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A novel by Jude Watson (2001, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Jedi Apprentice, Book 16
42 years before and Star Wars: A New Hope

Qui-Gon flirts with the Dark Side of the Force as he searches for revenge on a Jedi-killer.



4 stars

Read January 14th to 17th, 2004  
    A great character study, with an interesting and resolved mystery.

I was right and I was wrong -or should I say not right enough! I knew that Eritha was a bad guy, but I didn't suspect that her sister was, as well. It was Obi-Wan, of course, who figured it out, as Qui-Gon was too distracted to notice.

Obi-Wan has really shone in this trilogy, since his Master has been otherwise occupied. It is up to him to point out the flaws in plans, to reason out motives, and to trust the Force. Qui-Gon has simply been following his heart, which is what leads him down the dark path here.

I didn't find that Qui-Gon was flirting with the Dark Side through most of the book. Mostly, he was simply not thinking. But as the book progressed, his thoughts were bent more and more on revenge, and at the very end of the book, he very nearly gave in to the thirst for blood.

Strangely enough, and I didn't think it was the way the story should have progressed, it is the dead Tahl who kept Qui-Gon from going over to the Dark Side, when it should have been Obi-Wan. Still, I wonder if this is how Qui-Gon knew that the Jedi could exist beyond death. He gets to use the same voice from beyond, unsuccessfully, on Anakin in Attack of the Clones.

The calm and reserved Jedi perspective comes from Mace Windu, who was portrayed terrifically here, compared to his terrible turn in Shatterpoint. Mace arrived to assess the situation, and to assess Qui-Gon. I don't think he liked what he found, but he let Qui-Gon reason his way through it, which is very Jedi-like. Mace doesn't get to do much, but he provides a catalyst for Qui-Gon. He also inadvertently gives Qui-Gon more room to maneuver, since Mace takes on the Jedi business at the government, and Qui-Gon takes off to find Balog.

There are so many clues scattered through this book, allowing us to figure things out before Obi-Wan does, but it didn't happen for me. I only figured much of it out at the same time as Obi-Wan did. He uses his full Jedi training to go over the events from the last two books to figure out that Eritha is lying to them. He bluffs Alani into giving him information. He then chases away to find Qui-Gon just in time, because he trusted Eritha to bring him to his nemesis.

Qui-Gon, for his part, simply tracked Balog, similarly to what he did in the last book, including the way that he always ended up one step behind the security officer. He discovers where the man who has the list of Absolute informers is, pretends to be a buyer, then finds the man dead. He follows a rumor, only to find a trap set by Mace and Manex, brother to the late ruler. He suddenly finds himself with an arrest warrant over his head for the murder of a senator, because the probe droid that he had tracking Balog killed her, for she had the list at one point. I liked the way he tracked Oleg, the original man with the list, through the clinics, and the way the blind lady helped him by causing a distraction -because he helped her find the door, but realized that she wanted to open it for herself, realizing exactly how much help to give!

I do think it was inconsistent the way that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon managed to defeat so many attack droids so quickly here, when it took so long to destroy two little probe droids in the last book.

I also didn't like the way Eritha spilled out all of her plans before the Jedi, similar to what all bad guys do in movies just before their "failsafe" plan fails. I didn't expect her sister to be part of the plan, though, since Alani seemed to be actually helping the Jedi.

Tahl's apprentice Bant, the Mon Calamari who was a long-time friend to Obi-Wan through several of these books, makes an appearance, as well. She accuses Obi-Wan of aiding Tahl's death by not reporting her kidnapping to the Jedi Council immediately, so that other Jedi could help in the search. Over the course of the first half of the book, though, she grows closer to forgiveness, as it looks like Qui-Gon would be killed at several instances. Although she wants Obi-Wan to know how she feels, she doesn't want it to come about by the same means.

Finally, I wondered if the author had access to some parts of Attack of the Clones, because the references are uncanny! There is the first mention, above, but near the end of the book, there is a moment where Qui-Gon drives a speeder out of a long corridor, through a barely-opening door, with Obi-Wan terrified in the passenger seat! Even in the Jedi Apprentice series, Obi-Wan hates flying crazy like that!

Mostly, though, this was a vehicle for showing us Obi-Wan, and the way he has grown, especially as a Jedi. He can be a great leader, as we have seen over and over again. Here, he absolutely shines. As for the end of the original Jedi mission: the planetary government is in a bit of turmoil, because of the arrest of the twins, but with Manex dedicated to his planet and in the running, it should do fine.


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