Book Review: Jedi Academy Trilogy – Book 3 – Champions of the Force
It’s time to wrap up the Jedi Academy Trilogy and all its myriad plot threads.
Author: Kevin J. Anderson
Publication Date: September, 1994
Picking up almost immediately after the conclusion of Dark Apprentice, Kyp Durron heads to the planet Carida to find his brother. He threatens to cause the Caridia system’s star to go nova if they don’t tell him where his brother is. The Caridian planetary governor plays games with Durron, having not heard of the Sun Crusher before – so he causes the sun to go nova. The Caridian government panics and lets Kyp know that his brother is alive. Kyp tries to rescue his brother, but it’s too late, and the shockwave from the nova destroys Caridia, and kills Kyp’s brother.
The shockwave in the Force reaches the students at the Jedi Academy, and restores Luke’s link to his body, but spirit is still outside body, and Exar Kun is still active and trying to kill Luke’s physical form, so Luke has to try to communicate with his students, his sister, and his nephews to help beat Exar Kun, and keep his body from being killed.
Meanwhile, a Republic assault force commanded by Wedge Antilles, and accompanied by Chewbacca is heading to the Maw to rescued the imprisoned slave laborers and retrieve whatever data they can from the station’s computers so they know what other superweapons the Empire has been working on.
Meanwhile, Lando is planning to bring the Kessel mines up and running again, with the help of the Smuggler’s Alliance. Meanwhile, Han is desperately trying to find Kyp Durron and talk him down before he causes any more stars to go Nova, and before he himself is killed. Meanwhile an assault force from Caridia has the location where Leia’s infant son Anakin is being kept, and is on the way to kidnap him to make him their new Emperor. Meanwhile, Mon Mothma is still dying from a mysterious illness. Last, but not least, meanwhile, Admiral Daala has one ship left and she and her crew desperately trying to get it up and running.
Luke, his force-sensitive relatives, and students pool their powers together to defeat Exar Kun. Once this is done, Ackbar and Turfen – Ackbar’s preferred mechanic – arrive at Yavin IV, and tip off Leia that the Empire knows where Anakin is. They join an assault team that is sent to rescue Anakin, and they, along with Winter and the internal defenses of the facility, hold off the assault.
Han, with Lando, successfully talk down Kyp, and bring him to the Jedi Academy. Luke puts him through a test in the Force and Exar Kun’s old temple, and determines that yes, Kyp is repentant and wants to go through the process of redemption. Han and Lando then head off to Kessel, while Luke and Kyp go to get rid of the Sun Crusher by dumping it in the black holes of the Maw. Admiral Ackbar, Turfen, and Clighal learn Mon Mothma’s illness was brought on by nanobots which were in a drink that the ambassador from Caridia threw in Mon Mothma’s face back in the first book in the series. Clighan, using her force healing abilities, are able to disable the nanites, allowing Mon Mothma to start a recovery. While Mon Mothma recovers, Leia is appointed Head of State of the New Republic.
While all this is going on, Wedge’s assault team has to fight their way into the installation and manage to stop the self destruct – during which time some of the researchers and administrators steal the Prototype Death Star and head out into the larger galaxy. They test fire the Superlaser on the Kessel’s moon, before returning to the Maw installation in an attempt to defend it. During all of this, Daala attempts to return to the Maw for repairs, and ends up engaging Wedge’s forces. Ultimately, the Maw Installation ends up being destroyed, and Kyp lures the Death Star prototype into the black holes, before sending in the Sun Crusher after bailing out in a Message Capsule. Daala manages to escape, and chooses to join up with the Imperial Remnant.
- Caridia and its Imperial Academy have been destroyed.
- The Maw Installation has been destroyed.
- A few other core systems have also been destroyed.
- The Outpost Moon of Kessel has been destroyed.
- Nanotechnology exists in the Star Wars universe.
Luke Skywalker: As is expected with his belief in good being in Vader, he accepts Kyp Durron as a student again.
Leia Organa-Solo: Is now head of State of the New Republic. Assisted in the defeat of Exar Kun, and rescuing Anakin Solo from an Imperial Strike team.
Lando: Has taken over management of Kessel, and plans to operate the facility humanely with the assistance of Nien Numb and the Smuggler’s Alliance.
Chewbacca: Chewbacca leads a strike team of Republic Commandos in the attack on the Maw Installation
Admiral Ackbar: Chooses to return to the New Republic military.
Wedge Antilles: Commands the New Republic attack force on the Maw Installation.
Admiral Daala: After several crushing defeats, decides to join forces with the Imperial Remnant.
Mon Mothma: Is cured of the nanobot poison that was afflicting her, but has a long recovery in front of her.
The way the administrators of the Maw Installation keep falling back onto Bureaucratic procedure feels very much like a farce.
This is probably the book where the trilogy falls apart. Kevin J. Anderson just has too many plots floating around that he needs to wrap up in this book – the loaded gun of the Maw Installation and everything else they were working on making and had made in the past, the fate of Admiral Daala, Exar Kun and his influence on Luke’s academy, Mon Mothma’s mysterious illness, etc.
What this leads to is a series of anti-climaxes. A lot of these plots in this series have enough to them to merit their own books on their own, most of them picking up after book 1.
- An Imperial sleeper agent who doesn’t actually want to betray the New Republic forced to help weaken the Republic, by discrediting Admiral Ackbar and betraying the location of Leia and Han’s infant son Anakin, while an Imperial Ambassador himself poisons Mon Mothma – forcing Han and Leia to race to save their son from the Empire, while on the diplomatic and political side, the New Republic faces a new crisis.
- The New Republic sends a strike team to the Maw Installation to find out what else they were working on – not only projects that were unfinished, but what other Death Star (or World Devastator) style projects are floating out there waiting to be unleashed on the New Republic. Republic Forces lead by Wedge Antilles, and accompanied by Chewbacca (who seeks to free the slave laborers), and Qwi Xux (who seeks to help atone for her efforts assisting the Imperial War machine while also re-discovering her past), try to take control of the facility and save it from destruction. Meanwhile, the Administrators running the facility attempt to organize the defense, evacuation, and destruction of the facility in a darkly comedic bureaucratic manner – leading to difficulties on the part of the Republic Assault team in a “Great tactician fighting a dangerous idiot” sort of way.
- Admiral Daala, the officer in command of defending the Maw Installation, having been left incommunicado throughout the campaigns of Thrawn and the Emperor Reborn, takes her squadron of Star Destroyers out into the galaxy and, rather than trying to take and hold territory like Thrawn, instead goes on a terror campaign, seeking to erode support for the New Republic by showing that it isn’t actually able to adequately defend member systems, leaving a trail of death and destruction in her wake.
- Luke Skywalker has finally decided to start a new Jedi Academy, to bring a new generation of Jedi into the Republic. After selecting a group of candidates in the first book, and picking the old Rebel base at Yavin 4 as a site for this academy, Luke and his students discover a long dormant supernatural threat – Exar Kun, a Lord of the Sith who terrorized the galaxy millenia before the rise of Palpatine and the Empire. When Luke himself is taken out of action, the next generation of Jedi Knights must band together to overcome this new threat.
Now, when it comes to taking some of these plots and putting them into a trilogy of novels, you could probably interweave two of these, maybe 3 with some careful writing and a little extra page count, over the course of the second and third books of a trilogy.
However, there just isn’t enough page count over these second and third books for all these plots. Especially since two of them start in book 1, are dropped entirely in book 2, before getting picked back up again in book 3.
The whole plot with Caridia only really works in this book because the sabotage of Ackbar’s B-Wing puts him back on Mon Calamari to thwart Daala’s attack, explains why Mon Mothma is sick so Clighal can show her abilities by healing Mon Mothma, and explains why the assault force that’s sent to capture Anakin is generally half-baked. Indeed “half-baked” (and not in the stoner sense) generally describes the Caridia part of the plotline entirely.
The entire Caridia plot could probably have been picked up, expanded, and dropped into a standalone book, with more time being given to Exar Kun – especially considering that the Tales of the Jedi books have done an excellent job of building him up as a villain, so his defeat here should really be the climax.
Instead, the events at the Jedi Academy itself feel almost like an afterthought in this book – they aren’t given much time, and the conclusion of that plot comes almost in the middle of the book.
Ultimately, Champions of the Force is 80 pounds of plot stuffed in a 40 pound book, and I’m not sure where exactly the failure happened. If Kevin J. Anderson is a Pants-er (someone who writes by the seat of their pants, without laying out the entire plot in advance), is this a case where he just kept introducing plot threads, and found himself having to tie them all off in the last book, without being able to introduce one more book to finish the series off? If he’s a plotter, did Kevin and his editor not spot the large nest of plot threads until they hit the last book, at which point it was too late? I don’t know.
I enjoyed the opening installments of this series, and certainly, once you’ve started the ride with the first two books, you might as well finish it out. However, it is definitely a rough finish – and we’ll see with Anderson’s other series in the Star Wars universe, if sticking the landing becomes a recurring problem, or if this is an outlier.
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