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: Crucible By Troy Denning

I spent the last couple of weeks dealing with a nasty ear infection, but hopefully now I’m on the mend. Here’s a book I’ve been meaning to review for a while now: Star Wars: Crucible by Troy Denning.

Crucible Cover

Crucible Cover (LucasBooks/Random House)

When the world rocked with word of the sale to Disney and release of future movies, I (and undoubtedly many other Expanded Universe fans) thought: “Where will this fall in the timeline? Are they stopping production of the ‘future’ books so they won’t interfere with the movie storyline?” Maybe this book provides some answers.

THE PLOT: This book is mostly about “the big three” (i.e., Luke, Han, and Leia) on an adventure initially to help Lando with some pirating problems, but it’s actually a much bigger issue. They take lots of damage and struggle a lot with age issues (which seems very realistic at this point in the timeline), yet still remain the heroes we know and love. For those of you who read the last series Fate of the Jedi, Vestara is also integral to the plot, only with a new name.

MY TWO CENTS: I LOVED this book. It was a really easy read, and I just wanted to keep going with it until I was finished. It went down MUCH easier than the Fate of the Jedi series; I’m still only through 6 of 9 of those books. Forgive me, but I also liked that Jaina Solo and Ben Skywalker were basically sidelined for this entry. We NEEDED a book that was mostly the big three, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Is this the setup to “The big three are retired now until the movie?” Maybe; it would be a good move. And we still don’t know where in the timeline the new movies will be set. Will Jaina, Ben, and Allana be featured? If so, it’s a good idea to sideline them and their adventures for the time being, too. If this book was meant to be a temporary wrap-up, mission accomplished.

BOTTOM LINE: Read it, enjoy it. If you haven’t been following the Expanded Universe, I’d read this as a crash-course in what everyone is up to and some background on the newer characters.  (Vestara, PLEASE don’t get rehabed like Mara. You need to stay a villain, only worse.)

TEACUP RATING: Five teacups full to the brim of nice, spicy holiday tea. Lots of good but relatable action in this book.

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

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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