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A novel by Jude Watson (2000, Scholastic Paperbacks)
Jedi Apprentice, book 10
43 years before Star Wars: A New Hope

As the Jedi try to return royal first-borns to their families, they struggle to mediate a fragile peace between the neighboring worlds.



2+ stars

Read on April 12th, 2003  
    This story didn't resonate with me as I think it was intended. I found the characters to be shallow, and the plot rather predictable. Finally, the writing was not as good as in the previous story.

Judging from the way the author constantly brings up the topic of Obi-Wan's torn loyalties on Melida/Daan in Defenders of the Dead and The Uncertain Path, I think we were supposed to see this story in that light, but from the outside. Instead of Obi-Wan being torn between his duty to the Jedi and his desire to help his new friends, Obi-Wan is now on the outside, watching the Prince of Rutan decide between his duty to lead or his desire to stay with the people of Senali.

Unfortunately, we don't see enough of the story from Obi-Wan's perspective to gain a new appreciation of what he learned from his personal crisis. Most of the story is told through Qui-Gon, and even then, we don't see much of his emotional state, either. Mainly, he watches events unfold. That's fine in a story, but it doesn't make for compelling drama.

This is especially true since most of the people we meet are quite one-dimensional. King Frane is a mean-spirited tyrant, from the looks of it. He believes his kingship gives him complete control of the people, that his word is law. At least if Leed became ruler, he could bring some compassion to the land. It's too bad that we don't see any of the common people of Rutan, to give us a better perspective on the type of ruler he is. Aside from hunting and eating and drinking, I don't think there is any more to him.

Leed is right that he isn't a ruler. He could be, as I mentioned, and I thought it would have been a good idea for the author to put him on the throne, and maybe revisit the planet in a year, to see if anything has changed. All Leed wants to do is rest in the idyllic society on Senali, where families are very large, and there appears to be no real distinction between the people who live there. He has a responsibility to show his people that these are not the terrible enemies they think the Senali are.

His brother Taroon had me fooled, for at least part of the book. He was so much like his father that I didn't think he was much more than a buffoon. However, when he responded to Drenna's teaching, I really thought he had developed some sort of compassion, though it was rather quick. I never thought he and Drenna had emotions for each other. I suppose he was turned from his path just a little because of her. The love seemed to come out of nowhere, given to us by the author, instead of the characters. Taroon's true nature was revealed the next morning, when Leed was captured by unknown forces. As he said to Drenna, there was no reason for him to resort to kidnapping Leed. His plan was way too convoluted, since he had the rebel band go from Rutan to Senali, with their modified probes, then back again. It doesn't make sense at all.

King Frane's reaction to Taroon's desire to lead is quite funny, but what happened to the tradition of the first-born being ruler of Rutan? I suppose it was only something more to try and get Leed back to his home planet.

War is narrowly averted, because of Leed's acceptance of his duty, before Taroon tries to discredit him with the modified seekers. The daughter of the Senali leader was imprisoned when Leed refused to come home -Frane figured his son had been coerced or brainwashed, because why would anybody not want to return to Rutan? I have several reasons, but none that he would have believed. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Drenna get themselves arrested, similar to what Obi-Wan and Siri did in the last book, so they would have access to Yaana's cell. They succeed in rescuing her, but fall under fire from King Frane's troops. Thus Leed capitulates and agrees to become King when his time comes.

This book didn't really do much for me. The writing style was a little stilted, which made following it more difficult than in the last books. I didn't find most of the characters to be very interesting, and I felt that Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon didn't have much to do. They managed to use their lightsabers to good effect at the beginning of the book, when they were targeted by the seekers of the hunt, on the backs of animals, but otherwise, they simply twirled their weapons to avoid getting hit by darts, or by the seekers.

Several plots came out of nowhere, and the fact that the author was forced to resort to long speeches by the characters to explain everything tells me that the complications were not really necessary. It would have been better to show us evidence, rather than hide it in Qui-Gon's head.

I really wonder how the first-borns survived on the other planet. Did Yaana participate in the hunts, or was she summarily ignored? Did Frane enjoy his decade on Senali when he was young -I doubt it, given the way he acts, here. The plot twists could have been confusing, if they had meant anything. Mostly, they didn't, which made the book rather uninteresting. Hopefully the next books will pick up the pace a little.


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