Very well done. Finally we have an upbeat story, with
intrigue, and the Empire barely makes an appearance. This is the
best one of the series so far.
Luke has reluctantly decided that the young students should start
making their own lightsabers. It was neat to see them collecting
their crystals and components. They were all unique, according to
their personalities and inclinations.
That, incidentally, is what I object to most in these books:
the inclinations of the young Jedi. Jacen is terrific with animals,
able to sooth the wildest beast. But he can do nothing else.
He is hopeless with technical stuff. Jaina is technical, and can
fix anything, like her father can. But she can't do anything about
animals. Lowie is a computer expert, but is isolated to that.
The one that I like the most, precisely because she has grown,
is Tenel Ka. She started out determined NOT to use the Force, and
to call Dathomir her home and heritage. But by the end, she has realized
that she has to use the Force to augment her natural strength, and to be
a full person, she has to embrace both sides of her lineage.
I like the fact that she used a rancor tooth as her lightsaber
hilt. But she was lazy in picking her crystals. Because she
decided she would never have to use a lightsaber, she did a poor job.
So when training, her lightsaber fizzles out, and Jacen cuts her arm off
at the elbow! I was astonished by this, but it shows that the authors
are willing to let the characters grow. After I got over the shock,
I loved it.
In the middle of the night, she is whisked away to Hapes, home
of her father. Her parents are away, but her grandmother, always
fascinating, is there to dote on her. And Tenel Ka hates it!
Luckily, Luke decides that Tenel Ka needs the support of her
friends. They are completely surprised that she has this royal heritage.
But their opinion of her doesn't seem to change. If anything, it
deepens Jacen's crush.
Tenel Ka is forced to make a pronouncement on a minor species
in the Hapes cluster, and though her grandmother finds her methods to be
harsh, her judgement is sound. However, she still refuses to get
a mechanical arm.
After a bomb goes off in the dining hall moments before they
were about to enter, they are taken to a supposedly impregnable fortress
out on the ocean. There, Tenel Ka discovers that she is as strong
as ever, even with one arm. And she and her friends make a good team.
They have fun together, too, racing and swimming on the water.
But then they are encouraged to go out to sea to explore, and
get entangled in carnivorous seaweed. They barely escape, but return
to the fortress convinced the ambassador who is taking care of them is
trying to take over.
That night, they wake up to find assassins in their rooms.
They manage to escape again, and help the matriarch, Tenel Ka's grandmother,
to safety. They get back to the mainland in time to catch the ambassador
in the middle of taking over control.
The crisis solved, Tenel Ka decides to return to the Jedi Academy.
She is stronger now, realizing that she has been suppressing a part of
her that is necessary to survive.
On the dark side, Zek is being trained with a lightsaber, too.
He is learning all the dark arts. He duels with the night-sister's
top student, and kills the boy, becoming the Darkest Knight, which is the
title of the next book in the series.
The leader of the Lost Ones gang is being trained as a stormtrooper,
but he has a problem with authority. Finally, the stormtrooper who
had lived on Yavin 4 for so long is wondering if he was right in joining
this group. The duel to the death seems to be a misuse of resources,
and the people he is expected to train as stormtroopers are unruly.
There are dark times ahead, I believe.