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.)
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.