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A novel by Nancy Richardson (1996, Berkeley JAM Books)
Book 3 in the Junior Jedi Knights
22 years after Star Wars: A New Hope

Anakin accompanies Tahiri to her home on Tatooine, where they are put through a grueling test.



3 stars

Read on February 28, 2001  
    The trend to turn these ten year olds into mini-adults continues. After a suspiciously simple series of events, however, they surprised me by showing sudden insight, thus saving the book.

This adventure, as opposed to the either of the ones in The Golden Globe, or Lyric's World, felt more natural. There was no sneaking around, no sending the adult back into space so that they could have an adventure. Only tough and surprising choices that came about as a natural progression of the preceding events.

I am a little confused about the time period, though. Tahiri has been at the Academy for six months, and Anakin is the only friend she's made, and that only two weeks ago? Seems unlikely, the way she socializes and talks. On the other hand, perhaps her incessant chatter (that's said in a loving way) turned the others off. I certainly liked Anakin's way of responding to her question that "the Bantha's got your tongue" by telling her that he was just waiting for her to take a breath so he could get a word in edgewise...

Regardless of the calendar, it is time for Tahiri to go to Tatooine to tell her adoptive family whether she will stay at the Academy or return to Tatooine for the rest of her life. What she doesn't know is that the leader of her Tuskin Raider tribe, Sliven, had made a deal with his tribe in order to keep her alive when he found her, six years ago. If she does not fulfill his deal (or promise), he will be killed.

Tahiri refuses at first, feeling betrayed, but she forgives Sliven when he tells her the story of her family, which he had been forced to keep hidden from her all these years. Her parents had found him wounded and tended him, and he grew to love them. They were Jedi, or at least Force-sensitive. Sliven showed them how to fight with a gaderffi stick (the Raider weapon), and his tribe came upon them practicing. Thinking it was a real duel, the tribe killed Sliven's opponents. Sliven refused to abandon the child, though, and made the deal to keep both of them alive. Looks like I was right about what happened to Tahiri's parents, but wrong about motivation.

It was such a touching story that I was in awe, and I couldn't believe how amazing this book was written in such a short space. Unfortunately, the next parts brought the book down quite a bit. Tahiri's task, in order to fulfill Sliven's promise, is to return to the tribe after being brought three deserts away, to use the way of the Raiders to survive without food or water in their possession, and be wary of the terrible dangers in the deserts. The task seems daunting, so Anakin is determined to join her.

It must have torn Tionne in two, since she was sent to protect these children. She realized that she couldn't talk Tahiri out of it, and the chances of survival were much better with Anakin by her side. I don't know what kind of other choice she could have made. The decision was truly out of her hands. She could have tried to talk them out of it, but that would have meant Sliven's death. Fighting the tribe was not an option, even if Tionne had Luke's strength in the Force, which she's never had. 

Once Tahiri and Anakin were dropped off literally in the middle of nowhere, events seemed way too simple. They follow her tribe's Bantha tracks until they are washed out, about half a day later. Tahiri slips into the maw of some sort of mini (and less vicious) sarlacc, but Anakin rescues her. They happen upon a bunch of Jawas with a broken down sandcrawler. The Jawas can't fix it, but Anakin (using the Force to get inside) replaces one tube within minutes of arriving, and it's fixed. Jawas can get anything working. The problem should have been much more complex, perhaps requiring only force ability to either find the problem or fix it. 

The Jawas give them a lift to the edge of the Dune Sea into the Jundland Wastes, the rocky surface that R2D2 traveled so many years ago. When the sandcrawler can go no further, the Jawas give them food and water and wish them a safe journey. Soon afterwards, they are attacked by a Krayt Dragon! Entire tribes of sand people are terrified by the sound of one of these creatures, but Anakin and Tahiri are able to fend it off for a while? And why did the beast bring Anakin back to its lair instead of killing him on the spot? I can understand the spider from the last book, but this does not make sense, especially since it didn't eat him right away, but gave him time to escape! Tahiri follows them and walks into the lair by herself, which is completely unbelievable. Together they use the Force to distract and then trap the Krayt Dragon under some rocks. At least they didn't kill it. And once they left, they didn't seem concerned that the Dragon might follow them. 

Finally, though, on the eve of the deadline for their return to the tribe, they realize that they can't do this alone. They are not meant to be sand people. And the only way to save Sliven, not to mention Anakin, who is bleeding and has infected wounds, is to call for help. Using the Force together, they call out to Tahiri's bantha, with whom she has a very strong bond. This began the turnaround of the rest of the book. By morning, the bantha gnawed through its ties and has found them. The bantha then lets them ride it all the way back to the tribe. Some are happy to see them, others are not. Tahiri decides to go to the Academy permanently, because she has realized that although she knows how to survive in the desert, she used the Force more than sand people skills.  This realization was beautifully done.

I didn't like the way Tionne apparently didn't even try to stop the infection using the Force. She could have at least obtained some medicine in Mos Eisley. And when they arrive back at the Academy, Luke knows nothing about Anakin's wounds! How is that possible? When an ambulance in today's world arrives at the hospital with a critical patient, the doctors often know about it in advance. With faster-than-light communication, even a New Republic hospital ship should arrive faster at Tatooine than Peckhum's old ship traveling all the way to Yavin 4. Luke should have had a medical droid waiting to take care of the boy inside the shuttle!  It's a good thing they have a medical droid. Wouldn't a healer like Cilghal the Mon Calamari be better?

Once healed, however, Anakin and Tahiri travel to the Golden Globe again. They believe they know how to free the children trapped inside.  They follow the messages from Anakin's dream, however, so the symbols they deciphered in the last book are almost useless, as far as I can tell. Using their combined power, they weaken the field on the globe and Anakin enters. He is nearly trapped inside, but eventually, with him touching the sphere's inside, and Tahiri on the outside, they lead the Massassi children free. The children appeared to be only spirits by this point, four thousand years later. So they are very happy and fade into nothingness. 

Apparently, Exar Kun used the Massassi children as a way to enslave the people. The dark side followers, spirits themselves, tried to turn Anakin and Tahiri away, then tried to turn them to the Dark Side, playing to their fears -especially Anakin's concerning his grandfather. Finally, when that didn't work, they tried to destroy the globe themselves. Fortunately, Anakin succeeded in fending them off while he freed the children.

Luke and the rabbit-like Jedi Master arrive as the children are freed, and Luke is proud of them, even though they snuck out of the Academy again. I still hope that other Academy attendees get to do some of the stuff Anakin and Tahiri are doing, or get the same soft slap- on-the- wrist punishment if they go against Luke's rules. I wonder what will happen to Ikrit (the Jedi who discovered the globe 400 years ago). Luke must now have access to an unprecedented amount of knowledge. Bringing back a Jedi from the pre-Palpatine era is always dangerous. I wonder what they'll do with him now. I suppose he could just "fade" since his primary mission is over.

The children spoke and acted more like adults in this adventure. The choices they were forced to make were adult ones, so that's fine, and they got to act like frightened children, too, which I also appreciate. I just wish there was an in-between.

So this book was an up and down ride. It started off better than any of the others, dropped to a new low, and rose and fell a few more times again before the end. I'm glad the mystery of the Golden Globe has been solved. All in all, still very well recommended. I look forward to reading the rest of this series in the future. 

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