In the mid to late nineties I tried to follow the Expanded Universe as much as a kid could, but I had a lot of gaps in the collection, so when I found out about the ‘New Jedi Order’ I ended up starting with the second book in the series (it was the only one available in the bookshop at the time).
Needless to say I was incredibly confused by a lot of what was going on and what I had missed but not long after I was able to dive into this one.
Going in, there were a few things that still confused me, mainly the wedding of Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker. Having been mentioned in Timothy Zahn’s ‘Hand of Thrawn’ duology, which I hadn’t read at the time, and my lack of knowledge about Comic Shops (my knowledge on the subject was based on a rack in the local book store which had a limited selection of Graphic Novels) had kept the ‘Union’ storyline a well kept secret, as well as the terminal illness she had mysteriously contracted, but this time around, the second time I have read it in fact I was ready.
The first thing that I realised as I was reading this, was how easy it was to envision Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in their roles of Luke, Leia and Han, something that had been a bit hit-and-miss in some of the Expanded Universe books, of course I’m not sitting there wishing that the Sequel Trilogy had been based on the EU, I still firmly believe that Star Wars needed to have a reset of the ancillary materials.
R. A. Salvatore really makes us feel like we are with the main heroes, as well as Chewbacca and the Droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO and even Lando, his characterisations of our favourite characters really shine.
And then there are the Legends characters, Jacen, Jaina and Anakin Solo, Han and Leia’s three children really get to take centre stage. This series really lets the three of them step out of the YA series they had populated and come into the main EU timeline as fully fledged Jedi Knights. All three have very distinctive personalities and they quickly steal the show from the old guard.
We are introduced to Danni Quee, a scientist who is captured by the invading Yuuzhan Vong as well as Jedi Apprentice Miko Reglia through whose eyes we learn about the invaders as well as Nom Anor, a Yuuzhan Vong who has planted himself into the low level politics of the Galaxy, going from planet to planet stirring trouble to distract the New Republic from the Praetorite Vong invasion that starts at Helska 4 where the Yammosk, a Great War Coordinator arrives with Prefect Da’gara in command. Meanwhile, on the planet Belkadan, a disguised Vong warrior, Yomin Carr terraforms the planet to allow the Vong to grow the coral that makes up their ships.
The third planet on the Vong’s hit list is Sernpidal, where they use their gravity generators called Dovin Basals to pull one of the planets moons down to crash into the planet. It is here that Han, Anakin and. Chewie find themselves after agreeing to do a delivery for Lando, it is also here that Chewbacca is killed after saving Anakin as the moon and planet are about to collide, Han saw his friend stand and roar at the moon before the Falcon escaped, piloted by Anakin.
But the adventure doesn’t stop there, with two more high stakes battles, one at Lando’s facility on Dubrillion and the second where the Yammosk is defeated and Helska 4 is destroyed, the threat of invasion is seemingly over.
I’m going to take a moment to address the Wookiee in the room, the death of Chewbacca.
The idea of killing off a major character to give the Yuuzhan Vong threat a real sense of danger after countless books where the main characters were seemingly invincible, something that is even mentioned in the book as Han looks back at their time together and the countless adventures they had been on and survived.
George Lucas himself had a hand in the choice, vetoing Han, Luke, Leia and the Droids as the potential victims but finally agreeing on Chewbacca, who at the end of the day, in the literary sense is an obvious choice when it comes to dialogue, how many ways can you describe Chewie vocalising without being repetitive or just forgetting about him in the background to avoid mention him growling/roaring/bellowing for the umpteenth time.
I won’t lie though, reading his death and the emotional aftermath in this novel does tug on the old heartstrings, Salvatore wrote his death in such a way that gives him a fitting send off, but at the same time he doesn’t linger on the moment, it’s almost a blink-and-you-miss it sentence that takes a couple of re-reads to really hit you.
What I loved about it (a comment on the structure, not the death) was that it happened about two-thirds of the way through the book which gave us time to feels the pain that Han goes through and his reaction to Anakin, who essentially saved their lives and the lives of the refugees on board the Falcon at the time. Han is distraught, angry, sad and in a state of shock, he spends the rest of the book frantically trying to make sure no one else is killed, and when Anakin has to jump blindly into Hyperspace it almost drives him over the edge (Anakin is fine by the way). It’s a side of Han that we never get to see in the films which makes it very interesting to read and I look forward to delving more into Han’s character as the series progresses.
Overall, this is a fun book and a great start to the series. I enjoyed going back to it more than I thought I would when I decided to do the New Jedi Order re-read (a year ago but only getting to it now). I’m really looking forward to reading the next in the series.
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