This week we continue with the Jedi Academy Trilogy with the second installment of the series.

Author: Kevin J. Anderson
Publication Date:  July 1994

Dark Apprentice is available from Amazon.com in Paperback and Kindle editions.

Plot Notes

Following not long after the events of Jedi Search, Luke Skywalker has opened the Jedi Praxeum (not Academy – in spite of the title of the series) in the old Rebel base on Yavin 4. Luke’s students have expanded beyond those he recruited in the last book, including Dorsk 81 – a person from a planet of clones, who due to a genetic abnormality is Force Sensitive; and Tionne – a musician.

Luke has been training his students with the assistance of Vodo Baas’ holocron, which Luke and Leia retrieved from the possession of Emperor Palpatine’s clone. However, all is not well. Yavin 4 is haunted by the force ghost of one of the last Dark Lords of the Sith – Exar Kun – and he’s trying to seduce Luke’s students over to the dark side, starting with Gantoris.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Governor of Carida, has been taking steps to undermine the Republic, having used cybernetics to turn Admiral Ackbar’s mechanic into a sleeper agent for the Empire – committing sabotage on Ackbar’s personal two-person B-wing when he was shuttling himself and Senator Organa-Solo to a diplomatic meeting. This leads Ackbar to choose to retire from public life. On his return trip, he stops by the planet where Han & Leia’s youngest, Anakin, is being kept safe with Winter – and a tracking device planted by Ackbar’s mechanic sends that information to the Empire.

Further, Mon Mothma is dying of a mysterious, unknown disease. Qwi Xux, the non-human designer of the Sun Crusher, who helped Kyp Durron, Lando, and Han escape from the Maw Installation with that weapon is now under the protection of Wedge Antilles, and is working with the Republic to reverse engineer the weapon so they can successfully destroy the damned thing. The decision is made to dump the thing into Yavin 4.

The other, major plot thread is related to Admiral Daala. Her fleet, reduced to three Star Destroyers, which is nothing to sneeze at, but not enough to actually claim any territory, sets out on what can best be described as a terrorist campaign – utterly annihilating the new settlement made for Gantoris’ people on Dantooine, killing the Republic Engineers sent to help set up the base, and murdering everyone.

Her fleet then goes to attack Mon Calamari, only to run into a problem – Daala was trained by Grand Moff Tarkin, and she knows everything he did, and she built her tactical style (for lack of a better term) based on his style. However, Admiral Ackbar also studied under Tarkin when he was Tarkin’s slave, and in particular dedicated his efforts into finding weaknesses and counters to Tarkin – and he’s on Mon Calamari when she attacks, while Leia and the Mon Calamari Republic Representative, Cilghal, are trying to persuade him to rejoin the Republic Council. Leia & Clighal are able to get Ackbar to lead the defense, and turn Daala’s tactics back against her. In short:

This comes to a head when Kyp Durron is brought to the Praxeum. Exar Kun had failed to seduce Gantoris, when the energy of the Dark Side burned him alive from the inside out.  He is much more successful at luring Kyp Durron over to the Dark Side. Durron steals the information on how to operate the Sun Crusher from Qwi Xux’ mind, giving her partial amnesia in the process, retrieves the Sun Crusher from the depths of Yavin IV with the Force, and when Luke tries to stop him, Durron basically yanks Luke’s soul from his body, leaving him comatose.

Durron then heads to the nebula where Daala’s remaining Star Destroyers are in hiding, using an array of torpedos to cause a chain reaction in the stars in the Nebula to destroy Daala’s forces.

Finally, as the book ends, Kyp Durron sets off for Carida to rescue his brother, who was sent there while Kyp was sent to Kessel with their parents.

Worldbuilding

  • We get information on the social structure of Mon Calamari society, along with meeting our first female Mon Calamari – Clighal – and we get some description on the sexual dimorphism of Mon Calamari.
  • We get the name of the “Hammerhead” species from the Mos Eisley Cantina, Ithorians, and the name of the one present there – Momaw Nadon.
  • Training in being a Jedi is not just a matter of physical and mental conditioning, as we saw on Dagobah, but also psychological conditioning – as Vodo Bass’ recommended training regimen includes a lot of stories of historical Jedi as parables.
  • There is a population of former Imperial and Republic bureaucrats living in the lower levels of Coruscant, forced into hiding because of their actions against Palpatine and the Empire – and apparently they never emerged in the years since the Battle of Endor.

Characterization

Luke Skywalker: Is very concerned that his students might go down the dark path much as Anakin did with Obi-Wan.

Leia Organa-Solo: Is taking on more responsibilities in the Republic due to Mon Mothma’s illness.

Han Solo: Ends up trading the Falcon back and forth with Lando over games of Sabacc.

Chewbacca: Is the twins big-furry babysitter, along with…

C-3PO: Is also responsible for helping take care of the twins – is really bad at being a storyteller, or getting the Twins to behave themselves.

Admiral Ackbar: Is established as having been Tarkin’s slave – this had previously been established in materials for the RPG, but this hadn’t been brought into the books before.

Kyp Durron: Has turned to the dark side in a manner not too dissimilar to how Anakin’s path would go in the prequel trilogy.

Mara Jade: Comes to the Praxium to train under Luke – ends up being impatient with Luke’s training methods (as with Kyp Durron), but can’t leave because Kyp steals her Z-95 Headhunter.

Wedge Antilles: Is falling in love with Qwi Xux, but by the time they come to terms with their feelings for each other, Kyp has mind-whammied Qwi Xux.

Admiral Daala: Eschews joining any particular faction of the Imperial Remnant instead of taking her fleet on a terrorist campaign against the Republic, only to run into the setbacks of fighting a military commander who specialized in countering Imperial tactics, and having one of her own Super Weapons turned against her.

Mon Mothma: Dying of a mysterious illness.

Other Notes

Considering that the story mode for Battlefront II is focusing on the Empire because “Even the Empire had heroes to” – I appreciate Kevin J. Anderson, back in the day, saying – “No, the Empire are a bunch of evil fucking bastards.”

However, this does mean that it doesn’t particularly make sense for the Republic to bring Daala on board as the commander of the Republic Navy in the New Jedi Order era.

Final Thoughts

The Jedi Academy series gets a lot of crap, some of that deserved, but there’s some solid material here in the middle.

Let’s get the crap out of the way first. The whole thing with Lando, Han, and the Falcon goes almost nowhere. Before this book they’d pretty much gotten the whole “I won the Falcon clean/No, you cheated,” thing out of the way – before Anderson digs that up all over again.

That said, Anderson does a pretty good job of writing villains who make bad decisions for logical reasons – Daala hasn’t been keeping up with the past 10+ years of tactical developments because she’s been stuck at The Maw, utterly incommunicado. That said, if she’d stuck to the periphery, she probably could have made it work – the Republic navy would have been spread thing hunting down her ships, and the Republic member worlds would have been pissed that no one could protect them. Instead she got ambitious and decided to go after Mon Calamari, thinking it was a soft target, not realizing that probably the one Republic admiral who knew her mentor as well – if not better – than she did would be commanding the defenses.

Durron’s fall has a more organic flow to it than Anakin’s, probably because it’s more rapid – Durron is impatient, and upset because there’s still the question of whether his brother is still alive. Additionally, he’s also older than Anakin was when we see him brought into the Jedi Order, so the worry about being “too old” feels better here – Kyp Durron’s mindset and worldview has been dramatically shaped by his incarceration on Kessel, along with all the potential options being laid before him with his freedom.

The book’s climax has some great visuals, with Luke & Kyp having their confrontation on top of the temple, with Kyp having retrieved the Sun Crusher from Yavin IV, and fighting Luke alongside the visible spirit of Exar Kun.

The next book I’ll be covering for the Star Wars EU will be the next installments of Tales of the Jedi – The Freedon Nadd Uprising, and Dark Lords of the Sith.

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