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A novel by Jude Watson (2001, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Book 12 of the Jedi Apprentice
43 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

Obi-Wan traces the clues to the laboratory where Qui-Gon is being held prisoner.



4 stars

Read on April 15th, 2003  
    Although the beginning of the book meandered a little too much for my tastes, once Obi-Wan took charge, this was an incredibly exciting adventure.

This is more like it. Just when I was beginning to wonder if Obi-Wan was finished his development, or stuck at some level, the author puts him in a situation where he has no choice but to grow. He is also terrific at it.

It took about half the book for Obi-Wan to take charge of the situation, and that's about the right amount of time, given his hesitation in the previous few books. He has always seen himself as Qui-Gon's apprentice, and never as a Jedi himself. So he sits and broods helplessly with Astri in the waiting room, wondering if Didi will survive. Even when he and Astri go to follow up some leads, he allows others to call the shots.

Obi-Wan and Astri actually make a good team. She has connections to the Coruscant underworld, and the fact that she's Didi's "daughter" allows her to collect information for free. She also knows how to cook on small food sources, which comes in handy when they get to the bounty hunter's home planet, Sorrus. She gains the trust of the natives by scrounging fungus and mushrooms, and creating a delicious meal. I do wonder why Astri says there are so many Sorrusians wandering the galaxy, when even Obi-Wan hadn't heard of them in the last book.

Obi-Wan is the one with the instincts, however, and he has had the guidance of Qui-Gon Jinn. I love the way Qui-Gon's voice resonates within Obi-Wan, so that he is able to think clearly, even with his master not around. Thus he is able to avoid the misdirection from Ona Nobis and follow her to the planet where the Senator's son died, from the last book.

Obi-Wan really shines when facing the bounty hunter again. This time, he does not have Qui-Gon's help, but he manages to disarm her and humiliate her. By saving the life of one of Ren S'orn's friends, and offering credits to others, they gain one lead after another. I love the way Obi-Wan stood up to the Senator, interviewed the conference participants, and dealt with S'orn's friends. He really took charge, and even though he had doubts, he let the Force guide him. I guess that Obi-Wan hasn't had time to practice the Jedi Mind Trick, though! Speaking of the dumb trio, Cholly, Weez and Tup were perfectly hilarious! I was reminded of the Three Stooges for some reason. They didn't seem to be quite "all there", and provided some very funny levity to the story.

Obi-Wan even comes up with a plan to check out the warehouse where he feels Qui-Gon is being held. It's risky, but he knows that he has to offer himself as a potential hostage, with Astri posing as the bounty hunter.

As for Qui-Gon, he spends the novel in a tank with some sort of vapor that saps his strength and his life force. When he uses the Force, he is rewarded by Jenna Zan Arbor with some time out of the tank. He was right, and the Jedi figure it out, as well, that this scientist is the one behind the whole plot. She is studying the Force, trying to discover how to tap into it. He has a few interesting conversations with her, and because she is not Force-sensitive, she cannot understand that what she is trying to do is impossible.

Of course, in Luke's time, things like this become possible, because they don't know any better. I kept wondering why Qui-Gon didn't use the Force to break the syringe that kept taking his blood. That's something Luke's students could do, but apparently is not possible during this time. I don't know which I prefer, but it's kind of refreshing to see that the Jedi are not as powerful as they have been made out to be in the other, later-era novels.

When Obi-Wan arrives and rescues him, Qui-Gon is still trapped by the threat of retaliation towards another hostage, a Force-sensitive that he never met, but whose presence he could feel during his time in the cage. So although Obi-Wan could have rescued him, the code of the Jedi, and their morality, doesn't let him leave. Instead, in a great show of camaraderie, Obi-Wan gives his master his comlink and lightsaber, and takes off to get a Jedi team to help with the rescue.

Astri's motivation for coming along with all this is because Zan Arbor holds the only vaccine known to what is killing Didi. She obtains it with Qui-Gon's help, and will bring it back to Coruscant.

The next book promises to be even more action-packed. The bounty hunter is now after Obi-Wan -he's made the hunt personal! Qui-Gon is free, but can't leave the lab, though he is now armed, and will try to rescue the other person on his own.

Obi-Wan really seems to shine when he is separated from his master. If I look back at the books that I enjoyed most in this series, from The Mark of the Crown, where he had to deal with internal politics, The Uncertain Path, where he was having a crisis of his own, and in The Fight for Truth, when he has to escape a prison of sorts with Siri, Obi-Wan is always growing on his own, without the shadow of Qui-Gon on him. An interesting trend, I think.

The book was written in the style of the best of these Jedi Apprentice novels, once again. The author has a terrific style, that weaves the story in an interesting way, allows the dialog and narration to flow. This book was a real page-turner, especially as the action built near the end. I knew that the next book contained the rescue (hence the title), but I began to wonder if both Jedi would need rescuing!

This was a great read, and I eagerly anticipate the next one.


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