Originally published at: http://www.rancorslovetoread.com/2009/01/andrews-review-of-jedi-academy-trilogy_30.html
2/5 Rancors – Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy continues in this second volume, Dark Apprentice. At the conclusion of the first entry, Jedi Search, Luke Skywalker had laid the groundwork to start his new academy for training potential Jedi on the planet Yavin IV. Here Anderson explores the early days of the Academy itself, along with continuing the plotline of Admiral Daala’s exploits and also devoting a large amount of the story to a new storyline involving Princess Leia and Admiral Ackbar.
There is a reasonably interesting story present in this book. Unfortunately, it is dragged down by pedestrian writing and Anderson’s inclination to directly spell out exactly what the characters are feeling and thinking. There’s not any room for subtlety and what drama there is gets undercut by passages that feel more like summaries than prose.
The most engagingly written plotline in this book is the tragedy that befalls Admiral Ackbar on a trip to Vortex to visit the legendary Cathedral of Winds. In the aftermath of the Vortex disaster, Ackbar resigns from the New Republic government and returns home to Mon Calamari. Soon after, Chief of State Mon Mothma falls gravely ill and Leia realizes she will need Ackbar’s support to ensure moderate voices are still heard on the Council. Leia sets off to Ackbar’s watery homeworld Mon Calamari to make her case for Ackbar’s return. Anderson writes a fun little voyage through the world’s oceans to find the ex-Admiral. He does a nice job of tying into the Dark Horse comic series Dark Empire, in which the resurrected Emperor’s World Devastators wreaked havoc on Mon Calamari.
Luke’s story is less successful, and unfortunately the Academy is the focal point of this trilogy, at least in theory. Luke comes across as weak and indecisive: granted, reviving the Jedi Order is going to be incredibly challenging, but it’s not much fun to read about a waffling Jedi Master, especially the one so loved from the films. His Jedi candidates are only briefly sketched out, and several are pointedly never identified at all, presumably to leave room for other authors to fill in later. This storyline ties heavily to the comic series Tales of the Jedi, also written by Anderson, as the spirit of 4000-year old Exar Kun starts influencing the more pliable candidates on Yavin to the Dark Side.
One story point was outright corny and irritating. In a fit of pique, Han Solo sits down to a high-stakes sabacc match with Lando Calrissian that ends up with him losing his beloved Millennium Falconto Lando. That’s just ridiculous and it didn’t add a thing to the story. Worse, the Falcon changes hands between them in two follow-up games later in the book. The Han I see in the films would never put himself in the situation where he might lose the Falcon in the first place, unless it was to save someone’s life or something of equally high importance.
Overall, this trilogy contains too many events referenced in other Star Wars novels to skip. The good news is it is a very fast read, and there are places in which it successfully engages the imagination. However, the weaknesses I’ve outlined above prevent this second book from rising to the heights some of the other novels achieve.
Originally published at: http://www.rancorslovetoread.com/2009/03/davids-review-of-jedi-academy-trilogy_27.html
4/5 Rancors – Dark Apprentice by Kevin J. Anderson is Volume 2 of The Jedi Academy Trilogy. The story is an excellent follow-up to the first volume Jedi Search. Our heroes are spread out all across the galaxy, and they all face immense difficulties throughout the book. Luke spends his time on the fourth moon of Yavin where he has established a Jedi Academy. His focus throughout the trilogy is to find potential Jedi candidates, convince them that they truly want to be Jedi, and then train them in the ways of the Force. His primary concern with the training, and a concern that turns out to be well founded, is to keep his new Jedi from embracing the dark side of the Force.
Leia is once again torn between her ever-increasing duties to the New Republic and her desire to spend more time with her three children. In an especially gripping chapter early in the book, Leia is a passenger in an expanded B-wing fighter that is crashed by Admiral Ackbar into the famous Cathedral of Winds on the planet Vortex. Leia’s diplomatic duties during the book increase as Mon Mothma has mysterious health problems.
Admiral Daala leads the remaining Imperial Star Destroyers and is intent on wreaking havoc on the New Republic. Han and Lando take turns owning the Millennium Falcon with the ownership based on the outcome of sabacc games. Chewie and Threepio are drafted into sitting duties for Han and Leia’s twins, and it does not go well.
Much of the emphasis in the book is on Luke’s concern with the dark side as he trains Jedi candidates on Yavin 4. Gantoris mysteriously learns how to construct a lightsaber and exhibits increasingly strange behavior. Kyp Durron arrives at the academy as a particularly promising candidate but falls under the influence of Exar Kun, a dreaded Sith Lord from thousands of years earlier. This is really the only area where I quibbled with the story. Luke seems indecisive and fairly weak through several episodes, certainly not the Luke Skywalker we have come to expect.
Dark Apprentice is an excellent story. I always wanted to read just one more chapter before stopping. I very much look forward to Volume 3 Champions of the Force.