Kevin J. Anderson, Jedi Academy Trilogy #1.
I’ve been meaning to review every Star Wars book in the realcanon for years now, but I was mostly waiting until my life was in order. Well, life is not getting in order, and now that there are so many questions out there about Star Wars canon, canon novels, Star Wars books, etc., it seems more important than ever to get a start on this. In order to review properly, I decided to re-read, and I almost started with the first Star Wars book I ever read — Assault on Selonia. But instead I thought nostalgia would be better served by going back to my first favorite — the Jedi Academy Trilogy — followed by the Zahn trilogy that kicked off the expanded universe canon.
The plot, in brief: the New Republic is struggling to rebuild after the ravages of the imperial rebellion of the year before. Dreadnaughts have decimated Coruscant. Luke is haunted by his experiences with the dark side as the Reborn Emperor’s chief lieutenant. Leia is handling increasing responsibility at the heights of republican government, subordinating the demands of her husband and children to the requirements of the galaxy. She and Han have three children, who have been mostly relegated to the care of a nanny on a hidden planet in order to protect them. Jacen and Jaina are two years old, and Anakin is a mere newborn.
The book starts with Han and Chewie on a diplomatic mission to Kessel, looking to bring the rogue world into the republic for fun and profit. Unexpectedly attacked and pushed to a crash landing on the surface of the spice mining planet, Han finds out he has no friends there and this ambassador stuff is more complex than he thought.
Meanwhile on Coruscant, Luke goes before the senate to ask for support and a planet on which to start a training facility for a new generation of Jedi Knights. He goes out on a mission to locate Force-sensitive hopefuls to populate the school with, while Leia is a complete harpy about Han being gone, and her two-year-old twins are brought home for the first time.
Lando and the droids make up a final sub-plot as they assist Luke on his search for Jedi candidates before turning their attention to an investigation about what’s become of Han.
Jedi Search, the first book of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, was published in 1994, and Kevin J. Anderson made an executive decision to reference the events of Tom Veitch’s Dark Empire, thereby making them canon (and directly defying Zahn’s desire not to canonize the Emperor Reborn etc.). According to realcanon timeline (that is, the dating system I built), this book takes place in year 01149, or 11 years after A New Hope.
The last time I read this book, I remembered being disappointed and thinking it had aged poorly since the first afternoon a 14-year-old rebel librarian-to-be triumphantly acquired the book on tape. (Our library notoriously only bought two random books of any given trilogy, and I read Dark Apprentice and Champions of the Force twice before I managed to get the first book in any capacity.)
However, Friday evening, after a long and stressful work week, a week also filled with the adrenaline of revamping this site in a desperate defense against the Darth Disney betrayal of all things Star Wars, I went to my storage unit and opened the first box on the top pile to take out these seven books for review. I went to bed, tucked up with two cats and a couple of chocolate chip cookies, and opened my very glistening, very like new copy of Jedi Search and drew in a deep breath. The smell of these 90s Bantam books is the most incredible thing — it is by far my favorite scent. It’s outright delicious.
And then I was off and reading. No disappointment. I can’t remember what I was so harsh on the last time. This book is a great adventure and a worthy successor to the films. The first glimpse of Kessel, the hints of truth behind Han’s boast of “making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs,” the shock of a crash landed Falcon . . . Yes, it’s cliched and catchphrasey in places, occasionally illogical, but on the whole, Kevin J. Anderson weaves an adventurous story that brings forth two new dangers for our heroes: a lost batch of Imperials who didn’t know the Emperor was dead (reminiscent of the Japanese troops still fighting WW2 thirty years after surrender), and a “dark man” preying on the minds of Luke’s prospective trainees.
Sixteen years later, I still love this book, and I’m super excited to tell you about Dark Apprentice next week — if seeing Return of the Jedi made me a Star Warrior for life, then reading Dark Apprentice made me the Expanded Universe patron I am today! Find it on Amazon (here) and Goodreads (here).