Tag Archives: Jacen Solo

Book Review: Star Wars: Jedi Search by Kevin J. Anderson

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And here we have another promise kept, readers! Today I will be reviewing Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Search. The first in a trilogy focusing on the founding of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy on Yavin IV, there will be some Warnings for Younger Readers below. I don’t think they are particularly big red flags myself now, but I remember being very sensitive about the content of the books I read as a 10-15 year old. Because of that, I might not have read this novel when I was that age.

This leads me to note that, while Jedi Search might be the type of book a child in this age range would decide to avoid reading at the moment, they might want to keep it in mind for a future date. Speaking from experience, this writer knows that after a while young readers build up defense mechanisms which allow them to enjoy stories that contain mild to middling unpleasant content. What would have scandalized my fourteen year old mind doesn’t elicit a blink from me now. This will likely be the case for most other young readers at some point; as we learn more about the light and shadow battling for dominance in the real world, the unpleasantness we find in fictional fare becomes less shocking for us.

With this caveat stated, let’s turn to Jedi Search itself. The story starts out with Han Solo and Chewbacca heading to Kessel on a diplomatic mission. In order to keep the valuable spice produced on the planetoid from being sold to all and sundry (plus the Empire), the government wants to bring Kessel into the New Republic. And because Han used to smuggle spice between Kessel and Nar Shaddaa, it makes perfect sense to appoint him the official envoy to whatever hegemony has set up shop on Kessel since the war finally ended.

Han’s not exactly thrilled to be going back to Kessel. Last time he was there, he picked up a spice shipment for Jabba the Hutt, then had to dump it when he couldn’t escape an Imperial patrol. The alien who ran Kessel at the time, a Rybet named Moruth Doole, was the one who handed the spice over to Han. Privately, Solo suspects the alien double-crossed him and Jabba by calling the Imperials. It was rumored that Doole curried favor with both the Empire and the crime lords in this way; he provided both the smugglers and the Imperials with the valuable spice, sometimes by betraying the smugglers to the Imps. This way he earned money on the spice and the smugglers, since the Empire would pay him for handing over wanted criminals.

No one ever proved this, however. It’s all just speculation. And Han figures enough time has passed that Doole – if he’s still in charge of the mines – will be happy to talk about setting up a similar sort of arrangement with the New Republic. The guy’s a business man, after all; the only thing he cares about is lining his pockets. Why should he care who is paying him?

It’s a reasonable assumption. But Doole isn’t a particularly reasonable alien. No sooner does Solo hail Kessel with his diplomatic message than fighters are scrambled to attack the Millennium Falcon. Han and Chewie do their best to escape, but it’s no good. They are brought down and captured by Moruth Doole’s pirate forces, which he established after the fall of the Empire to help him keep control of Kessel once he and the nastier prisoners took over the mines.

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And he is really mad at Han.

See, it turns out that when Han dumped that load of spice, he wasn’t the only one the Hutt put a price on. Doole got one, too. Except that in his case, Jabba didn’t put a bounty on him; he set a death mark on the Rybet. As a result Doole had to dodge several murder attempts, one of which left him nearly blind. Determined to have his revenge and frightened by Solo’s thoughtless threats of official reprisal from the New Republic if he and Chewie aren’t released immediately, Doole decides to imprison the two in the spice mines.

Back on Coruscant, Leia and Mon Mothma are busy trying to get the planet Carida to join the New Republic. Their efforts are hampered by the Caridans themselves, who are still pro-Imperial. Carida used to be the home of the Imperial Naval Academy, and there’s a determined Imperial power structure still in place there. This means that the Caridan ambassador can throw tantrums and force concessions on the Republic government without fearing reprisal from his own administration. Eventually, though, he runs out of excuses to cause delays and has to agree to visit the New Republic – where he actually manages to become an even bigger pain in the neck.

On top of this, Jaina and Jacen – who are now two years old – are due to re-join their parents in a few days/weeks (I can’t remember which now). Having spent the first two years of their life in a protected location under Winter’s care, the twins were hidden in order to protect them from the Dark Side and the Empire. But their time of hiding is finally at an end, so Leia’s preparing to welcome them home at the same time she’s dealing with politics and missing Han.

Meanwhile, Luke makes a speech to the New Republic Senate asking for permission to officially restart the Jedi Order. After the assembly gives him their full-throated approval, he sets off to track down a few thin leads he has on some possible Force-sensitives. The first of these Force-sensitives – Gantoris – is the leader of some survivors from a crash on the dying world of Eol Sha. It takes quite a bit of work to recruit Gantoris because he is proud, independent, and he claims to have seen “a dark man” in his dreams who leads him to his own destruction. Gantoris thinks Luke is that man, and so he has the Jedi work to prove that his intentions aren’t evil.

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Luke eventually does gain his trust. Unfortunately, he does so with some very flashy displays of his Force powers. Promising to send a ship to take the few remaining colonists from the dying world, Luke sets off to find his second potential student.

This time the possible Jedi he’s looking for is an older man named Streen, who lives in Bespin’s Cloud City. Streen’s aware he’s got a special ability, but he doesn’t know how to control it. This means he senses people all the time, so for years he has lived in seclusion high above the City. Here he avoids the pain and embarrassment sensing others’ emotions causes him and them. Luke promises to help him “stop sensing people all the time” but finds that, since neither of his prospective students is happy in a crowd, he needs to set up shop in a place that’s unpopulated. So he heads back to Corsucant to ask for Leia’s help locating a world where he can train new Jedi in peace.

Meanwhile, Han and Chewie are trying to figure out a way to survive the mines and to escape them. In the process, they make friends with a kid named Kyp Durron. The son of political dissidents the Empire imprisoned, Kyp and his parents were sent to Kessel when he was eight years old. His fourteen year old brother, Zeth, was forcibly conscripted into the Imperial Navy and sent to Carida.

New Jedi Order – Mr. Rhapsodist

Kyp Durron

You would think that this would be as bad as it got for Kyp, but it actually gets worse. His parents were killed by smugglers in the mines before his eyes, leaving him utterly alone in the dark, surrounded by very unfriendly people. When Doole re-took control of the planetoid from the Empire and set out to become the sole proprietor of Kessel, he “forgot” to free Kyp (and probably several others). They have been used as slaves in the mines ever since.

With Kyp’s help, Han and Chewie finally manage to escape Kessel. In the process they learn that the boy is Force-sensitive and received some rudimentary training in the ways of the Force from the Jedi crone Vima-Da-Boda. Chased toward the Maw, a cluster of black holes between Nar Shaddaa and Kessel, the three have to dive straight into the gravitational maelstrom to escape Doole’s forces, relying on Kyp’s Force-sensitivity to safely pilot their pilfered ship. The harebrained scheme works…

…But it also lands them smack dab in the middle of a secret Imperial installation run by Admiral Daala.

And that’s all the plot spoilers you are getting, readers! Personally, I find Kevin J. Anderson’s style annoying, although he is not so bad when he’s writing the Young Jedi Knights series. But when he’s writing for Han, Leia, and Luke, I want to reach through the book and shake him.

Part of the reason his depiction of Luke annoys me is due to the fact that Jedi Search takes place after the Emperor Reborn story arc. In the old EU Palpatine discovered how to avoid becoming one with the Dark Side of the Force immediately after death. Maintaining a toe-hold in the physical realm, he eventually put his spirit into a clone body and tried to rebuild the Empire. When the Emperor “returned” and began wrecking the fragile New Republic, Luke stupidly decided that the best way to stop him was to pretend to join the Dark Side.

The result is obvious in Search. Luke pulls in his Jedi hopefuls by speaking of teaching them about power and by showing off his own abilities in the Force. His wanton use of power is terrifying; the Force is a Jedi’s ally, not his/her servant. Luke’s dabbling in the Dark Side, however well-intentioned, taints a lot of his actions going forward here and in other books. This led to some very big, very bad consequences for the new Jedi, the Republic, and Luke in particular during the old EU. Reading this book, I can see why Zahn took every opportunity in Specter of the Past and Vision of the Future to verbally slap Luke upside the head for his poor choices (and possibly Anderson and other EU authors as well).

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In regards to Leia and Han, in my opinion Anderson doesn’t let Leia seriously worry about her husband for at least half the book. Instead, he leaves her convinced that Han is using his assignment to visit Kessel as a chance to goof off, completely forgetting that their twins will be coming home soon. Anderson lets this attitude of hers persist for far too long, in my opinion; the fact that Han was overdue to report back to Coruscant at least via holocomm should have told Leia that something was wrong within a few days. Instead, it takes getting hung up on by Doole, plus a couple of more days/weeks (I’m not sure which it is now) of communications’ silence for her to realize that Han’s in trouble.

On the bright side, Han came through this story pretty well. Since he’s stuck on Kessel the day that Jaina and Jacen arrive on Coruscant to stay, his frustration and anger at missing their return makes him attack the guards. His action is not that of a man frantic to escape an unjust situation but of a desperate father who wants to go home to see and hold his children. It’s a very touching, realistic moment, and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the book.

Despite Anderson’s limitations as an author, he does tell a good story. He also ably presents us with the newest Imperial antagonist, Admiral Natasi Daala. Hidden by Grand Moff Tarkin in the Maw for eleven years to protect the installation where the Death Star and other super weapons were designed, she’s a hard, nasty woman. She was probably like this in her early life, but her years of training at the Caridan Academy only made matters worse. In the old EU the Imperial military was virulently anti-alien; it was only a little less anti-woman. Daala is the only known female admiral in the Imperial fleet in the old EU – and her appointment was a secret one.

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Admiral Daala

As a result of this policy, Daala was mocked by the male students at the Academy and looked down upon by her male instructors. Out of pure frustration, she created an “online” persona at the Academy after graduation where she could get noticed and put her tactical skill to use. Intrigued by her suggestions and tactical prowess, Tarkin investigated. He discovered Daala’s real identity and took her under his wing – and, despite being a married man, he also took her as his lover. Locked in the Maw for eleven years since he left to command the Death Star, Daala has let her red hair grow well past regulation length, but that’s the most feminine thing about her.

This woman is nasty, readers. She strikes me as someone who has burned every emotion but fury out of her mind and body. To be frank, I think she’s nearly insane. Though tactically capable, Daala’s attacks tend to lack finesse. She charges out of the Maw like a raging tigress screaming for blood, making Governor Ahrinda Pryce look like a push over and Ysanne “Iceheart” Isard appear completely serene by comparison. This is one villainess I would not want to meet in a dark alley at night, readers. She is unpredictable, vicious, and ruthless.

Now for those Warnings for Younger Readers which were mentioned above. To be perfectly honest, I think that Jedi Search rates less than a one on the scale of objectionable content. That, however, is my voice of (relative) experience talking; young readers should judge for themselves if they are ready to read this book now or not.

With that in mind, the first thing I want to cover is the sex references in the story. There’s a point in Search where Moruth Doole goes to a private prison room in the upper levels of Kessel where he keeps a large number of female Rybet slaves. Although he regularly abuses these alien women, we don’t see him force himself on any of them, or get many details about what that would entail. He just goes in to pick one out of the group for an afternoon of “fun,” and the rest is left up to the reader’s imagination – if they let it go in that direction. I don’t, and so the scene has no bad implications for me.

Then there are Daala’s reminiscences about her relationship with Tarkin. These aren’t detailed; Anderson leaves the reader to fill in the gaps with his or her imagination, using a few words to paint a very general picture. The closest we might come to an explicit reference is a brief mention by Daala that she chose “well built and attractive” men from her Star Destroyer crews to be her bodyguards because they allow her to have sexual fantasies. This mention is one sentence in length and her bodyguards are never seen or described again, making it a bare blip on my sensitivity radar these days.

Jedi Academy

Also, Lando appears in this novel and ends up tracking down a gambler whom Luke suspects is Force-sensitive. The man isn’t Force-sensitive, however; he is a con artist who got in deeper than he bargained on going. When a rich duchess advertised for a husband this gambler – Tymmo – rigged the lottery she was using to choose a suitor so that he could win the competition in order to marry her and retire. What he didn’t anticipate was the fact that, since her people mate for life, she’s a bit…enthusiastic in her daily gestures of affection. Tymmo eventually found he couldn’t stand her attentions, so he ran away. He mentions the duchess’ gestures of affection only in passing after Lando catches him, making them really easy to skim over.

On the gore front, this book probably rates a three for one scene. This moment comes when Moruth Doole remembers how he captured the Imperial commander of Kessel and worked him to the bone in the mines. Once the man’s spirit was broken, Doole fed the Imperial several spice worms, froze him in carbonite, and hung him on the rear wall of his office to die. It’s a pretty brief scene, but it packs an emotional punch and makes a reader dislike Moruth more than they already do.

The next most disgusting moment comes when Doole, who uses his larval offspring to process the glitterstim spice, decides to kill one of them because it’s starting to show some spirit. He can’t have a spirited young Rybet trying to oust him from power, and so he regularly murders the larvae when they begin to outgrow their usefulness. There’s also a heat absorbing monster in the book which Han, Kyp, and Chewie escape from while fleeing Kessel through the mines. It doesn’t actually chew on its prey – just spears them and drains the heat/life energy from them. So although this creature is scary, it doesn’t actually kill in a graphic manner. Rereading the book again for this review, I have to say that I actually find the concept behind the monster kind of interesting.

If I had read Jedi Search as a 10-15 year old, I’m not sure that I would have said then that these items were small potatoes in the objectionable content department. Having encountered far more precise depictions of death, dismemberment, and sex in various other works though, the brief scenes in this book no longer bother me. So if any young readers in this age group checking out this post feel that Jedi Search isn’t good for them right now, I understand completely. All I’m doing is sharing my opinion of it and suggesting that they come back to the book whenever – or if ever – they feel they can handle it.

Jedi Search isn’t this writer’s favorite original Expanded Universe novel, true. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading every now and again. If you decide to check the book out sometime, then I can tell you that it’s not bad. It’s not great, but it’s not bad.

May the Force be with you, readers!

1994 Bantam Books STAR WARS JEDI SEARCH Paperback by Kevin ...

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Spotlight: Star Wars’ Forgotten Heroines, Part 2

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Welcome back, readers! Once more we fly into the breach to learn about Star Wars’ forgotten heroines!

I know I am repeating myself here, but the fact that Disney ditched these women still astounds me. After forty years of build-up, the new owners for this beloved franchise cast aside characters they could have used in new stories. Even if they declared everything after Vision of the Future non-canon, there would have been enough leftover material to spawn new books, several dozen movies, and more than enough subject matter for TV shows like Rebels.

Every time I sit down and really think about it, I look sideways at Disney and say, “Why? Why waste all of that good material? You had a gold mine here, and you shut it down because….well, why did you shut it down?”

Several people have theories about why Disney dropped the old EU, but I won’t bore you with a recital, since these posts are supposed to be relatively cheerful. I already alluded to my own opinion in the post about the final season for Star Wars Rebels, which has not changed. I doubt it ever will, sadly. But the fact is that what’s done is done, and there is no point trying to alter it.

Yes, I know there are people petitioning for Disney to redo Episode VIII. While I sympathize with them, since Carrie Fisher is (hopefully) residing in a galaxy far, far away now, there is no method by which that film can be redone while including her. Disney has already signed an agreement stating they will not use CGI to bring Leia back into the franchise, and even if a cast and crew could be found to remake the rest of the movie, working in Fisher’s existing scenes to a new movie would take a lot of work. It might not result in a good film, either.

More to the point, there’s no way in Mustafar that the kingmakers in Hollywood would let a remade Episode VIII into theaters. Most of the “important people” in Tinseltown have hated Star Wars and the majority of its fans since the first film came out, and many will go on hating it and us ‘til the day they die. I’m sorry, but there’s just no way around that or The Last Jedi. The only things which those of us who dislike the new films have got are the original movies, the original EU, and stories by some bright creators who want to do homage to the original movies.

With that in mind, let’s go back to the listing I started yesterday. One of the best ways to keep the original Star Wars alive is for its fans to show the old EU to new readers and prospective fans, which is why I wrote these two posts. So, without further ado, let’s look at some more of the leading ladies from the original SW timeline:

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Jan Ors: Jan Ors was a Rebellion operative/spy who reported directly to Mon Mothma. While in a Rebel asteroid base, she was one of several Rebels captured – but not executed – by Imperial Stormtrooper and future Jedi knight Kyle Katarn. Although on opposite sides in the war, Kyle immediately felt a connection with Jan, as she did with him. This led him to spare her life and the lives of most of her compatriots. It was after this act of mercy that Kyle learned his father, Morgan, had been killed in a “Rebel” strike on their homeworld of Sulon.

At first, this made Kyle extremely hateful toward the Rebellion, including Jan and her friends, whom he met again before he was to enter Imperial service fully. It was during a brief fight with Ors’ companions that Kyle was to have his eyes opened to the truth; during the conflict, Jan name dropped Sulon, catching Kyle’s attention. She was able to prove to him that his father – who was a Rebel sympathizer and supporter – had been killed by the Empire, not the Rebellion.

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Jan Ors and Kyle Katarn

Kyle immediately defected after this, helping Jan and her fellows escape back to the Rebellion. There he became an agent who specifically answered to Mon Mothma, running missions she would trust to no one else. Kyle soon proved to be a one-man wrecking crew, carting up to six or more heavy weapons during his missions. Jan accompanied him on some of his assignments, one of the most famous being his operation to stop the Empire’s Dark Trooper program. In that event, she was his “mission officer.” This basically meant that she sat in front of enemy lines and, after giving Kyle needed info, watched with a bag of popcorn while he cut a swath of carnage through enemy ranks.

From what I have read, we never got to see Jan run her own missions very often. Usually, when she appeared, it was because she was being rescued by Kyle. This wasn’t because she was an incompetent agent and couldn’t handle her own; the reason she needed rescuing so often was because everyone who wanted Kyle Katarn knew the best way to get him angry was to threaten or “kill” Ors. During her own missions, it seems, Jan didn’t have near as much to worry about. She was a good shot and a capable fighter – at least where the average Imperials were concerned.

Throw in Dark Jedi, though, and she was out of her depth. On those occasions she very wisely did the sensible thing, which was to sit down, shut up, and pray Kyle would find her before the bad guys decided she was more trouble than she was worth. Because he was Force-sensitive, Kyle always managed to find her, despite the fact that her friendship with him was what usually got her into these messes.

None of this is what led Jan to turn down Kyle’s repeated offers of marriage, though. No, she turned him down because they were both fighters involved in the myriad wars which afflicted the Star Wars galaxy following Return of the Jedi. Any day could be their last, and Jan didn’t want to have Kyle for a brief space of time only to lose him a day, a week, or an hour later. It is also probable that she knew that, whenever she was captured or appeared to “die,” Kyle skirted dangerously close to the Dark Side in order to rescue/avenge her. If she actually died in combat with an enemy, the last thing Jan wanted was for her death to make him into one of the monsters they fought so hard against. Better they stayed friends; that way, whatever happened wouldn’t hurt as much as if they were man and wife.

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Since Kyle was originally one of the agents who stole pieces of the plans for the first Death Star, there is no compelling reason explaining why he and Jan were not included in the film Rogue One. The writers could have written the story so that Galen Erso was Galen Ors, making Jyn the twin or older/younger sister of Jan Ors. If they had gone that route, the story would have been twice as interesting and complex as it was; remember, in the original EU, Jan worked directly for Mon Mothma. The film writers could have maintained this for the movie; in order to protect Jan from general interest, Mon Mothma could keep the younger woman as her private agent.

It would have added extra tension for Jyn’s story, too. Say the sisters were both “dumped” by Saw Gerrera, but one returned to the Rebellion (Jan) while the other rebelled in her own way (Jyn). Throw Kyle into the mix to play off of the wayward Cassian Andor and Jan, and the writers have got a boiling kettle of emotions to play with. Then, at the end, Jan and Kyle are the only members of the Rogue One team to survive the mission, emailing the plans to Leia moments before hightailing it back to Yavin for their next assignment. Boom, you have material for more fill-in movies starring Jan and Kyle as they deal with the aftermath of the Rogue One mission and Kyle’s Jedi adventures. It’s a win-win all the way around.

But the new guys didn’t do that. Bummer.

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Mallatobuck: Mallatobuck is here because I do not know if she survived the switch to the new timeline. In the original EU, Chewbacca married Mallatobuck several years before A New Hope. Together they had one son, Lumpawarrump (yes, that is really his name, and yes, Lowbacca was a better choice). I do not know too much more about her, having not encountered her anywhere outside my New Essential Guide to Characters. I understand she was in the less-than-appealing Star Wars Christmas Special, but really, that show was not her fault. If, as I suspect, Mallatobuck did not make the new timeline’s cut, we are down yet another interesting character.

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Vima-Da-Boda: Descended from the famous ancient Jedi Nomi Sunrider and her daughter, Vima Sunrider, we first hear about Vima-Da-Boda in Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Search. A Jedi from the pre-Clone Wars Order, Vima went mad after her own daughter fell to the Dark Side. She ended up in the spice mines of Kessel, where she met and gave rudimentary training to the future maverick Jedi Knight Kyp Durron. It was apparently enough for the kid to pull off mind tricks on the people running the mines.

Somehow, Luke or one of our other heroes found Vima in time to solicit her help fighting the reborn Emperor Palpatine (that part is complicated). Later on she became an instructor at Luke’s new Jedi Academy, seemingly recovered from the despair-induced madness she suffered when she lost her daughter.

The old EU was initially more flexible about Jedi breaking the ban on marriage before the Purge than the new one is. Corran Horn, as we saw yesterday, was descended from a long line of upstart Corellian Jedi. New Jedi Knight Kam Solusar’s father, Jedi Master Ranik Solusar, caused a real upset in the old Jedi Council when he married and fathered Kam, who was old enough to run off into Wild Space rather than die in the Purge or become a Dark Side follower of Palpatine.

And during the years between the Jedi Purge and the Rebellion, there were surviving Jedi like Kanan Jarrus who just plain ignored the ban because it did not matter any more. All of this makes Vima’s descent from a long line of Jedi women rather unsurprising. It was actually one of the things I really liked about the old EU; by the time of the Purge, Jedi were practically banned from marriage. But when Luke’s new Order came on the scene, they could break with that ban because, like the original Jedi Knights millenia ago, they were starting almost from scratch.

I would have been REALLY happy if the writers had kept this aspect of the original EU for the sequel films. It is still mind-boggling to me that they wiped out Luke’s new Jedi Order prior to TFA. What would be wrong with having new Jedi from the books Force-jumping out of drop ships into the melee on Takodana? The writers could have gotten Kyle Katarn, Corran Horn, Kam Solusar, and lots of other cameos into that film and Episode VIII easily in that manner.

But they didn’t do it. *Sigh.*

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The Dark Woman: This Jedi, who wielded a purple lightsaber like Mace Windu and Jaina Solo, was so devoted to the Force that she renounced her very name in its service. A Jedi Master, the Dark Woman trained Ki-Adi-Mundi to Knighthood but failed to take care of future bounty hunter Aurra Sing. Her inability to train Aurra, while not entirely her fault, made her unpopular with the Jedi Council.

Nevertheless, two years after the Battle of Naboo, the Dark Woman took over the training of A’Sharad Hett, the son of the great Jedi Knight Sharad Hett. A’Sharad had been raised among the Tusken Raiders of Tatooine and was Ki-Adi-Mundi’s apprentice until he accidentally brushed the Dark Side. At that point, the Dark Woman stepped in and took over his training.

I do not know how things ended for A’Sharad – I hope he lived to meet Luke at some point in the old EU – but I know that the Dark Woman died on an Outer Rim world shortly before the Battle of Yavin. Rumor has it Mara Jade was the one who located her, but it was unquestionably Darth Vader who killed her. Aurra Sing must have been disappointed, since she had already accepted a contract on the Jedi Master’s life just before Vader found the Dark Woman. Sing joked she would have killed her former master for free, since she was still smoldering over the woman’s perceived abandonment of her years earlier.

The Dark Woman is here primarily because I do not know if she made it into the new timeline. Apart from the fact that she is interesting on her own, I would really like to know if her last apprentice survived the Purge by going back to live with the Tusken Raiders. There would have been a very interesting story there if he had – not to mention another new candidate for Luke’s Academy.

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Tahiri Veila: Like A’Sharad Hett, Tahiri Veila was raised by Tatooine’s Tusken Raiders. They killed her parents on their homestead but, for some reason, the Sand People decided Tahiri was worth keeping around. Luke eventually discovered her and brought her to Yavin IV, where she and Anakin Solo quickly began a Romance Reel. Captured and brutally abused/brainwashed by the Yuuzhan Vong, Tahiri was eventually rescued by Anakin. The two never got past their first kiss; Anakin died a little later in order to destroy creatures the Yuuzhan Vong had designed specifically to hunt Jedi.

This must have really upset Tahiri, since Jacen was later able to take her as his Dark Side apprentice. Even after being redeemed from the Dark Side, Tahiri never went on to become a full Jedi Knight. Instead she became a bounty hunter, which I think was a total waste of her potential by the writers for those stories. Seriously, why didn’t the writers for the new timeline have Tahiri and Anakin married by The Force Awakens? It would have been nice if they had had a child or several children, too.

I have always thought it was highly unfair that the old EU writers never let Leia and Han have more than one grandchild to carry on the Solo name after losing both their boys. It is one of (several) things I had half-hoped the new timeline would correct. Giving Anakin and Tahiri a child would also have prevented her from falling off of the Light Side bandwagon, something else which has always upset me. Truly, readers, I think the destruction of Star Wars began toward the end of the old EU, as will be demonstrated when we look at the next heroine on our list….

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Tionne Solusar: The near-human wife of Jedi Knight Kam Solusar, Tionne could use her voice and music to amplify her Force powers. In the Young Jedi Knights series, Luke liked to cede the floor to her so she could teach his students Jedi history by singing it. According to the books, her voice was spell-binding; listeners did not quite see visions of the past when she played and sang, but neither could they find the heart to interrupt her or take their minds off of whatever lesson she was teaching.

I do not know much about Tionne. She was an under-used heroine in Star Wars long before the new timeline. Recently, I learned that during Jacen Solo’s Dark Side reign, Tionne was killed and mutilated by his forces. Her husband, Kam, was in the same battle. Though he was left for dead, he didn’t die, but I sure don’t envy those who had to tell him about Tionne. And if he saw what was done to her – blogger winces – Good Lord, that was even worse for the two of them.

If this brutal end for Tionne Solusar does not prove that the Star Wars haters had already gotten their talons into the franchise before Disney bought it, I don’t know what does. There was no reason for the authors to murder Tionne like this – none. It was done out of pure spite to the franchise and its fans. That was my big problem with Star Wars from the Yuuzhan Vong War onward; characters were killed off either for shock “value,” to add “gravitas” to the universe (how can you get more grim than “planet destroying, man-made moon”?), or as a way to demoralize and dishearten new readers and old fans.

Everything people are complaining about in the new film trilogy started with the old EU’s Yuuzhan Vong War. This is why I find the new films even more disappointing than most others do; Disney had a chance to clean up the mess the novel writers were making with the new trilogy. But instead of seizing this opportunity with both hands, they let it pass.

There is no excuse for that, readers. None whatsoever.

Moranda Savich: Moranda Savich is the last heroine on this list that I will discuss in detail. A pickpocket and information courier for Talon Karrde’s organization, Moranda played a big role in Vision of the Future, trying to help Wedge Antilles and Corran Horn find out who wanted to sabotage the Bothawui planetary shield generators.

Spunky and sharp, with a whiplash wit and keen mind, I am pretty sure Moranda bit the dust before the book ended. She was a lot of fun, and I was sad to lose her. So having a young Moranda Savich chasing around the galaxy in Rebels at some point would have been great for me. I get the feeling there were a lot of stories behind the old, grandmotherly woman we meet first in Specter of the Past.

Oh, well, what’s done is done, and there is no undoing it now. *Sigh.*

Well, readers, that was a long post, wasn’t it? I am going to finish this article with a list of heroines I do not know enough about just yet. Others I know a little something of, but because they are in a video game (KOTOR), I will let those who are interested pick the program up and play it to encounter them personally.

Right now, I am off to plan my next torture routine – ah, I mean, post. So here are the Honorable Mentions from Star Wars’ very, very lengthy list of heroines. You can look them up at your leisure, or wait for me to get around to writing about them in the future. That will probably be a long wait, though, so you may want to check ‘em out yourselves:

Gaeriel Captison Thanas, Callista, Siri Tachi, Xaverri, Lorana Jinzler, Teneniel Djo, Anja Gallandro, Releqy A’kla, Tash Arranda, Aril Nunb, Lieda Mothma, Sera Faleur Darklighter, Mirith Sinn, Dr. Qwi Xux, Mission Vao, Nomi Sunrider, Vima Sunrider, Jori Daragon, Bastila Shan, Tendra Risant Calrissian, Jysella Horn, Rianna Saren – and many, many more I cannot yet name, but which I hope to know in the future.

May the Force be with you, readers

Spotlight: Star Wars’ Forgotten Heroines, Part 1

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One of my first thoughts when I heard the announcement for the new Star Wars timeline was, “What about all the characters in the old EU? Are they going to bring them back? It should be easy to do – and really cool. Then we could ditch the stupid Yuuzhan Vong War and a lot of the ludicrous events which followed it while keeping all the good stuff.”

Even as I thought that, however, I knew the new owners of Star Wars were not going to do this. It makes a certain amount of sense for them to wipe the slate clean, of course; Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are not young enough to translate the Thrawn Trilogy to the silver screen, and we have already lost Carrie Fisher. It would be foolish to try and film movies where Han and Luke would have to run around like they did in the original trilogy. This I can readily understand and accept.

What I cannot comprehend is the owners’ decision to scrap all the valuable Expanded Universe characters developed through hundreds of Star Wars novels and memorabilia over the last forty years. Marvel has been around almost twice as long as Star Wars and we are still running off to theaters to watch several of their original heroes in action. If Marvel can do this, why couldn’t Star Wars?

None of this is not to say that I wish Rey and Finn were not present in the new Star Wars films, or that we had not had Star Wars Rebels. My only point is that the original timeline, up to the Yuuzhan Vong War, could have been maintained. This would have allowed a new sequel trilogy to be filmed using characters from the Expanded Universe while permitting the additions of Rey, Finn, and the Rebels crew to the canon.

This is most true with regards to the heroines in Star Wars. Many critics are thrilled with all the women being shown in the new films; everyone who is anyone in the big media/academic circles is yowling, “YAY, a galaxy far, far away is now finally run by women!” What they miss (or ignore) is the fact that a galaxy far, far away never actually lacked for strong female characters in the first place.

And yes, I do have proof to back up this assertion. Below is the first half of a list of the heroines who could have been part of the new timeline, if the people in charge of Disney/Lucasfilm had wanted them to remain therein. Along with the biographic information on these heroines, I have included a few words about how the women could have been used in The Force Awakens, Episode VIII, Star Wars Rebels, and Rogue One. First up on this list is none other than…

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Jaina Solo Fel: Han and Leia’s only daughter and oldest child, Jaina was a fun, magnetic, amazing character. Named for her paternal grandmother, Jaina was five minutes older than her twin, Jacen. Described as having her mother’s looks, her father’s confidence, and the family’s innate piloting skills, Jaina was said to have taken after her Uncle Luke the most.

Having read The Crystal Star and two sets of collected Young Jedi Knights stories, I can say that I see the resemblance. Jaina was as beautiful as Leia and had her father’s tendency to overconfidently say things she later regretted, but the member of her family whom she really took after was Luke. Stubborn and strong-willed, she displayed early on a sense of responsibility and idealism that matched her uncle’s. Good with machines and possibly the best of the three Solo children at flying, Jaina eventually achieved the rank of Jedi Knight in the old EU. She also became a member of the prestigious X-wing fighter contingent that her uncle and Wedge Antilles founded: Rogue Squadron.

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Jaina possessed a lightsaber with a purple blade like her aunt, Mara Jade Skywalker. This color of lightsaber, according to the video here, means that the Jedi holding it can use both Light Side and Dark Side techniques without going over fully to the Dark Side. I do not see why the writers behind the new Star Wars trilogy couldn’t have had Jaina shooting down TIEs over Takodana while flirting with Oscar Isaac, who should have been cast as her love interest Jagged Fel, not Poe Dameron.

Now, this does not mean that Rey would have had to be replaced with Jaina; she could have remained the lead character while Jaina could have been a secondary character in the story. Jaina could have been fighting the First Order with the rest of the Jedi and New Republic forces as a Knight and an X-wing pilot while Rey was revealed to be Luke’s long lost daughter or something. Along with Isaac’s character, Fel, Jaina could have been a member of the new Rogue Squadron, with her nickname of “Sticks” being used several times during the dogfights.

Doing this would have allowed other writers to create spin-off films and books focusing on Jaina Solo, broadening the Star Wars franchise and winning new fans for it. I cannot understand why no one in Hollywood thought to keep Jaina and her two younger brothers for the new timeline, since it would have given them so many golden opportunities to (a) tell good stories and, (b) make boatloads of money off of old and new fans. *Sigh.* Oh, well…

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Winter Celchu: Winter was introduced to Star Wars fans in the Thrawn Trilogy. A childhood friend of Leia Organa while the princess was being raised on Alderaan, Winter had long white hair and enough regal bearing that she could easily pass as the X-Man Ororo Munroe/Storm’s sister from another mother.

Growing up with Leia in the palace meant that Winter was often mistaken by visitors for the real Princess of Alderaan. This was because she lacked Leia’s fiery, rambunctious nature. Where Leia would flare up and fight, Winter would stand by and stay quiet, acting more like a model princess than her best friend did. She was a calm woman who never let on what she was thinking to most people. Only Leia could read her accurately ninety percent of the time – and that was without relying on her Force sensitivity!

The one character I know of in Star Wars with a perfect – a.k.a. photographic – memory, Winter went to work for the Rebellion along with Leia. But because of her memory, she rarely engaged the Empire in combat; most of her service was done in acquiring supplies or information for the Rebels. She only had to enter a warehouse or see a file once to remember it clearly for the rest of her life, allowing her to tell the Rebels which crates to grab or to accurately recite the information they needed. Winter had several codenames during this time, but her most famous moniker while she worked in Rebel Supply was Targeter.

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Because of her job in the Rebellion, Winter was not on Alderaan when it was obliterated by the first Death Star. More than any other survivor of that doomed world, however, its destruction pained her constantly. With her infallible memory Winter could recall every detail of her homeworld’s annihilation, along with all her feelings about it and the approximate number of people who were on the planet when it blew. No one ever meant to twist the knife further into her heart by bringing the planet up, but even casual mention of Alderaan would cause a flicker of pain to cross Winter’s face, which was otherwise a mask of tranquility.

When the Rebellion became the New Republic, Winter returned to become Leia’s aide/lady-in-waiting. While fulfilling her duties as an assistant (and secretly recording every conversation or meeting Leia had to sit in on for her), the two maintained their old friendship. When the Solo twins and Anakin were born, Winter fostered them at hidden locations until they were about two years old, so that the children could not be taken and corrupted by Dark Siders or the Empire. For this reason Winter was loved as much by the Solo heirs as by Leia and Han.

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At some point, Winter married fellow Alderaanian survivor and Rebel fighter pilot Tycho Celchu. Tycho flew with Rogue Squadron as late as the Hand of Thrawn Duology, and he may have married Winter because she soothed his heart. Tycho’s fianceé died along with his family on Alderaan, leading him to join the Rebellion. Sometime after Return of the Jedi, he was caught by the Empire, which tortured him in an attempt to break and brainwash him.

Though Tycho never cracked under the pressure and eventually escaped to rejoin the New Republic, no one trusted him for a while. In fact, he was put on trial when his friend and squadron mate, Corran Horn, was shot down by the Empire in such a way that it appeared Tycho had murdered him. Only Corran’s reappearance a little later, alive and unharmed, saved Celchu’s career. The man had a lot of anger issues, which may be why he was paired off with Winter.

While she probably would not have fit into Rogue One, I think Winter could have appeared many times in Star Wars Rebels. Her perfect memory would have provided the Ghost crew with ample help stealing supplies. It would also have been fun to see someone calmer and harder to rattle than Hera sitting beside her in the cockpit during a chase scene. 🙂

Sadly, as far as I know, Winter was thrown out of Star Wars canon when the new timeline was created. Apart from the Thrawn Trilogy, you can find more of her in Timothy Zahn’s novel Scoundrels. There she has a big part and a point of view you can follow along with. She really is a worthwhile character, readers, and I wish they had not removed her when creating the new timeline.

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Mirax Terrik Horn: Mirax was the wife of a former Corellian Security agent and Rogue Squadron pilot Corran Horn. Corran was a Jedi Knight descended from a long line of Corellian Jedi who consistently and repeatedly broke the Order’s ban on marriage without trouble. Mirax Terrik Horn may have been slightly less well-known than her husband in the old EU, but she was no less of a fighter.

It is probable that Mirax never dreamed she would marry Corran, since he was the son of the man who sent her father – smuggler and known Rebel sympathizer Booster Terrik – to the spice mines of Kessel for five years. Booster never thought his daughter would marry Corran, that’s for sure. But when the Force-sensitive Horn began flying with Wedge Antilles and the Rogues, he met and became close to Mirax Terrik.

Outside of the Hand of Thrawn Duology, I have never really “met” Mirax. But from what I have read about her, she struck me as a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails woman who was even more sympathetic to the Rebellion/New Republic than her father. She and Corran married before the Thrawn Trilogy, when he was just beginning to learn about his Jedi heritage. More battles elapsed before he could go back to home to her, so Corran was sincerely looking forward to the peace of being with his wife. This made it a nasty shock when he discovered that, during his absence, Mirax had mysteriously disappeared.

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In order to find her, Corran threw himself into Force training at Luke’s new Jedi Academy on Yavin IV so he could acquire the skills he would need to locate Mirax. Needless to say he was successful in recovering Mirax, and the two went on to live quite happily together, running around the New Republic on separate missions between their times at home. They had two children – a son named Valin, a family name for Corran, and a daughter named Jysella – who followed in their father’s footsteps and became Jedi Knights.

Disney’s erasure of the old EU sadly prevented Dave Filoni from bringing Mirax, Booster, and the rest of their crew into Rebels. I think there would have been plenty of story material for the writers here, as the Ghost crew worked with pirates and smugglers who were actually in the fight more for the cause than for the money. I would have loved to have seen Mirax, Booster, and crew rushing around to help the fledgling Rebellion get up and running in Rebels, dang it, and so would a lot of other people!!! Rrrgh….

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Iella Wessiri Antilles: Iella Wessiri’s career started in Corellian Security. Married to a man named Diric Wessiri, the two were partners with Corran Horn in “CorSec,” and all three were fine agents. They were so fine, in fact, that when Imperial pressure on CorSec became too much for them, they escaped Corellia together and joined the Rebellion.

But unlike Corran, Iella and Diric did not become part of a fighter squadron. I don’t think they even joined the ground troops. No, they put their CorSec training to more immediate use as Rebel/New Republic agents (spies). Wedge Antilles first ran into Iella while undercover in Imperial City, where she was also spying for the nascent New Republic.

If you are wondering how Iella could have married Wedge when she was already married to Diric, it is a heartrending story. Diric and Iella’s jobs for the Rebellion/New Republic often separated them. More to the point, while they were loyal to each other, the fact is that their marriage was not very strong. Their love was not particularly deep, but that did not mean they fooled around with other people (though Iella came close once).

On one of his missions, Diric was captured and brainwashed by Ysanne Isard, the former head of Imperial Intelligence. After this, she had him work against the New Republic he had sacrificed so much to enter. Worst of all, Diric was completely aware of what he was doing while being absolutely unable to stop himself.

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Ysanne “Iceheart” Isard

This situation could not go on, and it didn’t. Diric was eventually ordered to kill an Imperial officer captured by the New Republic – one whom his wife had been assigned to guard. He pulled the mission off, hiding his identity under a hood that prevented Iella from recognizing him. She shot her husband through the heart after he killed the Imperial, discovering her fatal error moments later, when she pulled his hood off.

Iella was naturally distraught and tried to apologize, but Diric used his last breath to thank her for freeing him from Isard’s brainwashing. This meant, naturally, that Iella had quite the bone to pick with “Iceheart,” as Isard was known. When the wannabe Empress tried to retake her captured Star Destroyer/prison-and-brainwashing center, the Lusankya, Iella was waiting for her. She shot Isard dead, bringing the former director of Imperial Intelligence down for good.

After this, Iella kept working for New Republic Intelligence, until she met up with Wedge Antilles again at Adumar. It was during this mission that they decided they were a good match, leading them to tie the knot a little while later. From what I can tell, Iella really loved Wedge. Their marriage was much stronger and better than her marriage to Diric had been. They had two children together, both girls: Syal and Myri, named for Wedge’s older sister and his friend Mirax Terrik Horn.

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Myri was groomed by Iella to follow in her footsteps as an Intelligence officer. She went on to become a freelance investigator who made a fortune gambling daily on the casino deck of Booster Terrik’s ship, the Errant Venture. Meanwhile, Syal followed her father and became a top X-wing pilot. Despite the fact that he could not be around a lot while they were growing up, it appears both girls knew and dearly loved their father. Even after becoming a pilot and serving under Wedge for some time, Syal continued to call him “Daddy” – no matter who was around to hear her do it.

I have not managed to “meet” Iella yet, which really bugs me. If they had been able to include her in Star Wars Rebels I would have been ecstatic; she is an amazing character who could have done a lot with the Ghost crew. I have hoped to run across a story in which she has a part for years, but so far I still have not had that luck. Can anybody point me to a novel or comic book wherein she has a part, please?

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Syal Antilles Fel: Syal was older than Wedge Antilles by ten years. Their parents ran a refueling platform above Corellia, but it was a job that Syal considered boring. So when Wedge was seven years old, she left home – without saying a word to her parents or her brother – to become a holofeature actress. She used the stage name Wynssa Starflare and created quite a career for herself in the holofilm industry, prior to and during the Rebellion era.

This meant, naturally, that she wasn’t home when a CorSec patrol spooked a smuggler who had just pulled up to the family refueling station. Wedge was with family friends Booster and Mirax Terrik that day, so he wasn’t home, either. But he got to watch the smuggler disengage from the station prematurely in order to escape the CorSec patrol, which resulted in the entire complex exploding. Both of Wedge’s parents, Jagged and Zena Antilles, died in the blaze while evacuating people from the platform.

After this, Wedge became a member of the Rebellion while Syal remained an actress. She had intended to return home at some point to visit her family, feeling bad for running out on them with no explanation. But she never got back to apologize to her parents; though the tragedy had little effect on her career, it naturally upset her a great deal. This is probably one of the reasons why she became so devoted to her own husband and children after her marriage.

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Some time before Endor, Syal met Imperial Major and Baron Soontir Fel. The “Red Baron” for the Galactic Empire, Fel’s flying and fighting skills were already legendary when he met his future wife. A year after they first began dating, Fel proposed to Syal, and they got married a little while later. But before they wed she told Fel her true name, adding the fact that she was the sister of a Rebel currently serving in the fight against the Empire’s tyranny.

Instead of telling the Empire about her, Fel helped Syal set up a contingency plan which would allow her to safely disappear if her connection to Wedge should ever be discovered by Imperial authorities. After the Battle of Endor, when Ysanne Isard took over the Empire and allowed corruption to run rampant in the government, “Iceheart” sent Fel and his squadron to defend the Imperial world of Brentaal. It was a hopeless battle for the Imperials and Fel knew it. His paramount sense of duty, however, led him to fly the mission anyway.

Fel’s squadron was decimated in the fighting, and he himself was finally shot down by his brother-in-law’s fighter squadron. The Rogues took him into custody only for him to say something along the lines of, “You can’t capture me – I’m joining you!”

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The minute Fel switched sides, Syal went into hiding with their two sons, Davin and Chak. They fled moments before Ysanne Isard’s agents could grab them in order to use them against the Baron. Fel and the Rogues spent ages working to find her and the boys, which they eventually managed to do. This allowed Wedge a chance to get to know the sister he barely remembered, since his parents did not want to discuss Syal after she left.

Unfortunately, their brother/sister reunion was short-lived. Syal’s husband proved to be such an annoyance to Isard that she went to Thrawn and asked him to get the Baron out of her hair. Thrawn wanted Fel’s tactical genius and flying skills for his own reasons, so he formed the plan Isard used to eventually capture the legendary pilot.

With Thrawn’s help, Fel then arranged to have Syal join him in the Unknown Regions. The two went on to have six – yes, six – children together. The oldest were Davin and Chak; then came Jagged, who was named for his maternal grandfather. Jagged eventually married Jaina Solo in the old EU and became the head of what remained of the original Empire. His descendants maintained control of the Empire for three generations after his and Jaina’s reign.

It makes no sense to me why Jagged, Jaina, and their marriage were not kept for the new Star Wars films. Keeping this relationship in the universe would have allowed for an abundance of stories for the Antilles, Solos, and Fels, along with a lot of material for Rebels. It would also have been interesting – and fun – to watch Hera matching her skill with Soontir Fel’s. That guy could fly!

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Shada D’ukal undercover in the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Shada D’ukal: Alongside the Noghri and the Mandalorians, in the old EU there is a lesser known – but no less impressive – warrior group that is made up entirely of women, as far as I know. Hailing from the burned out world of Emberlene, the Mistryl Shadow Guards work as bodyguards and assassins in order to feed and clothe the millions of refugees who scrape by amidst the ruins of their destroyed homeworld.

Shada appears briefly toward the end of The Last Command, but she has a much bigger role in the Hand of Thrawn Duology, and gets a few mentions in Survivor’s Quest as well. Her first appearance, however, is in one of the short story collections under the lable Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina. I have never read those – but that doesn’t mean I do not know how Shada’s history with the Rebellion predates our glimpse of her in The Last Command. 😉

In the Thrawn trilogy, Shada had just begun her bodyguard assignment to a smuggler chief named Mazzic. Apparently the Eleven (the rulers of Emberlene and the commanders of the Mistryl), thought Mazzic’s organization would bring them more opportunites in the future. Shada did her duty and stuck by the man for twelve years, despite the fact that she hated the fringe in general and, by the Hand Duology, believed that she had wasted the past dozen years of her life in service to a crook.

None of this meant, however, that she wanted him to be murdered. So when her old friend and fellow Guard, Karoly D’ulin, caught her taking up a position to protect her employer while he cut a deal with another smuggler, Shada was surprised and suspiscious. She went from suspicion to disappointment when Karoly explained that Mazzic was no longer her concern, then added that he wouldn’t be anyone’s problem in a little bit. Turns out, Shada’s old partner and a number of other Mistryl had been hired to help kill Mazzic.

Unlike the rest of her fellow Guards, though, Shada still believed in right and wrong. She defeated Karoly and killed the assassin, saving Mazzic’s life. But this act of justice and honor put her in the Eleven’s crosshairs, since doing the right thing meant she had defied their direct orders. Disobedience only had one punishment in the new Mistryl order: death.

Shada is a very interesting character. Though cynical and jaded, she did not lose her firm appreciation for principle and her determination to be virtuous. Even after twelve years “wasted” serving a no-good smuggler, Shada continued to believe in the values which first attracted her to the Mistryl’s service twenty years prior. She does not abide by wrongdoing or vengeance, even when it could save her life.

And boy, can she kick butt, readers!

If you want to know more about Shada D’ukal, pick up Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina or the Hand of Thrawn Duology today. I wish the writers for Rebels or Clone Wars had included the Mistryl in some of their stories. This is an organization I want to know much, much more about!

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Tenel Ka Djo: Tenel Ka hails from two original EU cultures which are matriarchal, but that’s about the only similarity between them. The daughter of Prince Isolder from the Hapes Consortium and the Dathomirian Force-witch Teneniel Djo, Tenel Ka was technically a princess of higher galactic standing than Leia Organa Solo. The Hapes Consortium, a matriarchy run by their Queen Mother, consisted of sixty-three planets. That’s right; I said planets – sixty-three (63) of ‘em. Everything important on these worlds was run by women. Men were second class citizens/slaves in the Consortium.

That was roughly the same case on the primitive world of Dathomir, which in the old EU books is entirely different from the one seen in The Clone Wars TV show. In the original Star Wars EU, Dathomirians were close enough to human that you could not tell the difference between them on sight. In fact, the original Dathomirians were probably fully human. They were also able to use the Force to tame the Rancors that lived on their world so they could use them as war mounts. Yeah, they were a very tough bunch. 😉

Dathomir in the old EU was run by matriarchy, as it was in The Clone Wars. But in the old EU, not all the Force-sensitive Witches on Dathomir were Dark Siders. Only the Nightsisters specifically used the Dark Side. The rest of the witches were either Light Side users or they did not tap into either side of the Force enough to qualify as servants of the Light or the Dark side.

Tenel Ka would never have been born if, five years after Endor, Leia Organa had not traveled to Hapes to negotiate their entrance into the New Republic. Having grown apart from Han Solo at that time, she opened the negotiations with the Queen Mother’s younger and only surviving son, Prince Isolder. Isolder grew fond enough of Leia that he was about to propose marriage to her when a jealous Han Solo intervened. He kidnapped Leia and ran off, Prince Isolder hot on his heels. The three ended up lost on Dathomir not long after this, where Han’s harebrained scheme to rewin Leia’s affections actually worked. The two were married not long after this.

Before that happened, though, Luke followed the three of them to Dathomir and was “captured” by Teneniel Djo. On Dathomir, when a woman “captured” a man, she did not just physically detain him. That was usually a precursor to marrying said man! Luke managed to wriggle out of this trap when Isolder somehow arrived. It was love at first sight (or something like that) for Isolder and Teneniel, and he took her back to Hapes. He then had to put his foot down when his mother, the Queen, tried to talk him out of the match. (Not an easy thing for a man to do in a matriarchy, that’s for sure.)

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You now have some idea of Tenel Ka’s origins. The product of two matriarchies with radically different technological levels, Tenel had the deadpan attitude of Hapan royalty mixed with the fierce strength and warrior spirit of her mother’s homeworld. She split her childhood between Hapes and Dathomir, adopting the customs of her mother’s people rather than her father’s. She liked to wear a lizard scale shirt and pants and she wore her red hair in elaborate Dathomirian braids. When she went to Luke’s Jedi Academy on Yavin IV, Tenel would do calisthenics in the morning before going indoors to listen to the latest lesson.

Jaina and Jacen fell in with Tenel when they arrived on Yavin, and it was soon apparent to anyone with eyes that the older Solo boy was head over heels in love with the princess. He would tell bad pun jokes in her presence to try to make Tenel loosen up and smile, since she kept herself outwardly impassive. For her part, Tenel kept her royal heritage a secret from the twins and their other friend, Chewbacca’s nephew Lowbacca, up until the four built their first lightsabers. Tenel took some shortcuts in the manufacturing process, which allowed her saber’s blade to die in the middle of her practice fight with Jacen. As a result, he accidentally cut off her left arm above the elbow.

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Tenel was immediately rushed home to Hapes to be outfitted with a cyborg prosthetic, which she Force-fully refused once the shock finally wore off. She got by, as far as I know, with her left arm ending in a stump for the rest of her life. Tenel Ka eventually made a new lightsaber with a turquoise blade and learned to use that effectively with only one hand.

Years later, after the Yuuzhan Vong War, Jacen and Tenel Ka finally became an item. This resulted in Tenel giving birth to a daughter, Allana, about the time Jacen went over to the Dark Side. He redeemed himself somewhat after his death by appearing to Tenel as a Force ghost, screaming a warning about a poison someone had set off to kill both her and Allana. Tenel and their daughter escaped the poison, but she decided that the life of a Hapan heir was no life for Allana. Before the old timeline was cut off, their daughter was living happily aboard the Millennium Falcon with her grandparents, Leia and Han Solo. To date, she is the only grandchild I know they had by either of their sons in the old EU.

I don’t see why the writers didn’t keep Jacen’s descent into the Dark Side a part of the new timeline. That way, instead of having Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, we could have had Jacen Solo/Kylo Ren. Tenel could have appeared in Episode VIII with the Hapan navy to help the Resistance/New Republic forces escape the First Order. Like in the books, the writers could have had her give Allana to her grandparents for safekeeping, as they all did their best to keep the New Republic from burning down around everyone’s ears. But unfortunately that is a story for an alternate universe, not for this one.

Whew! Well, readers, I am wiped. Tomorrow I will come back to finish telling you about the some other heroines from the original Star Wars timeline. I really, truly do not understand why Disney’s leaders condemned them to “Legendary” status for the rest of time; they could have gotten so much mileage out of these heroines, inside and outside of the new film trilogy…..

Oh, well, what’s done is done. Until tomorrow, readers, may the Force be with you all!

A Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens – More or Less

Good day, Star Wars fans! Well, I got to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens some time back. This post is way overdue, huh? I know it is, but life is like that. Some things take a little extra work before they are presentable. This post is one of those things.

The Force Awakens was better than I had expected it to be. While I do not like the film nearly as much as I enjoy the original trilogy, I did like it more than the three prequels we saw ten years and more ago.

That being said, like some people, I had a few issues with The Force Awakens. Not just the fact that the previous films were a complete set already (Lucas has been promising us a much longer saga for years), once Disney bought Lucasfilm, they would have been stupid not to run with its storylines. It was not necessarily something I was looking forward to – it was more something I could understand them doing. They bought a money-making machine. Why on Earth would they not run with it?

And I have to admit, I kind of missed having Star Wars in the theaters. Marvel, Star Trek, and the other franchises can only fill so many holes in the modern cinemas, after all.

While I do not think Disney did a bad job with The Force Awakens, it is possible that they could have done better with it than they did. Below I will endeavor to get the issues I have with the film out of the way, before going on to what was enjoyable in the movie.

WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW! Read at your own risk!

First up, Kylo Ren. Why in the galaxy did Leia and Han name him Ben?!? Han and Leia were not that friendly with Obi-Wan Kenobi – Luke was!!! That is why his son in the books was named Ben! Now I am not saying the writers should have called the Solo heir Anakin – that is just poor imagination. Even the Expanded Universe writers waited to do that. But, come on, did they have to use Ben?!?! Jacen was a viable option, was it not?! If not, there were other alternatives, people!!! Ugh!

Second – who cast Adam Driver as Han and Leia’s son? He looks nothing like either of them!!! I can forgive the long hair, but he has the wrong face! How in the name of the Force can he play their son?!? They should have been able to find someone in Hollywood who looked like Leia or Han – and could play the part as well!!!

BB-8 was more impressive than I thought he would be, admittedly. Since he is positioned to take R2-D2’s place, I was quite prepared to hate him. However, “Billiard Ball” 8 managed himself quite well. The scene where he is rolling down the staircase in Maz Kanata’s castle is especially good. I admit that R2 could not have done that. However, I will not, under any circumstances, accept this Wookiee soccer ball with a head as a viable replacement for R2-D2. R2 is my favorite droid, and I will not be swayed to love BB-8 more than I enjoy R2. So there!!!

How can Ben Solo be a Dark Side user and not a Sith? Is he like the Dark Side Adepts – strong with the Dark Side, but unable to become a full-fledged Sith Lord? If that is the case, then no wonder he is not as powerful as Vader! The Sith were always more powerful than the Adepts. Everybody – inside and outside of the Star Wars universe – knows THAT!!!

Who – and what – is Supreme Leader Snoke? Seriously, they could have just made him a creepy old bald human in dark robes, and that would have been enough. Andy Serkis is terrifying in his role, but his character looks more like a monstrous, damaged version of Gollum than somebody new to the Star Wars mythos. Knowing our luck, he will probably be an alien who is smaller than Yoda when we get a good look at the real Snoke later on.

And that speech of General Hux’s before he blew up the New Republic Senate and the Hosnian system? LAME!!! They went too far with the Nazi nods for the First Order. Honestly, we will hate them no matter how they are dressed up, or what they say they believe! They are the heirs to the Empire – the bad guys!!! Their whole purpose in the films is to be hated!!! Do the writers not understand that?!?!?

To quote Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang: “AUGGHHH!!!!”

And we have another super weapon capable of causing galactic destruction in this trilogy…? It was not that bad, as super weapons go, but really? I mean REALLY?!? *Smacks forehead and whimpers in exasperation.* I never liked this trope, even when they did it in the books. Do Star Wars writers really need to revisit this story gimmick over and over again? Bad enough we had the Sun Crusher device in the novels, now we have Starkiller Base! *Slaps forehead on the desk several times, moaning in aggravation.*

(Okay, yeah, I am not going to damage my desk. But you get the idea!)

Now we come to Rey. I have mixed feelings about her Force usage in this film. I can buy her having a Force vision in Maz Kanata’s cantina castle after touching Luke’s lightsaber – you do not need training to have Force visions. And I can buy her having Force-dreams about the island where Luke is hiding, since you do not need training for those, either.

I can even buy her resisting Kylo Ren’s mind probe. The novelizations for the original trilogy hint that Leia’s ability to resist Darth Vader’s interrogation was possible in part because she instinctively used the Force in a small way. This hint is not exclusive to new novelizations of the old films; the original novelizations included this speculation as well. So, thinking about it, I can actually acquiesce to Rey’s ability to tell Kylo to butt out of her brain and her ability to keep him out. Her getting a glimpse into his mind in the process is also something I can buy, after a little thought on the matter. When she pushed him out of her head, she probably pushed into his mind in the process.

Rey pulling off a Jedi mind trick on the trooper guarding her – that takes a little too much suspension of disbelief. One could say that, as a scavenger, Rey has trained herself to pick up and learn skills fast in order to survive. And at least they had her fail to trick the trooper twice before she managed to pull it off properly. Still, this incident seems to have been added to the film solely to make her the Amazon warrior who can save herself. She does not have to wait to be rescued, like the damsel in distress, but can rescue herself. All well and good… but she could just as effectively have gotten out of her situation with a feigned medical emergency. This would get the trooper to open her restraints, allowing her to grab his blaster and bludgeon him with it.

Problem solved. 😉

Instead the writers had her use a Jedi mind trick to get out, something an untrained Force-user should not be able to do. Ezra Bridger, the fifteen year old hero of Star Wars Rebels, who is still training, took a long time to learn how to pull off a mind trick!

The writers really should have done this scene differently. It was cute to see the trooper drop his gun on the floor at her command, but continuity wise, her ability to pull off a Jedi mind trick after accepting her Force-sensitivity is rather suspicious. Did they actually confirm that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One in the prequels? ‘Cause if they did not, then that prophesied position might just belong to Rey at this rate!

As for Rey Force-grabbing the lightsaber and her skill with the weapon later on, that is easily explained, even if it is not a satisfactory explanation. One can do many things when she makes a concentrated effort at it, which explains how Rey called the lightsaber to her. (And it was “calling” to her, so that might have had something to do with it, too.)

As for her “skill” with the lightsaber, we see early in the movie that Rey is good with a quarterstaff. Staff fighting and sword fighting actually have a lot in common, according to a friend of mine who saw the movie with me. This means that, after a while, Rey can figure out the rudiments of lightsaber fighting. Her switch from defense to offense after she “opens herself to the Light” side of the Force, while not extremely satisfying or believable, is meant to be reminiscent of Luke’s letting go and trusting his feelings when he fired the torpedoes that destroyed the Death Star in A New Hope.

This explains Rey’s switch from defense to offense; her skill with a quarterstaff explains her ability to defend herself with the lightsaber in the first place. Not a perfect answer, but… *Shrug.* As a final note on this subject, Daisy Ridley’s stunt trainers need to work on her choreography – or they should get her a new outfit without tassels that can get in the way and trip her up. Some of her footwork in that duel with ‘Kilo’ looked too slow to match his attacks. It was obvious he was waiting for her to get back up and turn to fight him a couple of times. Not something you want in a film like this.

One last issue I have with Rey is this: the way her name is spelled is wrong. Rey is Spanish for king; the way it is spelled, her name should be a boy’s name (tell me that does not seem suspicious and silly to you). Rae, the feminine form of the name, would have been a better and more proper spelling for the writers to use. But they did not do this.

I found Kylo Ren’s temper tantrums completely scoff-worthy. The kid loses his temper far too easily. He is right to be afraid of not living up to Vader’s legacy. Darth Vader, even when we saw him as an apprentice in The Clone Wars, was more intimidating and deadly than ‘Kilo’ Ren. Ren’s just a whiney crybaby who breaks stuff when he cannot get what he wants. Yeah. I have seen four year olds do that, too. Totally scary. *Insert eye roll here.*

Of course, the point of these tantrums is in part to show that Ren is simply a Vader wannabe. He is not Darth Vader – he is not even a Sith! His heart’s not really in it, not the way Anakin’s was. Ren is an open and shut case of the quintessential copycat. He is fascinated with the power of the Force and his grandfather’s use of it. He wants that power and to be feared like his grandfather, and he wants it yesterday.

Whoop-dee-doo, I am so scared. (NOT!!!) Can I please haul off and slap this kid? He needs some sense knocked into him.

And did anyone get a look at that dress Leia was wearing at the end of the film? Ow, it resembled one of Padmé Amidala’s dresses!!! For some reason, seeing Leia wearing that dress just hurt. I do not know why, but I hated it. It seemed so wrong on her. That was not the type of dress she would wear. Why not put her in something more her style than her mother’s? Ouch….

Poe Dameron did not come out so well in the later scenes in the movie. In contrast, Finn actually did pretty well. He seems to have been handed Han’s role from the original films. In the original trilogy, Han was the one who wanted to run out on the Rebellion. In this film, Finn is terrified of the First Order and wants to disappear into the galaxy’s dregs to escape it. The interplay between him, Han, and Chewie was some of the funniest and best in the movie.

Speaking of our “scruffy-looking,” nerf-herding rogue, Han had some great time in this film. It was wonderful to have him, Chewie, the Millennium Falcon, Leia, and Luke back. And it was awful when ‘Kilo’ Ren killed him.

Something about that scene makes me think it did not need to happen. I suspected the writers would begin killing off the original characters in this new trilogy, but I thought for sure Luke would be the one to die in The Force Awakens. I was probably not the only one who thought this, which means that, to be unpredictable, the writers decided Han should be killed first.

All I have to say about this is – ow, Ow, OW, OW!!! I read spoilers on the film for a friend not long after the movie came out, expecting to find that Luke had died. So when I learned it was Han who was killed, the news was something of a shock. I never realized how much affection I had for our cocky smuggler until the news that he had died came out. I almost broke down and cried on the spot.

This part of the film – pardon my uncouth language, readers – really sucked. I am glad that Chewie shot ‘Kilo’ in the side and that Rey slashed him across the face, not to mention put a hole in his shoulder. Let him bear the wounds for the shameful atrocity he committed!

And I have a warning for the writers of the film: they had better watch their shins. There is someone I know who wants to “put a foot to J.J. Abrams’ shin” for Han’s death. Myself, knocking Ben Solo down and beating him up very badly is a more appealing option. Failing that, I hereby challenge J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Simon Kinberg to each dump a BIG bucket of icy water over their heads. It is the least they can do in penance for killing Han!

Ranting and personal feelings aside, the scene was a poignant one for Han, who showed Ben he loved him no matter what he did. Ben came out the loser in that conflict – as he did in his fight with Rey, and the destruction of Starkiller Base. Some Vader he is turning out to be!! *Add derogatory snort here.*

Now we come to the parts of the film I enjoyed and promised to talk about above. Rey is a very interesting character. We do not know her last name as yet, and her history is barely given the light of day in the movie. We know she was left on Jakku and grew up there on her own, scavenging parts from downed Imperial and Republic ships in order to survive.

But who would leave their child on such a world? This is not something we have seen in the Star Wars mythos before. Luke and Leia were hidden on Tatooine and Alderaan, as Rey was apparently hidden on Jakku. But they each had guardians to love and care for them. Rey, in contrast, was left to fend for herself.

That does not sit well with the previous stories in the Star Wars’ saga. From what we can see, Rey’s heritage is related to the original trilogy somehow. She is Force-sensitive, and that is not an accident. Hints are scattered throughout the movie that she is somehow related to Han, Leia, and Luke. But the clues are proposed in such a way that we cannot be sure just how she is related to them.

‘Kilo’ mentions while interrogating Rey that she considers Han to be the father she never had. Rey learned to be a pilot by using a simulator she scavenged from a downed Y-wing; she learned the droid language (binary), and Wookiee tongue from a translator device she repaired. Besides these languages, Jakku’s populace uses many different languages, which Rey is well versed in, too. Wookiees sometimes dropped by Niima Outpost while she was growing up, and she had experience talking to them. That was where she heard stories about the Rebellion, Han and Chewie, Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader.

The point here is that her skill flying the Falcon and her knowledge of machinery seem to point to her being Han and Leia’s daughter. At the same time, though, she is drawn to and makes use of Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. Not to mention she refers to the Falcon as garbage, a notable homage to Luke’s description of it as a “piece of junk” in A New Hope. She also grew up on a desert world, and she puts on an X-Wing pilot’s helmet near the beginning of the movie. We all know that neither Leia nor Han flew an X-Wing!! Plus, Rey “opens herself” to the Force to beat ‘Kilo’ Ren, the way Luke made use of the Force to destroy the first Death Star in A New Hope.

Also, Rey has green (others say hazel) eyes. Han and Leia both have brown eyes, as did Padmé Amidala. Shmi Skywalker’s eyes were brown, but Anakin and Luke both had/have blue eyes…

Mara Jade, notably, had green eyes. If they bring her into the new Star Wars timeline (and since Mara was the only Expanded Universe character who ever made it into the top twenty favorite Star Wars characters’ list, I think they would be nuts not to bring her back), then she might have married, or at least fallen in love with Luke in this new timeline as well.

In which case, Rey’s mother may be/may have been Mara Jade, and she left their daughter on Jakku to keep her safe. Add to this the fact that when Maz says the belonging Rey desires is not behind her but before her, Rey responds by saying Luke’s name. All at once you have a very convincing case that argues the heroine of The Force Awakens could be the new Skywalker in this trilogy.

This suspicion is only compounded by her meeting with Luke on the island on Ahch-To. Luke was not at all surprised to see Rey. He looked like he was seeing someone he had expected to see for a long time. And he looked like it made him happy while at the same time it caused him enormous pain. (And did anybody else notice the headstone-like rock at his feet? Oooh! Is it Han’s or Mara’s, I wonder?)

Now, all of this is pure conjecture, readers. We have no idea how Rey is related to the Solo-Skywalker clan. We only know that she is related to them, somehow, some way. Her use of Luke’s old lightsaber is the proof of the pudding. Whether she is a stolen or hidden daughter/niece, she is related to Luke Skywalker and Anakin before him. That much we can be absolutely certain of. The rest will be revealed as Luke’s and Leia’s heritage was in the first trilogy: bit by aggravating bit.

Let’s try not to grind our teeth while we wait, shall we?

On the subject of pluses for The Force Awakens, as I stated before, Finn was a winning character. Though the scenes which suggest he is falling in love with Rey – and she with him – occasionally seemed forced and flat (to me), their friendship was definitely genuine. And Finn got some of the best lines in the movie, such as when he mentions that Chewie has nearly killed him six times. Chewie’s response is to grab him and roar in his face, making Finn say, “Which is fine!” John Boyega has a real sense of fun, and he obviously made the most of the part given to him in The Force Awakens.

Speaking of great lines, Han was the other character who got grand zingers and dialogue in this film. This is no surprise – in the original trilogy, he was always shooting his mouth off in an endearing, funny way. It was a real pleasure to see him and the Falcon again. It only got better when he reunited with his wife. He and Leia had some great moments together, such as when Han says, “I’m only trying to help…”

“When has that ever helped?” Leia retorts tartly, adding, “And don’t say the Death Star!”

Oh, it is so good to have them back, if only for a little while!!! I missed the original heroes sooo much over the years – I never realized just how much I actually wanted to see them onscreen again!

Leia herself seemed more tired than anything in The Force Awakens. But the nice thing is how readily she and Han got back together. Even after all the pain they have been through, those two still love each other. The way they forgave each other for splitting up was good, considering how badly things ended up for them.

Maz Kanata was also a real winner. She is not only a Force-sensitive voice of wisdom; she has a sense of humor! After a thousand years of living, watching evil come and go, that is no mean feat!! I liked her a lot more than I thought I would.

And of course, we have X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon back!! YEAH-HOO!!! I have ached to see those ships again!!!

Oh, and we cannot forget Chewie! That “walking carpet” is a great big teddy bear (with a temper) and almost all Star Wars fans love him to bits! It is so nice that he is not dead in this timeline!!!

There are just a few more things I have to mention before I sign off here. One, though Rey never changes her desert garb until the end of the movie (at which point she simply exchanges it for a grey getup of the exact same style), she really was not given a chance to get changed until then. Even Han barely had time to get a jacket before heading out to Starkiller Base.

However, Finn came through in the pinch. He gave Rey the jacket Poe let him keep. It was a nice touch – maybe chivalry is not dead after all. It is hardly Finn’s fault that Rey took the jacket off at some point and gave it back to him. (Can a few more guys in the movies be that thoughtful of the girls? It would be great to see more scenes where the guy treats the girl like she is worth a million dollars!) Admittedly, seeing her breath steaming up or a few shivers would have at least let us know she was dealing with the cold.

As for Ren’s ability to read the minds of others against their will, that is a tactic straight out of the now non-canon Expanded Star Wars Universe. However, the whole problem with making the Expanded Universe non-canon is that it took around thirty years to build it up in the first place. Scrapping all that work and building from the ground up again will take way too much time.

Plus, the Expanded Universe stories are extremely popular. Mara Jade’s solid fan base (which includes me), is confirmation of this. The stories may now be non-canon, but Disney knows that making a whole new universe from scratch will cost them a lot of time and money… and they know that Star Wars fans are heavily invested in what has come before. Why waste precious time and money making “a new universe” (to quote Erik Selvig), when they can simply pilfer from the treasure hoard of the Expanded Universe, tweaking it to fit the new timeline they are making?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series already did this – though they were operating off of canon novels at the time. They brought Force-sensitive bounty hunter Aurra Sing into the series from the novels. The TV show also featured the Force-sensitive witches of Dathomir, specifically the Dark Side sect of Adepts known as the Nightsisters. These were mentioned extensively in the original Expanded Universe. Dathomirian witch Teneniel Djo married Prince Isolder of the Hapes Consortium and had a daughter with him, Tenel Ka. Tenel Ka became a Jedi Knight and Jacen Solo’s girlfriend, eventually giving birth to their daughter, Allana.

Rebels (which serves a similar purpose to The Clone Wars), is following the same pattern, albeit they are pulling things from stories that are now non-canon. There are creatures and weapons that come directly from the Expanded Universe in the show. Characters may follow as well – Agent Kallus, the ISB agent hunting the Ghost crew in the series, was almost a Chiss warrior before the writers decided he should be a Human. And there were rumors running around for a while that the writers might bring Grand Admiral Thrawn in during Rebels’ third season. (That would be interesting, to say the least!)

The writers had already set a precedent for this by adding Inquisitors to the Rebels series. The Inquisitors were also part of the pre-original Star Wars trilogy Expanded Universe novels. Dark Side Adepts working for the Emperor, their purpose was to hunt down stragglers from the Jedi Purge and Force-sensitive youths or infants. They would destroy the stragglers and the children who refused to turn in the books, while taking the infants to mold as future Inquisitors – something the Dark Side users in Rebels are doing as well.

Is this cheating? Yes, in a way. Is this contemptible, underhanded treatment of the fans? Some will find it so. But it makes money, as well as keeps a full-blown riot from hitting the fan and ruining Disney and Lucasfilm’s bottom lines. And the writers for Rebels and the new trilogy love Star Wars as much as the fans. They will want to salvage as much from the “Legends” novels as they can, because they like it as much as the fans do.

It is also, basically, the only thing they, Lucasfilm, and Disney can do. They cannot make films from the novels. Even the Legacy novels and comics, which were opening up new territory for the Expanded Universe (some of it rather bizarre for Star Wars), are things they could not film. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill are not able to run around and do that kind of legwork anymore. It is too hard for them.

Hamill has been voice acting since at least the 1990s. This is the first time he has been in front of a camera in years. (As far as this writer is aware, anyway.) Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford have kept in front of the camera, but Ford is the only one now who is still capable of running around and shooting people up. How much longer that will last, we do not know. Disney does not know, either; and they cannot take chances with an acquisition as big and lucrative as Star Wars is. This meant that they had to make the books non-canon. But they still own the rights to these novels – and that means they can filch from them any time they want.

This handicap also means that they had no choice but to remake Star Wars IV: A New Hope when they wrote the script for The Force Awakens. There was no other way to get kids who never saw the prequels and who may never have seen the original trilogy interested in the franchise.

Could they have made The Force Awakens a less politically correct remake of A New Hope? Absolutely. This is nothing against Finn or Rey, but the fact is this political correctness was not needed to revitalize the story. The writers could have made as good a film – or a better one – without all the political posturing. The first three films did it, the prequels avoided it (more or less?), and The Force Awakens could have done it.

However, Disney has done what it has done. J.J. Abrams has reinvigorated the series as best he could, the way he did with the Star Trek film franchise. (Don’t worry, I am not rescinding my ice bucket challenge to him! I am simply according him the credit that is his due – little as it may be in the eyes of some.)

Does that make The Force Awakens and the new saga perfect?

Nope.

Is it still enjoyable?

Yes… more or less.

However, until episodes VIII and IX somehow manage to blow The Force Awakens out of the water, I will stick with the original trilogy, Star Wars Rebels, and the non-canon novels. I enjoy them more than The Force Awakens – so far. I am not averse to going to the theaters to see the new Star Wars films, but I do not yet like them as much as these older stories. And the fact is that this attitude may not change.

Well, readers, this is my long-winded opinion of the opening salvo for the new Star Wars saga. Take it or leave it, as you like. Until next time –

The Force will be with you, always!

The Mithril Guardian

Star Wars’ First “Spark of Rebellion”

Hey there, Star Wars fans!  Strap into your X-wings, grab your blasters, and hang on to your lightsabers, because today’s subject is Disney’s animated series Star Wars Rebels!

I had intended to write a post about this series not long after it aired. But, with so few episodes played on television, I feared that doing so would be premature. I still wanted to write about the series, but I thought it best to see the first season through before I said anything in favor of – or in protest against – Star Wars Rebels.

Now that the first season of the show has run its course, I am free to unleash my opinions about it. To start this post off, if you have not seen the series, here is the main cast of Rebels:

Ezra Bridger: Ezra is a street boy from the capitol city of Lathol, an Outer Rim planet, who is also Force-sensitive. Physically designed to look like Aladdin, but somewhat younger (fourteen at the beginning of the show, fifteen from the middle of the first season onward), he makes his living as a minor pickpocket who is not averse to stealing bits and pieces from Imperial officers. He is particularly fond of stealing Stormtrooper helmets, and is quite willing to pull pranks on the Imperials – when there is no chance of their realizing that he is behind the prank, that is.

In Rebels’ first episodes/introductory film, Ezra falls in with a small band (you can count their number on one hand) of rebels who regularly cause trouble for the Empire. Though Ezra at first has no intention of staying with the crew for very long, he soon becomes fond of them and joins the gang permanently.

 

Kanan Jarrus: Originally called Caleb Dume, he took on the name Kanan Jarrus after the fall of the Jedi, probably because his real name was on the roll of Jedi known to have been in the Order at the time of the Clone Wars.

Kanan was the apprentice of Jedi Master Depa Billaba, but his training was cut short when Order 66 was implemented. He was fourteen when he saw his Master killed by Clone troopers. Following her order to “Run,” he disappeared into the galaxy, letting his Force skills atrophy to nearly nothing and burying his past as a Jedi in the same drawer where he kept his lightsaber, becoming a fair shot with a blaster as a result.

Joining up with the pilot of the Rebels’ band, Kanan became the gang’s leader. Smart, cocky, and ready with a snappy comeback or piece of battle banter, Kanan’s Jedi history was a secret known only to his crew. Until the group had to save a band of Wookies in the opening film for the series, the Imperials were none the wiser of his existence, let alone his heritage.

Kanan’s past as a Jedi meant that he recognized Ezra’s Force-sensitivity fairly quickly. Knowing that sooner or later the kid could get caught and what the Empire would do to him once they discovered his connection to the Force, Kanan offered to train Ezra in the ways of the Jedi. This left him uneasy, however, since his own training was incomplete and he had avoided being a Jedi for some time. Now, he and Ezra are learning about the Force in concert, and Kanan has been told that this is his last chance to be a Jedi. If he fails now, he and Ezra are both toast.

 

Hera Syndulla: A Twi’lek and pilot of the rebels’ ship, the Ghost, Hera is the mother figure for the crew. Down-to-earth, firm, but also warm and kind, Hera keeps the rebels centered. She rarely loses her temper, but when she does, duck. She has a good right hook, and should not be underestimated in hand-to-hand combat. Hera’s friendship with Kanan may be more than a friendship, as she will refer to him as either “dear” or “love” from time to time. She seconds for him in almost every situation and he backs up her motherly discipline or decisions, as well as taking her advice on how he should deal with Ezra. Her piloting skills are just below Han’s as far as I can tell. Hera is the first member of the Ghost’s crew to take a real shine to Ezra.

Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios: A former Lasat honor guard from Lasan, Zeb is one of the few Lasats left in the galaxy, since the Empire forcibly “cleared” his homeworld for colonization. Gruff and grumpy, but a loyal friend once you earn his respect, Zeb is the team’s muscle. He is not your average heavy-hitter; he thinks when he gets into a fight and can come up with lots of clever maneuvers in battle. He hates the Empire for killing most of his people and forcing the survivors off Lasan. On a lighter note, though, Zeb also enjoys beating up Stormtroopers. Every chance he gets, Zeb smacks their heads together. He says something about the feel of their helmets just makes it more fun.

 

Sabine Wren: A sixteen year old girl from Mandalore, Sabine has some serious fighting skills for her age. She also enjoys blowing things up. Just how she joined up with the rebels we do not yet know, but apparently she went to the Imperial Academy on Mandalore and “it was a nightmare.”

Sabine seems to fill the daughter role in the crew, as both Hera and Kanan treat her more gently than they do Zeb and Ezra. Zeb usually partners with her in a fight, acting in an older brotherly-fashion toward her and making her safety his priority. Ezra has a crush on her. (Don’t laugh; it worked for Anakin and Padmé!) Sabine is also an artist. She is especially good at graffiti. She regularly spray paints Imperial hardware, and the phoenix symbol the rebels occasionally leave behind after a mission is her specialty. Her Mandalorian armor and even her blasters are painted as well.

Chopper: Chopper is Hera’s cranky C1-10P astromech droid. Cantankerous and a grumbler, Chopper is willing to pull pranks on every male member of the crew. Kanan is rarely the butt of his mischief; for the most part, that is directed toward Zeb and Ezra. Chopper is almost always in a bad mood; he only lowers his grumbling for Hera and Sabine. The guys get it with force, enthusiasm and, when the situation calls for it, volume. Chopper is not the friendliest astromech you are ever going to meet; the creators have apparently said that, “If R2- D2 is your favorite dog, then Chopper’s a cat.” He’s the grumpy grandpa of the gang. Where you can make a fuss over R2, Chopper would probably zap you for almost no reason at all.

 –

Okay, with the character list out of the way, we can get to the really important stuff. Initially, I was not sure I was going to like Rebels. I had skipped out on the Clone Wars series because I could not stand the prequel Star Wars films. Plus, I thought the animation for the series stank. Besides, it was not as if the Clone Wars cartoon actually tied into the bigger Star Wars saga, right?

Eh, wrong, as I have discovered. Turns out the Clone Wars series IS part of the larger Star Wars story’s history. Star Wars Rebels is like the Clone Wars in that vein, being set in the five years prior to A New Hope. In fact, both animated series are so far the only tie-in stories for the new Star Wars timeline coming out with Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. All the previous books and stories from the past thirty years no longer relate to the films’ timeline, according to Lucasfilm. For us Mara Jade Skywalker, Solo children, and all-around Expanded Universe fans, that is a very lousy turn of events. I am not happy that thirty years of stories, especially the great ones written before this year, just got erased.

But what can you do, other than go on living? Maybe the writers will keep Mara and the Solo kids in the Star Wars epic after all. It is a big maybe, but unless they want a full-fledged riot on their hands, doing that seems more sensible than outright nullifying everything fans have had time to enjoy between the original Star Wars trilogy and the less-than-satisfactory prequel trilogy. Oh, well, c’est la vie!

Back to the topic at hand. Despite my initial misgivings, I can say I fully enjoyed Rebels’ first season. Mostly, this is due to the fact that we finally get to meet a Jedi in the same era as Luke and the gang! As you may have guessed, this was the part of the first season which really impressed me. The prequels had Jedi all over the place, I know, but hardly any of them got introduced to the audience in a meaningful way. Mace Windu, Ki Adi Mundi, Luminara Unduli – we hardly got to know any of them in the films or The Clone Wars TV series. They showed up for an episode or two and then they left.

Oh, yeah, and in Revenge of the Sith most of them were murdered by the clone troopers on the Emperor’s command. There is not much point introducing the audience to expendable characters, now is there?

So while the prequel Star Wars films, books, and The Clone Wars TV series are swarming with Jedi, most of them have about the same amount of screen time as unimportant background scenery does. If they get more time on screen than that, it is a rather pointless exercise because most of them die in Revenge of the Sith. How are you supposed to get to know characters that expendable and underwritten?

But in Star Wars Rebels, we have Kanan Jarrus. True, he is not your conventional Jedi. His training is incomplete (he does not even understand Yoda’s dictum “Do, or do not. There is no try,” until the third episode of the series) and he is more into the whole “I’m-the-guy-who-makes-the-plans-and-wisecracks” role. But if anything, that is what makes Kanan interesting. He is not some cardboard copy of Obi-Wan Kenobi or Yoda. He is a character who stands on his own two feet and has his own style. It is really nice to have a “cowboy Jedi” who is willing to take risks, make minor mistakes, and crack wise for a change.

Yes, really important Jedi are and should be “one-with-the-Force-all-the-time.” But we had that with Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Mace Windu. If all Jedi were like that, then the audience would lose interest in them pretty fast. It is one of the reasons why I never liked the prequels; hardly any of the Jedi in those movies had personalities more interesting than brittle wood. Kanan may have a dry wit but he certainly does not have a dry personality (in this writer’s/viewer’s opinion, anyway).

The other great thing about Kanan is watching him connect with Ezra.   I always thought that Obi-Wan and Anakin never quite managed to jive properly with each other in the prequels. Jedi Knights or Masters are practically the only parents their apprentices ever know, but this did not work out with Obi-Wan and Anakin. Anakin already had a mother, and Qui-Gon Jinn seemed to be the only man he viewed as a father-figure. I always thought he was uncomfortable and aloof with Obi-Wan, while Obi-Wan got as attached to him as any older brother would get attached to a younger brother.

So it is fun for me to watch Ezra and Kanan learn to get along in Rebels. It takes a while, of course. Like Anakin, Ezra was born and raised outside the Jedi Order. He knew his parents until he was seven, when the Empire took the Bridger couple into custody and left Ezra to spend the next eight years of his life on the city streets. Kanan saw his Master, the closest thing he had to a mother, gunned down by clone troopers. The last thing either of them wants is to get attached to someone again. Both have been hurt emotionally, and neither of them wants to suffer through losing someone they care about again.

Despite that, Ezra’s better instincts (and maybe the Force) prod him to join the rebel crew, while Kanan feels the need to protect another Force-sensitive – and maybe set about making sure that the Jedi do not completely die out. Of course, the Force may have had something to do with that, too. 🙂

Slowly, the two work out a Master/apprentice friendship that is a somewhat brotherly friendship, part father-son relationship, and a sort of teacher/student partnership. This is one of the things which make the Jedi so darn fascinating. Lightsabers, telekinesis, mind manipulation – that is all secondary; those are frills. The way the Jedi mesh is the interesting part. And in a way, Kanan and Ezra’s friendship is what Obi-Wan and Anakin’s should have – and could have – been. I am very interested in seeing where these two Jedi go from here.

Random observations/questions from here on, readers: first and foremost, the tone of Rebels’ first season is very reminiscent of A New Hope. Do not expect it to last; the creators have warned that season two is more akin to The Empire Strikes Back than A New Hope. So it is probably safe to say that season two sees the Rebels going up against greater odds and getting into even more dangerous situations. “How typical!” to quote C-3PO.

Oh, and Ahsoka Tano fans…she’s baaack!!!  That is all I am telling you.

Also, season one ended with the BEST lightsaber duel I have seen since Return of the Jedi! (I know some of you like other lightsaber duels more than that one, but I am a nostalgic Star Wars fan. I really cannot stand the prequels even long enough to admire the lightsaber duels in them. Sorry.)

Now for the questions: we saw very little of Hera’s, Zeb’s, and Sabine’s back stories in season one. And even though we saw a lot of our two new Jedi, there are hints that we have yet to learn everything about them. The creators have lamented that fact as well, and they are eager to explore the Rebels further. In which case, here is what I want to know:

What happened to Sabine’s family and why was her experience at the Imperial Academy on Mandalore “a nightmare”? I know we are dealing with the Empire’s brutality here, but specifics would be nice. Does Sabine have any family she can whistle up to help the crew, or are they dead? If they are not dead, can she ask them for help for the rebel crew, or do they disapprove of her anti-Imperial activities? Does she have any contacts on Mandalore?

Also, what does she think of Boba Fett? And what would happen if the two crossed paths – perhaps in a fight? It would be very interesting to see Sabine go up against Boba Fett. He is Star Wars’ most dangerous bounty hunter, and she is still green in some respects. She is not Boba’s equal, but could she still find a way to duke it out with him? And where exactly is Ezra’s crush on her going to go? I think I see an Anakin/Padmé romance somewhere in this series’ future. We can hope it will be a less sappy romance, but I am pretty sure an Ezra/Sabine love story is in the pipes for Rebels somewhere down the line.

Has Zeb got any family left? The Empire killed most of the Lasats when they took their homeworld. Zeb is one of the very few who escaped Lasan. Does he know where the other Lasats are? Does he know any of them personally? How many of those surviving Lasats are in the rebellion – and how many are Imperial spies, lowlifes, and who knows what else? Heck – does Zeb have a girlfriend out there somewhere? That would certainly be an interesting future episode!

Where did Hera come from? How did she get involved with the rebellion? Where is her family? If you saw The Clone Wars series, then you probably recognized Hera’s last name: Syndulla. Yes, according to everything I have hunted up, she is Cham Syndulla’s daughter. But that means very nearly nothing to me since I did not watch the Clone Wars series. Of the entire crew, the member we know the least about is Hera. We have at least a sliver of back story on everyone except for her. If the creators could explore her history in the next season, I would be interested to see it play out.

Where are Ezra’s parents? It has been teased that they may not be dead. If they are not dead, then where are they? In hiding? In Imperial custody? With the rebellion? The fact that his parents could be alive has been hinted at, so there has to be an answer for these questions somewhere in future episodes.

What else has not yet been revealed about Kanan? So far his real name has only been revealed in the Rebels’ prequel book Star Wars: A New Dawn. Did he make any enemies as a Jedi apprentice? Did these enemies survive the Jedi Purge, maybe to join the Empire as Inquisitors? Will he meet/find other Jedi? Is he going to be able to keep Ezra from falling to the Dark Side of the Force – not to mention himself? He never finished his training; he is risking falling into darkness as much as Ezra is by trusting him for training. What will Kanan do when/if the crew finds/meets Ezra’s parents? That could be an awkward meeting, to say the least!

Also, does Kanan have a family he does not know about? Jedi are taken into the Order as infants. They almost never know their blood family. What if Kanan has family members in the rebellion – or the Empire? What will he do if he finds out he does have family in either – or both – factions? Those are some interesting possibilities to think about…

So Star Wars Rebels writers, please do not keep us waiting too long for the answers to these – and other – questions!!!

And, readers –

May the Force be with you!

The Mithril Guardian

References:

http://borg.com/2014/09/02/book-review-the-new-expanded-star-wars-universe-begins-today-with-a-new-dawn/

http://borg.com/2014/09/29/star-wars-rebels-and-big-hero-6-disneys-next-animated-sci-fi/

http://borg.com/2014/10/04/star-wars-rebels-premiere-lays-foundation-for-a-new-universe/

http://borg.com/2014/05/05/first-look-trailer-for-disneys-star-wars-rebels/

http://borg.com/2014/03/09/first-look-star-wars-in-the-hands-of-disney/

http://borg.com/tag/star-wars-a-new-dawn/

http://borg.com/2015/03/25/binge-watch-many-great-high-points-to-be-found-in-season-one-of-star-wars-rebels/

Star Wars: A Family Torn Apart

Han and Leia

Hello, Star Wars Writers!

I can hear the groans now.  I know.  First the Marvel Comics writers, then the Transformers writers, now you guys.  My interests are rather wide.  So it’s not hard for somebody, somewhere, to irritate me.

Reading my notes to the Marvel Comics writers, I’m sure you have some idea of what it’s like to tick me off.

You have landed on that list.  I am very upset by what you have been doing of late.

So.  Let’s get started, shall we?

A family torn apart.  What do I mean by that?  I mean the Solo clan, which has been all but shattered through the events of various novels.  We’ll start with Chewie’s death.  Yeah, I can see why the original characters would begin to die off; time passing and all that.  That doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.

So in this R. A. Salvatore and I agree: killing Chewbacca was wrong.

Killing young Anakin Solo, who was not yet out of his teens, was even worse.

What was the purpose of that?  I don’t think Han and Leia ever earned that stab in the gut.  Anakin certainly hadn’t had time to earn it.  He was a very interesting character.  It would have been fun to watch him go gallivanting across the galaxy (preferably with Tahiri) being the Jedi his grandfather could have been.  The galaxy would not have been the only group of people cheering him throughout.

But that’s not going to happen now.

Next we come to Jacen Solo.  Jacen was supposed to be the gentlest of the three Solo children, the one most attuned to living things.  Well, that got turned on its head after Anakin died, didn’t it?  That must be why the youngest Solo child got the axe.  One, or more, of you wanted to see a descendant of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader “come full circle” and repeat his grandfather’s mistakes.

There was no way that fans were going to let you do that to Luke.  Even Lucas wouldn’t let you do that.  Anakin Solo was too obvious a choice; he had been named for his grandfather.  If you used him, it would be expected.  Yet another reason to “strike” him out of the expanded universe.  Any children Luke had would have to continue his legacy, not Vader’s.  That left Jacen.

To complete the “full circle” angle, a member of his family had to face off with Jacen and either turn him back to the light or kill him.  You opted for the latter.  Seriously?  But I guess you thought that your “circle” had to end differently than it began, didn’t you?  Luke turned his father.  It would be too cliché to have Jacen turned to the light the way Vader had been.

So you sent his older twin Jaina to take him out.  When she does Jacen “makes amends” by warning his girlfriend Tenel-Ka that she and their daughter, Alanna, are in danger from poison gas.  We’re never even told for sure which side of the Force Jacen joined in death.  You made it pretty clear which side he was on in life.

You never read any of the other writers’ stories before starting your own, do you?  Did Jaina even cry, at least in private, after killing her brother?  More to the point, the whole incident seems to put her in the territory of the Dark Side, but she doesn’t act like she’s turned away from the Jedi order.  Yet.  I’m sure that someone has a plan to change that soon; what with her starting a resistance movement against Galactic Alliance ruler Daala (did the galaxy get amnesia?  I don’t see them exactly jumping to elect her in a landslide considering how she nearly wrecked the New Republic).  Is Jaina even going to live long enough to have children of her own?  Aside from Alanna, it appears that the Solo line is pretty well sunk.

This is preposterous to me.  Killing Jacen and Anakin robs readers and fans of a lineage of heroes continued from their original favorites.  The Solo family had a great chance to grow and expand.  As for the stories that could have followed the extended family – talk about endless possibilities!!

But now that’s practically gone.

Han, Leia, and most importantly Luke (since he’s the one who taught all three Solo children how to be Jedi and Jacen repaid him by killing his wife) didn’t deserve this.  We, the readers and fans of the expanded universe, didn’t need this.

This was unnecessary, fellow writers.  Totally and completely unnecessary.

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Deeply Disappointed Fan)

(L to R) Anakin, Jacen, and Jaina Solo

(L to R) Anakin, Jacen, and Jaina Solo

Book Review: A ‘Crystal’ Moment

CS 2

Hey, Murdock!

What did you do to make B.A. yell at you now?  I hope that a plane didn’t conk out on you guys again.

You were talking to your invisible dog again.  Murdock, sometimes I think you like making the big guy angry with you.  I know he kind of resembles Chewie, but you’re not Han Solo.  One of these days you might push him too far.

Well, yeah, you do have good flying skills, like Han’s.  But I still think you’re pushing it.

What did I want to talk about?  Well, I just gave you a hint, H.M.

Yeah, the subject is Star Wars, one of the books for it.  It’s called Star Wars: The Crystal Star, by Vonda N. McIntyre.  She doesn’t do bad work, at least not that I’ve read, and Crystal Star is no exception.

However, I must admit that I do have a few problems with it.  For starters, I kind of feel like – well, like she purposely made Luke, Leia, and Han a little too slow.  Not in physically keeping up with their enemies but in how they worked out their responses mentally; they just didn’t seem to move fast enough.  Essentially I feel like they were ‘dumbed’ down a few notches. 

For starters, we’ll look at Luke.  In The Crystal Star he falls under the spell of a strange alien being that seems to possess the ability to heal people.  I don’t buy Luke falling under its spell.  While the being does heal…there are strings attached.

Because when it’s hungry, it does just the opposite of healing.  Han is present for one of these ‘healing’ events and gets emotionally sick just from watching, and he has no Force abilities.  Han’s reaction upsets Luke and causes friction between them, friction that I don’t think was really necessary.  It’s not the only source of hostility between them, but it leads to other problems with their friendship that I really don’t think were needed. 

As for Leia:  she, Chewie, twins Jaina and Jacen Solo, and three (and a half) year old Anakin Solo are all planet-jumping on another diplomatic mission.  They’ve stopped off on a backwater planet and suddenly, during the frilly diplomatic chatter, all three Solo children vanish from their nearby playground and Leia doesn’t even realize this has happened. 

For two hours (I’m afraid McIntyre doesn’t make this part totally clear) Leia is unaware of anything.  Then, from the children’s native guardian, she learns that Chewie is hurt and the children are gone.  Although she wants to chase after them immediately, the locals say she shouldn’t ascoupkidnappings are part of the local culture and she’ll shame the culprits (whom they believe are local but whom Leia is sure have Dark Side powers and came from off world) into hurting the one native being that disappeared with her children.

McIntyre, I must say, handles Leia’s shock and fear over this matter rather well.  Still, I doubt that Leia would just ignore R2-D2 if he seemed to want her to follow him.  She ought to have known the droid long enough to know when he had something important to tell her.  As for her fear, this isn’t the first time her children have been targeted in the books.  Considering this, Leia should have been better able to deal and act on her fear than she does in Crystal Star

This also points out a weak spot in McIntyre’s story: Leia’s personal honor guard protect her and her children.  Yet the Noghri of earlier stories aren’t even mentioned in Crystal Star; the only real security for the children here is Chewbacca.  Leia’s lightsaber, twin to Luke’s in color, is also never mentioned.

I’m lost on why these were left out, to be honest.  This is mostly continuity nit-picking on my part, but it still kind of rubs me the wrong way.

The part of the story that really hits the mark, though, is the part that focuses on the captured Solo children.  The viewpoint McIntyre chooses to use is that of Jaina Solo, the older Solo twin and, as such, the oldest Solo heir.  As mechanically savvy as her father and as sensitive as her mother, with the determination and stubbornness of both her parents (plus some from her rather bull-headed uncle, and I say that as a compliment), Jaina works hard to get her twin and younger brother to safety.

I can’t get into too much detail here, H.M.  Sorry, but I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who does have access to it.  Suffice it to say that while Jaina does get her twin back as well as rally other Force-sensitive children being held with them to fight against their captor, Hethrir, it takes her longer to rescue Anakin.  When she does reach him, he has already been rescued by her mother and father.  The one who needs rescuing now, more so than her mother and father, is her uncle.

Interestingly, all three children call their parents to come back from – well, we’ll call it the edge of temptation.  No, Murdock, I can’t be any more specific than that!

Han needs no real saving from this.   Jacen and Anakin easily awaken their mother to her danger, returning her to her senses.  But even Leia seems unable to bring Luke back from the cliff face of darkness.

That’s when Jaina calls, “Uncle Luke!”

Somehow, the voice of his five year old niece snaps Luke awake.  He, Leia, and Han escape.  But Luke, as the only trained Jedi, is still more than a little depleted from his battle, and Jaina and Jacen are set to watch over him as their family escapes the dying crystal star. 

At the end, of course, Luke pulls through – there wouldn’t be any more books if he didn’t!  What intrigues me about this story, though, is how adult Jaina behaves.  You have to remember while reading the book that she’s not eight or even ten; she’s five but thinks as though she’s older (though she admittedly has a ‘young child’ mentality or untainted view of the galaxy).

And the most interesting thing about the story, Murdock, is how it is her frightened call that summons her lost uncle back to his senses.  A feat her father, mother, and her brothers somehow didn’t accomplish, despite the fact that the latter three are all strong in the Force without any formal lessons in using it.  It is responsible, stubborn, courageous Jaina who finally, finally, awakens her Uncle Luke to his danger.

“And the children shall lead?”  I think so, Murdock.  But what connection is there between her and her uncle?  That’s something I’d like to know more about, frankly; more than I want to study her relationships with the rest of her family.  Five called to Luke, one received an answer: Jaina Solo.  It certainly is something to think about.  Or chew on.

Of course I’m making a funny!  You’re not being crazy now, Murdock, just absurd.

Okay, that’s more like it – you and your invisible dog.

Uh, H.M.?  B.A. is calling you and he doesn’t sound happy.  I think I’ll split now, while the splitting is good. 

            Later,

Mithril