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A novel by Jude Watson (1999, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Book 5 of the Jedi Apprentice
44 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

While trying to rescue a captured Jedi on a warring planet, Obi-Wan finds a cause worth fighting for.



3+ stars+

Read May 13th to 14th, 2002  
    This was a daring move on the part of the author, and I like it. The story fell nicely into place, and the writing was really good, for the most part. I am getting very impressed with this series.

I think the author is hitting her stride with this series. There was only a little gap in the writing style, where she gives us some background information in a way that takes us out of the story, which is very distracting. The rest of the book, however, was awesomely written. The style is made for young readers, with short sentences, but somehow, the author uses those sentences in a way that makes for a much more interesting story and style than we ever saw with the Story of Ken, or even the teen books of the Young Jedi Knights or Rebecca Moesta's second Junior Jedi series. In fact, the story and writing style is more sophisticated than some of the so-called adult novels in the Star Wars expanded universe. I am amazed.

In this book, we see Obi-Wan's resentment of his master reappears. After doing so well on his own in The Mark of the Crown, it was inevitable that he would rebound a little. Actually, he goes more than a little to the other side. He actually makes some hard choices, with each betrayal of his beliefs coming a little easier. I like the way Obi-Wan started off by simply enjoying the company of people his own age, and starting down the road by sympathizing with them. There was no abrupt turn-around in his attitude, nor was there an inexplicable desire to join the Young. There was simply a cause that he found worthy, and on which he didn't trust his master to make the right decision.

Even the situations before they encounter the Young were admirably written, as Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan make their way to the planet Melida/Daan to rescue a Jedi who was captured while trying to negotiate peace talks. It takes some maneuvering to get them inside the city of Zehava, where they fall into a trap and have their first experience with the Halls of Evidence. Giant mausoleums, these Halls exist to remind people of their heritage, a heritage of hatred towards the other side of the war, which has gone on for generations. They meet their contact, a Melida named Wehutti, who promptly turns them over to his compatriots as prisoners. I was beginning to wonder how stupid the author was going to make Qui-Gon, that he couldn't sense a lie from this man -except that I was pleasantly surprised to find that Qui-Gon had not abandoned their lightsabers, after all!

They are rescued by Cerasi, a member of the Young, who have abandoned their parents and grandparents -and thus the war between the Melida and the Daan. They want peace, and an end to the labels of their people. But I must side with Qui-Gon's analysis, that the leader, Nield, is too full of anger and hatred. If he becomes the leader of their people, would he be any better than the people he wants to replace? I believe this is how Obi-Wan will be disillusioned -I just hope it is not the Jedi's place to kill his friend.

Obi-Wan only sees that the cause of the Young is just and right. Yes, they should sue for peace and unity at all costs. Qui-Gon doesn't want to get involved, since he does not know the whole story. When the Young call to arms, Qui-Gon thinks there must be another way, and he sees the situation spiraling out of control.

I do think that he accepts the help of the Young all to readily, but I suppose he had nobody else to turn to. The Young stage a diversion, by attacking both the Melida and the Daan with toy weapons, which sound remarkably like real ones. Tensions escalate, and soldiers fill the streets, leaving the cell where the tortured Jedi Tahl is being held relatively unprotected. The only problem with this situation is that Obi-Wan sneaks off and joins Cerasi and Nield in the provocation. He knows that Qui-Gon would forbid his involvement if he asked permission. Qui-Gon decided not to press the issue, and let Obi-Wan's mind try to figure out its own punishment.

But Obi-Wan enjoyed being a freedom-fighter too much. He didn't add significantly to the effort, being a single extra body, and barely used his Force talents, so I don't know why they wanted him so badly. But Obi-Wan needed to feel useful, to feel needed. This is something he doesn't get from Qui-Gon. His master simply points out when he makes errors (a point stressed at the very beginning when Obi-Wan is told to slow down the starfighter and be careful on landing), but never congratulates him when he makes a good decision. Qui-Gon is not very good at giving praise.

Plus, Cerasi is an attractive girl (judging from the cover image!) about the same age as Obi-Wan, so there are hormonal factors involved here. And Nield is a charismatic leader. I think he acts a little too old for the young man he is supposed to be -not yet old enough to be conscripted into the army- but I can forgive that because of the life he has lived. He asks for Obi-Wan's help a little at a time, getting the young Jedi deeper under his control without his even realizing it. I wonder if Nield realizes it himself.

After Tahl is rescued, and partially healed by Qui-Gon and their Jedi healing techniques, Qui-Gon tells his Padawan that they will leave at dawn the next morning. This is the moment that tears their relationship, though they don't know it quite yet. Obi-Wan can't believe his master is running out on the Young in their moment of greatest need. Although I could see the opportunity they had, I didn't think it was their greatest need. But I wasn't in Obi-Wan's position, and I could see the manipulative way Nield kept control over the Young, while Obi-Wan was under his spell.

Nield asks Obi-Wan for one last mission. The Young want to attack the city, but with all the shield towers around the city, it would be impossible. They require the starship the Jedi arrived on, in order to destroy the towers. Obi-Wan hesitates, but there is never any doubt that he will accede to their request. As the towers are being destroyed, Qui-Gon decides to make a some concessions to his Padawan, and tries to make the leaders of the Melida and the Daan surrender the city, or form a coalition government. For a moment, I thought Qui-Gon would end up leading the combined forces against the Young, against his Padawan. But thankfully the author gave Qui-Gon more sense than I did. He left them with an agreement to peace, and returns with the news to the Young.

It is telling the Nield doesn't trust the peace proposal. Nield wants war. It is all he has ever known, and I wonder if he will ever be able to give it up. Obi-Wan admits his guilt in using the starfighter, their only way off the planet, and thus endangering Tahl's life. Qui-Gon uses the excuse of getting Tahl back to the Jedi Temple a lot, but I don't think he would have made any other decision even if Tahl had not been injured. Obi-Wan is right -that his master breaks the rules when it suits him. But the responsibility of a Padawan is to obey his Master, even when his master is wrong. I wonder if Obi-Wan will remember this incident when Anakin decides to break the rules severely in Attack of the Clones.

When the Young hesitate too long accepting the peace proposal, the adults attack them, using starfighters brought in from outside the city. Nield once again asks Obi-Wan for his help. As Qui-Gon helps Tahl to the starfighter, Obi-Wan also makes his way to the ship, intent on using it to fight the other starships. Luckily, Qui-Gon gets there first, and there is a tense stand-off as both Jedi light their lightsabers. But Obi-Wan can't bring himself to fight his master, and instead gives Qui-Gon his saber, resigning from the Jedi Order. Heartbroken, Qui-Gon takes off, as Obi-Wan rejoins Cerasi and Nield.

That was certainly a shocking development, and I was heartbroken as well. But Obi-Wan is so ingrained under Nield's control that it is difficult for him to do anything else. Nield asks his advice, and congratulates him on good work. He makes him feel like he can make a difference. All Qui-Gon ever offered him was hard work for little praise.

I look forward to seeing Obi-Wan's departure grate on Qui-Gon's nerves in the next book. I think it is the simple disobedience that unnerved him, but I wonder if it also involves the betrayal of Xanatos previous to this. Still, I can't help thinking that there is something more. Although the Young could desperately need the Jedi help, they don't welcome any leadership at all from their elders. Which is a flaw in their reasoning. Cerasi berates Obi-Wan for listening to his elder master, but Nield seems to be the oldest of the Young, and has automatically assumed leadership. He is their elder. What they really need is somebody with experience.

This book unfortunately embraces the cliché that an entire planet can be run and influenced by a single city. What kind of planet is this that has a single city? I like the fact that both the Melida and the Daan called for reinforcements from outside the city, but they arrive in no time, implying that they were nearby anyway. If the Young do manage to take control of the city, are there other Melida and Daan in other cities that could come and liberate it? This point is not clear at all, but is consistent with the way Star Wars depicts planets with a single geography and nation- or city.

This book is an example of a good way to get somebody entrenched in a cult without even knowing it. Obi-Wan regrets every decision he makes that betrays Qui-Gon. But with every decision, he regrets it a little less, until at the end, he "knows" that he has made the right decision. Even from the outside, we can wonder why Qui-Gon lets him go, and doesn't help the Young take control of the city. I can see why Qui-Gon hesitates, though. Officially, they need to get Tahl home. Unofficially, Nield is too likely to take revenge instead of taking peaceful control of the city. But I am sure that between Obi-Wan and himself, they could have found a way to advise as outsiders. I think the Jedi know that, too. I only wonder how they will resolve it, and how they will become as close as they are in The Phantom Menace after this betrayal

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