Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Heir to the JediThis book was provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“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.”

I was a little hesitant to pick up this book.  I haven’t read a Star Wars novel in at least a decade, and from what I’ve heard from people who have kept up with the books, the stories were mediocre at best.  I didn’t want to ruin the memories of the good ones that I’d read, so I avoided the newer ones.  And then Kevin Hearne up and wrote a Star Wars novel, from Luke’s point of view no less!  At that point, I caved in and got the book, hoping that it would be a great one.

And… it’s not.

It’s not bad, but it suffers from two big problems: one, the plot from that nifty synopsis doesn’t start until about halfway through the book, leaving the first half feeling directionless; and two, for me at least, Hearne didn’t capture Luke’s “voice” all that well.  With regards to the plot, the first part can be best described as “Luke wanders around and does things”.  He goes on a few missions that don’t have anything to do with extracting the cryptographer, and indeed, they feel kind of like they were thrown in there to flesh out the page count.  As for the “voice” issue, that may just be a personal quibble on my part.  I don’t know how Hearne would have written Luke’s dialogue any better, but to me, it just didn’t “sound” like Luke when I was reading it.

On the plus side, there are some good action sequences in the book that hearken to the best of the original trilogy.  I also liked that we get to see Luke’s first fumbling attempts at touching the Force without Obi-Wan’s guidance, as these scenes provide a good bridge to what we see of Luke’s abilities in The Empire Strikes Back.  In fact, I wish that there had been more of these sequences in the novel, as I think most readers would be more interested in that than in more skirmishes between Rebels and Imperials.  We’ve seen all of that before, but we haven’t seen much of Luke’s work with the Force before he encounters Yoda.

I think this is a good time for this book to come out, given that the entire Star Wars franchise is getting new life with the sequels.  It’s also a reasonable attempt at bringing Luke back into the foreground–many other novels in this universe have followed Han Solo exclusively, or followed the major characters as a group, or followed characters created specifically for the books.  All well and good, but Luke was and is the focus of the original series, so it’s nice to see him getting some solo time on the page.

If I were going to be punny about it, I’d desribe my reaction to this novel as Luke-warm.  If you’re not a Star Wars fan, there are other avenues for you to learn about this complex universe; however, if you’re already a fan, you should probably pick this up and see where the overarching story is going these days.


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