Guest Review: The Jedi Academy Trilogy III: Champions of the Force (Star Wars) by Kevin J. Anderson

January 12, 2013


Book Review The Jedi Academy Trilogy III Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson


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2/5 Rancors – Champions of the Force is the final book in Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy Trilogy. It continues much in the vein of the first two novels: a somewhat promising and engaging storyline is dragged down by pedestrian writing and some very hokey scenes. The 300-some pages of this book are essentially one extended climax to the trilogy. One battle in particular, the assault on the Imperial facility in the Maw, almost stretches the entire length of the story.

The Bantam Spectra era of Star Wars novels was noted for the authors’ predilection to invent “superweapons-of-the-week.” True to form, this trilogy contains not one but two in the form of a prototype (but fully functional) Death Star and the even more powerful Sun Crusher. It’s not that hard to swallow the existence of a prototype Death Star, although the idea feels a trifle overused after seeing them in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. However, the Sun Crusher concept goes beyond the pale. Anderson asks the reader to accept it took a 100+ kilometer wide sphere to support a laser that could destroy a planet, but this tiny fighter-sized craft carries the power to cause supernovas. Ick.

The Imperials of this story are sadly incompetent. Admiral Daala continually praises her own abilities and chuckles diabolically at the havoc she is about to unleash on the New Republic, but her tactics are weak and her plans fail time after time. The other key Imperial character, Ambassador Furgan from the Imperial training world Carida, is similarly depicted. Both are a long step down from Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Luke spends much of this novel in a comatose state while his spirit mystically wanders free. Anderson sets up a big confrontation between Luke’s spirit and that of Exar Kun, the 4000-year old Sith Lord from his comic series Tales of the Jedi. There’s potential here but when the climax comes it is underwhelming. It makes the point that the Jedi candidates will have to go beyond themselves and work together to succeed, but these characters are so one-dimensional it’s hard to care. I appreciate what Anderson tried to do in this trilogy by exploring Luke’s uncertainty about resurrecting the Jedi and charting a course for the future, but I don’t like the weakness he coupled with the indecision. It takes Luke too far from the hero so loved in the films.

As I mentioned in my prior reviews of the Jedi Academy Trilogy, the events contained within are too big to ignore to understand the Star Wars Expanded Universe fully. The books are easy to read and won’t require a whole lot of time or much deep thought. However, there are some definite flaws preventing me from recommending these books to a more casual reader.

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4/5 Rancors – Champions of the Force by Kevin J. Anderson is Volume 3 of The Jedi Academy Trilogy. I found the story to be an excellent follow-up to the first two books. Mr. Anderson weaves a good tale with our favorite heroes involved in all kinds of dire situations all through the galaxy. Luke, of course, is running his Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 and has to rely on the skills and force powers of his trainees (plus Han and Leia’s children) to bring him out of the trouble he was left in at the end of Volume 2. Kyp Durron, having been won over to the dark side by the spirit of Exar Kun, is off in the Sun Crusher bringing death and destruction to the Empire, although doing it in a Sith fashion instead of by Jedi methods. Wedge ends up back at the Maw Installation trying to see what can be salvaged. Leia is appointed to run the New Republic as Mon Mothma’s health fails. She also has to make a desperate trip to the planet where baby Anakin is hidden to save him from a kidnap attempt by the bad guys. Han, Lando, Chewie, and Mara Jade are off on other adventures. The action is pretty much nonstop, and Mr. Anderson does a good job of weaving the stories together. On top of all that, Admiral Daala turns out to be alive with one remaining Imperial Star Destroyer, and a functioning prototype of the Death Star also enters the picture. Whew! All good stuff.

I only have a couple of real reservations about the three books in the trilogy. The author seems to feel obligated in each book to lessen the mood by including attempts at humor. In Jedi Search, we have the Umgullian blob races, i.e., blobs racing around an obstacle course. In Dark Apprentice, we have the ownership of the Millennium Falcon going back and forth between Han and Lando based on the whims of sabacc games. This is really hard to accept. In Champions of the Force, we have the ultimate bureaucrat trying to command the Death Star by having meetings, establishing priorities, and turning to procedure manuals to handle any situations. This slam at methods of corporate management was slightly clever at first but wore thin with repeated usage.

My other reservation deals with the approach taken to Luke, We keep waiting for Luke to take over and assert himself as a true Jedi Master, but he is presented as indecisive and extremely unsure of himself. Several times I found myself wondering where the real Luke Skywalker was. I miss him. Still, this third book and the entire trilogy are fun to read.

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One Comment

  • Alex Baugh January 12, 2013 at 11:04 am

    I used to be such a Star Wars fan, but have drifted away for no real reason. I will have to try to get back to it this year. And this looks like a good one to start off with.

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