Next up in the EU is a favorite of mine: The New Rebellion. I know we all bash the EU quite a bit but I guess I'm a bit surprised as we go through it again to be reminded that there really were quite a few books I genuinely liked, and this one is high on that list. This might surprise you when I tell you that Han and Leia really aren't together very much. But there just don't seem to be that many crappy chapters I mostly want to just scan over to get to the good parts. Everyone has their own interesting story line going on, which is why this was probably at least the third time I've read this one.
The story basically opens with Luke feeling a great disturbance in the Force. He feels as though millions of lives have just been taken out and he fears specifically for Leia's safety, although he can tell she is still alive. And at the moment, she doesn't seem to be in imminent danger as she is getting ready to address the senate. She is not happy about it, though, as a lot of ex-Imperials have recently joined up and she is very worried about what this will mean.
Leia is wearing her white senatorial robes and it seems she's going with the side buns look for old times sake. And we get a little flash that tells us that at least Han and Leia still like to joke around, Han had kissed her roughly before she left their apartments and had grinned at her. Well, Your Worship, does this mean I get to go back to being a scoundrel?
She had laughingly pushed him away...
I bet Han has a lot of fun teasing her about how she used to act around him. But this fun little memory is interrupted as Leia senses the same thing as Luke, like millions have been killed. She reaches out and senses the children at home and safe and then finds Luke who tells her that he felt the same thing and he's on his way to her. Taking only a moment to compose herself, Leia goes out to give her speech.
Then we find Han, hanging out in a shady casino, the likes of which he hasn't been to in many years. He's meeting up with an old smuggling buddy, Jarril. Apparently he wouldn't have even answered the request if it hadn't been for Leia. "She had looked like that sharp-tongued princess he'd rescued back when he'd been an equally sharp-tongued scoundrel. Sometimes he missed that part of himself more than he cared to admit."
I do think that Han would sometimes miss his old self. I don't think he would trade what he has, but who wouldn't occasionally miss being independent and free of responsibility when mired in household duties and rambunctious children? Anyway, he wants Han to go check out the Smuggler's Run and Han doesn't seem too interested, something about the "little lady" wanting him home with dinner ready when she gets there.
Before we get to the end of that conversation it cuts to the Solo kids, who are driving Threepio crazy. He thinks the Solos are indulgent parents so the children lack discipline and at least Winter understands the value of discipline. Didn't we just get over one book ago how Winter wasn't so responsible for the kids anymore? So much for that. Some random new nanny droid comes in and says she's there to replace Threepio, which causes some commotion because Winter and everyone else knows that nobody did that. Anakin shouts from the next room, "It's not my fault!" echoing one of his father's favorite phrases. But in the midst of Anakin trying to argue his way out of this and Jacen and Jaina wondering what he was thinking, all three of them seem to sense the same thing as Luke and Leia and simply begin screaming.
Back to Leia, now, she barely gets through the first sentence of her speech when there is a huge explosion in the Senate Hall. Yes, a huge explosion. And she, along with many others, winds up pretty injured with blood all over her and no sense of hearing due to the noise of the bomb. Many were killed and Leia starts trying to help those who need it.
From the casino, Han hears the explosion. At first he fears they are in imminent danger at the casina underground, but when they run outside he realizes that there has been an explosion at the palace, and he knows that Leia is in there. Just as you would expect Han to do, he takes off as fast as he can, running into the building and searching for his wife. Then he finally sees her.
Then he saw Leia, drenched in blood, her white gown, white no longer, ripped and stuck to her frame. One braid had come loose and hung down her back. The other was half-undone, her beautiful brown hair tangled and matted as it fell along her face. She had her hands beneath the secondary bumps on an unconscious Llewebum. Two guards supported its feet. She limped as she moved backward, favoring her right leg.
He goes to her to help her and she seems insistent on helping the injured rather than going to medical care. Han tries to get through to her but a medical droid tells him that she can't hear him.
"It's my fault."
"No, sweetheart, it's not."
"I let the Imperials in. I didn't fight hard enough."
Her words chilled him. "We don't know what caused this. Come on. Let me get you help."
"No," she said. "My friends are dying in there."
"You've done all you can."
"Don't be stubborn," she said.
"I'm not the one-!" He bit back the words. He couldn't stand here and argue with her. She couldn't hear. She'd win. He scooped her into his arms. She was light and warm. "You're coming with me," he said.
"I can't, Han," she said, but she didn't struggle. "I'm fine. Really."
"I don't want you to die because you don't know when to quit," he said as he stepped past the wounded.
Either her hearing was coming back or she could read lips. "I'm not going to die," she said.
His heart was pounding against his chest. He cradled her close. "Lady, I wish I were as sure of that as you are."
This is definitely the Han Solo we know and love. The one who runs to save his wife and carries her to safety.
Next we move to Luke arriving at the med center, and a visibly upset Anakin running to his uncle, followed closely by the twins. Poor kids having to go to the hospital after their mom is almost killed, and of course they are reeling from the scary vision they had experienced, and Luke knows this. And it becomes apparent that the children are blaming themselves for what happened to Leia. There is a cute little moment when Jacen and Jaina share a little look and Luke wonders if he and Leia would've shared that kind of bond if they had grown up together.
It's very sweet because Luke keeps noticing things about them that remind him of their parents.
He [Jacen] tried to be tough, just like his father, but beneath he was one of the most sensitive hearts Luke had ever met.
And that, too, was like Han.
Aw. Luke manages to convince the kids that it wasn't there fault (it wasn't, obviously) and then they all go in to see Leia who is recovering in the hospital bed, a little cut and bruised and still not really hearing but recovering. Of course Han is there with her as well as Chewie and Winter. The kids are sent home and Han promises that he will be home to tuck them in.
The grown ups are left to discuss who they think was responsible. Leia is convinced it was the Imperials who she never should've allowed to become part of the New Republic but Han is skeptical. Han mentions that there might be more to see on the Smuggler's Run, and Leia is opposed to him leaving right now. Knowing him like she does, she lays some guilt on him by telling him that the children need him. He counters by saying that they need her, too, along with the entire New Republic who almost lost her, and in the end he convinces her to let him go.
Leia goes to a meeting with other New Republic officials and it is decided to launch an independent investigation to find out who is behind the bombing. She's not thrilled with this because she isn't sure that there won't be any tampering of evidence or anything like that. And they even discuss the possibility of investigating her. Luke goes into the Senate Hall to try and see if he can figure anything out and in the end he senses one of his old students: Brakiss.
Now we go to Han and Leia in their bedroom, but unfortunately not doing that. Instead they are having a serious conversation. Leia is mostly healed but still looking pale, brushing her hair, and Han is trying to get her to let him go check out the Smuggler's Run, which she doesn't want him to do. She accuses him of wanting to go off and play with the boys and she knows that part of his conversation with Jarill poked fun of Han having become so domesticated. So Han just reasons with her:
"Leia," he said, "I'm useless here."
"Not useless," she said, looking at his hands protecting hers. "You're never useless, Han." He put his head against her shoulder, felt the silky smoothness of her hair against his forehead, smelled her faint perfume. He didn't know how to explain something she usually understood. He was a man of action. He needed to act.
Then she sighed. "You want to contribute." He nodded.
"And there's nothing you can do on Coruscant." He sat back on his heels. He was squeezing her hands tightly. The bristles of her brush dug into his fingertips. "I've already done what I can do, Leia..."
They discuss some more, and then:
She smiled at him then, the quirky half-smile she got when she knew she should fight with him, but didn't have the heart to.
"I'll stay if you need me," he said.
She shook her head. "I don't need anyone, you big oaf."
"I know that, Your Worship," he said, grinning. Then he let the grin fade. "But I mean it. If you need me-"
"We're better if we work as a team, Han." He knew that too. He'd been trying to say that all along.
"My only concern is the children." She slipped a hand out from underneath his, and put the brush on her dressing table. "What if the next attack is on them? What if R'yet is right? What if the attack was meant for me or my family?"
"If it was meant for you, it was meant as a warning," Han said.
"Like Jarril's visit." He nodded.
"Winter says the base at Anoth has been rebuilt. Maybe we should send them there with her."
"A visit to their babyhood homes?" He got off his haunches and stood. "Can you do without them, Leia? I'll be gone, and they'll be gone, and then you'll have the political crisis to deal with." She took a deep breath. He could see the struggle in her face. He knew how much she relied on her family, how important it all was to her.
"I'll work better if I know everyone is safe," she said. "That's why you want me to stay, isn't it?" She didn't look at him. He pulled her hair back and kissed the nape of her neck.
"I can take care of myself, Princess."
"I know," she said, still not looking at him.
"You're the one in the greatest danger. Maybe you should go with Winter and the children to Anoth." She lifted her head, finally looking at him. "I can't do that. I have duties here. I have to take the same risks as the rest of the government." He knew. He had to take risks too.
Protecting him and forcing him to remain on Coruscant would be as bad as making Leia go to Anoth.
He waited, watched the realization dawn on her face as she understood what he had done.
"You've manipulated me," she said.
She stood and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close. In the last few days, she had lost weight. She felt thin and fragile. He held her tightly, knowing that more strength lay within her slender form than he would ever have. He had to trust in her abilities, just as she had to trust in his.
"Don't you wish that, just once, we could live calmly and comfortably like normal people?" Her voice was soft, almost a whisper.
"No," he said. He stepped back just far enough so that he could see her face. "Because if we had been normal people, we would never have met. Your Highness-ness." She laughed, and he kissed her. Deeply. Passionately.
As if he would never be able to kiss her again.
Top five kiss in the EU, right there, I'd say. And just for good measure, I'll logically conclude that after that, they totally did it. That's one of those little passages in the EU that has stuck with me since I first read it way back when this book came out. It's nice to see them both acting like adults and having a real conversation like a real husband and wife, and they're even both being reasonable and affectionate. And of course they both know each other so well, knowing that it will be hard for Leia without her family, and Leia saying they work better as a team but knowing sometimes it just doesn't work out that way. Anyway, I love simple little scenes like this for them. But, sadly, they are not together again until the end of the book. But that doesn't mean it's not a good book.
Now we move to Lando, who has, unfortunately, stumbled upon a very dead Jarill. He had been killed almost right after Han left him, and then sent to orbit into space for all eternity aboard his ship, except Lando found him and gets to see the last message sent:
CARGO DELIVERED. FIREWORKS SPECTACULAR.
It was followed shortly thereafter by another message.
SOLO KNOWS. WE CAN COUNT ON HIS INVOLVEMENT.
Lando knows this cannot be good news for Han and assumes whomever killed Jarril will be after Han next.
We get back to Leia who is in the temporary meeting space for the Senate, and obviously very much missing her husband and children and likens the experience to those first few days after Alderaan when she was completely on her own. She continues to deal with the new Imperial presence in the Senate and things are starting to not look so good for her and she feels like she is losing control of the situation.
Han arrives at the Smuggler's Run with Chewie and runs into some old friends, including a beautiful woman by the name of Sinewy Ana Blue. She seems to thoroughly enjoy teasing Han. There's a bit of a skirmish and Han gets shot... in his ass. It leaves a scorched hole that Ana sticks her finger into, which Han doesn't like very much.
"Leave it alone, Blue."
"Oooh." Her grin got wider. "We are married though, aren't we? Some things have changed."
"Just my taste," he snapped, his good humor completely gone.
"From smugglers to princesses," Zeen said. "Can't argue with that." Blue drew herself to her full height, showing her slender, magnificent body to complete advantage. "Some of us don't need a pedigree to prove our worth," she said. "I've been quality from the beginning."
And she seems to love the idea of helping Han out with his wounds:
"I think we'd better tend to your wound first," Blue said with a suggestive leer.
"Lay off, Blue," Han said.
"Testy, testy." She moved ahead of them, leading the group into a thin passage that wound around Cavern 2 and led directly to Cavern 3. "You were a lot more fun when you were younger, Han."
"You weren't interested when I was younger, Blue."
"You were so naive, untested, good-hearted. I like a man with a bit more experience, Han."
"And a wife," Zeen said.
She continues to relentlessly tease him, even after they go on to get something to eat. Han, being the one-woman man that he is, never gives in.
Still treat your wife to candlelight dinners, Solo?"
"Of course," Han said. "The rewards are worth it." He winked, then sauntered to the med station.
Yep, I bet he gets some nice rewards for that. And I'm sure he wishes Leia was around to tend to the wound on his ass.
But Leia is back at home, and definitely missing him:
Leia sprawled on the center of her bed, flimsies spread before her. She wore an old pair of fighting pants, and one of Han's shirts. Her hair was loose except for two braids in front to keep it from falling in her eyes.
The bed, a large, soft mattress, piled high with pillows and blankets, was the safest place in their quarters. She and Han spent much time in the chamber, and she felt his presence strongly there. No one else came into the room without invitation, not even the children.
Sometimes she felt as though it was the only place she could be herself.
On this afternoon, she was there because it was the only place she could be completely alone and undisturbed. She also felt that she needed Han's presence, however superficially, while she studied the hard copies in front of her.
There is just so much to like about this passage here. I love the image of Leia wearing Han's shirt of course, and the idea that their bed is the safest place she knows, though surely it's more fun when Han is in it, too! I love that it was basically the only place she felt like she could be herself, of course insinuating that Han was the only one she could open up to completely. And that she needed his presence to give her strength in these difficult times. It all just gives me warm, fuzzy feelings. See, I told you that even though they are apart in so much of this book it's still pretty good.
Unfortunately, she was looking through the election results and it seemed that suddenly former Imperials held the majority in the Senate, which was not good news. Leia's private stewing is interrupted by the house computer, which speaks in Han's voice - something it was not meant to do but it is apparent that Anakin had reprogrammed it, as just another little nod to the children being both intelligent and mischievous - and Lando has come to see her.
Leia is immediately suspicious as he doesn't try to hit on her at all, and he voices his concerns about Han and tells her about the message. He hadn't been able to get through to her. Funny how in the galaxy far, far away they can travel faster than the speed of light across all kinds of planets but nobody can make a phone call, even though us lowly Earthlings can use the internet from our tiny phones wherever we are. Anyway, Lando decides he's going to the Smuggler's Run to warn Han. Again, because apparently communications are just really, really crappy in their universe. And because the Smuggler's Run is really difficult to navigate.
So Han is, predictably, facing his own issues. People are always out to get him, and he encounters one of them:
"I rarely make such a serious oversight, General Solo." The Glottalphib smiled, and as it did, a tiny lick of flame emerged from its nostril. "My name is lisner. I work for Nandreeson. He's heard that the concubine of the great Princess Leia is on the Run, and he would like to meet you."
Han's finger edged toward the trigger. The comment was supposed to make him angry. He knew that. And he was even angrier that it had. "I'm no one's concubine," he said, unable to stop himself.
Chewie growled a warning.
"I'm her husband."
For some reason I always enjoy it when anyone references Han as Leia's concubine. Unfortunately, Leia's concubine is about to get in some trouble. Leia is called into a meeting, purposely informed so last minute that she has no choice but to arrive late. It seems the results of the preliminary investigation on the Senate bombing are in, and they are wondering exactly where Han is. They start asking questions about his past and having worked on the Smuggler's Run and of course Leia defends him, saying that he has not been judged for his past and he shouldn't be now.
The chill in Leia's hands moved up her arms. She knew where this was going. She didn't want it to go in that direction, but she knew. She knew.
"You'd better have a point," C-Gosf said. "General Solo is a hero of the Republic."
"My point is simple," Meido said. "General Solo is behind the bombing of the Senate Hall." Leia slammed her palms on the table as she stood. "I was in that Hall. Are you suggesting my husband was trying to kill me?" Gno grabbed at her sleeve. She shook him off. The room was deadly quiet.
"You weren't seriously injured, President."
"And neither were you, Meido. Is that a crime?"
"The bulk of the blast hit the seats, not the floor. If he knew you'd be there-"
"I'd be quiet now," Gno said. "General Solo is well respected. His affection for his family is extremely well known. He has jeopardized his life for the New Republic more often than anyone else except perhaps President Organa Solo and her brother. Games like this may have been popular in the Empire, but they are not popular here. We work on mutual respect in this Council. Respect, Meido, not idle recriminations." The crimson had almost completely faded from Meido's face. The white lines were blurring together. "I am not making idle accusations. I'm sorry, but I am not. I wish I were." The softness of his voice caught all of them. Leia could see it. Her supporters had all leaned back in their chairs.
"You said this is a preliminary report," Gno said. "You cannot have proof."
"But I do," Meido said. He looked up at Leia, his eyes pale. "I'm sorry, President. Truly I am." The thing of it was, she believed him. She believed he was sorry. Perhaps she could feel his regret through the Force or perhaps he was sending it through his body language. She didn't know. Slowly she sat down.
Meido passed out several copies of a single sheet of paper. "My people intercepted this message. I have sent it to your personal computers. You can verify its authenticity through your own systems." Leia took the paper. Her hand was shaking.
CARGO DELIVERED. FIREWORKS SPECTACULAR.
SOLO KNOWS. WE CAN COUNT ON HIS INVOLVEMENT.
Lando. Lando had betrayed them again. Over the years she had learned to trust him, but that trust had always felt awkward, always slightly misplaced.
No. Lando wouldn't betray Han. What had he said? That he'd never make up for betraying Han. Ever.
The information must have come to Meido some other way.
"There's nothing here that says Han is involved with the bombing," she said.
"This was sent by a ship called the Spicy Lady just as it was leaving our section of space on the day of the bombing," Meido said. "The Spicy Lady is owned by a smuggler named Jarril, who was seen in Solo's company at the time of the bombing. Shortly after Jarril left, Solo left, ostensibly in search of him." It looked bad. She had known it looked bad when Lando showed it to her. She should have done something then, but Lando had assured her he had everything under control.
"This isn't proof," Gno said.
"This is suspicious," said R'yet Coome. "I would suggest that we put out a notification for Solo's arrest."
"We can't do that," C-Gosf said. "He's a hero."
"He's a traitor," Meido said.
"He's my husband," Leia said. "He would never do anything to harm me. Someone is trying to set him up." She clasped her shaking hands in her lap. "What else does your report say?"
"We have only preliminary results, President," Meido said. His voice was still gentle, still filled with apology. He accused her own husband of trying to murder her and to destroy everything they all had worked for, and he was acting sorry for her.
"What are those results, Senator?" Leia's voice was cold.
"That there was more than one detonation point."
"We know that," Leia said. "Our results say the same thing. Have you anything besides this message that links my husband to the scene?"
"He was seen with-"
"Have you?" Gno put his hand on Leia's. She shook him off.
"Have you evidence that he planted a bomb? Have you evidence that Jarril is involved in this bombing? Do you know whether Jarril sent that message or whether someone else did? Can you prove that this isn't some scheme to get my husband or to divide us?"
"Leia," Gno said softly.
"This seems conclusive to me," Meido said.
"It is not conclusive," Leia said. "It is mere speculation. I could devise a message tonight and send it along channels that would make it look as if you planted the bomb. Such things are easy. My husband and I are often targets for strange behavior. I don't think we should make decisions about this until we have the whole truth."
"Leia," Gno said again.
She turned on him so fast that her hair swung loose of its tie. "What?" she asked.
"You can't be objective about this."
"Objective?" Leia was shaking all over with the force of containing her anger. "This man, this former Imperial, has just accused my husband of treason, and you think I should be objective?"
"Yes," Gno said. "I do. You're the head of government. We need your calmness."
"Calmness? Calmness? This is not a situation for calmness, Gno. This is exactly what we feared when we brought the Imperials into this body. They're dividing us. Can't you all see the ploy?"
"Leia," Gno said.
Meido's entire face had gone white, except for crimson lines near his eyes and mouth. "I'm sorry, President."
"I will not accept your apology. How dare you-"
"He dares because he is doing the right thing." C-Gosf stood beside Leia and put a delicate arm around her shoulders. "Better he discusses this here, in the Inner Council, than among the other senators. Better that we do what we can to silence these rumors than allow them to spread all over Coruscant. For if we do, General Solo will always be under suspicion, even if we later learn of his innocence." All of her supporters were siding with Meido. "I'm sorry, President," he said again.
"Han had nothing to do with this," she snapped.
"Leia," Gno said, "I think you need to absent yourself from this discussion. None of us can be objective about the ones we love, no matter how hard we try." Her heart was pounding. "You believe Meido. You believe him."
"I believe we need to investigate this, Leia." Gno looked away from her. "I'm sorry. But the charge is too serious to let slip." She looked around the room, at her closest remaining allies in the government. Familiar faces, and three unfamiliar faces, elected after the bombing. Meido,
R'yet, and Wwebyls watched her warily. Her friends had sympathetic expressions on their faces. Even those who normally opposed her were looking at her with pity.
"Is this all it takes?" she asked. "An accusation, and a good man is found guilty of a crime he didn't commit? This is not proof, and even if it were, you all know Han. You know he's not capable of this."
"Leia, please, don't make this difficult," Gno said.
"What do you want me to do, Senator?" she asked, using his formal title. "Resign?"
"No," he said. "Absent yourself from any proceedings concerning Han. "
"And if I don't?" Gno looked away from her. C-Gosf squeezed Leia close and then let go. "Think about it, Leia. We'll meet in the morning. By then this news won't be quite as shocking."
"The news isn't shocking," Leia said as she stood. "What's shocking to me is your willingness to believe it."
"Forgive me, President," Meido said. "But whoever planted that bomb had to have access to the Chamber. Very few people had such access. The person who set the bomb will be one we trust. I can guarantee that, just from the circumstances. And I think when you're calm you'll realize that too."
Leia stood slowly, drawing upon all her regal training to stare down Meido. "When I was eighteen years old, I stood beside Grand Moff Tarkin as he gave one order from the depth of space and wiped out Alderaan, my home planet, with a single blast from the Death Star. Until that moment, I had believed the destruction of a planet in an instant was impossible. So don't tell me what has to be true, Meido. I am Force-sensitive. If my husband were to betray me or the Republic, I would know. And so would my brother, who is a Jedi Master. We still don't know what happened in the Hall that day. And until we do, we can't be certain if a friend betrayed us, or if someone tested a new weapon. But if I were you, I would stop making baseless accusations now. Such accusations will only divide us. And now, more than ever, we need to be unified." She met everyone's gaze individually. Borsk Fey'lya was leaning back in his chair, his eyes bright. Bel Iblis wasn't looking at her. ChoFi' was studying his hands. C-Gosf's whiskers were trembling, and she wouldn't meet Leia's gaze. Gno was the only one of her friends who smiled at her, in an attempt to reassure her.
They would not do any more than they already had. She could count on them to hear the evidence, nothing more.
Leia nodded once. "This meeting is adjourned until tomorrow morning. By then," she said, "I expect answers. Not accusations. Concrete information. Am I clear?" Leia didn't give them a chance to respond. She turned and walked out of the room, holding herself as proudly as she could. But once she was alone, she let the shaking overtake her.
It had begun. The unity she valued above everything except her family was shattering.
Just as she had known it would.
All right, can we all just agree that being the president of the New Republic just sucks? How often is Leia going to be manipulated? At least she immediately and relentlessly comes to Han's defense here. She obviously knows without question that he wouldn't do something like that.
Meanwhile, Han is not having an easy time as he is being chased after by some guys working for Nandreeson, who really, really wants Lando dead and wants to use Han as bait. Han being Han, he does not get captured. But Lando, who hadn't found Han yet, did get taken by Nandreeson and basically gets left swimming in this slime stuff to wait to die. As we all know from watching all sorts of movies and reading books, when enemies catch the ones they want to kill, they should probably just kill them instead of leaving them to die elaborately. I'll spoil it for you right now that Lando lives through this book.
One thing I remembered clearly from the first time I read this book was that it felt like everyone escaped death multiple times. Leia and Wedge discover that someone has rigged all of the X-wings to explode if a certain series of commands is given, except they don't know what exactly that series entails. They do know that they need to ground all of the X-wings, except Luke is off in one and they don't know where he is. Cut to Luke, who while flying in his X-wing, explodes. Crap.
Meanwhile, Leia calls a meeting of her own to explain the X-wing incident, and the detonators have Imperial markings, which the new Imperials in the Senate think is just a way for her to make them look bad. Wedge is not amused. They accuse Han of treason, and then decide that what they really need is to take a vote of no-confidence in Leia. Did I mention it must suck to be president of the New Republic? There is a lot of back and forth in this meeting, lots of accusations of leaked information and such, and nobody gets anywhere.
Leia is of course still alone. She checks and makes sure the kids are still fine. She thinks that she would know if something happened to Han, and I quite like the insinuation that she is bonded to him in such a way that she could sense something like that. Leia receives a message from Kueller, who has the same, skeletal face that Leia had seen in the beginning of the book in her vision. He shows her an image of Luke, who survived his crash but is badly injured. And he's very close to Kueller, who will kill him if Leia doesn't disband the government. He also says that if she doesn't do what he asks, he will kill her husband and children as well. And then he will kill all of her subjects. And just to prove that he's serious, he uses the Force to kill a whole lot of random beings and Leia can sense it. And he tells her that she has three days to decide or Luke is a dead man.
So, Leia's life still sucks and she's just pacing alone in her chambers, constantly checking for messages from Han and knowing he can't communicate with her until he leaves the Run.
Han would have contacted her when he left the Run.
She had meant what she said to him just before he left. Sometimes she wished they were a normal couple with normal concerns. Then sitting down to dinner at night with her children would be routine, not the unusual. Sleeping beside her husband would happen every night instead of a few nights every other month.
But she was as loath to give up their life as he was.
Except at moments like these.
Ugh, every other month? Really? I cannot imagine that her job is worth that. One of the elements of the EU I choose to pretend does not exist. So Mon Mothma comes to visit. Can someone please tell me if a meeting with Mon Mothma has ever gone well for Leia? Leia tells her that she needs to step down from her role. Kueller is targetting her family and if she steps aside she believes that this threat to the New Republic as a whole was secondary and he won't follow through with it, and it will also remove the threat of this vote.
"He doesn't know you well, does he?" Mon Mothma said softly. "Threats to your family always make you stronger."
Leia's eyes burned. She rubbed at them. She didn't want sympathy. Not yet, anyway. Later, when she had time. "In either case," she said, choosing not to respond to Mon Mothma's last sentence, "the solution is the same. I need to step down as Chief of State."
Mon Mothma clasped her hands in her lap. "You can't do that now, Leia. I have had word from my sources in the Senate. Unless you campaign, you'll lose that no-confidence vote. They're looking to blame someone, anyone, for that bombing, and they'll blame Han, which means they'll blame you."
"I've thought this through," Leia said. She rubbed her hands together, nervous habits she hadn't used in years. "If I step down, the vote is null, right?"
"Well, technically, it's null only if you resign, Leia. A temporary standing aside will allow the vote to go forward." Leia nodded. She had been afraid of that, but it didn't matter. Luke mattered. Protecting her children mattered.
For the first time since she had become head of the New Republic, she could serve her family better as a private citizen than as a public one.
"I'll resign, then," she said. "The vote's called off, and Kueller can no longer use the New Republic as his excuse for targeting my family."
Now, let's think about this for a minute. Just another book before this one, Han was held hostage and Leia decided to give him up, not knowing that Luke was going to save him anyway. Now Luke is the one in immediate danger, and she resigns. But then there is this added glitch that apparently Kueller was also going to kill Han and the kids, so she has a lot more to lose in this case. So, I don't know how I feel about this. Also, at the end of this conversation she says that she's going after Luke. So, that kind of bothers me. She drops everything to go after Luke but in the last book she wouldn't do the same for Han? I don't love this...
Fortunately, Han can take care of himself... mostly. He is on a mission to save Lando, and he and his crew of smugglers make their way through some mud and muck to find and save Lando, who they finally find with Nandreeson, who also loves the idea of killing Han, whom he refers to as the princess's consort, to which Han feebly corrects, "Husband." Han winds up swimming with Lando, and tells Nandreeson that his plan of waiting for the victims to drown is a little elaborate. He agrees, and they start getting shot at. Chapter ends. See, I told you that everyone is about to die a lot during this book. Case in point: after this chapter, Kueller nabs Luke and renders him unconscious. Things aren't going well for our Rebel heroes.
Just as Leia is about to go off and find Luke, Wedge stops her and tells her that they are going to bring a whole fleet to help save Luke. If they work fast enough, they emerge as heroes. If not, they just say they were rogues who went off on their own.
Remember when I said Han could take care of himself? Well, of course he and Lando escape after some furious fighting in the slimy water. He is on Lando's ship when he starts hearing massive explosions outside and goes to find that dozens of droids are exploding and all sorts of beings are injured. He finds Blue who tells Han that she knows about Kueller and knows that he wants Luke and Leia dead. The droids had been stolen from Coruscant, where they were intended to explode. Oh, none of this is good news.
Han was frantic for Leia. More bombs on Coruscant. She might be dead by now. The entire planet might be in flames.
He hoped she had gotten the children away.
Poor Han. See this is the kind of thing that wouldn't happen if they didn't split up all the time! Han was torn now though between Leia and all of the injured beings there in front of him from the explosion:
"But we can't leave these people like this." Han's brain was moving faster than his mouth. He wanted to be gone, wanted to be outside the Run so that he could contact Coruscant and find out if anyone had survived.
Find out if Leia had survived.
His hands were shaking. All he could see was his beautiful wife, her white dress torn and scorch-marked, her hair falling around her ears, her nose bleeding, her body bent with the strain of carrying a senator three times her own weight. Leia during the last bombing. She might have collapsed if he hadn't taken her from there.
He wasn't there to rescue her now.
Well, at least you seem to be there to rescue her more often than she is there to rescue you. Is it weird to anyone else that anytime, ever Leia is in trouble Han immediately drops what he's doing and goes after her but Leia doesn't seem to operate the same way when Han is in trouble? Just a little something to think about. Anyway, Han organizes some medics to help the injured and get them off-planet, all the while determined to get out and try and get to Leia, thinking about what might happen if he lost her.
Han hurried out of the Luck. He hoped he still had it all. Losing Leia and the children was a threat he seemed to have to deal with constantly, and it was one he never wanted to contemplate. He knew what he would do if they were murdered, and it would be ugly.
If something happened to Leia and the children, Han would never be considered nice again.
I don't think anyone wants to imagine Han Solo if someone messes with his family.
At least Leia is still on her mission, and we know she does not quit:
...she should have felt tired, but she was curiously elated. She loved this feeling. She had had it several times in her life. The first was the day she met Han. After the experience with the interrogation droid, after watching Alderaan shatter, after losing everything, she should never have been able to run through those corridors, blast her way into that garbage bin, and shoot her way to the Falcon, But she did.
Han called it a core of strength within her, but it was more than that. No matter what, she would never give up. She would win and take risks just as Han did. She had proven that when she had sent the fleets to Koornacht the year before.
Now she would have to do it again.
You keep kicking ass, Leia Organa-Solo. She receives a message telling her that all of the new-model droids are dangerous, so she has them all deactivated. There is no indication of who the message came from.
Things start moving pretty fast at this point. Leia finds Luke and they try and make their escape. Han is getting the injured off the planet and finally gets to a point where he can check for messages, and he gets some from Leia but none of them are recent. Then he finds one from Anakin:
It was from Anakin. The room behind him was dark, and he was hunched near the console. Obviously everyone else was asleep, and he was sending a message without permission.
"Papa?" he whispered. "Something bad happened, and I can't get Mama or Uncle Luke." Han felt a pang that his son had turned to Luke before coming to Han. But the children always did on Force matters. They knew Han had no expertise in that area.
"Winter says we would hear if something went wrong. But Papa, I keep having dreams of a dead man. Bad things are going to keep happening again, I know it." He glanced over his little shoulder, as if he had heard a noise. Then he hunched even closer to the console.
"Please call when you get this. Please." Anakin's image winked off.
Ugh, again, kind of mixed feelings here that Anakin would go to Luke before Han, and how it hurts Han to know this. I can't stand the fact that they seem to constantly rub it in our faces that Han is somehow lesser-than because he doesn't have the Force. But anyway...
So he then contacts Coruscant and talks to Mon Mothma and learns of Leia's resignation and that she was all right at last check, and of the accusation of treason against him, and, fortunately, that the droids had been deactivated. Next up on his list is to talk to Anakin, so he contacts Winter on Anoth.
"Let me speak to him," Han said.
"As you wish, sir." Her voice didn't have the disapproval her words implied. She was a wise woman, and probably a better parent to his children than either he or Leia was. She was with them all the time. Han had no qualms about the arrangement. Only a few stabs of guilt daily that he wasn't with his children as much as he should be.
Oh, the anger inside me is rising as I read this. You're letting a nanny be a better parent to your kids than you are? Really? And you're letting this happen and not spending time with them? Seriously? This is infuriating! Not to mention the idea that Han would even admit to himself that she was a better parent than he or Leia. Again, can we pretend that they raised their own kids? And yet again, what happened between the last book and this one that suddenly Han and Leia aren't raising their own kids anymore? I don't get it!
Anakin's small face appeared on the screen. His resemblance to Luke always startled Han. That, and his son's blue eyes, which had more intelligence in them than Han had seen in any being, human or otherwise.
Oh, there's some more pointless foreshadowing of how smart and Force sensitive Anakin Solo is. Seriously, they work so hard to build this kid up in these books only to kill him at 15 years old. Talk about crappy story telling.
"Winter already said I shouldn'ta called you." Han smiled, hoping that the smile was reassuring. "No, Anakin. You can always contact me. Just let Winter know first." His son nodded. He looked very subdued. Even the worst of Winter's scoldings never brought this.
"What's happening?" Han asked. "What scared you so?"
"Can't find Mama," Anakin said. "Jacen and Jaina say she's all right, though. We'd know."
"She is all right," Han said. "She's on a trip right now. She'll be back soon." Anakin rubbed his left eye with his fist. He clearly hadn't been getting much sleep. "I know," Anakin said. "She's going to see the dead man." Han glanced at Chewie, who shrugged.
"He comes in my dreams. He says he will get us. He can't get us, can he, Papa?"
"No," Han said, feeling an anger so deep that he could barely hold it in. "You're safe on Anoth."
"They got here once," Anakin said.
Han remembered. Winter and a nanny droid had saved his infant son's life. He was surprised that Anakin remembered. But then, nothing Anakin did should surprise him. "Winter saved you. That's what she's there for."
"I wish you were here."
Oh, good to know that Anakin wants his daddy around sometimes to make him feel safer.
"I do too, son," Han said. Then Jacen and Jaina crowded into the picture and demanded some of his time. He gave them what he could. Chewie growled a warning. Han looked up. Wrea filled the cockpit transparisteel.
"Put Winter back on, would you, guys?" he said. They protested but drifted off, all except Anakin, who watched from the side, looking more serious than Han had ever seen him.
"Winter," Han asked. "Have you any droids there?"
"We shut them off, per Master Skywalker's instruction." Luke was way ahead of him. Thank every lucky piece Han had ever owned.
"Keep them off," Han said. "And Anakin, no fooling with the droids at all. Okay, son?" Anakin nodded. No protest, no nothing. That wasn't like his youngest son. Then Anakin said, "Papa?" Winter stepped aside. Apparently she was as worried about Anakin as Han was.
"What, little Jedi?"
"The dead man says he'll kill Mama."
Han smiled, even though his anger deepened. "The dead man has no right telling you lies in your dreams. I'm going to your mother right now. She'll be just fine."
"He almost killed her the first time," Anakin said, his voice small.
Han started. The Senate Hall, the droids, the messages, everything traced to Kueller. "Maybe he thinks that," Han said, "but your mom is one of the toughest people I know. He scared her. He scared all of us. But he didn't 'almost kill' her."
"She was hurt."
"Yes," Han said. "She was. This 'dead man' of yours isn't very nice. But we'll get him, and we'll make him stop giving you dreams."
"I promise," Han said. "You be careful, Anakin, okay? Listen to Winter."
Anakin nodded. "Love you, Papa." Han glanced at Chewie. Chewie stared at the controls as if he weren't listening to the exchange.
"Me, too, kid," Han said. It was the best he could do in front of Chewie. "See you soon." And then he signed off.
Well, regardless of my anger that the kids are off somewhere else and all of the implications that Han and Leia have almost nothing to do with parenting their own kids, I do enjoy little bits like this of Han being a good dad in the face of such adversity.
Craziness ensues. Han picks up Mara and some ylsalamiri to help mess with Kueller, who is in the midst of a lightsaber duel with Luke and Leia. Don't ask me for more details, this was a long book! Plus, above planet is a big space battle with the fleet and Wedge. I told you there was a lot going on.
Han, Chewie, Mara and their ylsalamiri make it to the planet, searching frantically for Leia. Just as he's about to give up Han hears a woman yelling in the distance and immediately knows it's Leia. Before they can get to her, a large and menacing creature shows up and eats the ylsalamiri, cage and all, which sort of ruins Han's whole plan after clawing and bloodying Han's shoulder in the process.
They continue to head toward Leia's voice and Han is even more nervous as her cries of Luke's name are getting more desperate. And apparently Luke appears ready to let Kueller kill him, only to come back as a Force ghost and help Leia defeat him. But in the midst of battle, suddenly they each stop feeling things through the Force, as though they are being blocked. Kueller, rather than striking Luke because he's thrown off his game, pulls out a remote detonator and punches in some numbers. Elsewhere, Artoo, the true hero of the Rebellion, has deactivated all of the detonators this is meant to set off.
Leia can't sense Luke anymore, but suddenly she senses... "... someone close. Someone precious." Who could that be? She finally turns to see Han. As Luke is still in the heat of battle, she calls Han's blaster to her through the Force and turns and fires on Kueller, killing him in a couple of shots and wondering if she's gone to the dark side by doing so. But she hadn't felt through the Force, as even though the ylsalamiri had been eaten it was still doing its job. And Han finally approaches Leia.
She took one last look at the man who had threatened her entire family. Then she turned around. Han was behind her, watching her.
"I love you, Princess," he said softly.
She launched herself into his arms, and pulled him close. "I know," she whispered. "I know."
Well, they do know how to make me happy sometimes with just a few short lines. I'm always a big fan of Leia "launching herself" into Han's arms. I am also a fan of this little passage from when they get back home:
Leia was wearing a copy of her white dress, but she had forgone the braids wrapped around her ears. Instead, she wore her hair down. Han had smiled at her before she left the suite, and had made her promise to return from the Senate early. The children were due back the following day. He wanted to make the most of his time alone with her.
So did she.
Does this count as directly implied sexy time? It probably should. Obviously they later stay up all night "making the most of their time alone." We know what that means. Even Mon Mothma does, apparently:
"Then I am going home. Han promised dinner for me."
"And no children until tomorrow," Mon Mothma said.
Leia smiled. "A person always has to make the best of every situation," she said.
"Oh, you do, Leia," Mon Mothma said.
Yeah, even Mon Mothma and all of her frigid bitchiness knows that when you have a night alone with Han Solo, you make the most of it. All appears to be well with the New Republic. Since the mission had been a success Leia is regarded as a hero once again. No more dissention, everything is just swell. End of book. No, there is no chapter of them making the most of their time alone. But if you would like to write it for us, please, go ahead!
Phew, I forgot how time consuming these things are! Especially when Han and Leia are so prominently featured. As just a general Star Wars book, I really enjoy this one. Lots of action, but the kind of action that actually engages me and keeps me interested rather than just seemingly pointless space battles. I was always pretty drawn into what was going on and at times genuinely concerned as to what might happen to our heroes. And for the most part Han and Leia are in character, which is always a plus.
And in spite of their being apart and the constant reminder that they are apart all of the time, there are also plenty of indications that they do, in fact, share a pretty close bond. Leia can sense Han when he's near, she wears his shirt when he's gone and longs for his presence, he drops everything to save her, a really good kiss and some solid evidence that they have fun alone when the kids are away. Except let's not try and think about how often the kids are away.
That said, given their extensive time apart I think I can only in good conscience give this one a 3 on the Han and Leia factor scale. Maybe a 3.5, I don't know. It's been a while since I did one of these and I kind of forgot how I usually rate them! So comment, agree or disagree. But all that said, This is high up there on my list of favorite EU books. It's an enjoyable read if you get your hands on it.
I promise to try not to let another 8 months pass before the next book review!