Kevin J. Anderson, Jedi Academy Trilogy #2.
This book is set some time after book 1, apparently: anywhere from six months to a year may have gone by since Jedi Search. (Within the first few chapters, Luke observes that it’s been 11 years since the Battle of Yavin, while book 1 was 7 years + 3 years since Yavin.) Han Solo has been getting young Kyp Durron a taste of freedom after the ravages of the Kessel spice mines; he and Leia are still adapting to actually raising their two-year-old twins while Leia takes on increasing responsibility under a withdrawn Mon Mothma’s leadership.
Luke Skywalker has added to the number of Jedi trainees, having assembled quite a number of them at his Jedi “praxeum” on Yavin IV. Although Gantoris becomes increasingly creepy, no one notices anything untoward until it is too late . . .
Also running amok, the crazed Admiral Daala, who has spent ten years in isolation at the secret Imperial base hidden in the Maw black hole cluster. She and her small fleet of Star Destroyers are determined to cause as much trouble as possible for the rebellion, while the present head of the Imperial faction — a warlord in charge of the Imperial training planet on Carida — is desperately seeking out Vader’s youngest grandson, Anakin Solo.
Whew! When I took this book out of storage, opened it up, and took a deep sniff, I was so transported to being twelve in the Champaign County Public Library.
Back then, my method of finding new Star Wars stuff was to walk briskly through the stacks at CCL — this tiny library has never separated things by genre, only hardback vs paperback — and look for the Star Wars stamp on a spine. It was January 3, 1998, and I wrote in my diary, “Kari drove Dad & I to pick up Heather. We stopped at the library and I got ‘Dark Apprentice’.” Heather was my ten-year-old niece. Mostly what I remember is ignoring her the entire night in favor of reading. I sat next to my closet door, slightly cracked, to read by the fluorescent light with my knees up to my chest. Heather’s adenoidal snoring hummed in the background as I turned pages, breathless with shock as Luke fell into a coma and the vengeful spirit of Exar Kun seduced Ganatos and Kyp Durron to the dark side and destruction.
Nevertheless, it was three days for me to finish the 300-page book. On January 6, I wrote, “Today was good, I finished Dark Apprintace, Dad checked out Champions of the Force for me. […] Almost done with Champions of the Force. I’m discovering all kinds of interesting info. I have to watch Jedi.”
CCL didn’t own the first book, just the last two in paperback, and I literally cried the day I came in to check out Dark Apprentice and found they had discarded the faded paperback. The scent of the book doesn’t change.
I had never really considered just how much fantastic stuff my imagination culled form this trilogy, including the mysterious Massassi structures of Yavin IV, the power of holocrons, the disembodied and disgruntled spirit of Exar Kun — the dark and terrifying spice mines of Kessel, the intrigue of Maw Installation — but there is plenty to love. And, yes, even though this the fifth time I’ve read this book over a period of 16 years, I gasped out loud when Lando challenged Han to another round of sabacc to determine ownership of the Falcon.
This book was responsible for me thinking Kevin J. Anderson was my favorite author for a long time. Now, I find his portrayal of female characters (specifically Daala, a cliche “strong female character” who got her position by sleeping with a nasty old man and who checks herself out in the mirror thinking about her hair a lot) pretty cringe-worthy, but putting that aside . . . I love this book!