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A novel by Jude Watson (2000, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Book 8 of the Jedi Apprentice
44 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are ambushed as they chase Xanatos to his homeworld.



3 stars

Read on May 17th, 2002  
    A standard revenge story, with a little too much running around for my tastes, but still told with an excellent writing style, and quite enjoyable.

For Qui-Gon, this was a tale of revenge.  It is done for a good cause, as Xanatos has taken over an entire planet, and addicted them to a gambling game, and he will certainly do more damage in the future.  But it is revenge nonetheless.  Qui-Gon goes against the Jedi Council to return to Telos, the home planet of his former Padawan. 

For Obi-Wan, it is a chance to prove to his former master that he should be taken back as a Padawan.  He thinks on his own, and drives his master's plans without needing extra prompting.  I like the way the Council didn't expressly forbid him from joining Qui-Gon on this mission, of which they also disapproved. 

From the moment they are chased from the spaceport, into the gambling den, and from place to place, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan express concern for each other, and discuss where they might find Xanatos.  They don't have to wait long, for Xanatos is seen as the savior of the planet.  Apparently, the money from the gambling goes to restore the planetary parks.  The two Jedi don't believe this for a moment. 

They run into Den, a compulsive gambler in the game of Katharsis, who saves them from the security force chasing after them.  Den offers them sanctuary in his apartment complex, but they are ambushed there.  He then leads them to Andra, a woman who is trying desperately to prove that the parks are being exploited, not restored. 

Obi-Wan is right when he thinks about how Qui-Gon trusts every scavenger, but won't trust his former Padawan.  Qui-Gon trusted the Phindians with his life in The Hidden Past, then Elan, Nield, and Cerasi.  Now we have Den and Andra, and later, he will trust Jar-Jar and Anakin with their lives. This is great continuity for the character.  And he is still closed-mouthed about his plan, showing his insecurity in trusting the one closest to him.

There is not really much plot here.  The characters do a lot of running around, and changing their minds.  Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Den infiltrate the company they think is a front for Xanatos' mining corporation, Offworld, and get captured, but not before Den escapes.  Xanatos shows up in their cell to taunt them, but somehow doesn't discover their lightsabers.  He manufactured their crimes, and testified at their trial, telling the public the "story" of how Obi-Wan killed Bruck, a native of Telos, in cold blood.

It is interesting how Xanatos is able to penetrate Obi-Wan's guilt at Bruck's death.  I still think Obi-Wan got the easy way out, but perhaps this is leading somewhere, down the road.  The author made sure he didn't shoulder any of the responsibility of Bruck's death in The Captive Temple, but here he still feels remorse, and wonders endlessly if he could have done something to prevent it.  Very interesting character work. 

They are sentenced to death, but during their public execution, they are rescued by Den and Andra.  I wonder if the artist who painted the front cover read the book properly?  Neither Jedi sliced through the bars of their cell.  They waited until the bars were opened before making their move. 

In their next plan, Den discovers that Katharsis is a fixed game, that a certain contestant will win the jackpot, and funnel part of the money back to the parent company.  He is able to fix the game so that he will win it, so that they can humiliate Xanatos and undermine the public's confidence in him.  The main plot concern here is whether Den will leave the planet with the money he loves so much, or will he stay behind the cause. He actually turned out to be more of a patriot than anybody thought he was, including himself, I think.

Obi-Wan and Andra scout out the Sacred Pools, which they discover are indeed being exploited, and poisoned by Offworld.  They are nearly captured, but manage to steal a small transport and make it to the Katharsis arena in time to send the images they took to the big screens as Xanatos presents the prize.  Unable to keep control of the crowd, even when he has the two Jedi cornered, he flees. 

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan follow him, and battle with lightsabers back at the Sacred Pools.  It is a nasty fight, but somehow Xanatos is able to fend off both attackers.  Mainly this is because he still taunts Obi-Wan about Bruck's death.  Fortunately, Obi-Wan shakes off his guilt, and together, they defeat Xanatos. 

Unfortunately, Xanatos gets the same treatment here that Bruck did in The Captive Temple.  Qui-Gon didn't have to kill the man, even though he was prepared to do it.  Xanatos jumps from a cliff into water that Obi-Wan discovered earlier could dissolve anything he put into it. His body disintegrates. But it is not like Xanatos to commit suicide.  More likely he would have gone to jail and tried to escape -surely some Offworld subordinates could have rescued him? 

What this incident highlights is to young readers is that there is always a choice.  But sooner or later, both of these men will have to kill somebody.  I am certain that Darth Maul was not the first person killed at Obi-Wan's hand.

Although the plot is less than stellar, the characterization of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is still wonderfully written.  The author seemed to go overboard with the absolute pollution present in the Sacred Pools.  But she knows her characters very well. 

Qui-Gon especially gets good treatment here.  He agonizes over the fact that he put Obi-Wan in danger twice in this book. He thinks he had the choice to not allow Obi-Wan to join him on Telos.  And in the end, he realizes that he needs his apprentice as much as Obi-Wan needs him.  They both decide to go back to the Jedi Temple and meditate.  And when the probation period is over, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan will be Master and Padawan once again. 

This is a satisfying conclusion to this story arc.  Once again, the writing was extremely tight, so that even though the plot could have used some more depth, it was still very exciting and enjoyable, simply because of the good writing.  I hope this series branches out on to more alien worlds.  There are too many humans and not enough aliens.  Let's have more alien bodies to worry about, instead of having everybody be a potential romantic liaison for either of them. There was no relationship this time, but it was always possible.  With an alien, things become more interesting. Still, the series overall, and this book, have been quite enjoyable.


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