A novel by Nancy Richardson
(1995, Berkeley JAM Books)
Book 1 in the Junior Jedi Knights
22 years after Star Wars: A New Hope
Anakin Solo follows his new friend and a strange dream to a mysterious secret
while attending the Jedi Academy.
Read on February 26th, 2001
A very decent outing, that stays true to the characters as they are
defined. The story also builds up a nice mystery, though I'm a little
tired of more Dark Side influence right under Luke's nose.
I found this book difficult to rate, because the problems that I had with it were caused by its being written for its intended audience, pre-teens.
There was too much explanation, but that, of course, was meant for people not familiar with the story, or as a refresher. Some background was needed, but I found that it was given in long-winded sentences. That's strange, because the book was written with mostly short sentences, quick thoughts and actions that gave the book a nice pace. Any time background was needed, a half-page paragraph, containing very few sentences, covered what needed to be told.
The idea of Anakin and Tahiri blindly following the dream and voice in Anakin's
head disturbs me, too, even though it worked for good. Once they acknowledged that they had to be careful not to reveal themselves, they still became very excited, and nobody became suspicious. I also thought R2D2 could have found them and followed them from the hangar bay, instead of having Anakin convincing R2 to follow them. But that's a nit.
Finally, I know that Yavin 4 was once crawling with Dark Side monsters, but there should be nothing within several days' hike from the Academy, since Luke has been there for years, and the Dark Side has crept up on him so often.
Aside from those problems, the book was terrific. Anakin was characterized so complex, and Tahiri so in tune with him, that it was a wonder to read about his feelings, and how he changed throughout the book. Anakin, eleven years old by this time, fears that his name will get him in trouble. He is so close to the figure of Darth Vader, his grandfather and namesake, that he wonders if his parents had the gift of prescience when they named him. He worries that he could become the scourge of the galaxy. At every turn, he weighs his options, trying to figure out which one will keep him farthest from the Dark Side, so that he can never even be tempted.
Anakin likes to be alone and think things through. But he meets Tahiri in the Grand Audience Chamber of the Academy, and couldn't get a word in edgewise, even if he wanted to. I know people like that (sorry Joanne!), and Tahiri brought a smile to my face as she spoke. She's from Tatooine, and was raised by the Sand People. I wonder if her parents died in a Tuskin raid. She's had a dream about drowning in a river for years now, even though she only ever saw a river for the first time the day before, on Yavin 4. After she tells Anakin about the dream, he has the dream, only
he's in the raft, watching her drown. They agree that they have to discover what the dream means, and they plan to sneak into the jungle the next day. A voice in Anakin's head tells him that a raft will be waiting. (As an aside, we never
do learn where it comes from.)
Another dream tells Anakin that R2D2 must come along, so the three of them head off, narrowly escape drowning (thanks to R2), and take shelter from a storm in an old temple. There, they discover an ancient stairwell, with worn bones at the foot of the stairs, and a glittering golden chamber. Working together, using the Force and their combined intellect (which is huge), they open a hidden door to discover the title object, the Golden Globe. Voices can be heard in Anakin's mind, and Tahiri sees shadows within. Children are trapped
inside! Anakin suddenly
realizes that they've been away for six hours, and that any search party will discover the globe. He knows, somehow, that if any adult finds out about the globe, it will be destroyed. I'm not sure about that, since the rabbit-like creature they find with the globe is apparently a 400 year old Jedi. He knows about the globe, and he has tried to access it, without ill effects. Why would Luke's trial be any different?
In a very abrupt (maybe too abrupt) about-face, Anakin and Tahiri leave, and R2 guides them back to the Academy. Luke is upset, but accepts the excuse that Tahiri had never seen a jungle before, and Anakin got lost showing it to her. R2 backs up their story.
Luke has a soft spot for Tahiri, because of her home planet. He also sees that she has some insight into Anakin. Anakin knows that he has to take
responsibility for his actions, while Luke and Tahiri know this means he is on his way to accepting who he is, and that he can plan his own destiny, and choose not to be Darth Vader.
Despite being a little reckless, which can be excused by their excitement, these two pre-teens are shown to be very capable, intelligent, and most importantly, very responsible. They know their actions will result in punishment, and only wish to escape the punishment for the benefit of the children encased in the Globe.
I find this to be a very noble characterization. Unlike the previous series of
Young Reader Books (the story of Ken, the Jedi Prince), they are not trying to save the Galaxy (not yet, anyway). They believe they are acting to save a small group, and they are not doing it for their own glory, or against any remnants of the Empire. That is a truly refreshing idea.