Book Review: Young Jedi Knights – Jedi Shadow
I’m almost done with the Star Wars novels in 1995 with the first three Young Jedi Knights novels, which were collected together as an omnibus under the title Jedi Shadow.
Young Jedi Knights: Heirs to the Force
Young Jedi Knights: Shadow Academy
Young Jedi Knights: The Lost Ones
Written by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Modesta
Published in June (Heirs), September (Shadow), and December (Lost) of 1995.
Young Jedi Knights: Jedi Shadow is available from Amazon.com
Heirs to the Force
Jacen and Jaina Solo have recently enrolled in the Jedi Praxeum at Yavin 4. Jacen has taken to exploring the jungle around the Temple and studying the wildlife, while the more mechanically inclined Jaina has focused on fixing up various pieces of tech – some of which has been lying around in varying degrees of disrepair since shortly after the battle of Yavin.
Shortly after their arrival, two new members enroll – Tenel Ka (the daughter of Tenel Djo and Prince Isolder from The Courtship of Princess Leia), and a Chewbacca’s nephew, Lowbacca. Lowbacca is brought to the school by Han and Chewie – who also bring a hyperdrive for Jaina to work on. Jaina fixes up the drive and on one of Jacen’s trips into the jungle with Tenel Ka (who he has a crush on), and Lowbacca, they find a crashed TIE fighter.
We learn prior to our protagonists’ arrival, the Imperial Remnant (now calling itself the Second Imperium), had sent a spy to infiltrate the academy – Brakiss. Rather than turning him away, Luke had chosen to try to teach Brakiss anyway, having seen through his deception and uncovered his mission. Ultimately after having been trained by Luke, Brakiss fled after Luke tried to get him to confront his inner darkness, returning to the Empire.
The group find the fighter, and install the hyperdrive – but before they start to work on fixing it up, they are captured by the TIE’s pilot – Qorl. Qorl refuses to believe that the war is over and the Empire has lost. After the TIE has been sufficiently repaired, Qorl takes the now hyperdrive equipped TIE and leaves the Solo kids, Lowbacca, and Tenel Ka on Yavin – and vanishes into space.
Jacen, Jaina, and Lowbacca are visiting Lando Calrissian’s Corusca Gem mining facility on the gas giant of Yavin. Corusca Gems are gems that form in the depths of Yavin which are valued for their industrial ability. However, shortly after Jacen and Jaina arrive, the facility is attacked by an Imperial assault shuttle which is equipped itself with Corscua gems, allowing them to cut through the hull. However, the targets of the raiders aren’t the gems – it’s Jacen and Jaina, though they also take Lowbacca as a bonus.
The attackers have been sent from the Shadow Academy – an Imperial-run Dark Jedi Academy – specifically to take Jacen and Jaina. The administrator, Brakiss, wants to turn Luke’s nephew and niece to the Dark Side basically as a really big F-U to Luke – and to also show his skill to his master. Brakiss is joined by Tamith Kai, a Nightsister.
After learning about the abduction from Lando, Luke and Tenel Ka set out to find the kidnappers, through following the money. They end up discovering that the kidnappers were working with the Nightsisters of Dathomir, and in turn head there. Tenel Ka and Luke pose as potential recruits and manage to not only fool the Shadow Academy’s recruiters among the Nightsisters, but they also manage to steal their shuttle from them.
On the Shadow Academy – Brakiss is continuing his attempts to turn Lowbacca, Jacen, and Jaina to the dark side. He gets Lowbacca to succumb to his anger on several occasions and puts Jacen and Jaina through several lightsaber fights against holographic opponents before tricking them into fighting each other.
Luke and Tenel Ka get on the station at about the same time Jacen, Jaina and Lowbacca stage a jailbreak. The two groups meet up, with Tenel Ka dislocating Tamith’s knee in a fight, and Jaina dropping the blast doors between Brakiss and Luke before they could have a similar fight. Luke and his students escape with the Shadow Academy’s quantum armored shuttle, the Shadow Chaser, while the Shadow Academy itself relocates to a different system.
The Lost Ones
Jacen and Jaina are on leave from the Jedi Academy, returning to Coruscant with Tenel Ka and Lowbacca, to spend time with their parents, just in time for a major diplomatic function. After arrival, the two head off to meet with Zekk, a street rat from the lower levels of Coruscant.
The group goes to a Hawk Bat nest, where Jacen uses the Force to help Zekk take an egg from the nest, by promising to the parent that the egg will be taken to a good, safe home.
Jacen and Jaina then take Zekk to a diplomatic function, where Zekk ends up embarrassing himself by accidentally eating a floral arrangement (to be fair, the flowers were of an edible variety). On returning home, embarrassed, Zekk is kidnapped by the agents of the Shadow Academy. It turns out that he’s Force Sensitive, and if Luke’s niece and nephew can’t be turned, maybe their friend can. Meanwhile, the Shadow Academy also manages to ambush a supply shipment bound for Coruscant carrying turbolasers and hyperdrive cores.
Jacen, Jaina, Tenel Ka, and Lowbacca, worried about their friend’s disappearance, go looking for him, and basically find him just in time for the Shadow Academy to head out-system once again for Parts Unknown.
- We learn more about the ecology of Coruscant.
- Destroying the Mount Tannis facility didn’t deny the Empire access to cloaking devices, as they use them to hide the Shadow Academy. Cloaking Device technology has also been improved to something on the level of cloaking devices in Star Trek.
- Corusca Gems are some of the strongest cutting implements in the galaxy.
Jacen Solo: Has a rapport with animals through The Force. Is eager to get his first Lightsaber until his experience at the Shadow Academy where he was tricked into fighting his sister, quite possibly to the death. Really likes to tell jokes – and is trying to use this to break the ice with Tenel Ka.
Jaina Solo: Has a gift with mechanical devices. During the fight with Jacen, when she is tricked into believing she’s fighting Darth Vader, Jaina gets the upper hand. While this is not intentional foreshadowing – this does pay off later.
Lowbacca: Like his uncle, Chewbacca, Lowie has a knack for mechanical devices – preferring to spend time on a computer than out in the woods. However, like Chewbacca, he does have problems with his temper and with occasionally being impulsive.
Tenel Ka: Does not like being treated like royalty – indeed, she’s been concealing her heritage from Jacen, Jaina, and her classmates. Luke, however, knows and is respecting her privacy. It’s unclear if Jacen’s feelings are required. However, due to actual or feigned density, she acts like she doesn’t get Jacen’s jokes.
Lando Calrissian: Has a new business operation – mining
Corusca gems from the atmosphere of Yavin. As with his Cloud City and Niklon operations, this has earned him the attention of the Empire.
Zekk: A friend of Jacen and Jaina who lives on the streets of Coruscant. He’s a young, scrappy street hustler who probably has a lot in common with Han.
Brakkis: A former student of Luke Skywalker’s though he didn’t fall to evil, he was already there. Luke tried to turn him from the path but failed.
Emperor Palpatine: Apparently still alive, and serving as the patron of the Shadow Academy.
Most of Jacen’s jokes were crowdsourced from the Star Wars FidoNet community.
These first three Young Jedi Knights novels are a good example of how to do this kind of long-form-series short-form-story fiction right. The three novellas contained in this collection get a lot of momentum, and once they have it they don’t squander it. The story keeps moving and does so in a comprehensible fashion. Jacen, Jaina, and Lowbacca are barely out of the camp long enough to get the attention of the adults, and as soon as Lowbacca does get the attention of the adults, things wrap up quickly. If Lando’s operation is new, then, of course, the list of his buyers is short and manageable so it wouldn’t take a lot of time for Luke to make their way through it. That sort of thing.
Additionally, these books also drop a bunch of hooks to the earlier novels and comics – ones that aren’t dependant on having read earlier works but provide a nice little bonus for kids who have been going through more adult aged books, or parents who are reading along with their kids. Stuff like callbacks to The Courtship of Princess Leia, or the Shadow Academy being an outgrowth of the program set up in The Crystal Star, or straight up call-outs to the frequent attacks on through the Zahn trilogy and Dark Empire.
In all, these are a trilogy of books that, while meant for younger readers, definitely work multiple levels – which is definitely something that should be appreciated.
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