Luke Skywalker’s game-changing destruction of the Death Star has made him not only a hero of the Rebel Alliance but a valuable asset in the ongoing battle against the Empire. Though he’s a long way from mastering the power of the Force, there’s no denying his phenomenal skills as a pilot—and in the eyes of Rebel leaders Princess Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar, there’s no one better qualified to carry out a daring rescue mission crucial to the Alliance cause.
A brilliant alien cryptographer renowned for her ability to breach even the most advanced communications systems is being detained by Imperial agents determined to exploit her exceptional talents for the Empire’s purposes. But the prospective spy’s sympathies lie with the Rebels, and she’s willing to join their effort in exchange for being reunited with her family. It’s an opportunity to gain a critical edge against the Empire that’s too precious to pass up. It’s also a job that demands the element of surprise. So Luke and the ever- resourceful droid R2-D2 swap their trusty X-wing fighter for a sleek space yacht piloted by brash recruit Nakari Kelen, daughter of a biotech mogul, who’s got a score of her own to settle with the Empire.
Challenged by ruthless Imperial bodyguards, death-dealing enemy battleships, merciless bounty hunters, and monstrous brain-eating parasites, Luke plunges head-on into a high-stakes espionage operation that will push his abilities as a Rebel fighter and would-be Jedi to the limit. If ever he needed the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi to shepherd him through danger, it’s now. But Luke will have to rely on himself, his friends, and his own burgeoning relationship with the Force to survive.
Today (March 3rd) sees the release of Kevin Hearne’s debut Star Wars prose, Heir to the Jedi , delving readers into the mind of Luke Skywalker almost immediately following his destruction of the Death Star at Yavin.
When I say into the mind of Luke Skywalker, that is literally where Hearne takes us as Heir to the Jedi is written in the first person, and everything is played out from Luke’s point of view. Taking the narrative into the first person eschews the typical perspective told in Star Wars novels, and not since Michael Stackpole’s Corran Horn centric ‘I, Jedi’ have we been taken on this narrative style.
Beware, mild spoilers ahead.
This is also the first novel under the new continuity that follows a central major character from the movies. A New Dawn followed Disney XD’s Star Wars Rebels Kanan, whist Tarkin , well obviously followed the then Governor Tarkin – and as such great hope and expectation had been placed upon this novel.
We meet Luke with an almost childlike excitement and naivety, as The Force Awakens in him – if you excuse the Episode VII terminology. He has received little training, has only just discovered his power, but has little understanding and knowledge in how to develop let alone use the Force.
Ben Kenobi was ripped from his life whilst barely having even explained to Luke what the Force is, let alone explains the dangers of it. We have a lonely, isolated, and puzzled Luke in a galaxy that is as foreign to him as me. A moisture farmer from Tatooine in the middle of an intergalactic war between the Empire and the emerging Rebellion.
Hearne spends a great deal of time in exploring and explaining Luke’s feelings throughout the novel as he explores the Force, it’s beauty and fragility, and how it is effectively an awakening of a new sense within him. He is truly discovering a new world. But all is not positive in Luke’s mind, as we are brought into his personal struggles of loneliness, and the heavy bearing of responsibility he now carries, as well as at times hinting at his feelings for Leia. I was pleasantly surprised that they did not hide away from this storyline and I thought it was brave of the author to tackle this.
Hearne’s use of the first person also gives us a first glimpse into the mind of Luke as he emerges into a new world beyond the confines of Tatooine. He highlights quite skillfully the search inside Luke for meaning and family, and I particularly enjoyed Luke’s use of Han Solo-isms – almost indicating Han to be an idol figure to him, possibly even a father figure, or at the very least a male role model. We often forget that Luke was an orphan of the Clone Wars, and grew up with Owen and Beru Lars – with whom he had a love but yet frustrating relationship.
The central plot of the novel is Luke working for Rebel Alliance and in particular Princess Leia and Admiral Ackbar in the rescue of a rebelling Imperial cryptographer. On the way he learns a little bit more about the Jedi and their legacy. Aiding Luke on his way is Nakari Kelen, whom provides the flirtatious counter to Luke’s naivety. Together with R2-D2 and the Givin code breaker Drusil, they form a Rebel team to infiltrate the Empire.
Luke’s interactions with Drusil provide some light relief in the novel, as Luke appears somewhat shell-shocked as the close interaction with the alien look of the Givin. A combination of curiosity of the alien look, but also at the mathematical skill of Drusil amuses Luke. This part did seem a little off considering that Luke would have encountered many an alien on Tatooine, but did not effect the novel to any great deal.
Hearne seems to enjoy writing Drusil, and uses the mathematical skills of the character as a crypo of sorts in the use of equations in the chapter titles. It’s a nice touch and shows the authors passion for the work. It was fun to see maths used throughout the novel, but perhaps that is just my accountancy head talking.
It is around Drusil that Hearne creates the best parts of the novel. The narrative is slick, funny, action packed and tense. The perfect mix of math sequences coupled with Luke’s reactions to the sewer environment are at times brilliant. I particularly enjoyed the language used in the novel, and the character interactions – although it did start off rough and blocky at the beginning with an overuse of Star Wars catchphrases. As the novel progressed Hearne seemed to grow in confidence in his writing, and in the later part of the novel the use of now traditional Star Wars quotes seemed better placed and delivered the emotional impact the writer appeared to be trying to achieve. I felt that the editing of the novel let Hearne down here, as the change in confidence was too apparent and effective editing could have addressed this.
Hearne uses the novel to set Luke up for the challenges we know will be encountered in the later movies, and I like the way he setout to portray Luke as the polar opposite of his father. Luke’s decency versus Anakin’s arrogance was a regular theme, and you could see the plot parallels that Hearne was building in to the plot, and the opposing decisions made.
Hearne’s novel had a lot to live up to. We sit on the dawn of a new Star Wars film with the world waiting to see the iconic hero Luke Skywalker make his much dreamt of big screen return. It would be easy for the novel to fall into obscurity. Some would argue that the lack of real story progression in the overall Star Wars timeline detracts from the novel. For me that was not the goal or purpose of the novel. The novel was conceived to reintroduce us to the character of Luke Skywalker, and provide us with an intimate look into our hero’s mind. Following this novel, Luke is our hero again, and Hearne brings us closer than ever in delving into the inner working of young Skywalker – ensuring the Force reawakens this iconic childhood legend.
The largest downside to the novel was its pacing and flow. First person novels are difficult to manage as they remove so many of the usual techniques to progress a plot at pace. At times this novel struggled, and perhaps needed more polishing and editing. If you are not a regular reader of POV stories, this may damage your enjoyment of what was at its core, a strong character exploration. It is perhaps a format more familiar to comic readers, and I think that comic book fans may in particular find great fun in this novel.
I particularly enjoyed Hearne’s use of non-humans and droids in the novel. Often sidelined, they took and often stole the central plot of the storyline. John Jackson Miller has been one of the few Star Wars writers of late to give focus to the diverse life in the Star Wars galaxy, and it was fantastic to see that continue in this novel.
The controversial part of the novel will undoubtedly be the ending. Without spoiling it too much, at face value many will see it as falling into the fridging tope of female characters. I can’t help but feel that those in that camp see prejudice where it does not exist. Character decisions must be taken purely for the purpose of story, and I saw the ending as a beautiful, intense and powerfully written prose. It adds so much depth to Luke’s character that resonates when you re-watch the movies. Its ripples will be felt for some time to come, and I would rather have characters make an impact in the narrative than hang around the fringes of our central tale. If we don’t take these brave and impactful decisions then we will have one too many vanilla characters, and we can’t live in a universe where we judge every death through prejudiced tinted glasses. It was a decision made by the author that was the right decision for the central character whom the whole novel focused on in the first person. What the author delivers in this novel is two central phenomenal female characters that we crave to see and hear more from. Denying us that in one instance, actually adds value to the character departed. It is so refreshing to see female characters take front and central focus in Star Wars novels.
Hearne takes brave decisions in his writing in Heir to the Jedi . It won’t please everyone, but I would rather have Star Wars novels that make you want to talk and discuss Star Wars. He entwined great characters with wonderful insights into Luke’s mind. It’s one downside being that it failed to give enough plot progression in the timeline to make a meaningful timeline impact. However, I feel that the ramifications of Luke’s emotions from this novel will resonate in future Star Wars creative.
Thanks to Del Rey Books for the advanced review copy.
For more Jedi News book reviews click here.