Monday, June 26, 2017

Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse - The Review

Ok, so it's been over a year since I did one of these. I know that there are likely quite a few of you who don't care much for the EU and/or have no interest in reading it. But I had always wanted to at least get through the New Jedi Order series. And when last we left off, Han and Leia were split up and at the very least I wanted to get to the part where they're back together again. Recently I had some time to do some reading and got through this book, so here we go, the final book of Han and Leia being split up...

This review is probably going to be relatively short. Because we tend to want to focus on Han and Leia moments for these, and, well, there aren't really any. They speak to each other briefly a couple of times, and are together in the same place for exactly zero scenes. I'm sure when I first read this book when it came out I did my usual thing where I skimmed through it looking for when the Han and Leia parts were and was incredibly disappointed to find out there weren't any. Although considering what a jerk Han was in the last book, perhaps we should consider this as an improvement.

So to start, Leia is trying to find places for refugees who have been displaced by the war. (this all seems sort of scarily familiar right now) She is busy trying to round up refugees while they are under attack. Typical Leia, always in the middle of things. But, even amid the chaos, she thinks about Han. She is asked when the last time she had slept was, and Threepio informs her that it has been 57 hours. Leia realizes she hasn't slept soundly since Han left a month earlier. And not a day passed when she didn't wonder what he was doing. See what you're doing to your wife, Han? She had heard reports sometimes of the Falcon being spotted, but Han hadn't contacted her personally.

He hadn't been the same since Chewbacca's death - not that anyone or anything had, especially occurring when it did, at the start of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, and largely at their hands. It was natural that Han should mourn Chewie's passing more than anyone, but even Leia had been surprised by the direction he had taken-or the one his unabashed grief had driven him to take. Where Han had always been cheerfully roguish, there was an angry gravity to him now. Anakin had been the first target of his father's outrage; then everyone close to Han had gradually fallen victim to it.

 Experts spoke of stages of grief, as if people could be expected to move through them routinely. But in Han the stages were jumbled together; anger, denial, despair-without a hint of resignation, let alone acceptance.

 Han's stasis was what worried Leia more than anything.

  Though he would be the first to deny it-vociferously, at that-his grief had fueled a kind of recidivism, a return to the Han of old: the lone Solo, who guarded his sensitivity by keeping himself at arm's length, who claimed not to care about anyone but himself, who allowed thrill to substitute for feeling.

 When Droma-another adventurer-had first entered Han's orbit, Leia had feared the worst. But in getting to know the Ryn, even slightly, she had taken heart. While not a replacement for Chewie-for how could anyone replace him? - Droma at least presented Han with the option of forging a new relationship, and if Han could manage that, he just might be able to see his way to reembracing his tried-and-true relationships. Time would tell-about Han, about their marriage, about the Yu-uzhan Vong and the fate of the New Republic. 

So, Han has returned to his "old ways" (where have we seen that before?) and is still ignoring his wife and family. I guess maybe this is an improvement on the last book where he was being awful to all of them. I do think it's interesting that Leia thinks Han forging a new friendship with Droma might help him find his way back to his family. But it's still just so sad that Leia is left wondering about the fate of their marriage, especially in the middle of such a crisis in the galaxy.

Eventually we do move on to Han, who is with Droma. Han has grown a beard to make himself less recognizable, and painted the Falcon matte-black for the same reason. Han is still trying to reunite Droma with his family.

 "But you've got my word, no Hutt'll stop us from locating your clanmates. We'll have your family back together soon enough."

 "Then we can make a start on yours," Droma mumbled. 

Han threw him an angry glance. "You want to explain that?"

 Droma turned to him. "You and Leia to begin with. If it weren't for me, you'd be with her now. I only hope she can find it in her heart to forgive me. "

 Han compressed his lips. "You've got nothing to do with what's come between us. Heck, it's not even between me and Leia. It's between me and"-he flicked his hand at the starfield beyond the viewpoint-"this."

 Droma didn't speak for a moment, then said, "Even friends can't be protected from fate, Han."

 "Don't talk to me about fate," Han snapped. "Nothing's fixed-not these stars and definitely not what happens to us in life." He clenched his hands. "These are what determine my fate."

 "And yet even you end up in situations that are not of your making."

 "Like my being with you, for instance."

 Droma frowned. "I've lost friends and loved ones to tragedy, and I've tried to do exactly what you're doing."

 Han looked up at him. "What I'm doing?"

 "Trying to beat tragedy by outracing it. Filling your life to the brim, even when it puts you in danger. Burying your heartache under as much anger as you can muster, without realizing that you've shoveled love and compassion into the same grave. We live for love, Han. Without it we might as well jettison everything."

 Despite himself, Han thought about Leia on Gyndine, Jaina flying with Rogue Squadron, Anakin and Jacen off to who knew where with the Jedi. When he considered, even for a split second, where he might be without them, the angry words and recriminations that had spewed from him since Chewie's death pierced him like rapid fire. If something should happen to them, he started to think, only to feel a great black maw opening beneath him, undermining everything he believed in. Protectively, he tugged himself from dark imaginings.

 "I got along just fine without love for a lot of years, Droma. Love is what starts things rolling downhill. It's like being sucked into a gravity well or being caught by a tractor beam. You get too close, there's no escape." 

So apparently Han isn't doing much better here yet. I don't know, I still feel as though it wouldn't take that long before Han would come to his senses and want to be even closer to his family than he was before. They're all in life-threatening situations here, would he really continue to run away like that and act like it's such a bad thing? I get the idea that he thinks it was easier to live before worrying about loving people, but the fact of the matter is that he already has that family, he already loves them. It's kind of too late to go back on that. At least he admits that what is going on isn't between him and Leia at all. Gee, if it isn't, why don't you stop treating her like that?!?

So Leia is busy dealing with refugees, and planets that had said they'd take refugees but then decided they can't handle more refugees. She still hasn't gotten any rest and then she suddenly gets a call from Han. The first time she's heard from him in a month, as we had learned before. Of course normally she'd be glad to be hearing from him, but then we know that this Han hasn't exactly been fun to deal with lately.

A snowy image appeared on the communication console's display screen. Leia recognized the forward cargo hold of the Millennium Falcon, though it took her a moment to recognize Han behind the beard.

 "How do you like my new look?" he asked, stroking the salt-and-pepper growth.

 "Han, where are you?"

 He swiveled the navicomputer chair. "I'd rather not say just now."

 She nodded in a galled but knowing way. "How did you know where to find me?"

 "I heard about Gyndine. Wasn't too difficult after that. You're still well known, whether you like it or not."

 "So are you, Han. And for all anyone knows, the Yuuzhan Vong could be hunting for you or the Falcon."

 Han's brows beetled and his mouth formed a puckered O.

 "I'm not a complete blockhead, you know. That's why I grew the beard and had the Falcon painted."

 Leia's eyes widened. "Painted?"

 "Anodized, actually. A lovely shade of matte black. She looks like a mortician's delight."

 "What system are you planning to sneak into this time?"


 "You heard me."

 "Oh, I get it. You mean maybe instead of frolicking around out here, I should be devoting my time to saving planets."

 Leia huffed. "I'm not interested in saving planets, Han. I'm interested in saving lives."

 "Well, what'd you think I'm trying to do? This is all about finding Droma's relatives and Roa, Leia. It has nothing to do with Ord Mantell or Gyndine or anywhere else. Besides, a man's good for only one promise at a time, and I gave mine to Droma."

 Leia exhaled slowly. "I'm sorry, Han. I understand what you're doing." She smiled thinly. "At least we still have something in common."

 Han averted his gaze momentarily. "Speaking of which, was it you who arranged for Ord Mantell's refugees to be transferred to Gyndine?"


 Han gave her a lopsided smile. "You're complicating my search, sweetheart."

 Leia's frustration returned. "Am I? And who created such a muddle on Vortex that the local governor decided to renege on his promise to accept any refugees whatsoever?"

 "I was only trying to-" Han's image suddenly tilted to one side, as if the Falcon had been stood on end. "Hey, Droma, watch what you're doing up there!" He turned back to the cam, jerking a thumb in the direction of the Falcon's outrigger cockpit. "Guy claims to be a pilot, but you'd never know it by the way he handles a ship." Leia took her lower lip between her teeth in disquiet.

 "How are you two getting along?"

 He snorted. "If I didn't owe him my life, I'd probably jettison him right here."

 "I'm sure," Leia said quietly.

 "By the way, you might want to pass along to the fleet office that a flotilla of Yuuzhan Vong ships was spotted near Osarian. Couple of destroyer analogs and-"

 "Han," she said, cutting him off. "Droma's sister is on Gyndine."

 He sat bolt upright. "What? How do you know that?"

 "Because some of his clanmates are among the group evacuated from Gyndine. There wasn't time to take everyone, and his sister was one of at least six Ryn I was forced to leave behind. I didn't know until we'd already transferred everyone to the transports."

 "Why didn't you say so in the first place?" Han demanded.

 "Because there's nothing either of us can do about it. Gyndine's occupied."

 "There are ways around that," Han mumbled distractedly. 

Leia compressed her lips. "You are infuriatingly predictable."

 "And you worry too much."

 "Someone has to."

 "Leia, will you be there for a while-on Ralltiir?"

 She shook her head. "We'll be leaving for Ruan, if I have any say in the matter. Then I'm going to Hapes."

 "Hapes?" Han said in incredulity. "And you accuse me of putting myself in the thick of things? Why there of all places?"

 "With any luck, to enlist the Consortium's help. The New Republic fleets are spread too thinly to defend the Colonies, let alone the Core. And now with Bilbringi, Corellia, perhaps even Bothawui endangered, we need all the support we can rally. Which reminds me, Han, Admiral Sow has asked Anakin to go to Corellia to help in reenabling Centerpoint Station."

 He snorted. "It's about time the New Republic started considering Corellia's defense."

 "Then you're all right with his going-without either of us?"

 "How old were you when you agreed to carry the technical readouts of the Death Star? Which of us is watching over Jaina when she flies with Rogue Squadron?" 


 "Besides, Anakin's a Jedi."

 "I suppose you're right," Leia said, clearly unconvinced. Han smiled ambiguously. "Be sure to say hello to Prince Isolder for me."

 "Why don't you come with me to Hapes and tell him in person?"

 He laughed at the idea. "What, and spoil your fun?"

 "What's that supposed to mean?" He started to reply but bit back whatever he had in mind to say, and began again.

 "Is there any hope for the folks you couldn't extract from Gyndine?"

 Leia shut her eyes and shook her head. "I'm not sure any of them even survived."

And that was the end of that conversation. Sigh. Things aren't getting much better here. Han is still being distant, and pretty uncaring. Leia isn't even pressing him at all, it's like she has basically given up on him as well. It's infuriating, honestly. And then, to top it all off, we bring up Isolder. I remember when I read this the first time knowing that couldn't be a good sign. The only good part of this conversation is that I like the idea that Leia is doing that mom thing of being worried about the kids, and Han is doing that dad thing where he's like, weren't you about their age when you did a lot of crazy stuff and you were fine?

I should also take a moment to explain some plot stuff. So the New Republic is trying to figure out good ways to take out some of the Yuuzhan-Vong forces. They decide maybe they can make it look like they aren't really protecting Corellia, sort of to lure them there. And enable Centerpoint Station to take out a bunch of them. It has been left non-functioning since Anakin enabled it back in the Corellian trilogy books, when he was still pretty young. So they want Anakin to go back and see if he can get it working again. Also the Vong have decided to work with the Hutts. Because we all know that the Hutts are always bad news.

But now we go see Luke, who doesn't actually appear much in this book. He is on Yavin with some of the Jedi including Jaina, Anakin and Jacen. Mara is off-world, and finally healthy after her mysterious illness. Luke goes and finds Anakin and Jacen are fighting and Jaina is trying to keep them from hitting each other. Of course they are fighting about the fact that Anakin had been asked to go help with Centerpoint Station. Anakin wants to help, Jacen thinks it is wrong for him to enable such a weapon. Then they argue about what constitutes defense. I guess it's kind of an interesting debate, but at the same time, because this becomes all Jacen talks about, it does get rather annoying. It's almost as though there is no such thing as just defending yourself. Because Anakin agrees he does not want to attack, he just wants Corellia and the rest of the New Republic to be able to defend itself. Luke agrees that it shouldn't be fired, but he does think that if it can be used to help defend Corellia and save lives, then it should be done. So, argument settled, but Jacen says he wants to go with Anakin, which is fine by him.

And now we go back to Leia on Hapes. She needs to get the help of their fleet to join in the war. So, she does what she does best and gives a speech that includes this line:

 "It was thought then that the New Republic and the Consortium might enter into an alliance through matrimony-though destiny had other unions in store for the would-be partners in that marriage."

This gets a laugh from her audience. At least she can joke about it now. After her speech Leia has a conversation with Ta'a Chume. Remember her? It's Isolder's mom, and she is not the nicest person ever. Leia comments about how a lot of the formalities she is witnessing on Hapes remind her of Alderaan, and she thinks of how her life could've been different. Ta'a Chume replies:

"Ah, but it could easily have been yours, my dear. It was you who chose Han Solo over my son."

 Leia looked at Chume'da Isolder, who stood tall, impeccably dressed, and incurably handsome at the head of the reception line. Yes, she told herself, I chose a two-fisted rogue without a credit to his name over a scion of pirates with pockets deep enough to finance his own war. And thank the stars for that. Childhood memories were one thing, but examined in the light of middle age they surrendered some of their charm. Leia could no more imagine herself a proper princess than she could an actress or an entrepreneur. She glanced over at Teneniel Djo-hands folded in front of her and chin lifted in regal deportment - and shuddered at the thought of standing in Teneniel's thousand-credit slippers.

 And yet even while she was thinking it, apprehension nibbled at her contentment. With Han off on his own, distant in more ways than one, the future they forged had grown formless and clouded. She hated having to worry about him, but in fact, she missed him terribly, and the trappings of royalty, the glance down a path not taken, left her feeling cold and alienated.

The only good thing about all of this is that Leia doesn't seem to be giving any second thoughts about not choosing to marry Isolder. She still seems to think she made a good choice. It's just really sad to see her thinking about how she doesn't know what her future with Han will be, and she misses him but right now he just isn't the man she loves, really. And even worse that this is all happening in the middle of such a crisis.

Well, one of the ambassador's, a man named Thane, insults Leia and Isolder challenges him to a duel, because that's just how things seem to work on Hapes. If it's not one thing poor Leia has to be dealing with, it's another. Again she doesn't sleep when waiting in anticipation of this duel to take place. Before the duel, Leia has yet another conversation with Ta'a Chume:

"I've seen the best bested, Ta'a Chume."

 The former queen mother studied her. "I have to wonder to whom you're referring. Your father, perhaps, bested by your brother; or my son, bested by the smuggler you helped make a hero."

 Leia refused to take the bait. "Isolder shouldn't have allowed himself to be provoked."

 "But, my dear, what other course of action was open to him after Thane insulted you?"

 "He could have allowed me to respond."

 Creases formed at the corners of Ta'a Chume's eyes. "My dear Leia, here on Hapes noblewomen are expected to comport themselves as something other than warriors. It has been thus since the founding days of the Consortium. Blame the Lorell Raiders for placing us on pedestals."

 "I'm not a Hapan noble, Ta'a Chume. And I've been called far worse than a liar."

 "I'm sure you have."

 Leia bristled, then regained her composure. "I'm more concerned about unity among the Consortium worlds than I am about defending my honor."

 Ta'a Chume forced a world-weary sigh. "There can be no unity without honor, Leia. And speaking of honor and dishonor, I've been meaning to inquire about your charming rogue of a husband. Why isn't he here with you?"

 Leia held Ta'a Chume's piercing gaze. "Han is contributing in his own way to the war effort."

 "What a curious answer." Ta'a Chume lowered her voice in feigned intimacy. "I trust there are no troubles at home."

 "There are troubles everywhere. That's why I'm here."

 "Indeed." Ta'a Chume fell silent for a moment, then said,

 "Since your arrival on Hapes I've been meaning to tell you how wrong I was about you."

 Leia waited.

 "Unlike the Dathomiri witch's daughter"-she glanced in the direction of Tenel Ka-"you chose against becoming a Jedi."

 Leia had to remind herself that she was talking with a woman who had not only ordered the murders of her elder son and Isolder's first love, but whose own mother had despised the Jedi almost as passionately as Palpatine had. Isolder's grandmother had wanted to see the Jedi extinguished, if only to prevent the resurrection of what she had deemed an oligarchy ruled by sorcerers and readers of auras.

 "Tenel Ka chose wisely," Leia said at last, "as did your son. Teneniel Djo is perfect for Isolder."

 Ta'a Chume shook her head. "No, my dear. Their marriage is beset by difficulties. There is talk of Teneniel Djo's returning to Dathomir."

 "I'm sorry. I didn't realize-"

 "You would have been perfect for my son. He undertakes this duel as much to demonstrate to me that a man is capable of taking initiative, as to demonstrate to you his continuing affection. That's why, regardless of the outcome of today's contest, you can rely on having my full support in the matter of the Consortium allying itself with the New Republic against the Yuuzhan Vong." Leia was still recovering from the unexpectedness of the disclosure when Isolder, Teneniel Djo, and Astarta strode into view.

Oh, great. So first this lady likes to pry about Leia's marriage, and then she tells her that apparently Isolder still wants her. It's been 18 years, and apparently that isn't over yet. Great. The only good news here is that Leia doesn't get sucked into telling her any more than she has to, and she certainly doesn't seem excited about the idea that Isolder is still interested. Anyway, they duel, Leia luckily does NOT suddenly decide that Isolder dueling for her honor is, like, hot, and Thane must agree to help the New Republic. The only good news about this passage is that at no point does Leia think about how amazingly handsome Isolder is, or that she totally wants him. So, in that regard at least, we are one step ahead of COPL. But then poor Leia is still stuck on Hapes for at least a few more days, and she spends most of the time just kind of hiding out and avoiding Isolder.

She had yet to spend any private time with the prince, and if she had her way, she wouldn't. From the start she had feared that Isolder had misconstrued the nature of her mission to Hapes, and Ta'a Chume's telling her that she would have been an ideal wife for him had only made things more awkward and complicated. The fate of the galaxy no longer turned on courtly intrigues, and Leia wanted no part of the Hapans' enslavement to them. Marooned in the past, in a swirl of distant memories, she longed more than anything to hear from Han. She knew that Jaina was with Rogue Squadron, and that Anakin and Jacen were bound for the Corellian system - if they weren't there already-but she had no idea where Han was.

 Countless times each day, he would come swaggering into her thoughts, quick to bring disarray. Although it wasn't the Han of the past several months she saw, but the scoundrel she had gradually fallen in love with. The Han who had thrown her a wink on being decorated for his unexpected actions during the Battle of Yavin; the Han who had acknowledged her first confession of love with a reply that managed to be both heartfelt and smug; the Han she had rendered speechless with the disclosure that Luke was her brother.

 Despite the damage to his roguish reputation a demonstration of real concern might inflict, there was no excusing his continued silence, and Leia was as angry at him as she was worried.

You just can't feel anything but bad for Leia here. She should be happy to be thinking about her husband, but because he is being such a jerk, it just messes with her head. Her anger definitely seems incredibly justified at this point. Frankly I'm almost surprised she even spoke to him last time he called. It's really pretty unfair what he is doing to her here. I guess the only thing I like in this little passage is that it says that she "gradually" fell in love with him, because that does seem accurate. But the rest just makes me sad.

So now they take the official vote on whether or not the Hapan fleet will join the battle, and as expected, they agree. Afterward, Isolder approaches Leia and this line made me laugh a little:

Turning, Leia saw a beaming Isolder marching toward her, throwing his richly embroidered cloak over one shoulder. For a moment she feared that he was actually going to scoop her up and twirl her around, but he came to a halt just out of arm's reach.

I like that because Leia "feared" he would scoop her up and twirl her. Not like in COPL, where she would've been wishing he'd do that, but she was basically thinking, "Ew, please don't." And luckily, he didn't. He acts all excited that they won the vote, and Leia has a vision that something terrible is going to happen to their fleet. It is so clear that she actually requests that they withdraw their support, or have a new vote and vote against it. But the decision is made and Isolder assures her that whatever happens, they will not hold the New Republic accountable. Without any other option, Leia agrees and Isolder offers his arm and Leia takes it as they walk off. Apparently Threepio doesn't like it.

"I believe your droid is agitated," Isolder said quietly. 

Leia laughed. "I'm sure he is. Threepio was very much Han's supporter when you were crazy enough to consider me fit to be a queen mother."

I still find it strange that somehow Threepio was ever on Han's side about anything. But anyway, Leia then agrees to accompany Isolder on his personal ship. Of course this made me think that at some point there would be some sort of misunderstanding from Han about why she was with him. Although honestly, at this point I'm not even sure I'd blame Leia for going with a man who is actually paying her some attention. Did I just say that? Of course I didn't mean that, but come on, Han, you're driving us all crazy!

Meanwhile, Jacen and Anakin have made it to Corellia. They also bring back Ebrihim, who was their tutor last time they were on Corellia. Bringing back lots of things from the Corellian trilogy. There is still discussion about what they will do with Centerpoint. It's possible to just set it up as an interdictor to keep the Vong ships from going anywhere, and of course Anakin would prefer that to arming it to fire. An unexpected guest arrives, Han's cousin Thrackan Sal-Solo, who Anakin notes suddenly looks even more like his father now that his father has a beard. Thrackan has been in jail basically since they last saw each other and is now out and of course wants to be a hero again. The kids aren't stupid though, and Jacen for one doesn't forget that he tortured their father.

Leia arrives back on Coruscant with Isolder, and thinks to herself how she STILL hasn't heard from Han. She also finds out that Jacen and Anakin are on Corellia potentially activating Centerpoint. So she reaches out for her family:

Leia managed not to wince. She knew, though, that she could take no more of Brand's briefing. His every gesture and assumption filled her with dread, no less so than Isolder's brash eagerness and posturing self-assurance. Retreating from the surrounding din, she reached out with the Force for Anakin and Jacen, then for Jaina, Luke, Mara, and some of the other Jedi. Each returned a subtle resonance, which, if nothing else, allayed her concerns temporarily. But when Leia tried to reach out for Han-whom she could sometimes feel, even through his denial of the Force, all she got back were images of a raging torrent and a plunge into measureless blackness. 

Are we feeling enough for Leia at this point? So now not only has she not heard from Han, but she has to worry about him even more. Han is with Droma, has died his hair and beard black which makes me think about Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. And they're in trouble and basically being swept down a river with raging rapids. Basically, Han is drowning on Fondor. Spoiler alert: of course he doesn't, though. But there is a new problem, as Leia, who is still with Isolder, learns that apparently the Vong fooled them all into thinking they'd attack Corellia, but instead they attack.... where else? Fondor! The Hapan fleet gets sent in, and Leia is still feeling as though something terrible will happen.

Word of the attack gets to Corellia where the Solo boys are, and Thrackan seems to think that it would be a good idea to fire Centerpoint at Fondor to take out a bunch of Vong. Of course there is some debate, and they don't really have the authority to make that decision anyway. But, before any of them can even make any sort of decision, Thrackan steps in and fires it himself. Just as Leia's vision predicted, this action kills off much of the Hapan fleet. It does take some of the Vong with them as well, but it comes at quite a price. Even worse, Thrackan is being called a hero for doing what he's done. Jacen tells Anakin he is proud of him for not firing it, but Anakin says that if he had done it he would've been able to direct the beam to only take out the enemy and spare the Hapan fleet.

Now we come to one of my least favorite exchanges in the EU:

Throwing her hands up in a gesture of surrender, she accepted the call. Han's was the last face she expected to see appear on the display screen.

 "It's just me," he said, smiling lopsidedly while she gaped at his image, feeling as if months had passed since they had spoken. The display showed that he was calling from an Abregado-rae space terminal.

 "I see you shaved off your beard," she said finally. He rubbed his chin. "Yeah, too itchy."

  "Well, at least you look like your old self again." He scowled, started to say something, then began again.

 "Grim business about what happened to the Hapans at Fondor. How's Isolder doing?"

 "I figured you'd hear the news sooner or later-even in a playground like Abregado-rae."

 "Hear about it?" Han said. "I saw it!"

 "You what?"

 "I was there-at Fondor."

 "You were at Fondor," she echoed in disbelief.

 "Droma and I were chasing after his clanmates. Some of them had managed to get themselves marooned in a deserted shipyard facility, and the rest were prisoners aboard a yammosk ship. Anyway, it's a long, boring story. The point is, I saw the Hapan fleet get wiped out. But I thought Fondor's primary went nova. I didn't know it was Centerpoint."

 Leia pushed her hair back from her forehead. "You realize that Anakin and Jacen were there."

 Han took his lower lip between his teeth. "Did they fire it?"

 Leia's nostrils flared. "Do you think they'd do something like that?"

 Han's brow furrowed. "Take it easy. You know I don't listen to the news."

 Leia thought about telling him about Thrackan Sal-Solo's sudden rise to fame, but decided against it, knowing that Han would find out soon enough.

 "Where did you bring the refugees you rescued?"

 "Here. But they can't stay for long. Abregado-rae is pulling in the welcome mat."

 Leia sighed. "SELCORE is searching for a world suitable for relocating everyone. We thought we were going to be able to count on Ruan, but Salliche Ag is suddenly refusing to accept any refugees."

 Han averted his eyes momentarily. "About Ruan," he started to say.

 "SELCORE is getting some unexpected help from Senator Shesh," Leia went on. "I'll let you know as soon as I hear anything."

 Han nodded. "Long as it's somewhere the Ryn won't be treated like riffraff."

 "You have my word on it." Leia paused, then added, "Will Droma be remaining with his clanmates?"

 "Yeah. The way I figure it, he and I are about even."

 "So where does that leave you, Han?"

 "I'm not sure. What about you-are you finally home for good?"

 "I'm leaving this afternoon for Duro."

 "Same old Princess Leia," he said with a sneer. "Then I guess it doesn't matter where I end up."

 She narrowed her eyes for the cam. "Same old Han Solo."

 He tried to lighten the moment with a laugh. "We are a pair, aren't we?"

 "I don't know, Han. You tell me."

 His eyes flashed. "Well, look, be sure to let me know what planet SELCORE decides on."

 "Anything to help the refugees," Leia said with counterfeit good humor.

 "That's what I've been saying all along."

 Leia folded her arms. "In that case, our paths are bound to cross one of these days."

 "I don't know, sweetheart, it's a big galaxy."

 "Only as big as you make it," she said, deactivating the comm.

And that is the last we hear from Han and Leia in this book. It was at this point when I first read it that I was pretty convinced that they were never going to be together ever again. Han is giving her absolutely no sign that he particularly cares at all, and Leia is (rightfully) so mad at him at this point she is beyond the point of trying to bother to get him to realize what he's been doing. It's like they don't even know each other anymore, and it's awful. The only good thing in this entire passage is the news that Han shaved his beard and looks like his old self again. Seriously, Han barely even deserves to be forgiven here. For as mad as I was at Leia in COPL, I'm just as mad at Han during this whole mess here.

So that is the end of this one. I think the Han and Leia factor here is pretty easy: 1. It barely deserves a 1, but I'll give it at least that. Han is I guess a little less deliberately heartless in this book compared to the last one, but it has almost become worse because it's like he's totally indifferent at this point. And poor Leia is stuck trying to deal with all this insanity while her children are off risking their lives and her husband almost doesn't even want anything to do with her anymore.

Ugh, this sucks, doesn't it? The good news is, the NEXT book they reconcile. I know, based on where we're leaving off here, it doesn't seem possible, does it? But trust me, I read it already, it's true.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

To "Ben," or not to "Ben".... Guest Post by Erma

Note from Zyra: Hey, guys. It's been far too long since we had a discussion post. The Mother's Day Challenge took a lot longer than I expected it to, but I have finally (for now) run out of submissions, so we can get back to some discussion topics, for any of you who are still with us. This was submitted to me by Erma not long after I posted her story for the challenge, that included a son named Ben, but the note that this boy did NOT grow up to murder his father. Many of us were pretty open about how we have a very hard time reading any story with "Ben" in it, no matter how much we may be told that it's not the same and this kid is good or whatever. We just can't seem to see past it. I think it's a very interesting conversation worthy of discussion, so here are Erma's words:

I'm seeing a real puzzle facing those who want to write about H/L kid(s): How do you involve parts of Disney-canon that might work, or are at least palatable, without involving parts that don't work, or aren't palatable? Despite what the wording here may imply, this isn't about what is "allowed" and what isn't. Rather, it's about what sorts of approaches seem agreeable and workable. And, importantly, this isn't about further lamenting what TFA screwed up. Instead, it's about what to do with the pieces; how, and in what ways, do we move forward?

Examples include....: Would we have a story that involves Poe growing up with Jaina and Jacen? If we have a story with Poe, do we just make up a new name for H/L's kid? How do we handle gender? And of course, if the new kid isn't "Ben," then who is s/he? Do we need to spend a paragraph or two of character development on our new character, Han-and-Leia's-kid-who-is-fine-and-not-Ben Organa-Solo?

Of course, I know this is ultimately up to the individual author... but still, it raises interesting questions about how to then present and share the work with others, as seems to happen a lot in fanfic ;)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Mother's Day Challenge Submission #10 from Statsgrandma


Han gazed in admiration as Leia wielded a hydrospanner with amazing grace and capability. There was something very hot about a princess who could also work with tools, and Han was enjoying this aspect of her immensely.

The work was necessary; they were in deep space, awaiting an uncertain welcome on Bespin--assuming they ever got there--and the Falcon had no lightspeed. Any and all work on it had yielded nothing in the way of results. Sadly, the rest of the ship constantly needed attention; it had suffered from both attacks and being clobbered in the asteroid field. Han had to admit that Leia had been a great help to him and Chewie.

And he’d discovered so much more about Leia than her mechanical skills--much, much more. Since their first kiss in the circuitry bay, which had been unceremoniously cut short by Threepio, they had taken their physical attraction all the way. Han felt warm just thinking about it.

Normally, they bantered as they labored, taunting each other, exchanging instructions, assisting when it took multiple hands to accomplish something. They’d laugh and joke, despite knowing they were in grave danger. And when the work was done, there was unadulterated bliss in each other's arms.

Today, however, Leia had been uncharacteristically quiet. Han had attempted to tease her, very gently. She’d shot him a stare that would have withered a forest of japor ivory wood. Han’s heart sank, more than a little, but she remained silent. Not so much sullen as pensive, he’d observed. He let her work quietly, but when they broke for lunch, she looked extraordinarily sad.

“Princess,” he said softly. “What’s going on?” he asked as he prepared a dull lunch of flatbread and nut butter, with some Asteria water for here that he’d purloined on a supply mission for the Alliance. He’d paid for it out of his own credits, not theirs. He knew how much Leia enjoyed it; it was a favored beverage on her now-destroyed homeworld.

“Nothing!” she snapped. Then, realizing that Han had really done nothing to warrant it, she said more quietly, “nothing.”

Han let it go for a few. He knew if he coaxed her, she’d then become truly furious with him. They ate in silence for a few minutes.

Finally, she spoke quietly. “I checked the chrono.”

“We always check the chrono, sweetheart,” he said to her.

Leia looked up at him, her brown eyes riddled with grief. “It’s Mother’s Day, Han.”

Han reached across the dejerik table (what do you call it?) and gently cradled Leia’s tiny hand in his large one. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I really am. You were close to your mom?”

Leia took a deep breath. “I’m adopted, as you may have heard around the base.”

Han gave her a wry smile. “I pay about as much attention to base gossip as I do to anyone who gives me orders.” Leia actually cracked a smile over that one. “When were you adopted?”

“As a newborn,” Leia answered. “So I have two mothers.”

“But you don’t remember your birth mother,” Han said. “So your adoptive mom is your real mom.”

Leia hesitated. “I know this is going to sound weird,” she said slowly, after considering her words, “but occasionally, I have some feelings about her. I think she was beautiful, kind, and very sad. But as you said, the woman I consider to be my mother is the one who raised me. The one who made me who I am.”

Han smiled softly. “Must’ve been a hell of a woman.”

Leia was trying not to let moisture reach her eyes, but there was such tenderness in Han’s voice and eyes and touch, it was hard to keep them back. She sniffled lightly, rubbing her eyes. Han silently handed her a tattered but clean serviette. He nibbled at his flatbread while Leia composed herself.

“Leia,” he said gently. “You don’t have to play strong with me when you don’t feel like it.”

Leia nodded. “I miss her so much,” she whispered. Han slid over on the banquette, placing his strong arms around her, and she buried her face in his broad chest. He rested his head on top of hers, clasping her close to his heart.

She was so warm, so soft in his embrace. He could feel her tears dampen his shirt, and he minded it not in the least. In fact, there was a stirring in him that had never, not once, happened to him before.

He wanted to be a father.

And he knew who he wanted his children's mother to be.

Of course, he told himself, this wouldn’t exactly be the prime time to bring it up. They’d been bedding each other for ten days--ten of the best days of Han’s life, to his mind. Nothing had ever brought him the sense of devotion and completion that making love with Leia had. He wanted to be a better man.

There was the added complication of the uncertainty of their futures. Han and Leia had no idea what might await them at Bespin. By Han’s own admission, Lando Calrissian was not a trustworthy soul, but their options had been limited. They wondered how long the war would continue--it felt as if it would never end, and they were not winning at this point in time. Nothing was certain in the universe, although there was something that both felt was solid between them, an anchor for their souls, satisfying a longing that went far beyond the physical.

Leia calmed, and Han kissed her tenderly on her forehead. “I’m sorry about your mom,” he said simply.

“Let’s get back to work, Flyboy,” she told him, taking his hand and leading him back to the engine room.


Leia assisted with repairing the aft stabilizer. She and Han didn’t say much, but she’d been moved by his simple, tender acknowledgment of her grief. She wondered about his parents, and why he never spoke of them. Perhaps he’d tell her someday, but he wasn’t big on discussing his past.

She felt closer to Han Solo than she ever had to another being in her life. There was something about this gruff but intensely genuine man that sparked emotions in her that she’d never encountered before.

As she watched him, covered with engine grease, bickering with Chewie, her thoughts traveled in a direction that both alarmed and delighted her.

Leia had long ago decided that her life would be one spent in pursuit of justice, freedom, the good of all. A personal life was out of the question. But she had begun questioning that as of late. Perhaps she’d been deliberately depriving herself of such possibilities--or that she’d not known that such desires existed until meeting this man.

What if he was the love of her life?

What would it be like to be married to Han Solo? To have children with him? She’d never seen herself as a mother, but there was a glimmer now, an idea of wanting to create something out of love that was intensely personal.

For the first time in her life, Leia began to imagine herself as a mother.

And she was quite certain who she’d like the father to be.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Mother's Day Challenge Submission #9 by Zyra

Usually domestic scenes come to me incredibly easily, but I had a really hard time coming up with something for this. Finally something came out of it, but extreme sappiness alert....

“Uh oh, what’d I miss?”

Leia heard her husband’s voice from behind her just as she finished closing the door to their children’s bedroom. It had been a trying day, to say the least.

Normally having Han return home would instantly ease any stress she was feeling. But on this particular evening, their three kids had decided to become complete terrors. And the effects of dealing with them were going to take more than a strong hug from Han to disappear.

She leaned her forehead on hernarm against the wall and heaved a sigh. “How much do you think we could get for them?”


Her voice was slightly muffled but she knew he heard what she’d said. She turned to him and continued. “I mean if we sold them, they’re probably pretty valuable, right? I mean, Force-sensitive, strong Corellian genes, rare Alderaanian heritage…”

Han gave her a half-smile. “That bad today, huh?”

She shook her head and took a few long strides before collapsing on the couch in the living room. “Do you remember that time we took them to Mon Calamari? And we made the mistake of trying to take them out to dinner before they had a chance to adjust to the local time?”

Han thought back for a moment and then had to smile in spite of what was far from a pleasant memory. The incident Leia was referring to had taken place about a year-and-a-half prior. Now, their kids were not perfect by any means. But they were generally good kids. Except, of course, when they got especially tired or hungry. And gods help you if you got a strong combination of both. They had wanted to have a nice family dinner, and it turned into shouting matches from everyone, throwing of food, and ultimately having to drag everyone out of the restaurant after causing quite a scene. The twins were five at the time, and Anakin was three. And Han and Leia vowed to never make a similar mistake again.

“No, it wasn’t that bad, was it?” Han said as he moved to sit next to her on the couch.

She looked at him briefly and then down at her hands in her lap. “Well, no. Definitely not quite that bad. But they were at each other’s throats all afternoon. Just shouting and arguing and even some hitting. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to yell, too.”

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. “It happens, sweetheart. They probably just need some sleep.”

She leaned her head against his chest and heaved a sigh. “I feel like a terrible mother. I made Anakin cry when I yelled at him.”

Han kissed her forehead. “He’ll be all right, sweetheart. We all have bad days sometimes. I’m sure when it’s time to put them to bed they’ll just want to hear their stories.”

“Maybe,” she replied, unconvinced.

After a few moments of silence, just as Leia was starting to really settle into Han’s embrace, he abruptly released her and got up.

“Where are you going? I wasn’t finished with you.”

“Just wait there a minute, I’ve got something I think you’ll like.”

Leia scowled as he disappeared toward their bedroom. She did not feel as though he would so easily fix her sour mood.

A few moments later Han sauntered back into the room with a small, wrapped box that he held out for her.

“What is it?”

“Maybe you should open it and find out.”

She wasn’t really in the mood for games but she snatched it out of his grip and began to unwrap the paper while Han sat down next to her.

“It’s a holocube,” she said as she held it up in her hand.

“You’ve always been so observant,” Han quipped; his low, gentle voice rumbling in her ear. “Take a look at what’s on it.”

Using her thumb, Leia flicked the switch to activate the images. The first thing she saw was an image of her holding the twins, looking down at them and smiling. It had to have been the day they were born because they were still in the med center.

The image shifted to another one, this time she was holding Jacen in her arms above her head, smiling at him while he smiled back at her.

Next was an image of her walking away from the holorecorder through the grass holding the hands of both of the twins, one on either side of her walking next to her.

The images kept coming, one after another. Swimming with Anakin, giving the twins a bath, lying on the couch under all three of them. Even an image of her asleep on her bed with baby Anakin conked out right next to her.

As the images went by she realized that somehow she had never seen any of them before. They had plenty of family holos from over the years of their family, but none of these seemed familiar. And she also realized that not one of them appeared as though she or the kids had posed for it.

“Where did all of these come from?”

“Well,” Han began, “I’ve been taking these for a few years. I was going to give this to you for your birthday next week, but you seem like you needed it a little sooner. I want you to see how I see you with our kids. And just look at the way they’re looking at you in some of these. Doesn’t look like they think they have a terrible mother.”

Leia felt her eyes welling up, and she turned to face her husband who was looking at her sweetly. “You’re unbelievable,” she said as she leaned in and held him close, his arms wrapping around her tightly.

“I know,” he laughed.

After a few moments of just savoring the feel of Han’s embrace, Leia heard Anakin’s voice from behind her. “Mommy?”

She pulled away from Han and quickly wiped her eyes before she turned around to see her youngest son who had an almost pitiful look on his face. “What is it, honey?”

The boy took a few steps closer until he could almost touch her and hesitated again before answering. “I’m sorry,” he said sweetly, his bright blue eyes looking up at her and asking for forgiveness.

Leia’s heart almost melted and she reached down and pulled her four-year-old son into her lap so she could hug him. “It’s all right, baby,” she said as she held him close. She could tell his little arms were squeezing her with every ounce of strength he had. “I just need you three to behave a little bit better for Mommy, all right?”

She felt him nod against her shoulder and she leaned back to give him a quick kiss. “I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too, Mommy,” he replied with a smile.

“No more giving Mommy any trouble, right?” Han said from next to them.

Anakin shook his head and smiled at his father. “No, Daddy.”

“Good, now c’mere,” Han said as he stretched his arms open and Anakin crawled across Leia’s lap to give his father a hug. “Ok, now go back in with your brother and sister and we’ll be in in a little while, all right?”

Anakin nodded and climbed down from Han’s lap before running back to his bedroom.

“See? They think you’re the greatest. And so do I.”

Leia shook her head at him. “I don’t know how you do it.”

He appeared confused. “Do what?”

“Well, a lot of things. But in this case I was thinking about how you’re always so sure that everything will be fine. Or how you always seem to come up with the most perfect thing at the most perfect time,” she said as she held up the holocube. “I can’t believe you did this. Are you ever going to run out of ways to surprise me?”

He shook his head and smiled. “Nope.”

She leaned in and hugged him again. “I better be careful or you’re going to completely outdo me when it comes to being a wonderful spouse.”

“Not a chance, sweetheart. I think you’re doing a much better job than you think you are.” He paused for a few moments and then asked, “So do you still want to sell the kids to the highest bidder?”

She laughed against his chest and then leaned back to look at him. “No. But maybe we can just rent them out for a week or two?”

“That’s more like it.”

Monday, June 5, 2017

Mother's Day Challenge Submission #8 from dantsolo

By Dant Solo

Leaning in the doorway of their bedroom, Han quietly observed his wife as she cuddled their newborn child, swaying back and forth in the padded glider. She hadn’t noticed his presence and the awe he felt at the sight of his wife and child was his alone. 
Head tilted down, eyes riveted and adoring, she watched the baby as she slept so soundly in her arms. Han had never seen such softness in her gaze, which was saying a lot. If anyone knew the vulnerability and raw emotion that boiled beneath her surface, it was Han. And yet, after all these years, this was a new side of Leia that he was seeing.

She had spent so much time in battle mode and her role as politician and leader that her femininity had suffered. Fortunately for Han, he had somehow managed to remind her that she was, indeed, a hot-blooded woman.

A little too hot-blooded, it seemed. Even with the implant, she had gotten pregnant in the blink of an eye.

He continued to silently watch them, chest swelling with pride. His wife. His child. How had these wonderful beings happened to him? How had he gotten so unbelievably lucky? He felt somewhat unworthy, but planned to spend the rest of his life making sure he was as worthy of them as he could possibly be.

And he would defend them with his life, no question.

A fierce feeling of love blossomed in his chest, even more powerful than he had felt for Leia before. This tiny, helpless human seemed to somehow bond them more closely.

Seeming to sense his strong emotion, his wife’s head abruptly popped up, eyes finding him instantly, a small smile gracing her lips.

“Hi,” Leia whispered. She appeared more content than Han had ever seen her.

“Hey,” he called in return. He felt his small smile grow quickly brilliant at the meeting of their eyes. He couldn’t help it. Such pure happiness flowed through him.

Pushing himself slightly off the doorway, he loped over to the glider and dropped to one knee before wife and child.

Staring down at their baby, he thought he had never seen something so small. “She’s so tiny,” he whispered, able to hear the wonder in his own voice.

“Babies usually are,” she replied, tone dry but laced with affection.

Han grinned, eyes raising to meet hers. “She looks exceptionally tiny. Then again, she probably takes after her tiny mother.”

She feigned a sour look that couldn’t possibly be genuine and Han grinned more broadly before rerturning his gaze to their daughter. Her little finger was curled delicately around Leia’s larger one, as if upon leaving the womb, she couldn’t bear to break the connection.

“She looks like you,” Han said quietly.

Her small smile brightened and she glanced up at Han before her gaze lowered to the beautiful bundle in her arms. “You think so?”

He loved the tender look in her eyes as her gaze caressed the diminutive features. “Of course. Look at that little nose, all that dark hair…she’s a mini Leia.”

She beamed like the sun for just a moment. “She has your mouth.”

“You’re just sayin’ that cause she was screamin’ so loud this morning.” He slanted a wry grin her way.

A light trickle of laughter fell from her lips. “No, look at her lips. Pouty, like her daddy’s.”

Han returned his eyes to the baby’s face, examining her closely. He saw nothing of himself there, only his wife. That seemed how it should be, since she had done all the hard work bringing this new life into the galaxy. Watching her give birth had been nerve-wracking, filling him with awe and a sense that this woman he loved could do absolutely anything.

“I dunno. I think she looks exactly like you,” he finally replied. He reached up to gently brush at the dark, downy hair that fully covered the soft, petite head. “Are all babies born with so much hair?”

“Some. Some are born bald.”

“I know where all this hair came from. See? Told you she looks just like you.”

She was smiling brightly again, eyes flitting to the baby, him then back to their child.

A tiny, magical-sounding sigh burst from their daughter’s itty-bitty lips and Han found himself watching her intently, entranced. Had they really made a human being? The intensity of the sudden pang in his chest took him by surprise, emotion overwhelming him, seeming to spread warmth across his skin. A glance up showed Leia watching him, eyes soft, a broad smile across her cheeks. A bit self-conscious of the burst of emotion, he returned the smile haphazardly and looked back to the baby.

“I can’t believe she’s ours,” Leia said with quiet wonder, echoing his thoughts. “We created her.”

He nodded, at a loss for words, and watched as she leaned down and placed the softest kiss on their daughter’s forehead. That pang returned to his chest, and Han couldn’t help but ponder again at how such a scoundrel had gotten so damned lucky. 

Leia’s brow furrowed ever-so-slightly. “I hope I can be the mother she deserves,” she whispered.

It surprised Han. It was so rare for her to express doubts about herself. She was always so self-assured, so ready for anything. Even during child birth, she had gritted her teeth with barely a complaint, even when he could see her eyes diluting with pain. He placed a hand on her arm.

“Sweetheart.” His voice was heartfelt and reassuring. “You’re amazing at everything you do. Why would being a mother be any different?”

Her grateful smile didn’t cover up her lingering doubts. “Every other role I’ve taken on, I spent years preparing for. Senator, leader for the Rebellion, reinstating a Galactic Republic.” She paused, glancing askance for just a moment. “I’ve had no preparation for being a mother.” Insecurity filled her eyes, slackened her posture, and she bit her lip, averting her gaze.

For a fleeting moment, he just watched her, at a loss for words. He glanced at the newborn, swaddled so protectively in her embrace. Delicate life, so utterly dependent on them for every possible need, defenseless and fragile. She was counting on them, her parents, to provide a stable, nurturing environment for her.

In an instant, Han felt overwhelmed, understood completely how Leia was feeling. How could he possibly be responsible for this innocent life? He swallowed against the sudden fear that seemed to choke him.

With a quick intake of breath, he remembered who Leia was…so strong, independent, so able to rise to any occasion. She, who took care of the entire galaxy, fought for every citizen’s freedom…he had every confidence that his wife could lead him in this, the most important of journeys. Shaping this brand new spirit into who she was meant to be. Alone, he would have been hopeless, undeserving of even attempting it. But, Leia would show him the way.

He smiled tenderly and placed his fingers beneath her chin, guiding her to look at him. “Leia,” he began tentatively, as always, uncertain of the right words. “You take care of the whole galaxy. How hard can one little baby be?”
She was looking back at him with quiet disbelief, brow raised as if challenging him to continue.

He attempted to rise to the occasion. “With you as a mother, our little girl will grow up to be the most amazing person, just like her mama. Ready to conquer anything that comes her way, standing up for what’s right, tough, and brilliant, and beautiful. She couldn’t be anything but.”

The corners of her mouth were turning up just a bit, almost against her will, as she tried to fight the threatening smile.

“And with me as a dad,” he added, forcing all the bluster he could manage. “She won’t be allowed to date until she’s thirty. And the whole galaxy knows what a great shot I am, so there won’t be any boys brave enough to come around here.”

Now the smile broke, full-force, quiet laughter brimming from her lips.

Between them, a low, angry-sounding gurgle spewed from their daughter’s bow-shaped lips. They both looked down expectantly as tiny eyes fluttered open and the smallest yawn Han had ever seen elongated the little mouth. It was, quite possibly, the cutest thing he could have imagined.

“See, she does have your mouth,” Leia pointed out. “Look how big it is.”

He tried to aim a mock-glare at her, but he couldn’t even fake annoyance. Instead, he found himself grinning.

A soft cooing noise brought their eyes back to the baby, whose dark-bluish eyes were on her mother’s face. He wondered what they looked like to her.

“Hi, sleepyhead,” Leia softly cooed back in a quiet, high-pitched voice Han had never heard from her until she met their child for the first time.

Her eyes seemed enormous, too wide, as if she were shocked and confused at the world that lie outside her mother’s body. The little lips were open just a bit, adding to her look of amazement.

“I love you, little girl,” Leia murmured. She brought the baby close to her face and nuzzled her cheek with her nose, smiling tenderly. “We’re all going to be just fine.” 

And just like that, Han could see she had moved past her doubts. He liked to think that his words of encouragement had spurred her on, but he knew his wife. She didn’t really need anyone else’s input. She did just fine on her own. 

Their eyes met and they shared a smile of sublime happiness. He was the luckiest man in the galaxy. And their baby was the luckiest as well, to have the most amazing mother who would teach her she can do anything.