Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson Audiobook Review

With Jedi Master Luke Skywalker in a comatose state and Kyp Durron continues his path of destruction, it’s up to Han and Lando to stop the possessed Jedi whilst Leia worries about the ailing Mon Mothma and an attack on the secret location of her and Han’s third child, Anakin.

Kyp uses the Sun Crusher to destroy the Imperial Training Facility on Carida, he finds out that his brother Zeth is on the planet but it’s too late before the sun explodes, wiping the facility out in an instant. He continues his personal mission, attacking other targets when Han and Lando catch up to him at a former Imperial stronghold.

Luke is watched over by Leia, Jacen and Jaina and his students, but when a former informant to Commander Furgan, Terpfen, arrives with the news that Furgan is on his way to Anoth to capture Anakin, Leia, Terpfen and Ackbar give chase, leaving Jacen and Jaina at the Jedi Praxeum.

Luke’s spirit reaches out to Jacen and Jaina, and uses Jacen to protect his body from a swarm of Exar Kun’s evil two headed poisonous flying scorpion creatures. Jacen kills the three with his Uncle’s lightsaber and the twins communicate to the Jedi students that it is Exar Kun’s spirit that is causing all the trouble on Yavin. The Jedi students work together and manage to destroy Exar Kun’s spirit, allowing Luke to return and destroying the hold that Kun had on Kyp.

Kyp, with Lando and Han returns to Coruscant where they allow Kyp to pilot the ship to Kessel where it was to be sent into The Maw. Luke joins Kyp after he undergoes a Jedi Trial to ensure the Dark Side influence had left him, on the mission to assist him with the plan. Han takes Lando to Kessel to meet Mara Jade about him taking on a Spice Mining Operation with the Smugglers Alliance. The Millennium Falcon, along with the Smugglers ships end up in a space battle against Admiral Daala’s Star Destroyer, ‘The Gorgon’ that escaped the Sun Crusher’s attack at The Cauldron Nebula.

The Millennium Falcon flies into the Death Star to destroy the reactor, whilst Luke and Kyp arrive at the Maw Installation where Wedge and Chewie have led an assault on the base to learn the Empire’s secrets. The scientists on the Death Star attack the Installation which leads to an evacuation. Kyp steals the Sun Crusher to take down the Death Star.

Han, Lando and Mara Jade escape the superstructure after damaging the reactor and Kyp fires alone of the Sun Crusher’s missiles, which sends the Death Star into one of The Maw’s Black Holes which also sucks in the Sun Crusher. Kyp escapes the ship in a message container and is saved by the Falcon.

Leia arrives on Anoth in time to stop the Empire from kidnapping Anakin and returns to Yavin IV with her baby. Han brings Kyp back to Kessel after Luke got away with Wedge and Chewie’s team.

Cilghal uses her Force Healing abilities to get rid of the poison in Mon Mothma’s system what had been administered by Furgan at a diplomatic event. Whilst Mon Mothma is healed she is still weak and needs time to recuperate, and she informs Leia that the New Republic Council has voted that Leia is to be the new Chief of State.

Admiral Daala and what remains of ‘The Gorgon’ find a new hiding place where they can rebuild their forces. Leia, Han, Ackbar, Mon Mothma Wedge and Chewie go to a ceremony on Vortex where a new Cathedral of Winds has been constructed after Ackbar’s sabotaged BWing crashed into the old building in the previous novel and back on Yavin IV, Luke holds a ceremony for his newly Knighted students as they prepare to go on the next step of their Jedi paths.

The third part of the ‘Jedi Academy’ Trilogy ties up all of the storylines introduced in the previous novel, ‘Dark Apprentice‘ very nicely, of course with the exception of the surviving Admiral Daala who will return at various points in the EU.

This was the book I remembered the least about from my youth, the only part I could recall was the sequence where spirit Luke guided Jacen Solo with the lightsaber against the evil two headed flying scorpion creatures, so going back to it via the Audiobook was great fun and my enjoyment wasn’t diminished by noticing missing parts to the story. What shocked me was how fast paced it was, it’s at around the halfway point that Luke’s body and spirit are reconnected and Exar Kun, the seemingly big bad of the trilogy.

I was audibly shocked when ‘The Gorgon’ entered the Kessel sequence (I may have said something out loud in the middle of a supermarket when I heard it), and had to double check the end of ‘Dark Apprentice’ to make sure I hadn’t missed something, luckily I hadn’t and the reason for its appearance here is explained a bit later on.

I really enjoyed the fact that Han, Lando and Mara had to perform the same manoeuvre to destroy The Death Star prototype as Lando did in ‘Return of the Jedi’ and the fact that it doesn’t go to plan. The fact that it all comes down to Kyp to save the day really shows his complete change of heart after he’s no longer possessed by Exar Kun, and his actions manage to kill two birds with one stone and get rid of both super weapons.

Kyp’s storyline in this novel is really well played out. Firstly his attempt to save his brother from Imperial service leads to his killing of his last remaining family member. He never really deals with that under Kun’s power, it’s not until he undergoes his ‘cave scene’ in Exar Kun’s old Massassi Temple on Yavin IV where he encounters a vision of Zeth which gives him some closure.

The rest of the Jedi students get to shine in their valiant defeat of Exar Kun, working together to disperse his spirit into oblivion, saving their Master in the process. Cilghal gets a considerably more focus as her Force Healing power is used later on in the book, and she ends up becoming a temporary leader to the students after her time working as a diplomat on Mon Cala.

Listening to this trilogy and revisiting the story after so many years made me enjoy it a whole lot more now I’m older. As a kid this was my favourite series in the EU, and looking back I understand why, but when it comes to this period of the ‘Legends’ releases, I think (so far) that Zahn’s ‘Empire’ Trilogy has claimed that top spot.

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