Friday, July 14, 2017

Recovery - The Review

Yay, here we are! Finally some good news for Han and Leia fans. I mean, first, look at the effort they put into the "cover" for this one. They swapped Han and Leia's faces to opposite sides so they're facing each other instead of facing away from each other. Symbolism! But truly, there really never was a real cover for this, because it was first published as an ebook, only available digitally and then later it was included in the paperback release of Star by Star as a prologue. I was always annoyed with the additions of ebooks to paperback editions, because typically I was on top of my book buying and would get them as soon as possible, which meant hardcover. In this case the paperback came out an entire year after the hard cover. I don't even really remember when I first heard about this, to be honest. And I'm positive that when I did, I really didn't even understand the concept of an ebook or how to even get it. So it was a while before I finally got to read it.

From what most of us were led to believe, this was written to sort of appease a lot of fans who felt that Han and Leia's reconciliation was, well, sorely lacking. And I don't know exactly how Troy Denning made his way to writing Star Wars books, but it became apparent right away that anytime he was involved, a Han and Leia fan could rest easy in the knowledge that they were in good hands and would be treated appropriately. But now, on to the story....

Han is with Leia on Corellia, about three weeks after the end of the last book, and Leia is still in very rough shape.

Han opaqued the transparisteel viewport, then stepped around the bed where his wife lay in a therapeutic coma, her eyelids rimmed by purple circles and her flesh as pallid as wampa fur. Though he had been assured Leia would survive, his heart still ached whenever he looked at her. He had almost lost her during the fall of Duro, and a stubborn series of necrotic infections continued to threaten her mangled legs-even more in doubt was their future together. She had greeted him warmly enough after they found each other again, but Chewbacca's death had changed too much for their marriage to continue as before-Han felt brittle now, older and less sure of his place in the galaxy. And in the few hours she had been coherent enough to talk, Leia had seemed hesitant, more tentative and reluctant to speak her mind around him.

Ah, now this is more like it. Balance Point led us to believe that all they had to do was kiss and make up and everything would be great. He was gone for a year. He acted basically indifferent toward her for a year. I mean, of course she is going to be a little hesitant and not quite herself. He spent a year acting like anything but her husband, so I'm sure it's been a while since she even remembers what it's like for him to be that man. And this also reminds us that you can't just severely injure one of our heroes and leave them near death and jump ahead later to when they're totally fine again without telling us what happened in between.

So Han has basically been just waiting for bounty hunters to find them. The Jedi are being hunted, and his wife and kids are at the top of the list. They are in the med facility under assumed names. He hears some commotion outside Leia's room and prepares himself for the inevitable. There is a big skirmish here and Han takes out a few of them after he leads them to believe that another woman in a bacta tank is Leia. Then security guards show up and help Han out but Han winds up in trouble with a lot of them. But none of that is all that important, as somewhere in the middle of the chaos, after the shooting stops but before the yelling is over, Leia finally wakes up and struggles to get some words out.

Han immediately stopped arguing with the CorSec officer and came to her side. With hollow checks and bags under his eyes, he looked exhausted.

"You're awake," he said, perhaps overstating the case. "How do you feel?"

"Terrible," Leia said. Everything ached, and it felt like she had a hot power-feed around her legs.

 I'm sure all of us can picture worried and exhausted Han going over to Leia once she finally wakes up. She had thought someone was stealing things from her, and Han tells her that they have more important things to worry about. She of course wants to know what things, and he tells her not to worry.

"When you tell me not to worry, that's when I worry," Leia said. Han had always been one of those men who navigated life more by instinct than by was one of the things she most loved about him...but his instincts since Chewbacca's death had been carrying him into some very dangerous areas. Or perhaps the territory only seemed dangerous, lying, as it did always farther from Leia.

I like this, too. I love that Leia knows this about him, and loves it about him. But it also makes sense for her to still not be entirely sure where she stands with him.

Now they get a visit from Han's cousin Thrackan, who of course he loves. They always have to mention that he looks just like him, except he has gray hair and a beard. They also note that Leia is probably the only person in the galaxy who despises his cousin more than Han does. Leia insults him a bit, proving that she has not completely lost her spirit. Then Thrackan says:

"I didn't know either of you was here until I saw on a newsvid that Han Solo had just killed three Corellian citizens."

 "Sorry about that," Han said, not appearing sorry at all. 

Haha, yes, that sounds like Han. Then we continue:

  Sal-Solo gave him a dark look, then looked back to Leia.

 "There won't be any charges, provided you."

 "Charges?" Han exclaimed. Even Leia could not tell whether he was angry or surprised, they been apart so long...and gone through so much alone...that she felt like she did not know him now.

Aw, see while this is sad, it does make sense. A year is a long time to be apart like that, and I think it would be difficult even for Leia to just go back like everything was normal.

Thrackan says something about how he expects they'll be gone soon.

 "We're not going anywhere until Leia can walk."

 Leia frowned. Their faces had been on newsvids all over the system, and he was talking about staying until she could walk. What kind of rocket juice had he been drinking while they were apart?

 "Han," Leia said gently. "We talked this over. You know I may... I ever..."

 Han whirled on her. "Until you walk, Leia."

 Leia recoiled, and Han hovered over the bed, staring into her eyes, not blinking, not breathing, not wavering, as though he could change what had happened on Duro...maybe even what had happened before that...through sheer force of will.

Han is obviously starting to seem like his old self. I'd imagine that it would be incredibly difficult to have gone through all of that and be apart only to have Leia nearly die so soon after they found each other again, and now not being sure if she will ever be able to walk.

"If it makes you feel better, I could always have you killed," Sal-Solo offered amicably. "That works for me."

 "And how do you think Anakin would like that?" Leia retorted. Their son Anakin was the only one who had ever been able to fully activate Centerpoint Station, and his absence was one reason the ancient superweapon wasn't working now. "He doesn't care for you much as it is, Thrackan. I doubt he'd be very helpful if you arranged death of his parents." 

Leia still makes excellent points. Anyway, then the doctor says they need to take with them the woman in the bacta tank, and Han is acting like it's Jaina, but it's not.

"Oh...right. Our friend." Han glanced at Leia, and something roguish came to his eye, something sly and fun and conspiratorial that had not been there since before Chewbacca's death. He looked back to Sal-Solo and sighed. "Look, I don't mean to be difficult, but we can't go without Jaina."

 "Jaina? Jaina's here?"

 Leia thought she had been the one to blurt the question, but realized that was not so when all eyes turned to Sal-Solo. At least she understood why Han had been acting so strangely. She had a vague memory of a deep-space rendezvous with the Jade Shadow, of kissing her brother and each of her children goodbye and idling them she would see them again on Coruscant. Something must have happened. Perhaps Han had needed Jaina to help him fly the Falcon, or perhaps Mara and Luke had run into trouble and been forced to divert. Maybe all of her children were on Corellia.

 She hoped not. She hoped Jacen and Anakin were safe on Coruscant... but it would good to see them, too. So good.

 "...Anakin?" Sal-Solo was asking-"Is he here, too?"

 "Just Jaina," Han said firmly. "Anakin and Jacen are on Coruscant."

 "Of course, you would say that." Sal-Solo was thinking aloud.

 If he could force Anakin to reactivate Centerpoint, he would have no worries from the Yuuzhan Vong or the New Republic. He could use it to isolate the whole Corellian system and run the place as his personal empire. "But I can find out. I have my ways."

 " could comm them on Coruscant," Han said. "Feel free to reverse the Holonet charges...I know how strapped things are here in Corellia."

 "Wait...what was that about tank three?" Leia demanded, not paying much attention to the exchange between Han and Sal-Solo.

 "Jaina in a bacta tank? What happened?"

 "You remember." Again, Han gave her a strange glare. "That hit on Duro turned out to be worse than we thought."

  The stress alarm behind the bed started to beep again.

 "Will you please disconnect that thng?" Leia demanded. Whatever had happened...whatever Han was trying to tell her...she did not want a machine giving them away. "And get me a repulsor chair. I want to see my daughter." 

I like that Leia can see this glimmer in Han that has been missing for so long. And of course that Leia just wants to see her kids as well. Now we find out how Leia's legs feel.

 Leia's legs were no sooner lowered than they began to ache with a pain a hundred times worse than childbirth. It was unlike anything she had ever experienced, a bursting, throbbing, burning kind of anguish that made her wish the Yuuzhan Vong had finished the job and cut them all the way off. She caught Sal-Solo staring and looked down to see two huge Huttlike things sticking out where her legs should have been.

Ouch, well that doesn't sound fun. Poor Leia. They make their way to the bacta tank and the woman inside Leia notices is at least 30, and still has all of her hair, and Jaina had hers shaved off in the decontamination. Thrackan makes some comment that she is a little old to be Han's daughter. Leia realizes that for some reason they need to get this woman off Corellia. Leia realizes then that none of her children are there.

 Leia should have been relieved, but instead she felt let down and desperately alone.

Aw, poor Leia again. She just wants to see her kids! Finally they make it back to the Falcon so they can leave. It is still painted matte black and Leia is thinking about if it was so the ship wouldn't garner a second glance.

She wondered if that was what Han had intended when he-chose the new color, or if it had just been a way of expressing his grief over Chewbacca's loss. She might never know; they were no longer close enough that she could guess, and she was not comfortable asking. How sad was that, after defeating the Empire and having three children together?

Man, Leia is having a rough time here. It is definitely very sad that she no longer feels close enough to Han to ask him anything. Before they leave they are approached by someone asking for a ride. Han is pretty insistent that he isn't giving any rides, but Leia convinces him that she is definitely not going to be a helpful copilot, and this guy claims to be competent. Han quizzes him and decides he knows what he is doing and allows him on board, and they all head in and see Threepio who is of course happy to see them. Leia is having some trouble getting her chair where it needs to be.

Seeing that her chair would prevent the bulky bacta tank from entering the access ring, Leia mowed ahead. She was feeling terribly tired and weak, and her first instinct was to turn toward the main deck and stay out of the way. But she had been alone too much over the last year, and the thought of sitting by herself while Han and his new copilot solved their problems was more than she could hear. She needed to be with her husband...even if she was no longer quite sure he wanted her.

There is no shortage in this story of heartbreaking thoughts from Leia. Not just all that being alone, but she still doesn't know if Han wants her. I do think that she would harbor some insecurities here after the way he treated her. There is even a moment where Leia can tell that Han is impressed by his new copilot, and she "tried not to be jealous." This poor woman is starved for affection. They do get a brief moment alone while their new copilot goes to fix a light on the boarding ramp.

"I'm glad you're up here''

 Leia smiled. "Me, too."

Ok, so we're starting slow with Han and Leia interaction. Now Han gets to do some flying, and their new copilot comments:

  "This is Han Solo, isn't it? The Han Solo?"

 Han glanced over his shoulder and saw Leia shrug.

 "You know, I've been wondering myself." Her eyes drooped and Han thought she might be falling asleep, then she added, "But when I checked, that's what his identichip read."

 "One of them, anyway," Han said, glad to hear an matter how faint...of Leia's sharp wit. 

So, now we've moved to Han's point of view, and at least he is noticing Leia coming back to herself a bit. Han finds out his new copilot's name is Izal, and thinks it sounds familiar. Apparently he has a lightsaber though he hasn't used it. Han turns to ask Leia if she finds the name familiar.

 He turned to look and found her chin slumped against her chest Though her eyes were closed, her brow was creased and her hands were twitching, and it made Han's heart ache to see her suffer so even in her sleep.

 "Looks like I better put our patient to bed."

I'm sure it is difficult for Han to see his wife suffering like that.

 She did not stir, even when he lifted her into the bunk and connected her to the medical data banks. He knew she needed her rest, but he wished she would open her eyes just for a minute and give him a smile, some indication that she would recover...that they would. He had needed to mourn Chewbacca's death, he knew that, and maybe he had even needed to crisscross the galaxy helping Droma search for his clan. But only now was Han beginning to see how he had surrendered to his grief, or to understand that there had been a cost.

 "Get well, Princess." He kissed Leia on the brow. "Don't give up on me yet."

 The monitors showed no indication that she heard. 

It kind of makes me sad to see that apparently Han is JUST now realizing what this whole thing had cost him. I guess at least he does finally realize, and hopes she won't give up on him. But things get a little crazy. Han sees evidence that there are some stowaways aboard, and he doesn't trust Izal. He tells Threepio to stay and not let anyone near Leia while he goes to talk to Izal, and winds up stunning him. But they are also now under attack by some ships, which doesn't help matters. But then someone starts firing the guns, and Han thinks it's Leia but apparently it is one of his stowaways, and another comes to him in the cockpit and tells him to fly the ship. It's a Barabel who also appears to be a Jedi. Han doesn't usually like being told what to do, but realizes if this was going to be real trouble then the Barabel already would've killed him. In the middle of dealing with the ships that are still attacking them, Han finds out that these stowaways are meant to look after the woman in the bacta tank who was a Jedi and had been a student of Luke's. They need to get to their own rendezvous, and Han doesn't want to go because Leia needs more bacta, but he is promised that they have some and can help her. Finally they escape the intruders, and then Leia wakes up:

 "Han? Han I..."

 "I'm sorry, Captain Solo," C-3PO interrupted. "But she's just awakened and insists she must speak with you this instant."

 "Han?" Leia's voice was raspy and weak, and she sounded con fused. "Han, I'm so thirsty. Could you bring me some water?" 

I thought that was kind of cute. There is all this craziness going on, and Leia wakes up and all she wants is for Han to bring her some water. But now might be a good time to mention my disappointment when we get this ebook that is supposed to be all about Han and Leia, and then we spend a good chunk right there with Leia just sleeping and Han dealing with these stowaways.

Now, three days later they reach the rendezvous. The Barabels and Leia want to help the Jedi woman in the bacta tank. Han changes Leia's bandages for her and starts to get angry that there is no bacta for her where they are, and that, to him, is the most crucial matter at the moment. 

He threw the soiled bandages down the disposal chute and started to leave. Leia's repulsor chair barely turned fast enough to keep him in view.

 "Han, wait!" Leia made a point of staying where she was; once she started moving, she would find herself following him clear into the cockpit. "Let's think this through."

 Han turned in the door. "What's to think through?" There was that hard look again—hardly unknown, but oddly out of place-"We need bacta."

 "We do," Leia admitted. "But how long will it take to reach Talfaglio?"

 "Ten and a half hours," Han said confidently. "I had Izal plot the course."

 Leia glanced toward the portable tank "We don't have ten hours, Eelysa will be dead in half that time."

 "And you in twenty."

 "We don't know that."

 "Well, I'm not taking chances." Han turned and vanished through the door

 Leia hastened after him, but her chair was no match for his angry stride. He was already disappearing around the curve of the corridor as she floated out of the crew quarters, and by then she finally understood the hard look in his eye.


 Han stopped, but did not turn.

 "We can't go." Leia wondered if she still knew this man at all, if he could have been so hardened by Chewbacca's death and the treachery of the Duros that he had truly become the selfish cynic he had fancied himself when they met. "We have to wait . . . and hope."

"We have to get you to a bacta tank." Han turned, his eyes filled with tears he refused to shed. "If we don't, you may not walk again."

 "Then at least I won't be walking on corpses." Leia started her chair down the corridor. "Han, haw you forgotten who I am?" Do you think I want to walk at the cost of someone else's life? Would you want me to?"

 Han shook his head weakly. Then tears began to escape his eyes, and he hurried up the corridor. Leia did not follow. She still understood him well enough to know when to leave him alone. He could face no more loss, and Leia was coming to comprehend—or was it fear? That when he looked at her in the repulsor chair, he saw another loss, something else taken by the Yuuzhan Vong.

 And, Leia was astonished to realize, she saw the same thing in him. After Chewbacca's death, he had shut himself off from his family and disappeared into the galaxy to grieve alone. She had believed he just needed room, and she had given it to him. But now she realized he had left for another reason as well, to shield her and the children from a fury he could not control. Would he have gone, she wondered, if she had tried harder to reach him, just kept pushing and weathered the storm when he finally unleashed his anger? Would he still feel like such a stranger now?

 Deciding only a fool makes the same mistake twice, Leia started up the corridor. This time, she would not let him suffer in private.

Well they are certainly seeming a bit more like themselves here. Thinking of Han in this situation, I think of him as feeling somewhat helpless. And this is a rare reference to him actually shedding tears. Of course the best thing of all of this is that Leia decides she is not going to let him suffer alone anymore, and she needs to be able to reach him.

A ship finally approaches and they think it is bacta, but apparently it is a Vong vessel. And apparently they had wanted to know about bacta themselves and nobody is quite sure how worried they need to be.

"What if something goes wrong?" The worry in Han's voice was so foreign to the Han Solo that Leia remembered that she thought for a moment someone else was speaking. "Eelysa's the one who will pay the price."

 "And Leia, too, you're thinking," Izal Waz said.

 "The thought had crossed my mind," Han admitted

 Tesar covered Han's shoulder with a black-scaled claw "Han Solo, you worry too much. What could go wrong?"

 Leia had to smile "At least Jacen will feel better," she said, trying to take Han's mind off all the things that could go wrong.

I kind of like that little detail, that suddenly Han has become a worrier, and that is not something he used to have an issue with. Anyway, then a group of Barabel fighters show up to help. And at this point I was like, damn, this story has a LOT more actual plot to it that has nothing to do with Han and Leia than I remembered.

But now we finally get to some more quiet time. Han and Leia are at an abandoned spa that the Barabels use as their base. Han is doing some research while Leia is using leg braces to slowly walk around an abandoned pool for therapy. Which leads us to probably the most important part of the story for any Han and Leia fan:

Leia's clunking, grew louder. Han looked up to see her approaching, arms swinging wide to balance the cybernetic exercise braces that kept her legs from collapsing.

 "That's all." She stopped in front of her repulsor chair and turned her back toward it, arms extended for Han to take when he lowered her into the seat. "These braces still aren't adjusted. I can't even cock my ankle."

 "Give it some time." Han did not rise. Leia had only completed six of the twenty-five laps that Cilghal...the Jedi's most accomplished healer...had prescribed, and today was the first day she had gone beyond four laps. "You just need to get used to them."

 "Thanks for your opinion, Dr. Solo," Leia said dryly. She continued to stand with her arms out. "Now, would you please help me into my chair and take these things off?"

 Han slapped the stylus on the table. "Sure."

 Though thrice-daily bacta treatments had finally chased the infection from Leia's legs, it seemed to Han another infection had been festering a place bacta could not reach. There was a sadness in her that had been growing, since Corellia. Any effort to encourage her invariably met a sharp-tongued riposte, any bid to urge her on only resulted in a sullen retreat. This was not the Leia he had married all those years ago, before... well, before he had gone crazy and shut her out. She had Leia's face and voice and body and even her wit, but she held herself apart now; it was as though the Yuuzhan Vong had taken Leia away from him without even killing her, and now he wanted her back.

 "Han?" Leia was suspended hallway above the seat of the repulsor chair, her arms still clasped in his grasp. "Are you going to keep me hanging here?"

 "No." Han hauled her to her feet, then took her arm and pulled her two steps toward the pool. "Let's do a couple of circuits together. If something's out of alignment, maybe I'll see it."

 "If, Han?" Leia pulled her arm free. "Wouldn't I be the one who could tell?"

  Han sighed. "Look, maybe they're uncomfortable, but there are only so many adjustments, I've tried them all."

 Leia narrowed her eyes. "So I don't know what I'm talking about."

 "I'm saying give them more time." Han took her arm again.

 "Come on, just a couple more circuits."

 "Are you listening?" Leia refused to move her feet, and Han had to stop pulling or drag her over. "It hurts. I can't do any more today."

 C-3PO looked up at the sound of Leia's sharp voice and started to say something, then wisely decided his assistance was not needed.

 "You mean won't," Han said.

 "All right, won't." Leia clunked the two steps back to her chair.

 "What's the difference?" Either way, you're helping me into that chair and out of these braces. If you can't do that—"

 "That I can do," Han said, surrendering to his exasperation. "I can put you in and out of this chair for the rest of your life, if that's what you want. What I can't is make those braces comfortable, so you'll just have to take the pain and keep going. When that task force of killers finally finds us—and they will find us—it might be nice if you could actually run for cover."

 "That's fine advice, coming from you," Leia said.

 "What's that supposed to mean?"

 "You can figure it out," Leia said. "After Chewbacca died. you certainly ran. And you kept running farther and farther..." Leia stopped and looked away, and Han finally understood that they weren't arguing about cybernetic braces, or how many circuits Leia made of the pool, or even how much she really wanted to walk again.

 Leia shook her head. "This won't get us anywhere. Let's just drop it."

 "No, go ahead," Han replied, "It's time you said it."

 Leia continued to look away. "I didn't mean anything..."

 "Yes, you did." Han spoke with a humility hard-earned over the last year. "The truth is, I might have a made a few mistakes in the way I handled things."

 Now Leia looked at him, her eyes as round as sensor dishes. "I suppose you might have," she said cautiously. "But you needed to grieve."

 "Yeah, and maybe I even needed to go help Droma find his clan. What I didn't need to do was concussion-bomb our family." Han was quiet for a moment, then...forcing himself not to look away...he said, "Leia, I'm sorry."

 Leia's eyes brightened with tears. She held his gaze for a moment, then clunked forward. Han reached for her hands, but she surprised him by wrapping her arms around his waist and pressing her cheek against his chest.

 "Me, too," she said. "I'm sorry, too. All these years, I've devoted myself to the New Republic and asked you and the children to sacrifice so much."

 "Hey, this is my apology." Han took her by shoulders. "And what you did for the New Republic is important."

 "It is but I had a part in letting this happen," Leia said. "Without you around, it became very clear that I haven't exactly been the glue that holds this family together."

 "Your hands were pretty full trying to hold the galaxy together." Han did not like where this was going; blaming herself for their family problems was not going to make Leia work harder in her braces. "I couldn't have picked a worse time to leave you on your own."

 "Haven't my hands always been full? That's the point. All these years, I think I've been trying to rebuild what I lost when Alderaan was destroyed." Leia placed her finger over his heart. "I couldn't see that I already had it—here with you and the children."

 Han was speechless. These days, even his apologies ricocheted.

 "If we hadn't found each other on Duro when we did," Leia continued, "I would have died alone...a stranger to my own family."

 Han wanted to say that wasn't true, or she couldn't know what might have happened, or that the Force had brought them back to each other. But all that sounded somehow hollow and not what Leia needed to hear. He needed to give her a jolt, to make her see that they had come through it, if only she would open her heart and eyes and see it.

 "You know who you remind me of?" he asked. "Borsk Fey'lya, claiming all the credit for himself."

 Leia's jaw dropped. "Borsk Fey'lya! How dare..." She must have seen the mischief in Han's face, because she let the sentence trail off and scowled. A hint of the old spark returned to her eve, and she gave him a sideways look. "Borsk! Not really?"

 Han half smiled. "Really. You're taking way too much of this on yourself. You'd have had to chase me across half the galaxy— and drag me out of a thousand tapcafs."

  Leia pondered this, then said, "You know, I am being too hard on myself." She seemed to shed two years of worry lines in as many seconds, then added, "As you say, you're the one who shut me out. What was 1 supposed to do, slap a set of stun cuffs on you and borrow an interrogator droid from NRI?"

 "Of course not," Han said, beginning to wonder who was toying with whom. "But like you said, we both played our parts—"

 "No, when you're right you're right-.I'm not going to argue." Leia's smile...not quite a victory smirk...turned as hard as durasteel. "But you're never doing that again, Han. The next time you need help, you won't escape."

 Han felt like the spa's supplemental gravity inducers had reset themselves. He had flutters in his stomach and bells in his ears, and he even felt a little weak in the knees. This was the Leia he remembered. She took his shirt collar and, unable to rise on her toes, began to pull him down so she could kiss him.

 "Not so fast." Han disengaged himself and retreated to the edge of the empty pool. "If you want to do that, you come over here."

 Leia raised her brow. "You're going to make me work for this?" She looked him up and down, then finally clanked after him. "It had better be good.''

 Han gave. her his finest smirk. "Oh, it'll be good." He waited until she was almost to him, then began to retreat along the pool's edge toward C-3PO. "Just the way you remember."

 "The way I remember?" Leia echoed. "Taking a lot for granted, aren't you?"

 They were interrupted by an excited cry from C-3PO. "I've found something!" 

Wow. Well, that's a lot to take in, isn't it? In some ways I don't like that Leia feels like she needs to apologize for how she had been, well, the entire time. And the implication that she was never the glue that held them all together. I do like that Leia finally gets mad and makes it clearer that what he did wasn't ok, and Han sincerely apologizes. It does feel very authentic though that after this heartfelt conversation they revert to teasing each other. I can very much picture Leia grabbing Han's shirt and pulling him down, and I love that he plans to make her work for that kiss. But damn it, why is Threepio always interrupting?!?!

Ok, then there is more plot stuff, trying to figure out who the traitor is who is trying to find where Leia is to send someone to kill her. Also Leia is getting better with walking but having odd tremors and is told she needs to find a nerve splicer as there could be some nerve damage, so she and Han and researching that. And then this cute line:

Leia leaned across the arm of her chair and kissed him. They had been doing a lot of that lately. "Han, you're a genius."

Aw, yay! Lots of kissing! Then this bit:

"I need him to convene a corruption panel."

 "Without good evidence?" A knavish smile came to Han's lips.

 "I didn't think you played dirty."

 "I'll make an exception," Leia said. "This woman's trying to outlaw my children." 

Yeah, I totally can see Leia playing dirty if her kids are in trouble in any way. Anyway, some other plot stuff later and then we are at this corruption panel, and apparently it is a surprise that Leia was able to get there. But, lucky for her, her whole family is there.

 "What I want to know is how you're going to get to the accuser's table," Jaina whispered. All Leia's children were there, along with Luke, several more Jedi, and Leia's new Noghri body-guards. "We'll have to float you!"

 "We'll clear the aisle, Mom," Anakin said, nodding to Jacen. Leia caught him by the arm.

 "Now isn't the time for the Jedi to seem arrogant," she said. "I'll walk."

 "Walk?" Han asked. "How?"

 "With a little help from my family." Leia looked to Jaina—Jaina who had been so angry with her and felt so abandoned by her on Duro... and asked, "Would you mind?"

 The smile that came to Jaina's face was almost as lopsided as Han's. "Trust me?"

 Leia felt her daughter reach out in the Force, then felt herself rise into a standing position. Her legs started to move, by Jaina's will instead of her own, but in a reasonable imitation of walking. The room erupted into a fresh round of murmurs as the vidcasters commented on what they were broadcasting. Luke and the others took protective positions around Leia, and they started forward.

It's so nice that Leia finally has her whole family with her, supporting her. And I liked the little moment between her and Jaina. And that they are all helping her walk. They are accusing Senator Viqui Shesh of being a traitor for the Vong, and attempting to have Han and Leia killed. And she didn't even show up to the meeting, which to Leia means she was confident that they would be dead. But overall it's good news because her Senatorial membership is suspended until they figure out what is going on. And she had been working to help swing the vote in the other direction to surrender the Jedi to the Vong.

So then we move to a week later, and Leia is in bed getting that whole nerve thing taken care of. Her whole family is there with her, and they are watching the votes come in.

 The nervesplicer said something about normal sensation and improving motor control. But Fey'lya raised his brow just then, and Leia missed whatever it was the doctor said next.

 "Did you see that?" Han asked. "He's surprised."

 "That can't be good," Jaina said.

 "It's hard to know." Leia reached out and found Han's hand.

 "Nobody has been able to tell what Borsk thinks will happen."

 The doctor stepped into Leia's line of sight. "Princess Leia, I have some news."

 "In a minute."

 Leia cast an appealiiig glance at her daughter, who quietly used the Force to slide the doctor out of the way. 

Hah, I like that they sometimes use the Force like that. And that Leia reaches for Han's hand. Anyway, the vote comes in and everyone seems happy. And the doctor tells Leia she is healed and will be fine. In spite of the vote going well, Luke is uneasy about how many people are against the Jedi and worries for them. He wants someone to set up a way for them to get around.

 "That's right," Luke said. "The Jedi are going to need a quiet way to move around the galaxy, a great river that can carry them wherever they need to go."

 Leia saw where this was going. "And you're thinking Han and I would be a good team to set up this great river?"

 "You do have the skills," Luke said. "A smuggler and a diplomat."

 Han did not even hesitate. He simply took one glance at their children, got a hard look in his eye, then set his jaw and turned to Leia. "What do you think, partner?" Want to wander around the galaxy together?"

  "Sure." Leia pulled him onto the bed and twined her fingers into his. "But I'm navigating." 

The end. Well, there we have it. Not a bad consolation prize for the lack of good stuff in Balance Point. Of course I love the end, when Han and Leia are going to go off and work together on something important. Basically this is how they are going to operate from here on out. Not running off and doing things alone or with others, but working together on things. Which is as it should be.

Overall obviously some really nice moments in here. Although as I said, for a short story that was dedicated mostly to them, there was a lot more plot stuff than I had remembered. I liked that the kids got included at the end as well. I think generally I feel like this did a good job of getting Han and Leia back to themselves. Maybe it's missing another intimate moment or two, but this is Star Wars pro fic, and this is about as good as it gets in that regard. And it gets us to the most important part, which is Han and Leia being together again.

For the Han and Leia factor, we have to give this one a 5. I mean it focuses entirely on them, we have some real emotional conversations, which is something that we rarely if at all see in any of these books or stories. And they finally begin acting like themselves again. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Happy 75th Birthday, Harrison Ford

Today, Harrison Ford is 75. That just seems unbelievable. Especially when you look at him. That photo is from like 2 weeks ago. Are you kidding me? I guess he seems a little more like 75 when you watch the video of him acting like basically everyone's grandpa when he can't quite manage to get through airport security without issue, and you realize he is old enough that he is not required to remove his shoes, but whatever. Then again I guess he should seem like 75 when you really think about just how long he has been doing this.

Now of course I do wonder, what's next? It's kind of strange because currently I don't think he is scheduled to do any more movies. Unless you count Indiana Jones 5, but I'll be honest, with the way that they keep pushing off production on that one my feeling is that they are almost purposely waiting so long that the general public will become a little more ok with replacing him with someone else. Oh, newsflash: we will never be ok with that. Just like we are not ok with replacing him as Han Solo. Nobody wants to see that happen. Either way though, I'm not particularly confident he will be reprising his role as Indiana Jones. That is just a personal opinion, and I'd love to be wrong! But come on, 75, what are you WAITING for?

Other than that, we've got the Blade Runner sequel coming out in October. And I'll see it even though I'm pretty sure it will be outrageously dystopian and a complete downer and I'll probably never want to see it again, but I do want to see him in another movie. It will be interesting to see if he signs on for anything else in the near future. I mean, it's not like he HAS to, since I'm sure he has way, way more than enough money. But he does claim to like to work.

So, happy birthday, Harrison. Thanks for being awesome in, well, most of your movies. And for looking something like this for so long:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Balance Point - The Review

Well, finally we come to Balance Point. I’ll tell you right up front that this marks the END of the splitting up of Han and Leia. From what I recall, from this point forward, they are pretty rarely apart from one another for just about every single book for the entire rest of the EU. It doesn’t totally make up for the split in the first place, but it does at least help somewhat.

I can’t remember if I knew or not when I got this book that Han and Leia were finally going to be back together. But I’m positive that when I got it I sat down immediately and flipped through it and was happy to find that it appeared they did, in fact, finally reconcile. Of course, those of you who remembered that these books seriously lacked on the emotional side are very much correct. But the end game is going to be the same, Han and Leia are back together. So let’s get them there…

The first thing that happens in this book, is that Jaina is injured while flying for Rogue Squadron. She has to eject from her X-wing, and of course since Jacen is her brother, he knows something bad has happened. Jacen is on Duro, and Han is there too. They are working to settle many of the refugees that had been displaced by the war, and basically living as refugees themselves. But in the midst of Jacen realizing that his sister has been hurt, he has a vivid vision that basically makes him believe that he should no longer use the Force, or terrible things will happen.

He eventually wakes up on a cot with his father and some medical droids trying to help him since he collapsed during his vision and hit his head. Han is clearly worried and asks what happened, and Jacen then mentions Jaina, which of course gets Han riled up, and Jacen tells him that she has been hurt. And remember when we said we didn’t like that it was all so light on emotion? That’s it, that’s the end of the chapter. Jacen tells Han that Jaina was hurt, and that’s it. I mean I guess we all assume Han is very protective of his daughter, and all his kids really, but still maybe would’ve been nice to have seen a little more there.

Later Han and Jacen are on the Falcon, and Jacen is thinking a lot about what his father has been going through:

They waited in silence. The weeks when Han's grief had overwhelmed them all drifted up into Jacen's memory. He'd happened into a cantina when Han had gone looking for oblivion. And on a worse night, he'd heard Han scald Leia, using words that never should've been spoken and could hardly be forgiven. Jacen had never mentioned that night to his mom. She probably hoped Jacen had forgotten.

 Jacen doubted his dad remembered even saying them. He hoped his mother could somehow forget.

Gee, thanks for the reminder that Han was terrible for a very long time. This always made me wonder if they meant things he overheard that we saw in the books, or stuff they are just alluding to him having said and we don't even know exactly how terrible the things he said were. And by the way, at the beginning of the book they tell us it has been 10 months since Chewbacca died. So Han has been terrible for a long time. 
They get an update about Jaina and find out that she was fairly injured, but bacta is helping and she will recover totally, which is a great relief to Han and Jacen. Then they are asked if they know where Leia is. Apparently none of them know where anyone is.

"Isn't she back on Coruscant?"

 "No, Captain. SELCORE administration seems to have lost her."

 "Lost her?" Han echoed sarcastically. "Sorry. I can't help with that."

 Jacen flicked the console's edge. "I could stay out here," he offered. "I'll try to find her."

 Han's eyes focused on something in the distance. "Sure," he said. The pain in his voice reminded Jacen that things were not well between his parents. "You do that."

Ugh, poor kid, having to know that his parents aren't doing well. 
Then we find Leia, who is, as usual, working very hard to help people. This time it is getting a real community going to help refugees, building facilities to handle them, stuff like that. Threepio is with her, so I guess she does have someone. In a sort of sweet moment Threepio asks her if Han will be permanently absent from their operation there. Leia says she doesn't know because he didn't know where he was going last time they spoke. Then she wonders why he cares if Han had been so mean to him over the years. But apparently he had helped some droids on another planet. Leia can't believe that Han actually helped droids.

"Good heavens," Leia said softly. "Whatever was he thinking?" She'd love to rub his nose in that little tale.

 Actually, she'd love to rub his nose against hers. It'd been so long.

 Did his long silence mean that an enemy had found him? But he had Droma's help, now. He'd made it plain that he didn't want hers.

 If he was dead, and their last words had been scornful taunts, she would regret it for the rest of her life. She was almost tempted to stretch out with the Force, looking for him.

 No. He could be on the other side of the Mid Rim by now. If she reached out and felt nothing, she would fear the worst. She finished her meal in silence, then assembled her dishes for C-3PO to recycle.

 "Whatever happens, I'll take care of you," she promised. "I need you." 

Again, poor Leia. All she has is Threepio. She is longing for her husband even though he has recently been nothing but awful to her. And she doesn't even really know if he's all right, or if he would even want to see her. Still bad news all around. She then thinks about how busy she has been, and it explains why she hasn't been looking for him.
No wonder she hadn't had time to go looking for Han. She would've given everything to see him, the way he'd been before tragedy tore them apart. He'd matured so much from the scoundrel she'd come to love, although he'd never lost the glimmer in his eyes, or the quirk to his lips - till he lost Chewie. Suddenly, he was Han with the itchy trigger finger again. Han with the low-life friends. Scoundrel she could tolerate, even enjoy. All right, she admitted to herself: Scoundrel she'd adored. Over the years, he'd learned to drop the defenses that first turned him into a scoundrel. He'd learned to let her glimpse his real idealism. He needed warmth in return.

 Over the years, slowly, she'd learned to give it. She loved both sides of him, the knight-errant and the scoundrel - but this time, she must wait until he came to her. She couldn't baby a full-grown man.

Of course I hate a lot of this, but I like a lot of this as well. Like that Leia loves both sides of him, and adores the scoundrel. But we are reminded that without the other side of him, there isn't much there to love. It still seems just terrible that she doesn't have much choice but to wait for him to come to her, if he will at all. 
Now a brief interlude with Luke and Mara. You know, the ones who can speak to each other through their minds. Well they're talking about the Solo boys, and the rift coming between them. And Luke can tell that Anakin still blames himself for Chewie's death, and now for what happened in the last book at Centerpoint Station. And then they think about how powerful he is:

As it would chase Anakin, who was raised by an ex-smuggler who loved to bend rules, a loving but often absent mother, her talented aide, and a protocol droid - and at the Jedi academy, in the shadow of two siblings. If Anakin didn't fall to the dark side, then having resisted temptation could leave him even stronger - maybe the most powerful Jedi of his generation. 

Oh, are we blaming anything that happens to Anakin on his "absent" mother? Also, let's be clear that Han doesn't bend the rules just for the sake of it. He just does what needs to be done whether or not it falls within the range of the rules. But really the most annoying part of this to me is being reminded how powerful he is, when all they're going to do is *spoiler alert* kill him a few books from now. Anyway...

Now Jaina is brought to Han and Jacen, and of course they are both excited to see her. 

 Han stepped forward. "You've got my girl, I hope." His voice echoed oddly inside the cofferdam.

 "Her attendant's helping her forward. Sign here, please." The pilot thrust out a datapad.

 "Nope," Han said. "Not till I see her."

 Watching over his father's shoulder, Jacen spotted a dark gray coverall, dark hair chopped surprisingly short, and his sister's face, half covered by some kind of mask.

 Jaina batted away her droid-attendant's extended limb. "I can walk down a ramp. Hi, Dad. Hello, Jacen. Thanks for coming to pick up the pieces."

 She walked down, limping slightly. Han embraced her, rocking from foot to foot. Then Jacen slipped his arms around her shoulders. Until he knew more about her injuries, he didn't want to squeeze.

 "I'm not a skeleton leaf," she growled, tightening her grip. Her fingers dug into his triceps.

I of course like the image of Han hugging his daughter, and referring to her as "my girl." I also like that Jaina has the same fire as her parents because she doesn't like being treated like an injured person.

 Finished with the medical team, their dad clapped an arm around her shoulder. "Come inside, sweetie. I'll get you settled before I head back to the pumping station."

Ok, now briefly to Luke and Mara for some plot stuff. Things are not great for the Jedi. The Vong hate the Jedi, and they want them to be turned over. There is a group called the Peace Brigade that basically is working to try to "make peace" with the Vong by giving them the Jedi. The New Republic senate actually votes to see if they will turn the Jedi over themselves. The vote comes out so they won't do it, but Luke and Mara are understandably still worried about what might happen later. It is during a meeting they are having with New Republic officials that Mara realizes that she is pregnant. After she was sick she thought it might not be possible. She tells Luke, and they have some brief moments of wondering if this is something they should be happy about, and Mara thinks she didn't know she really wanted it until now, but they decide not to tell anyone just yet.

Now back to Han, Jacen and Jaina. There are these bugs that are infesting the tents at their refugee camp. And here is just a random thought from Jacen. I should note here, one of the things that annoys me about this book, and probably a large part of why I think it is lacking emotionally, is there is virtually nothing from Han's point of view in it. Which is kind of annoying to me. 

 Han stared at Jaina, arching his eyebrows, his eyes soft and sad.

 Jacen glanced from his father to his sister, comparing profiles. People generally claimed she resembled a young Leia, but below her bobbed hair, her forehead and cheeks really did have the same angles as Han's. Jacen abruptly pitied any man who wounded Jaina's heart with less than a galaxy between himself and her father.

I guess all of us agree that Han would not react nicely to someone breaking his daughter's heart.

 As Jaina hiked off with Romany to look for Mezza, Jacen asked his dad, "Do you think all this is going to take the edge off her fighting ability?"

 "If she doesn't want it to, it won't." Han shifted his weight, frowning. "She's too much like her mother."

 Jacen looked up sharply, hearing a depth of loneliness that Han never expressed openly.

The only good thing about this is that finally Han at least appears affected by his self imposed isolation, rather than appearing completely indifferent to everything. Jacen then goes to Jaina and tells her it's time for them to look for their mother, because none of them have seen each other in a while. Again though, there is nothing about anyone's internal thoughts here, that's just it, he tells her it's time to go looking for her. 

Well, they can't reach her. And things for them get worse because there is suddenly an infestation of moths and they are overwhelming the camp, and they all have to evacuate. And they also need to decontaminate to make sure nobody transfers any of the eggs to make the whole thing worse. They don't have enough decontaminant to dip them all in, so everyone will have to be shaved. In the midst of all the chaos, another vehicle approaches, and Jacen realizes that someone very familiar is on board before the door even opens. 

 "Hello," Han said, hastily setting his dirt-streaked face to a slight smile. "Thanks for sending the crawlers, but we've got a slight problem. One of your crewers just found something he thought was an egg. We've got to find out where those bugs came from, but my people here deserve a little respect."

 "We'll do our best."

 Jacen strained his ears. The voice sounded husky, but right.

 "Equal treatment for everyone. SELCORE is enormously grateful for refugee sponsors."

 Han extended a hand. "Glad you understand. Han Solo."

 Instead of taking his hand, the administrator reached up for her mask's clasps.

 "Hey, wait," Han exclaimed. "You'll end up in decontamination."

 She pulled off her mask one-handed. A long coil of dark-brown hair tumbled loose. "That's all right," she said somberly.

 Leia stared at Han's weary face - his gaping hazel eyes, his slack jaw stubbled with gray. Luke and Mara must have known Han was here, and assumed she did, too. How many people made that assumption - and so they just didn't tell her?

 Now, she knew she might have only a moment to reach him, before he remembered the last time she spoke to him. Angrily. "If your people have to be decontaminated," she told Droma, "I'll show them Gateway and SELCORE are with them, not against them." For the moment, her aide Abbela could manage Gateway's day-to-day business. Before Han's eyes went hard and empty again, she had to reach him. She stepped closer. "Besides, I had no idea you were here. I should've known, but ... I don't think you ever sent over a roster."

 "We, ah, didn't." A lopsided grin appeared. "I suspect SELCORE's been too busy administering Gateway to notice."

 She glanced over her shoulder. Olmahk stayed close, on watch, as C3PO assisted the newcomers. Where would she put them all? She'd hoped to bring those poor Thirty-two people inside her more permanent dome eventually, and send workers back in week-long shifts. Gateway had plenty of space, but construction equipment was booked for weeks ahead, her new apartments filled before she built them. There were tents, carefully struck when her first charges moved into sturdier huts - and there was the decontamination issue ...

 Later! She had four-fifths of her family in plain sight, everyone but Anakin. This hadn't happened in months!

 She flung her arms around Han. His body remained stiff, but he laid an arm on her shoulders.

 She backed away from him.

 "Hello, Mom." Jacen opened his arms, then hesitated.

 Leia set down her droopy fabric helmet. Since she was committed to quarantine now, she yanked off her chem suit and then flung her arms around Jacen. "By the Force, you're as big as your father." 

 Then she spotted Jaina, hanging back. "What are you doing here?"

 Jaina dangled a pair of fancy goggles from one hand. "Sick leave. We tried to find you."

 Leia's stomach took a dive. "Were you injured?"

 "Temporary partial blindness. Nothing serious." Jaina lowered her voice. "Get it straight with Dad, Mom. That's first." She turned and strolled back toward the Ryn mob.

 Smiling ruefully, Jacen placed both hands on Leia's shoulders.

 He gently turned her toward Han, who had thrust his hands back into his pockets. "First," Jacen murmured.

 Hesitantly, Leia caressed both twins through the Force. Jacen glowed with the pleasure of being reunited; in Jaina, there was a repressed bitterness that she'd obviously have to face - later.

 "Guess it's time I found something to do." Droma replaced the soft cap he'd doffed. "Good to see you again, Princess Leia." He followed Jaina.

 Leia linked one arm through her husband's. "Let me show you the whole quarantine area," she said lightly.

 In a converted repair dock, families clung to each other, shuffling forward. She mustn't look at them. She had to settle things with Han. Her fault, his fault - didn't matter. Beneath her strength and independence, she really was happiest with someone to help carry her burdens.

 On the other hand, that meant she had to help carry his. 

 "Yes," she admitted, "SELCORE and Gateway have been taking care of themselves. And trying to reclaim the planet. Remember Honoghr, where we couldn't do much of anything? Here, it's in reach. And the Yuuzhan Vong don't want it. This could be a haven for millions."

 "I don't think you've paid much attention to the Duros." He frowned. "They're -"

 "Barely tolerating us," she admitted. "But we haven't given much back, yet. This world is the key to a new future, where all peoples can live side by side. Wait until you see what our scientists are starting to accomplish."

 "Where's old Goldenrod?" Han rubbed his rough chin. "I could've used him. All they gave us was a pair of beat-up modified loadlifters. I had to scam a medical droid."
 Leia half smiled. "Threepio? Just what you needed. Someone to really irritate you." Han must be utterly distracted, she thought, not to recognize C-3PO in a vermin-proof chem suit.

 Han's eyes narrowed. "Has Isolder shown up?"

 She pulled away, feeling blindsided. "What?"

 "At least ten people played me that HoloNet bite of you and His Gorgeousness stepping off that Hapan ship together on Tald. You looked pretty cozy."

 Leia got a good breath. "You, who wants everybody to trust you - can't you trust me? The nets have used that as a publicity stunt. I couldn't back out without losing the Hapans' support. We needed those ships."

 His expression softened. "Yeah. We did need them. Too bad, how that turned out."

 One crisis resolved! On to the next. "How's Jacen?" she asked. "I heard he was taking it all pretty hard."

 "Still chewing on it, I guess." He grabbed her hand. "You accused me of having a fling with my past. Well, look at these people. Does this look like a fling -"

 "No," she said. "Han, I'm sorry. It's been tough, lately. Really hard."

 "Yeah. Well." He firmed his lips, swallowed, then glanced up again. "You probably won't forget some things, but I was hoping you'd forgive them."

 Leia threw her arms around him again. This time, he returned the embrace. His arms gripped her, his breath had the sweetness of ...

 Well, of a wet Wookiee.

 She held her breath while she kissed him.

 Then there was no more time for reconciliation.

FINALLY! I remember being incredibly relieved to flip ahead and find out that they were back together, even if it was incredibly short and fleeting, and again kind of lacking in the emotional department. But, well, there are things to like about this little exchange as well. First, that Jacen and Jaina step in and are totally insistent that their parents fix things. I can also buy Leia thinking at that point that it doesn't really matter anymore whose fault anything was. I guess it's too bad his breath stinks, but at least she kisses him anyway. I should note that while in this particular book it makes it seem like this is all it really takes, one brief conversation, one quick kiss, and everything is fine again. But when we move on to Recovery you will see that there is still some trepidation there, both wondering if things can ever really be the same. Han knows what he did was awful, and Leia wonders if he truly even wants her back. Reading that just kind of reiterates how it is quite glossed over in this particular book. But, as I said, at least it is getting resolved and they aren't apart anymore. 

Which reminds me, back when we started doing these reviews we invited anyone to submit any sort of "missing moments" pieces to anything related to these books. Seems like a lot of good opportunities here in this one, as you'll see.

Then Han and Leia are talking about logistics things, and there are moments where Leia just keeps noticing things about him. Wondering if he had broken his nose another time since she last saw him, also seeing his lopsided grin and thinking she will never get enough of that. And things like this little part:

 "We'll process the sick and injured as priority. Then we can include Jaina, unless she'd rather stay in quarantine indefinitely than get her head shaved. She's at that age, you know. Young men are looking."

 He reached out and fingered the long coil of hair that hung forward over her blue uniform. "Can the old guys look, too?"

 She touched his hand. "I ... guess it'll have to come off, Han."

 He shrugged. "It'll grow. It'll just take a while."

 "Will you stick around while it does?" She tried not to plead, but she wanted to.

 He ran a hand over his unruly hair. "Hey, someday I might lose mine for good. We'll call it a dry run."

 Then he winked, and she melted inside.

Aw, Leia still melts when he winks at her. And he is already back to flirting with her. Well, at least this is an improvement. 

Before we get too excited about the good news, we are reminded that now is when Jaina starts getting pretty mad at her mom for not being there enough when they were kids. I somehow had forgotten this part. Now, remembering how this all went back then, I am sure I really hated this. I still don't love the implication that Leia really wasn't there for her kids when they were growing up. But at the same time, Jaina is 16 or 17 here. And honestly I think a lot of kids get pretty angry at their parents around that age, and even judge them unfairly about certain things. Even a kid whose parents were totally there for them might get angry and accuse them of not being there. But who knows, it's still definitely part of things here. 

 "Jaina, I'm trying to help them - and you."

 "Maybe," Jaina said through her teeth, "I just don't want help anymore. You showed me I had to learn to do without you. So I did." She stalked away.

 Leia gave chase. "You seem to have missed something," she said. "I'll be decontaminating out of here, the same as you, the same as anyone. Think about it."

 Jaina stared at the long coil of hair. "You're kidding," she said quietly. "Mother, if you ... how long did it take to grow it that long?"

 "That's not even slightly important. You are. I suppose we won't ever find it easy to live in the same place, again. We're too much alike."

 Jaina's grin showed teeth. "Bullheaded, obstinate, perfectionist ... me? How could you accuse me of -"

 "Heredity," Leia answered. "And environment. You were doomed. At least you've got your father's luck."

The morning after they all found each other again, Han and Jacen are having breakfast and Jacen is thinking how he wishes his parents would have had some time alone together. 

 Now Jacen spotted the soft light in Han's eyes and a self-satisfied grin. Maybe his parents had found a few moments alone. In his opinion, they'd both made convenient use of their circumstances to keep from reuniting. There was something splendid about the universe when your mother and father loved each other.

Aw, now this I like. I like the implication there, and find his whole statement very true. But, then we go back to Jaina being mad at Leia. She is now with Mara, but at least Mara is on Leia's side on this one:

 "Didn't ask about me, did she?" Jaina raised her head to stare at Bburru, growing on the fore screen.

 "I would've told her if you'd been hurt."

 "Some women shouldn't have children."

 Mara drew up straight, and a back muscle twanged. She must've overstretched it, scrabbling along on the stony ground. "I can't believe you said that."

 When Jaina pursed her lips, she looked a very young seventeen. "To her, I'm an inconvenience. 'Winter, take Jaina for a walk.' 'Threepio, tell Anakin a story.' 'Here, Chewbacca, watch the twins.'"

 "And how many mothers gave up a seat on a shuttle headed for safety this year? Put their kids on board and stayed behind, to die or be enslaved? Sometimes staying with your child isn't possible."

 "Then mothers who are too important to raise their kids should just sign them over and go off to work."

 Mara, who had only vague mental images of her parents, dropped her voice to an icy alto. "For such a mature young woman, you are being surprisingly childish."

 Jaina ran a hand over her bare head. It was starting to show a faint brown shadow of regrowth. "I'm also being honest. Mara, I nearly died at Kalarba. I lost an awfully good friend at Ithor. She gave up everything, to give families a chance to survive somewhere else."

 "And your mother is giving those survivors somewhere to live. This planet is hope, literally and symbolically."

 Jaina sighed heavily. "Poor Mom. She's got a half-blind, stubborn daughter who can't fight anymore and a son who's afraid to be a Jedi. Good thing Anakin came along." 

Ugh, yeah, I still hate the idea that Jaina feels like she was just an inconvenience to her mother. Also, as we've discussed a fair amount lately, this sends a bad message about how women can't work and be there for their children. At least Mara defends Leia.

So, eventually the Vong attack them where they are on the planet and everything gets extremely chaotic. Anakin and Luke and Mara are fighting in ships, while Jaina, Jacen, Han and Leia are on the planet. This book has a lot of the family working together, and it's pretty nice to read. And it reminds you how fun that would've been to see on screen at some point. But anyway... This is just one quick little line as they are all trying to figure out how to get everyone out and Han and Leia have to split up again:

 "Hey, Leia. Stay right here. I just found you. I want to find you again, when I get back."

Doesn't this seem like the perfect moment for some sort of introspection or something else? Well, too bad, you're not getting any, because it isn't there. Again. BUT, not too soon after, they are saying goodbye to each other.

 Han wrapped an arm around Leia's shoulders and pulled her close, momentarily resting his chin on her white turban. "Take care of yourself, then."

 "You, too."

 Jacen's parents kissed each other - barely a peck at first, and then Han leaned into it. Leia went up on her tiptoes. Jacen lowered his eyes, caught Jaina's glance, and half smiled.

 She nodded. 

Aw, that at least is very sweet. Although to be honest I got kind of tired of how most of what we read about them is from Jacen's perspective. Still, at least they are kissing again, and the kids are happy about it. Oh, but wait! Finally, for the first time I think in this book, we get a brief moment from Han's point of view:

 He knew exactly what Leia wanted to do: sabotage the Yuuzhan Vong operation herself, no matter what it cost her - or him. Call him selfish, but he wanted her alive. Not a dead hero. With or without that gorgeous hair, she had the spark that lit a fire in him. 

Yay! Of course she does! 

 Han did the same. The Yuuzhan Vong were probably wearing battle armor anyway. One shot, and they'd hear him - and all come down on him.

 He paused, shocked by his own thoughts. Where was the old Han Solo who would've charged right in?

 Maybe he had died with Chewbacca. "Right," he said. "Keep me in sight, but if they get me, tell Leia ..."

He is talking to his pal Droma there. Luckily we all know Han makes it and can tell Leia whatever he has to tell her himself. 

There is a moment where Leia is with the twins and Jaina needs some help with the Force, but Jacen still won't use it. Jaina is not happy with this. Leia had had a conversation with him earlier about his not wanting to use it, and Jacen thinks that she should understand that not everyone with that potential should need to use it, because she hasn't really done any training or anything. This sort of contradicts the last Zahn book where Leia seems quite adept with the Force, but whatever. Unfortunately as they are trying to escape, Leia gets caught by a Vong warrior and tells the twins to keep running. In Leia's conversation with the enemy, she finds out that there is a Hutt traitor from their midst who had offered the Vong Jacen. Well, as you can imagine, Leia does not like that one bit. She winds up reaching out to Luke to let him know she's in trouble, as she doesn't want to put her kids in danger. Luke finds out that Jacen and Jaina are already going back to help their mother.

 Jaina responded instantly, though. He even felt the assurance that Jaina was already returning to try to help her mother. Linked with her, now, circumventing the irritation Jaina usually showed toward Leia, Luke sensed her love for the woman who was so much like herself. Her first friend, her role model. 

Leia is able to get a message to Jaina and tells her to go warn everyone that the Vong are going to attack all the Duros cities. She also tells her to get her father, and only then can she maybe come back to try and get her. Things start to get pretty bad for Leia right about now. First, she is forced to watch as the Vong start killing innocent refugees. Then she realizes that this is all a trap to lure her kids back to her, and she frantically tries to warn them all to leave, and attacks the Vong. But they take her down and then just start lacerating her legs, and her screams are even heard by Jacen. He finally makes his way back to her, sees her bleeding profusely from her legs as she tells him to go and run away. And he decides that the only way he can save her is to use the Force.

Well, of course he does manage to save her, and he can even feel her presence weakening. He even uses the Force to try and slow the bleeding. Jaina finally arrives and Jacen picks up his mother and they start to take her out. They frantically make their way back to the Falcon to escape, knowing that Leia's life is very much in danger. Or, at the very least, her legs. In another missed opportunity, we are told that Han finally sees them all coming, and sees Jacen carrying Leia, and the mangled mess that her legs are. And that's it. But then the kids make it to the ship and strap Leia to the med bunk.

 Leia's eyes fluttered open. "Jaina," she murmured. "Heard your voice. Thanks."

 Jaina tucked a thermal blanket around Leia's shivering shoulders, then uncoiled a fluid drip and applied it to her bared arm. "Jacen did the hard part," she said gruffly.

 Jacen adjusted the bandage cuffs. Finely tuned microrepulsor fields were already compressing the damaged arteries, even while they enhanced peripheral circulation to his mother's lower legs. Something just as invisible as the field, but warmer, flowed between his sister and mother. A deep understanding, a living connection.

 "No. What you did," Leia managed. "Harder. Furious with me, but ... came back."

 Jaina made a wry face, then bent to kiss her mother's cheek. "Lie still. We'll get you out of here."

 "But ... Duro ... Basbakhan ..."

 "We're evacuating," Jacen said. What had happened to her other Noghri? "Basbakhan?" he asked.

 Leia's eyelids fell shut. Jacen looked up at Jaina, worried.

 "There's a sedative in that drip," Jaina explained. "Otherwise she'd roll down, crawl to the quad guns, and bleed to death." In her voice, Jacen heard heartfelt respect.

Well, at least her kids seem to know her well enough to know she would literally die trying to help out. 

This is as close as we get to Han dealing with Leia's injuries:

Luke's voice: "Han, is she all right?"

 Han sounded tense. "She's hurt bad."

Then eventually Han tells his kids to prepare to jump because, "We're taking her home."

And they all escape Duros, and that's the end. Oh except for a brief little thing at the end where the Vong decide what they really want is Jacen Solo. So, also bad news for him. 
Ok, we did it. We got them back together. It's definitely far from the greatest resolution ever, but at least the nightmare is over. And we never again have to deal with Han and Leia being apart or being anything but warm and loving to each other. It was really disappointing to not see more from Han's point of view, or really just more on the emotional side of things in general. I did kind of like that as soon as Leia is with Han again it's like everything he does affects her, she notices everything about him that she likes. And they kissed! And the kids are happy about it, too. These are the important things. It's just too bad that at the end of the book Leia is near death, and also bald because of the decontamination thing. 

One thing I did like, as I mentioned, is there is a lot with Han and Leia working with their kids. This was something I'd missed, and something that would've been really fun to see more of. The kids really do have their own personalities here. Jaina is the more feisty one, Jacen is dealing with his own moral dilemma dealing with using the Force, and at one point Mara is thinking how much Anakin is similar to Luke. 

So, what do we give this one? It's hard to tell, and I will take some suggestions if anyone else thinks I'm wrong here. I mean, the last few books have been SO bad for Han and Leia. So, so bad. And, well, now they're together. And Leia is acting like Leia, and Han finally seems to be acting like Han, we're just missing more of what is going on in his head as the author almost entirely leaves that out. It seems like an awfully quick resolution. Finishing this book again made me realize just how much we really needed the ebook Recovery, to be reviewed next, to make up for what this one is lacking. Anyway, I think I'll go with 2.5 here. I wouldn't really tell a Han and Leia fan to go out of their way to read this, because I think they'd maybe be a bit disappointed. But I did like a lot of the Solo family stuff, and, as mentioned, they DO reconcile, which is the most important thing. If anyone wants to fill in any missing moments, please feel free to do so. 

As one final note, I also seem to recall reading that Kathy Tyers was another author who wasn't really a big fan of Han and Leia. So of course that made me furious that someone who doesn't even like them was the one who got to write them coming back together, and perhaps that explains some of the disappointment. The good news is, we are only a few books away from when Troy Denning was brought to writing Star Wars books, and he is someone that could always be trusted to do right by Han and Leia.