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A novel by Jude Watson (2000, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Jedi Apprentice, Book 7
44 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan search for the intruder in the Jedi Temple as the attacks inside become more violent.



3+ stars+

Read on May 16th, 2002  
    A very interesting story about a temple under siege, where even the most powerful beings need to think about security.  Obi-Wan's return was, however, a little overplayed, I think.

Once again, Jude Watson does a fantastic job of writing the two Jedi.  The writing was almost perfect, as it has been in the last few books.  Yes, there was a little exposition, but less than previously, and more of it takes place from character viewpoints.  I am happy with the way this book turned out. 

Most of the book concerns the investigation into the problems that the Jedi Temple is having.  It started out as theft, but then moved on to larger things like sabotage, and then attempted murder.  Luckily, Yoda is very attuned to the Force, and didn't step onto the bridge as it exploded.  Qui-Gon resumes the investigation that he started in the last book, along with Tahl.  Now it is not a search for whomever is doing these things, but where to find him.  It is known that Bruck is behind some of this, but it takes half the book before Qui-Gon realizes that Xanatos must be the other person involved.  It is essentially proven when they find out that Bruck spoke of his father, whom he shouldn't have even known of, and that his father is a citizen of Telos, Xanatos' homeworld.  It is at this point that Qui-Gon decides to involve Obi-Wan in the search, because his former Padawan has faced Xanatos before.

Obi-Wan is neither accepted nor rejected by the Jedi Council, which is a very strange thing.  I understand that they must be sure of his commitment, but how do they intend to do this?  I don't have an acceptable solution, but surely giving him something to do and watching his progress would be a possibility?  They don't do this, and manage to criticize him at every opportunity, even Yoda!  I understand the reasoning behind it, but I think it was a little too overplayed.  In the last book, Obi-Wan mentioned that others had left the Jedi Order and returned.  Did they all get this kind of treatment?  I don't have a problem with the attitude, if it is consistent.  But it seemed too stern, even for the Jedi.

The only one who doesn't give Obi-Wan the cold shoulder is Bant, his young Mon Calamari friend.  She soothes him, but soon becomes the focus of Obi-Wan's jealousy when Qui-Gon seems to pay too much attention to her, praising her the way he has never praised his former Padawan.  I think this was also a little overplayed, as it is not really consistent with Qui-Gon's character.  I also didn't think it was necessary, except that it set up an outstanding moment near the end of the book.

Obi-Wan is scolded for helping get some young children to safety after a horizontal turbolift is sabotaged, because his extra weight might have dislodged the entire tube.  Fortunately, Bant ran for help, and the entire Council came to hold the tube up with the Force.  Judging from the final scene in Attack of the Clones, I think Yoda could have done this all by himself!  The Council tells Obi-Wan to stay out of the investigation, but Yoda tells Qui-Gon to keep the boy informed of events.  Typical of him, and I loved it!

The insights into Qui-Gon's character were very interesting, and frustrating as well -but in a good way.  He feels the stab of pain when the Council tells Obi-Wan what he did was foolish, because he knows that he would have reacted the exact same way!  I think anybody would have.  He finds ways to keep Obi-Wan informed, without quite letting him in on the investigation, as Yoda suggested.  But through it all, his character dictates that he must not show any emotion towards Obi-Wan.  He cannot bring himself to tell the boy what he feels, or how proud he is of him. This is just how the character is, and it is frustrating, but consistent and beautifully written at the same time!

Bant discovers waterways that allows Xanatos to move freely through the Temple, and the three of them follow the tunnels to their logical conclusion.  There, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon battle Xanatos, until Xanatos is swallowed up into a giant wave and escapes. Later, after Obi-Wan blows up in jealous rage at Bant, accusing her of courting Qui-Gon to become his Padawan, she runs off crying, and is captured by their enemy. 

I see now that the author was setting us up with Tahl's annoying droid in The Uncertain Path, but I still don't think it was worth it.  It seems that Xanatos set a recording device on the droid, and this is how he managed to stay one step ahead of the investigation.  Once they discover this, and it was written in such a wonderful way that I figured it out just moments before the characters did, they lay a trap for Xanatos. 

Qui-Gon discovered that the Jedi Temple is holding some valuable crystals, Vertex, in its vault, and this must be the goal of his enemy.  So they have some people with about their build mimic a recorded conversation between the two Jedi, while they wait in the vault.  The droid records the conversation, and informs Xanatos.  The most important part of this plan is that the security systems will be shut off along with everything else, in order to reprogram out the bugs that have been sabotaging everything. 

When they discover that Bant has been captured, Obi-Wan goes into a frozen panic.  He cannot move, and I empathized with him completely.  He knew what he had done, he knew it was petty, and it would have been kept secret if he had a choice.  But he knew that he must report that it was his fault!  And what is Qui-Gon going to think of him after he hears the confession?!?  Yes, I think the jealousy was over-written and unnecessary, but this exceptionally well-written chapter more than makes up for that.  Qui-Gon guides Obi-Wan out of his panic attack, slowly and with compassion.  He was willing to take the time, not to criticize, for once, but to give a lesson at the same time.  He knew that if he criticized Obi-Wan, the young boy might be scarred for life.  Instead, he acknowledges that what Obi-Wan did was wrong, but Bant's capture was not his fault.  She knew the risks of traveling the tunnels. Xanatos was responsible for her capture, anyway.  The moment was so tender, so well written, that it brought tears to my eyes and a large smile to my face.  I wish it could have lasted longer. But once it is over, Obi-Wan has faced his fears, his guilt, and he has seen the compassion in Qui-Gon's eyes.  It was just wonderful.

The battle in the vault is fairly standard.  Lightsaber moves, flying objects, and two good fighters make their way into the Council Chamber, but I often wonder how every former apprentice who turns to the Dark Side can be as powerful as their master is.  Both continue to learn, and both should become powerful.  Yes, many might surpass their masters, but must they be the only ones we see? Qui-Gon forces Xanatos out onto a ledge, but he manages to escape by telling Qui-Gon that he has sabotaged the main reactor, and when the power comes back on-line, in just a few minutes time, it will destroy the Temple.  Qui-Gon doesn't know if this is the truth, but he can't take the chance.  Later, he vows to hunt his former Padawan down, even against the advice of the Council. No wonder they didn't want him on the Council by the time of The Phantom Menace!

Meanwhile, Obi-Wan fights Bruck, over in the gardens where Bant is being held underwater.  She is an amphibious species, but can't survive under water forever.  Obi-Wan races against time to defeat Bruck so that he can save her. Obi-Wan starts embracing anger just a little more as Bruck taunts him, bringing him closer to the Dark Side. But when he calms himself, he opens himself to the Light Side, and grows stronger still.  He forces Bruck into the water just as the pumping systems start up again, forcing a torrent into the pools of the garden. 

Unfortunately, the author chose the easy way out for Obi-Wan.  He sees Bruck losing his footing, falling, and reaches out to save the boy.  But Bruck refuses his help, plunging over a cliff and breaking his neck in the fall.  Eventually, Obi-Wan is going to be forced to kill somebody, and it will not be an accident.  I wish the author hadn't chosen to make Bruck refuse help, but maybe had Obi-Wan's hands slip as he nearly succeeded.  I can accept that he won't have to kill anybody until he is older, but I hope we get to see his first kill, and the effect it has on him. 

In any case, he rescues Bant from her underwater prison, and manages to pour his heart out to her about the events on Melida/Daan in The Uncertain Path.  I liked the way this was built up, both from Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's point of view.  They were both feeling strained, but agreed to put aside their personal differences in order to work for the Temple.  Qui-Gon finally realizes that it is his own feelings that are getting in the way of accepting Obi-Wan back as his Padawan, not just because of the betrayal.  It is realistic, but frustrating, that Qui-Gon still won't accept Obi-Wan back by the end of the book!

And yes, the fusion reactor was set to explode, as Qui-Gon found the healing crystals that went missing in the last book hidden inside. 

There are a couple of continuity errors in this book, and I don't know who is to blame for them.  Ki Adi Mundi is considered for a place on the Jedi Council at the end of the Prelude to Rebellion comic.  But in this book, he is already a Council member.  This is one item that should not have been overlooked.  I don't know which story came first in conception.  The second is something that is part of the plot, and I don't really know why it is there -or even if it is a break in continuity.  I could swear that Luke and others have used lightsabers under water before.  Obi-Wan uses his in the rain in Attack of the Clones.  It doesn't make sense for them to short out in the water.  Unfortunately, I cannot think of a single instance (outside the Marvel comics) where a saber was used under water.  It is used in this book as a plot convenience, and I don't really think it was necessary, anyway.  Xanatos always intended to get swept up into the wave, and we would have missed only a single line of worry on Obi-Wan's part when he hoped Bruck had the key to Bant's chain on his body.  That's not much to part with.

Anyway, the mystery was quite well played out, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this installment in the Jedi Apprentice series.  Some things were stressed a little too much beyond their natural limits, I think, but otherwise, this was yet another outstanding story.  But more than that, it was well written, and that can save almost any story.  Even better, this book had one chapter that shone above almost every other Star Wars story out there!  And that is just amazing.


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