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A novel by Jude Watson (2002, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Jedi Apprentice, Book 17
40 years before and Star Wars: A New Hope

Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan attempt to escort a witness against a criminal organization, only to find that she has no evidence to present.



2 stars+

Read January 19th to 20th, 2004  
    As always, the book was well written, and got through to the emotions of the characters, but neither the story, nor the extras were very compelling.

Maybe I'm just getting tired of this series, but I find that there is very little growth here, and very little new to explore. Perhaps it is a good thing that this series is ending, and moving on to the next generation.

This book is really a story about Qui-Gon getting back on his feet. Although I'm grateful for the stand-alone nature of the story, I am surprised and doubtful that Qui-Gon's feelings of loss for Tahl could be wrapped up in a single book.

The Jedi are sent to a planet where a single witness is ready to testify and bring down a criminal empire that controls a planet. As implausible as this seems, it gets less and less plausible the more we learn about these criminals. Why would evidence matter to them? Surely they control the police on the planet, as well? Would the Senate send in the Jedi? It turns out that after Lena testifies to the Senate, the criminals are simply arrested. Clean and tidy -too much so for my tastes.

Once again, Obi-Wan takes charge of the mission, but this time it is Qui-Gon who is following his lead, still lost in mourning. It is only when Obi-Wan's wisdom starts to go astray that Qui-Gon takes over, and Obi-Wan resents him for it. For the most part, though, Qui-Gon lets his apprentice do his thing, and he even goes along with some recommendations that he disagrees with.

When they arrive on the planet, they discover that their witness has no evidence to present. Her husband, who was originally supposed to testify against the rest of his family, was recently killed, so she decided to take his place. Both Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan see the strength in this woman, who is ready to risk her life. I, however, see a naive and incapable woman who is given this ability simply by the author, not by the character's natural instinct. Everything that Lena says and does, with the exception of some sudden bouts of knowledge, says that she is not a smart enough person to pull off what she pulls off.

The Jedi tell her right off that they will not gather evidence for her (even though Obi-Wan professes that her cause is just), yet they follow her around as she collects evidence. There is very little difference between those two acts, except having Lena do it is less efficient. They follow her to her apartment, which has been ransacked, then to her mother-in-law's house, then back to the hideout, then search for her in a gigantic man-made garden, and back again.

At her mother-in-law's house, we experience a scene that even the Jedi should not have believed, with Zanita swooning as she "suddenly" realizes that yes (!) it was her eldest son who killed her youngest! We are told again and again by the voice of Qui-Gon or Obi-Wan that people are trustworthy. Where is the Force to guide their intuition? Zanita didn't seem honest or trustworthy, and she was the only one who knew Lena was at the house, so is the only one who could have caused the statue to fall onto their speeder and destroy it. How convenient was it that although "Lena carried herself with such authority that nobody questioned her", nobody questioned the appearance of two Jedi walking around the house? Zanita makes another appearance later, as a hostage of her other sons, but the Jedi outmatch them. Unfortunately, Lena's cousin Mica was killed in that encounter.

I didn't trust Lena for a moment, which was apparently unfounded, because she does what she says she was going to do. Once she figures out what the package sent by her dead husband means (I figured it out very soon afterwards), she goes and gets the datapad that contains all sorts of information that could destroy the criminal family.

Once again, Obi-Wan has his judgement clouded by a teenaged beauty, convinced that she is genuine, scared and trustworthy. It happens time and again, so I don't know why Qui-Gon made such a big deal out of it. Yes, Obi-Wan was infatuated with Lena, but he is always taking the side of the teens in this series, and is not always proven right.

I wondered at one point if Lena possessed some sort of mind control, as she even sways Qui-Gon at the end. The author wrote her character as if she wasn't to be trusted, but perhaps that was because she really was genuine. Lena, however, was really a mirror to Qui-Gon, as he tried to deal with the loss of Tahl. Lena misses her husband, but (we are told by the author) she is strong in his absence, carrying on his legacy. In the end, Qui-Gon decides that this is what he must do, as well. He saw a relationship similar to the one he and Tahl had also destroyed, but this time from the outside.

This book was published around the same time as Attack of the Clones came out in theatres, and it is noticeable in some cool aspects. Jocasta Nu, the Jedi archivist, takes on a prominent role in telling the Jedi about the conditions on the planet, essentially briefing them. Another interesting scene shows how mindful to his duty Obi-Wan is. He doesn't contradict his master in front of other people, but asks Qui-Gon to speak with him out of the room. Contrast this to what Anakin does at the beginning of the movie.

The Jedi in this book seem more like normal people than ever. It looks as if the Force has deserted them for the most part. Since when are Jedi out of breath? In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda specifically said that the Force could keep his energy level high, as opposed to what the Hand of Thrawn duology would tell us. Why did Qui-Gon need to see in the dark? Surely he could sense Lena without lighting his blade? Qui-Gon's intuition that the ship they were supposed to board was not safe wasn't ascribed to the Force, either, since he found the name of the star-liner on the thug who tried to kill Lena. It should have been the Force that warned him the Senator could not be trusted. Obi-Wan couldn't even sense the dangers to himself and to Zanita at the end.

Speaking of that final scene, while it was a cliché to see Zanita attack Lena and reveal herself as the leader of the criminal organization, it had to happen in order to keep the story neat and tidy. What I disagree with, and what I have said again and again, is that Zanita should not have committed suicide. It is not in her character. So many characters have committed suicide in this series, where it was unnecessary. There have been seventeen books, and we have never seen Obi-Wan kill. I think that needed to be addressed in this series somehow, and this was another missed opportunity.

Fortunately, the book was very readable, and even the characters that I didn't like gave us some interesting action. The one thing that has been extremely consistent in this series is the writing style, which is very enjoyable.


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