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.



Star Wars: Honor Among Thieves (Empire and Rebellion #2) by James S.A. Corey


Honor Among Thieves Front Cover (Random House)

Honor Among Thieves is the second book in the “Empire and Rebellion” series that started with Leia’s book, Razor’s Edge. I liked this one, the Han-centered book of the series, much better. These books take place between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

THE PLOT: Han and Chewie are sent to pick up a rebel agent. Sounds simple, but of course it devolves into a complete life-risking debacle. Han is being pursued by an old-smuggler-friend-turned-bounty-hunter who was stupid enough to already spend some of Jabba’s money. No matter what else happens, he HAS to bring Han to Jabba or end up being hunted as well.

So of course, picking up the agent, Scarlet, isn’t the easy job it was supposed to be. And obviously, there’s going to be more to it than just bringing her to the Rebellion’s rendezvous point. Turns out the Empire is on the verge of controlling Hyperspace; obviously, that can’t happen.

As in Leia’s book, Luke plays an extremely minor role. (But Han and Leia are always thrown together to help show their blossoming relationship. I’m okay with that.)

MY TWO CENTS: I was surprised at how short this book was; about 250 printed pages. (I know it lists as 288 pages, but some of that is sample chapters of other books.) Despite that, I didn’t feel like it was too short. Some Star Wars books are just bloated with filler, so this one is pretty much all pertinent to the adventure. I loved how Han questions what the Rebellion’s intentions are…obviously, there will be some sort of government no matter who wins. Does Leia intend for her government to be a better alternative to the Empire, and how, exactly?

Again, if you’ve read any of the Expanded Universe books…well, heck, if you’ve seen the rest of the original trilogy…you know our main characters are never in any real danger here, but the authors make it seem suspenseful anyway. That helps make for a good read.  I enjoyed the main two “new” characters, Scarlet Hark and Baasen Ray, add good entertainment without messing up continuity.

BOTTOM LINE: I’m not sure if we’ll see Luke’s book in this series…apparently it and the “Sword of the Jedi” series are on hold because of the new movies. If this is the last Star Wars book with the original characters we see for a while, at least it’s a pretty good one. (Note of interest: the original cover for this book was much closer to the Razor’s Edge cover. Did they replace it because there may not be a third book, or at least not for a while?)

TEACUP RATING: Five out of five cups of tea. I applaud the authors for writing the story and not padding it unnecessarily.

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

Razor’s Edge (Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion #1) By Martha Wells


Razor’s Edge Front Cover (Random House Publishing Group)

I tend to find Star Wars books somewhat hit-or-miss, but this first book in a new series was kind of in the middle for me.

THE PLOT: The book takes place after A New Hope, but before The Empire Strikes Back.  Leia and Han are on an Alliance mission, but get caught up with some half-hearted pirates…native Alderaanians who have survivor’s guilt. Then there are the deadly serious pirates, who capture everyone; and finally, the Imperials swoop in along with a spy set close to our heroes. Most of the book is from Leia’s point of view, with some from Han when they’re separated, and a teeny bit from Luke. (He’s not in it very much.) No Vader, no Emperor, not much Chewie.

MY TWO CENTS: First, the good: this is really good time setting for Star Wars novels. Luke and Leia don’t know about their relationship to each other or Vader; Leia and Han are flirty but not yet serious. And what did they accomplish after the Death Star blew up, before Hoth? Also, this book allows Leia to shine on her own, both as a diplomat (her verbal battle with pirate leader Viest while trying to hide her body language, which Viest can read, is a high point) and physically (the arena battle she’s forced to fight). We’re reminded that this is the princess who blows holes in garbage chutes when her rescuers don’t have a plan.

Then, the bad: Unfortunately, you know going in that everyone in the core group will come out okay, so there’s not as much tension. Also, if you’ve read far into the Expanded Universe future, you know the newly introduced characters aren’t important to any other story (unless there’s something I missed, which is always possible). You know they either end up dead or are just disposable. So this book is kind of just filler. It was a pretty slow read for me. It started out well, but I just kept falling out of the story. I wasn’t consistently into it.

BOTTOM LINE: I would really only recommend this one if you’re a completist or a serious Leia fan. However, I will still check out the next book in the series, the Han book Honor Among Thieves by James S.A. Corey, which releases in March 2014.

TEACUP RATING: Three teacups, but a bonus for this great line from Threepio, translating for Chewie, to Luke: “He says it can’t be the Death Star, as you might recall the memorable occasion when it blew up.”

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

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