thing," Han said. "I'll hang out with the kids till you get back."

"Thanks. " She kissed him quickly and started to leave.

Sorry, I feel a sense of personal obligation to throw in every kiss I come across. Anyway, before she leaves she asks Han how she could've been so wrong about everything and that she's supposed to be perceptive because she's a Jedi, and Han reminds her that she hasn't really done much about that. Ugh, again. Why must one be a Jedi in order to be perceptive? Leia seemed to have plenty of common sense without any mystical Jedi training. I don't see why she has to be an idiot without having trained.

Han reminds her that what it probably is is that she really wants to see the good in people and maybe she was blinded by her idealism. Leia meets up with A'baht and then mentions that she had just talked things over with "my best friend in the world" who would be Han, aw... and that she is putting him back in charge. She finally admits her mistakes.

But things aren't all good yet. In fact, they are about to get worse. Nil Spaar makes an official accusation against Leia and her high crimes against his people. He orders that she be removed from office or the New Republic can prepare for war. Yikes.

And that is where book one ends. All righty, sorry, once again that was incredibly quote-heavy but if I put all of the good parts in the blog, I never have to read these books again, right? I thoroughly enjoy the idea that they have been operating as a normal family it seems for quite some time. They make time for each other, they aren't leaving the children under anyone's care but their own and they obviously lean on each other heavily when needed. But man, Leia is just getting it from all sides in this thing. It seems like maybe she's too strong to react that way, but she is so manipulated and exhausted that maybe it all just finally becomes too much and she'd really want to step back and finally let someone else deal with it.

So for all of the nice little family moments, we are left really feeling for poor Leia and how she is just continually beat down in this book and we have to wonder why she is the only one who isn't as skeptical as the others. Hasn't she been raised as a diplomat pretty much since birth? It's only too bad that most of the scenes when Han and Leia are in bed in this book - and there are plenty of them - they are mostly talking over all of these tough problems they're going through. But hey, at least for a while they are, in fact, sleeping together every night. And someone might do well to write a missing moment when Han comes home from his long stint with the fleet.

Well, this book has some boring stretches as a lot of it is spent reading about these guys discussing tactics and whether or not Nil Spaar is telling the truth and going back and forth with Leia and whether she's right about what's been going on. The whole thing with Luke and his "mother" is just irritating now that we know that it is obviously all a lie, and there are long chapters with Lando and Lobot that frankly I don't really care about.

That said, again, we do know that Han and Leia are very much together for most of the book and apparently have been for quite a while. They seem to have actually made their family a priority for once. So although I'm not sure I can forgive Leia for leaving a presumably naked Han in bed when she realizes Luke is coming, I feel like this book might actually deserve a 4 for the Han and Leia factor. Especially in the first half of the book we get to read a lot of "normal" moments for them that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. You can feel free to disagree though.

And one last note. The cover kind of makes me laugh because that particular hair style of Carrie's I believe is taken directly from the crazy, psycho ex-girlfriend she played who chases Jake and Elwood all over the place with rocket launchers and machine guns in The Blues Brothers.


  1. Yes, that cover pic of Leia is TOTALLY Blues Brothers Carrie!! I really love the cover though, definitely in my top 3 EU covers.

    Always really liked this book, and for all the same reasons you have mentioned, Zyra. For once it's just so refreshing to see them as a regular family. Yes it's mundane and not very Star Warsy but I don't care, I love all the cute family moments.

    Worth a mention is the "house" they are living in here. Up until now they've seemingly had 2 apartments on Coruscant. From the Thrawn trilogy onwards they had that apartment in the Imperial Palace that they shared with Winter (gulp!), but prior to the Thrawn trilogy Troy Denning describes a different apartment which is not in Imperial Palace (and in my world has no Winter either). But this idyllic sounding house with a nice garden and hot tub is certainly my fav of their residences. Although I believe it's short lived as I think in later books they are back in the apartment again, sadly.

    You can never have too many scenes of Han and Leia in bed, and we have them by the bucket load here. Yes, Zyra, that's probably one of the reasons I like this book so much too. I love your reasoning that they must have already done it twice when Leia left Han in the lurch like that, I noticed you said twice, and not just the once. LOL!! As I said in the Crystal Star comments, I don't think much sleeping goes on in their bed.

    Oh and the mental image of Han with messed up hair, sat naked amongst a jumble of sheets is just too nice for words :)

    Leia's rant at Luke is one of my fav EU quotes. You tell him, girl!!

    The fact that ackbar has a key to their house is rather disturbing. Surely no one needs a key other than them. If Ackbar desperately needed to get hold of them in the middle of the night then he should just comm them, right?

    Whilst I think it would be very easy to obtain info on Padme, I don't think the fact that she had children with the future Darth Vader would necessarily be in the public domain. Who knew that they were even married? I don't think any of that would be easily obtainable on the holonet. So I think it's not a stretch to think that Luke still hasn't discovered the true identity of his mother, and that there are a lot of false leads out there.

    Don't worry about quoting all the kissy bits, Zyra. I don't think any of us would object to that. I certainly don't.

    I think this a great Han and Leia book, and the 4 rating is spot on, it might even be a 4.5 because I think it's better than the Last Command which was a 4, but it's still a way off of TG and COTJ with 5, so it's a tough one to call really.

    But thanks for such an in depth review!

  2. You may be right that the book deserves a 4.5 given your reasoning. I didn't consult on this one but when compared to other 4s it does rank above, I would say. And I did fail to mention that I liked the description of where they are living as it sounds quite nice what with the gardens and pools and everything. Definitely better than being holed up in some apartment, but like you said, this doesn't really remain consistent throughout the books.

    And maybe the fact that Padme had Luke and Leia was well hidden, but it still just irritates me that there are all of these insonsistencies. I know it's nobody's fault but George's!

    And of course they had done it twice already. If it was just once she never would've left!

    1. No, I guess she wouldn't. :)

      What's interesting about Padme is that during her funeral scene she still appears to be pregnant, more pregnant infact than she looked throughout the entire film! Apparently this was done purposely so that people would assume her unborn "child" perished with her. BUT wasn't her pregnancy supposed to be secret anyway? So who would have known? Would her family even have known? This aspect has always confused me, why make her look pregnant if no one knew she even was? But, yeah, this is the world of George, where incontinuity and inconsistencies rule!!

    2. Wow, I had no idea that they had purposely made her look pregnant for the funeral so it was like the "child" died with her. Did I mention I hardly ever watch those movies? Yes, she was awfully mobile for a petite woman pregnant with twins, wasn't she? At the same time, she did seem to wear tight clothing around the middle that left it almost unmistakable that there was something going on there. I'd have to watch it again, but I don't really want to right now :)

    3. Yeah I've got a Revenge of the Sith book that mentions why she looks pregnant at the funeral, and wookieepedia also points it out.

      I actually watched that movie the other week, and whilst previously I've always kind of liked it,this time Anakin was just so unbelievably annoying it really ruined it. I guess since my last viewing I've grown so used to Clone Wars CGI Anakin that seeing the real thing again, and how wooden Hayden is is a bit of a shock.

    4. I noticed that too about Padme's funeral. If her pregnancy was a secret, they did a poor job of hiding it. The Jedi certainly seemed to know. And Bail too.

  3. Lol, Zyra about the two times! Makes sense to me.

    I love all the moments with Leia, Han, and the kids. I'm glad to finally see them spending time together and love the whole swimming thing, I could totally see Han feeling that way about Leia asking him to go with the fleet.

    But geez, what happened to Leia in this one? Can't they give her a break? It's not enough that they portray her as an inept mom in previous books, now they have to show her as an inept president. Really? I don't believe it for a minute. I could see her getting overwhelmed, but not to this degree. You don't need to be a Jedi to be intuitive or observant. And she should really have a back up.

    Agghhh, Luke! So he has 3 would be Jedis in his niece and nephews and can't be bothered? Ugh. He'd rather jaunt all over looking for their mom. Frankly, I got a little tired of him. I'm glad Leia finally told him off!

  4. Haha yes, the Blues Brothers was my first rated R movie, and Carrie Fisher movie, actually. I saw the Blues Brothers before Star Wars so it holds a special place in my heart.

    1. That's interesting because I'm guessing practically all of us here know Carrie first as Leia and didn't see her as anything else before that. But you know her first from The Blues Brothers. I think they should have used her character a lot more in that, there's loads more weapons she could have used in her quest to kill Jake and Elwood.

    2. That is a great movie, I need to pop in my DVD as it's been a while. I just love how she's just hanging out, doing her nails while reading a book on how to operate deadly weapons or whatever. And when Elwood finally just goes, "Who IS that girl?" I don't remember what my first R rated movie was. Definitely not this one, though.

    3. Yeah, I like The Blues Brothers. It hasn't aged well though, I mean just look at all the hair and the clothes!

      It always cracks me up that the salon her character works in is called "Curl up and Dye", I love that!

    4. I forgot Carrie was in The Blues Brothers, it's been a long time since I've seen it, always liked the Rawhide scene. First rated R movie, Stripes. Who can forget the Aunt Jemima treatment :)

  5. Great job on the review, very thorough. It's a good thing you like to write. I really enjoyed this book and thought it captured H/L's personalities very well for this time in their married lives. I thought it was funny in the beginning when Han is worried that Jacen isn't getting enough fresh air and exercise/playing outside. Don't we say the same thing about kids today, they are either watching t.v. or on their computers/i-touch etc. Just thought that was ironic. I totally identified with Leia throughout this book. She is so concerned about the kid's "education" for lack of a better term, that she feel's that she needs an expert (i.e. Luke) to teach them. She doesn't have the confidence in herself to teach/train them and also doesn't have the time. But she does give everything she has, to the point of total burnout. Yes, like I said, I can completely relate. I love how Han and Leia are portrayed in this book, they work as a team. Totally loved Leia telling Luke off and Han telling him "now would be a good time to be leaving." Aside from Han, whom she can totally count on, Leia really doesn't have anybody else who she trusts or can turn to for support. In her job, she is pretty alone and her "doubts" are clouding her abilities to lead etc. and her enemies know it and are exploiting her weakness. I love how Han corrects her with General A'bath and that Leia listens to Han's council. I thought the author did Han and Leia justice in this book. Loved the imagery of the jumbled sheets. I also liked the passage where Anakin slept in mom and dad's bed and Leia didn't sleep and being annoyed that Han had no problem sleeping and snoring to boot. Like I said, I can totally identify with Leia in this book.

  6. I loved this review - you can never have too many Han/Leia mush scenes, esp. those that take place in the bedchamber. When you get around to reading Fate of the Jedi: Omen, don't say I didn't warn you ... *wink*

    The rating for this was absolutely bang on, with all the crises and everything. Every single book, Leia is pictured as a mum who has the cares of the state weighing her down. Seriously, can't they just give her a break?! I think that definitely merited a -1 in the rating.

    Nice to know Han and Leia still sleep together ... *giggle*

    1. Sleep together? There's not much "sleeping" going on. :)

      Oh I've got Omen. Not read it yet, but I have checked out all the H/L scenes. Think I know the bit you mean. Is this the one where she keeps pulling his chest hairs in bed?

  7. I love the scene where Han says "you should hear about some of the bad days I've had". I really like seeing Han and Leia as hands on parents, and I love that Han is there for Leia and supports her.

    I really identify with Leia's struggling with her many roles in this trilogy. Maybe for the first time, she isn't able to be perfect in every area of her life and she doesn't know how to not give her all to everything she does.

    Being who she is, her reaction is to try to prove she does know what she's doing, rather than to step back and accept that maybe she's stretched herself too thin. She still thinks she can make everything right - all by herself.

    Knowing how hard it is to juggle an ordinary job with being a mom, I feel for her, with the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders. It's not just her job - Luke's got her convinced that her children are the future of the Jedi order, so even her ability to parent her kids takes on this galactic urgency. Not to mention that she ends up saddled with the Head of State job for what seems like forever - don't they have TERM LIMITS in the SW universe? - so she just can't catch a break.

    Anyway I love that Han just rides it out with her. Lets her know that no matter what happens, he believes in her.

    I never noticed quite how much they're in bed in this book, btw. I do remember thinking I liked their house finally, love her working in the garden and so on.

    why the hell did they give the fish the key to the front door anyway?

  8. Lots of great Han and Leia moments in this book and so nice that we see them being parents.

    I really hated that after all that talk Luke did about Leia having children and how important they would be that he totally blows them off to go on some wild goose chase looking for his mother. In fact, Luke has done more messing around and screwing up than he has concentrating on the 'future Jedi' that he is always preaching about.

    I really felt for Leia when she was getting ready for Luke to show up and she was just so sure that he was there to talk about the kids and then he dropped that bomb on her. I also loved her speech to him about their family, it's one of my favorites.

    I mean, I never really agreed that Leia's children should just automatically become Jedi and I wish one of them hadn't had the Force - I know more than one of you have said that. But for goddess sake, Luke! This is what you've been whining about for years! Step up, man!


    Oh, Admiral "It's a Trap!" Ackbar walking into their bedroom in the middle of the night (or any time of day for that matter)? Just no. No, no, no.

  9. I started reading this book and then one day I got antsy for some reason and read all of the Han and Leia parts. And they were all worth it.

    I still wonder at the thought process behind giving Ackbar their key. And just waltzing into the bedroom? No knock? I'm sure he could flop his flipper hands against the door loud enough to qualify as a knock.

    1. Hmm, you know the more I think about Ackbar having a key, the more disturbing it gets.

      So what if they had been "mating", huh? Did you ever think about that, Fishface?