Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

I’ve seen this new Star Wars book advertised a couple different ways. First, I saw it called the first book in the new approved timeline, so it’s considered canon and not part of the Expanded Universe now packaged as “Legends.” Second, I think it was originally meant to be the third book in the “Empire and Rebellion” trilogy, which would make sense since all that was missing was the Luke book. But again, if this is now approved canon and the other two books are not, then it’s NOT part of that series. (But I still think it fits perfectly well with it.)

Heir to the Jedi Front Cover (Lucas Books/Random House)

Heir to the Jedi Front Cover (LucasBooks/Random House)

THE PLOT: After the destruction of the (first) Death Star, Luke is sent on a mission to extract a cryptographer from Imperial control. He’s got the use of a ship belonging to a new Rebel sympathizer named Nakari Kelen, but first they need some upgrades. Money is scarce, so they do a job for Nakari’s father, who owns Kelen Biolabs. The cryptographer, Drusil, who speaks mostly in math, is desperate to be reunited safely with her family. In between dodging Imperials and bounty hunters, Luke makes some time for romance with Nakari and dabbling with control of the Force.

MY TWO CENTS: Like the official books in the “Empire and Rebellion” series, other standard Star Wars characters are scarce. You’ve got Luke and R2D2, and a couple of cameos by Leia and Admiral Ackbar. Han is completely absent, although mentioned. The book is told entirely in first person from Luke’s point of view, which both works and doesn’t work. What works? It helps us get into Luke’s mind as he begins to try to figure out what a Jedi can and can’t do. It also helps in those awkward moments where Luke acts like a naive farm boy. When doesn’t it work? Well, for one thing, Luke overall comes across as more sophisticated and verbose in his thoughts than you’d expect him to at this point. He hasn’t been off Tatooine that long. He seems remarkably well-spoken in is own thoughts; less so when talking to Nakari.

Another thing that seemed off: the romance with Nakari. I don’t know if there was just waaaay too much “ick” factor or if Disney just doesn’t want to go there, but…shouldn’t Luke be pretty infatuated with Leia at this point, between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back? There is a scene where he explains his feelings to Nakari, stating that although he’s interested in the Princess, she’s just out of his league. I’m not sure I buy that, since they’re at least best friends by Empire. It seems odd, off, but convenient.

What I loved most about this book was the part with the Skullborers. These are the type of aliens you don’t run into too often in the Star Wars universe…kind of like Alien aliens, absolutely terrifying. Despite knowing that Luke is going to live through it, there’s a lot of tension. Kudos to the author for that! Unfortunately, the Skullborers come fairly early on in the book, so the following games of hide-and-seek with the Empire seem less fun and a little dragged out.

BOTTOM LINE: An interesting read; worth it for the Skullborers scenes alone, but not my favorite Star Wars novel. I didn’t get invested in Nakari as much as I wanted to. It stayed pretty safe in not giving any additional info about Leia, Han, or even Ackbar in the new approved timeline.

TEACUP RATING: About three-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Will be released March 3, 2015, in hardcover and ebook formats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.



The Tudor Bride (Katherine of Valois #2) by Joanna Hickson

This is the second book by Joanna Hickson about the life of Katherine of Valois, who was queen to Henry V, mother of Henry VI, and through her second marriage to Owen Tudor, grandmother to Henry VII. The first book, The Agincourt Bride, was previously reviewed here. I actually enjoyed this book much more than the first.

The Tudor Bride Front Cover (HarperCollins)

The Tudor Bride Front Cover (HarperCollins)

THE PLOT: Katherine and Henry V are happily married and have returned to England. Eventually, Katherine gives birth to a son, the heir to the throne. Their happiness is short-lived, though, when Henry suddenly dies. At age 21, Katherine is relegated to the less-glamorous status of queen mother to a child king. Her brother-in-law Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester and now Lord Protector, is desperately trying to keep her out of the limelight, away from her son, and unmarried. (Naturally the young king’s stepfather would gain considerable power; maybe even enough to rival Humphrey’s). But Katherine’s growing love for her Master of the Wardrobe, Owen Tudor, inspires her to risk everything for a second chance at a happy marriage and family life.

The book also continues the story of Katherine’s companion and mother figure, Mette, who finds a new love and family of her own. All isn’t rosy for Mette and Katherine, though. Now an adult, Katherine starts to look for friends closer to her own station. Whether those friends are true friends or people looking out for their own interests is another matter. And a woman Katherine crosses early in the book plays a role in bringing about Katherine’s downfall, and even her death.

MY TWO CENTS: I felt that the adult Katherine’s voice was much more authentic in this book, and somehow, the relationship problems between her and Mette really brought both characters to life. It makes sense that Katherine would be influenced by other nobles even more than she would be by her beloved servant, whose origins were quite low. With Jacqueline of Hainault and Eleanor Cobham both stirring the pot, there is almost constant conflict offsetting what could have been a humdrum time of marriage and childrearing (even with the added spice of the marriage being secret). I’m sorry we didn’t get to see Eleanor Cobham horsewhipped or something, but at least we know she didn’t end her life where she wanted (and plotted) to be. I don’t know how much Eleanor truly had to do with Katherine’s dying in the convent, but this book certainly made her the villain.

BOTTOM LINE: If historical novels are your thing, you are likely to enjoy this one. The twists and turns will have you doing research to see how much is true history (a surprising amount). Katherine certainly led an interesting life! And her blood still runs in today’s British royals, through the descendants of her great-granddaughter Margaret. I’ll look forward to Hickson’s next book, Red Rose, White Rose, about Cecily Neville, Duchess of York (mother to Edward IV and Richard III).

TEACUP RATING: About four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in paperback and e-formats on March 5, 2015.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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