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A novel by Jude Watson (2004, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Jedi Quest, Book 8
24 years before and Star Wars: A New Hope

The Jedi go undercover on a planet that gives sanctuary to outlaws in order to capture a criminal scientist, and are caught up in a moral dilemma.




Read February 24th to 28th, 2013  
    This book highlighted the different attitudes of the Jedi involved, from the single-minded obsession of Obi-Wan to the arrogance of Anakin, the uncertainties of Ferus, and Siri's ability to do anything to get the job done, even tasks that are loathsome to her. It also serves as a precursor to some Clone Wars stories, where the Jedi go undercover, and have to betray their ideals for the greater good. They walk a fine line between what they stand for and what they have to do, and shows how degraded their order really was -ripe for the destruction caused by the Empire! Only the unnecessary and tacky "rescue" at the end spoiled it a bit.

Spoiler review:

This book showcases Anakin's path to the Dark Side of the Force more than most, and in a way that is more subtle, through self-righteousness rather than evil. As I expect with most tyrants, he truly believes that his way is the right way, and that anybody who thinks different is so wrong that they must be put out of his way. Anakin hasn't quite reached that point, yet, but he does ridicule Ferus for exploring other options, such as a peaceful resolution. Even after the riots destroy much of the city, he still thinks the ends justifies anything that came before, even if it was unfortunate.

Still, it's Obi-Wan's plan to catch Jenna Zan Arbor, masquerading as the Slam gang, criminals who had escaped their prison world, and just been recaptured (though that isn't made public yet). They take the Slams' ship and land on a world where the Great Leader Teda welcomes rich criminals, giving them sanctuary in return for "donations".

There is a return to some humor in this book, as the older Jedi need to dress up as the Slams. Obi-Wan is hilarious as the flamboyant leader, with his bright and colorful garments and outgoing personality, which is definitely not the Jedi we know. Siri, for her part, has to drop the no-nonsense practical attitude and dress up as a flirtatious lady, wearing gowns that are described as being made of too little even to hide a lightsaber.

Anakin wears a half face mask to hide from Zan Arbor, perhaps a precursor to his Vader mask, and Ferus doesn't need any disguise.

They try to insinuate themselves into Teda's company, and especially Zan Arbor. Zan Arbor refuses their advances, but while Siri distracts a guard, Obi-Wan manages to steal some data from Zan Arbor's secret hiding spot (which is too-coincidentally in the same room where she met with them). The endgame is coming, as we find out that she is teaming up with Granta Omega in her next plot, which will undoubtedly be very large and dangerous to the galaxy. I just hate that her password was "the force", which is typical of the stupid passwords people use in books and movies. Why would the Star Wars universe have written passwords, anyway, or even verbal ones? Surely passwords would have a more SF way of being transmitted?

Anakin and Ferus, for their part, explore the city, and are cornered by resistance fighters, who plan to hire the Slams to steal pass-codes for strategic locations around the walled city, in time for a takeover. Naturally, Anakin is very much in favor of overthrowing Teda, as the Great Leader is obviously corrupt. Ferus, for his part, wonders about the cost, and is proven right, as when Obi-Wan steals the document and gives it to the resistance, the common people break into the city and, worked up into an angry frenzy, mob and kill and destroy so much on their way to the royal palace, if they make it there at all. The Jedi are reduced to taking in refugees from their own city.

The new leaders end up being no better than Teda, of course. Bent on revenge, they want to hang the members of the old government. The Jedi step in at that moment (Obi-Wan calls Mace Windu), and hunt for the escaped Teda himself. They find him in a remote hide-away, with Zan Arbor, but at an inopportune moment, the real Slam gang shows up and discredits their disguises. The Jedi end up fighting an army, but at that moment, more Jedi suddenly arrive, with Mace Windu, in order to settle the transition of the planetary government. I didn't think Obi-Wan and Anakin needed another rescue. It's cliché, especially after having been rescued at the last moment in just the last book by more-or-less the same Jedi! Surely the author could have put them in a slightly less awkward situation where the four of them could do the work by themselves? Of course, Siri must have had a hard time fighting in the flirtatious dress she was supposed to be wearing!

The book ends with a surprise, as the Jedi hand Teda over to the leader, who promises to send him to prison, but actually sets him free to go offworld (as long as he leaves the planet). The Jedi chase after them, but Obi-Wan convinces Mace to allow the ship to escape, so that it can bring them to Granta Omega.

I'm reluctant to guess at what will happen next. After the last book, I expected to have a book based on the hunt for Zan Arbor, but we moved six months ahead, instead, to the end of the chase. The confrontation probably won't come until the last book, so I'm not sure what to expect in book 9. If this one is anything to go by, we'll get a good story with good character development and some action sequences. Hopefully we'll get another lesson, too, for Anakin, which might bring him closer to the person he is in Attack of the Clones.

Although this series isn't quite as good as the Jedi Apprentice series, it's still very enjoyable.


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