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A novel by by Kevin J. Anderson (1994, Bantam Spectra)
Book 2 of the Jedi Academy Trilogy
11 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Admiral Daala strikes more targets in the New Republic, while one of Luke's students learns secrets of the Dark Side of the Force with the intention of defeating the Empire single-handedly.




Read March 25th to April 7th, 2012, in a Trilogy hardcover  
    Although several important and interesting elements of the story occurred in this middle part of the trilogy, most of the book was padded with filler, and I can't understand why. The story could have been such an interesting one; the padding wasn't just setup for events that will occur in the final novel, but is just padding, plain and simple.

Spoiler review:

Dark Apprentice refers to Kyp Durron, whose life was torn apart by the Empire when he was very young, and even after its defeat, it kept him in thrall, as he didn't escape the spice mines of Kessel until Han showed up in Jedi Search. He is young and has little or no patience- no wonder, given the in-the-moment life he led at Kessel. He is also very strong in the Force, so its little surprise that he quickly masters Luke's exercises, and wants far more. Very similar to Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, except that Luke had more respect for Yoda than Kyp does for his teacher.

And so, like Gantoris before him, he is lured by the promise of power by the spirit of Exar Kun. Kyp is stronger than Gantoris, though, and learns far more than just how to build a lightsaber. He understands the history of The Sith War, and uses that to his advantage. He openly criticizes Luke as somebody who has an incomplete understanding of the Force, which is true. However, after what Luke did at the beginning of Dark Empire, I think he underestimates his master. Unfortunately, we don't see much of his turn to the Dark Side, which makes it less dramatic than it should have been. He steals Mara Jade's starship, the only one on Yavin IV at the time, and goes to visit the remains of the pyre of Darth Vader, the last Sith Lord. Finding nothing of value there, he goes back to the Jedi Academy and steals the Sun Crusher from within the depths of the gas giant, and proceeds to use it against Admiral Daala. Kyp doesn't realize how selfish he is being, and how there are multiple points of view in the universe. Luke should have reasoned with him more, at least insisting that if everybody took out their own personal vendetta against perceived injustices, the whole galaxy would now be dead. But he doesn't, and I have to agree with Kyp that Luke isn't a really good teacher at this point.

This novel starts a lot earlier than Kyp's arrival at the Jedi Academy, however. We see that the author and Luke couldn't come up with more interesting ways to train Jedi than wandering around the moon communing with nature. I guess it's the only way Luke knew how, based on his own training, except that he has a holocron, which even tells of Yoda's training! It's really just a tease by the author, who doesn't deign to tell us any more than that -as he shouldn't, of course.

Gantoris, who made Luke walk across hot coals and water in Jedi Search, meets the spirit of Exar Kun first. He builds a lightsaber that can be extended several levels, after which he challenges Luke to a duel. Luke is surprised and cautious, while Gantoris obviously hadn't even fought with a sword before, and Luke wins. Unfortunately, he doesn't even investigate when they find Gantoris' remains in his room, apparently incinerated by Exar Kun's spirit. If Kun is that powerful in spirit form, why doesn't he just kill Luke immediately, or in his sleep? The spirit form just seems too powerful. Kun even knows what is happening out in the galaxy, such as when Daala destroys the refugees from Gantoris' planet, whom he thought were going to be safe (which causes Gantoris to go mad and attack Kun, hence the incineration). Yet Kyp has to tell him that Darth Vader was a Sith Lord, and catch him up on events in the galaxy.

Daala, meanwhile, continues to prove that even though she is the only woman to ascend to the rank of Admiral in the Imperial Navy, she is not up to the task, and doesn't appear to be a model that other women should aspire to. Her three Star Destroyers come across a cargo ship delivering supplies to the Dantooine colony, destroy it and then the colony, and run back into hiding. She plans to make several hit-and-run attacks, until she gets a call from a long-dormant probe droid on Calamari, a droid that incidentally Leia and Ackbar accidentally activated. She uses Tarkin's strategies to attack the planet and shipyards, but is again defeated, again losing an entire Star Destroyer in the process. It seems that Ackbar can see through a feint attack by two Star Destroyers in orbit, knowing exactly where and when a third would appear from behind Calamari's moon -this because he was the personal slave of Tarkin for many years. He sends out the incomplete hulk of a Calamarian cruiser to detonate before Daala's third ship can even start its attack. They didn't stand a chance. So she goes into hiding again, and decides to attack Coruscant on a suicide run.

The plan she lays out is so detailed that the readers know it couldn't possibly come to fruition. But the entire time I was reading it, I was wondering why ships slamming into Coruscant in Dark Empire and Revenge of the Sith, among others, did so little damage overall, if one Star Destroyer could lay waste to the entire planet here, as she describes. She is interrupted, of course, by Kyp in his Sun Crusher (Exar Kun told him where she was hiding). It looks like she loses another Star Destroyer in the explosion, and Kyp thinks she has been killed, but she must escape to wreak havoc in the third book, anyway.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was Leia's time on Calamari, searching for Ackbar. In one of the first chapters of the novel, in a scene that appears top be completely contrived, Ackbar and Leia are going to the planet Vortex to see the festival of the winds, something that happens every few decades. Ackbar's ship has been sabotaged (we find out later), so that he crashes it into the Temple of the Winds, completely destroying the crystalline structure, and killing hundreds of Vors. Leia was ejected before the crash, and has very little injury, while Ackbar activated his crash shield (have we ever heard of this before?), allowing him and his ship to survive, also with very little injury. When the Council tries to decide his fate, he resigns in embarrassment. It's only when Leia finds out that Mon Mothma is dying, and the Council is being dominated by the more extreme militant members, that she goes to Calamari to try to convince him to return.

The introduction of Cilghal, the Calamarian ambassador, was actually very well done. She has a knack for making good guesses, which is a skill anybody could have, except that she shows it off to an amazing degree. Leia is convinced almost immediately that this one has Jedi potential. I wonder, though, how easy it was for her to shrug off her ambassadorial duties, or resign, to go to Yavin IV and become a Jedi. She never discusses it, and we never hear of her taking a sabbatical, or quitting. She does find Ackbar, however, who has isolated himself in response to the disaster he created. Oddly enough, he is hailed as a hero when he ambushed Daala's ambush of the shipyards after he and Leia were the ones who set off the probe droid that called her there! Or did Leia and Ackbar fail to mention that to anybody...

Most of the smaller aspects of the novel don't work. There is the ski race between Han and Kyp in the polar regions of Coruscant, which, though it is supposed to provide bonding between the two, falls completely flat and really ends up being embarrassing. The twins also have an adventure that is supposed to provide humor (I think), and does absolutely nothing for the story except drag it down. Han is giving Kyp a lift to Yavin IV, while Leia is going to get Ackbar's help, so C3P0 and Chewbacca are supposed to watch the twins, but, predictably, the kids get bored and run away. I see that right from the beginning, the authors didn't know what to do with these characters, and tried unsuccessfully to use them as comedy. The kids go down to the lowest levels of Coruscant, which don't seem all that dangerous or scary, though the kids cry a lot. Then they are picked up by a king (who used to be a business man on the upper levels), who returns them to Han and Leia's apartment. Unless this king returns in the third book, it is a completely useless section, that doesn't tell us anything about the twins, and I don't think shows us the real lower levels, either. If I was Han or Leia, I would be more worried that the king could come up their ventilation shaft at any time!

I wasn't all that impressed with Wedge and Qui Xux's romance, either, as they went to Ithor. There isn't much to say about this, except that Kyp arrives and rips out half of the scientist's memories, just to be sure nobody can create another Sun Crusher- but didn't she leave notes in the Maw laboratory? Given her director, I would say she'd have to.

The worst part of the book, I think, has to be Han and Lando's games of sabaac over the ownership of the Millennium Falcon. First, Han decides to play cards for the Falcon even he knows Leia is in trouble after the crash on Vortex, delaying his departure. He wins that match, then he loses again later, and loses a third time even later, but Lando gives him back the Falcon trying to impress Mara Jade, who roller her eyes at his attempts at romance. 

The climax of the book comes when Kyp returns to steal the Sun Crusher. With a flick of his finger, he disables Luke, which I think is unrealistic. On the other hand, Luke was caught unaware by Kyp and the spirit of Kun, who can affect objects in the physical world, somehow. So Luke is left for dead as the students find him and wonder what to do. 

The middle part of this trilogy is definitely weaker than the first installment. There was almost not enough story to fill it up, and given the amount of story, that's saying a lot, because a lot of stuff happens here. I just didn't like the way it was presented. I also found that the author used too many references from the movies, but like in Jedi Search, this was undoubtedly his way of trying to create a link between them and his books. Given the scarcity of novels that existed at this point, I don't think he needed to worry, and should have left the references out (especially the unlikely circumstance of Momaw Nadon stating that he was in the cantina when Luke arrived in A New Hope, even if he did think the event noteworthy enough never to forget). I don't remember much of the third installment, but I hope it gets back to better storytelling.



4 stars

Read September 1st to 6th, 1994 in softcover  

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