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A novel by Jude Watson (2000, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Book 11 of the Jedi Apprentice
43 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan try to uncover the mystery of an attempted murder of an information broker special to the Jedi.



3 stars

Read on April 13th, 2003  
    Excellently written, but I am still disappointed at Obi-Wan's continued confusion and lack of participation.

This book was a definite step up from the last one. The characters were interesting, the story was interesting, and it was a real mystery. Clues kept popping up, making the case much more complex than it seemed initially.

The only lesson that Obi-Wan learned during this book was not to judge people so quickly. That he disapproved of Didi was obvious. But the fact that Qui-Gon, Tahl and Yoda all felt an affinity for this man should have told him something (all I could keep thinking of was Dex from Attack of the Clones). As they got deeper into the case, he saw that Didi was really only making a living by passing on what came to him naturally. The man really was a coward, and it was good that his daughter, Astri, was trying to get him out of the business, even if she dabbled in it herself.

The bounty hunter was an intriguing creature. Like a Suliban from Star Trek's Enterprise, she had immense flexibility, and the ability to flatten her shape to fit though the tightest spaces. More importantly, she has a laser whip, which is a match for the Jedi lightsaber. She fights off Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon more than once, to their bewilderment.

This is an interesting twist, which creates a villain who is not a Jedi, but can provide action-oriented stories that don't make the Jedi look like fools for not being able to defeat her. Of course, it doesn't answer the question about why neither Qui-Gon or Obi-Wan were able to predict her movements through the Force. Every time she changed her tactic, they were too late. Qui-Gon tells his Padawan to watch her shoulders for evidence of when she will use her whip. Why? Watching her eyes is the way to tell, since peripheral vision will tell them what the rest of her body is doing. Combined with the Force, they should not be surprised by her actions.

Their investigation takes them into contact with a Senator, who is forced to announce her resignation early because of a stolen data pad, which causes her to lose a vote to move against a black market organization. This is a side plot, so far, as it might reappear in the next book, because her child was Force-sensitive, but she couldn't give him up to the Jedi. It's the first time we see something like this, that the Jedi need permission to take the children. It is opposite to what we saw in the Holonet News just before Attack of the Clones came out. In any case, we learn of the Senator's friend, a transgenic researcher named Jenna Zan Arbor, who also had her pad stolen.

It is this pad that the bounty hunter is after, and it turns out that Astri has it. It is strange that Qui-Gon asks Tahl to translate the coded information on that pad, since it belonged to a researcher. Sure, it might have evidence on it, but he has very little more than a feeling, really, that Jenna is involved.

They discover that the bounty hunter set a trap for Didi and Astri in a remote resort that she arranged for him to win at sabaac, and which he is using as a hideaway from her! They arrive just in time to be trapped in the house, and manage to stave off her attack, barely. After knocking out the bounty hunter, they try to leave, but their transport was tampered with. Since they knew she was not dead, and was likely to come after them again, why did they not incarcerate her? It didn't make any sense to leave her there, since they knew she was an expert tracker, and had killed numerous citizens of Coruscant. Her actions also don't seem to make sense, given how long she had been at the resort. She had plenty of time to assault Didi and Astri before the Jedi arrived. What was she waiting for?

Predictably, she recovers shortly thereafter, and manages to thwart their escape. Somehow, while Qui-Gon is closer to the bounty hunter, Obi-Wan manages to spring to her quicker and knock her down, severing her fingers. But both Didi and Astri are wounded, and the bounty hunter escapes, with Qui-Gon shot and inside her cruiser. The book ends with a cliff-hanger, as we don't know how badly injured Qui-Gon is.

One thing is almost for certain, however: Obi-Wan will be the main focus of the next book, having to work on his own, and not in the shadow of his master. This series is supposed to be about Master and Apprentice learning about each other, and about how to be a Jedi team. In these last two books, we have seen the story almost exclusively through Qui-Gon's eyes. Obi-Wan is constantly confused, and always several steps behind his master. True, Qui-Gon has a lot more experience than Obi-Wan, but through their bond, Obi-Wan should be getting better. When we get anything from his point of view, he is always lost, or wishing he was better with people or deciphering things, like his master. Judging from his glee after their interview with Jenna, I knew Obi-Wan had to be wrong about his solution to the mystery.

The writing style was once again terrific, though, throughout the book. There were no short, clipped sentences, either in dialog of narrative, and there were no long-winded speeches describing the plot, as with The Shattered Peace. The writing was on par with the best from this series, as well as better than some of the adult books out there!

There were a few plot complications, things that I didn't think held up to scrutiny, but overall, the story was a good mystery. On a technical note, what is a "satellite world" of Coruscant? The Tech Raiders on Vandor-3 had to be in a different star system, so why not call it that? Finally, the bounty hunter looks a little too much like Aurra Sing for my tastes, though it's obvious that she is not the same person.

I look forward to Obi-Wan's advances in the next book, as he will undoubtedly track down the bounty hunter by himself or with another team, hopefully Didi and Astri.


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