Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly: Book Review

Book cover for Children of the Jedi

There were a couple more Star Wars Novels in 1995, with the first two Callista novels, starting with Children of the Jedi by Barbara Hambly.

Children of the Jedi
Written by Barbara Hambly
Published in May of 1995

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Plot Notes

Leia, Han, Chewie, and Luke have traveled to Ithor for diplomatic negotiations. While there, Leia and Han are attacked by Drub McKumb, a former smuggler colleague of Han’s. McKumb warns of a threat against the planet of Belsavis and the “Children of the Jedi” – and against the Republic. Han & Leia decide to go to Belsavis to investigate his warning. Meanwhile, Luke works with Nichos, the fiancee of Luke’s student Cray to learn more. Nichos knows something of Belsavis as he had spent some time there as a child. Several years previously, Cray used Ssi-ruuk technology to en-tech Nichos into a droid body when he was diagnosed with an incurable terminal illness. As a consequence, Nichos has lost his Force-sensitivity. Nichos uses random number generation influenced by his memories to generate some coordinates. Luke decides to follow them, accompanied by Cray, Nichos, and C-3PO.

On the Eye of Palpatine

Luke and Cray end up following the coordinates to a massive mobile battleship called the Eye of Palpatine. The ship was sent on a secret mission to wipe out the Jedi settlement on Belsavis, during the tail end of the Clone Wars. Its mission was to pick up stormtrooper garrisons from a series of worlds before finally going to Belsavis. The Eye of Palpatine has no human crew – just an array of droids and a droid intelligence called The Will. However, something had disrupted the ship’s mission, before it was restarted now. Cray and Nichos end up being separated from Luke and 3P0. Luke and 3P0 set out to find out the truth of what happened years ago, and rescue Cray and Nichos.

Over the course of Luke’s exploration of the Eye of Palpatine, he learns that the ship was sabotaged as part of an earlier mission by a Jedi Knight named Callista. However, the effort left her mortally wounded, and in order to try and keep the ship from being reactivated, she used the force to transfer her consciousness to the ship’s main computer. As Luke and Callista try to put together a plan of action to stop the ship, the two fall in love. Ultimately, they manage to find a way to rescue Nichos and Cray, reach the self destruct controls for the Eye of Palpatine and set the ship to blow. In the process, Nichos is badly damaged, and Cray decides to use the force to have her spirit and Callista’s swap places, so she can stay with her fiance, while Callista can be with Luke.

On Belsavis

On Belsavis, Han and Leia learn about a long-running smuggling operation shipping electronic components out of ruins on the planet. The operation suddenly dried up after the Battle of Endor. This leads Leia and Han on an investigation into why. The cause seems related to Roganda Ismaren, a member of the Emperor’s court who has ended up on the planet.

Han and Leia learn that Roganda has worked with her son, Irek, who can control electronic brains. Irek has taken control of the Eye of Palpatine and forced it to restart its mission. Roganda has told the Noble Houses of the Senex-Juvex cluster that Irek is the child of her and Palpatine. With Irex’s power, and with the power of this warship, they would be able to form a New Empire with the Houses at its head. Further, they’ve learned that Roganda is another of the Emperor’s Hands.

Han and Leia warn Mara Jade and are about to leave when they are captured by Roganda’s plotters. Han & Leia fight their way off-planet. The Falcon enters orbit around the same time the Eye of Palpatine jumps in the system. The Eye of Palpatine launches a whole bunch of escape pods and then blows up. The Falcon rescues Luke and Callista, and rendezvous with Mara Jade. Mara reports that Roganda and Irek have fled the system as fast as their ship can go. Luke and Callista are overjoyed that they are reunited in the flesh. Callista, however, is shocked and somewhat horrified to learn that she’s lost her Force-sensitivity.

Worldbuilding

  • The book travels to the planet of Belsavis – a mostly icy world with a whole bunch of tropical valleys heated by volcanic vents.
  • The identity is revealed of a second Emperor’s Hand – Roganda Ismaren.
  • The Senex-Juvex cluster is introduced, along with the political system of the cluster – that they are ruled by a collection of Noble Houses.
  • After learning about Ithor in Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, we get to go there for the first time.
  • We learn a whole bunch of Gammorean society – and they’re basically written like Proud-But-Dumb Warrior Race Guy orks.
  • Research in Ssi-Ruuk technology has been developed to enough of a degree that a person’s consciousness could be voluntarily en-teched into a human chassis, but there’s still a long way to go before the technology can be medically accepted.

Characterization

Luke Skywalker: Has met Callista for the first time, and has fallen deeply in love with her.

Callista Ming: Had transferred her consciousness into the Imperial Warship Eye of Palpatine, and provided assistance to Luke through the computer systems until she and Cray swap consciousnesses, allowing her to survive, but at the cost of losing her access to the Force.

Mara Jade: Has learned the identity of another Emperor’s Hand, and on learning that they’re trying to rebuild the Empire, is gunning to take them down.

Roganda Ismaren: Child of Jedi parents who was captured by Imperial Inquisitors at a young, and turned into an Emperor’s Hand. Had a child with another member of the Imperial court (not the Emperor), and skipped out of Coruscant after the fall of the Emperor. Is planning to rebuild the Empire with her son on the throne and her as the power behind him. Now on the run.

Other Notes

Based on a few plot beats, I suspect this book was written before the Corellian Trilogy, as there an implication that Lando and Mara Jade may be in a relationship.

Final Thoughts

This book is kind of a mess. The problem is that the “Han and Leia” and the “Luke and Cray” plot threads aren’t intertwined long enough. In Empire, while the gang is separated in the second act of the film, they ultimately reunite in the third act (relatively speaking). While in Jedi, while they split in the third act, they’re together for the first two. And in Children of the Jedi, they split early in the first act, and only reunite for the denouement.

As the reader, I can tell how these plots impact on each other. The closer the Eye of Palpatine gets to Belsavis, the more danger Leia and Han are in. Further, as the mystery shifts from “Where are the Children of the Jedi?” to “What happened to this smuggling operation?” while technically the focus of the peril shifts, there is still some degree of threat. Someone trying to restore the empire could do some serious damage with the Eye of Palpatine. But the lack of communication between the two sides negates some of that build. I think suspense is stronger when the characters are aware of the rising tension, even if they don’t have complete information to let them know in full why tension is rising.

Too convoluted for its own good

That said, Children of the Jedi undercuts its own plot in a lot of really stupid ways. Palpatine built this massive, AI controlled warship. He sent a ton of stormtroopers across the cosmos with orders to wait for pickup and nothing else. The plan was then for the ship to travel to these coordinates, pick up the troopers, and attack a civilian outpost. That is overly subtle for a man who commissioned the construction of the Death Star.

Yes, the later EU does show Palpatine as capable of some devious plans – like how he turned Anakin to the dark side, who all the steps leading into Order 66. However, this plan doesn’t mesh with either side of Palpatine. The Emperor who never met a superweapon plan that he didn’t like doesn’t feel like a person who would shy away from cracking the crust of Belsavis to take care of a sufficiently entrenched Jedi settlement. On the other hand, the more patient, cunning, plotter who would be responsible for wiping out the Jedi and turning Anakin Skywalker to the Dark Side would also be patient enough to wait until they could move openly against Belsavis – particularly since they’re far enough out on the periphery that an open show of force would not necessarily cause major problems.

Whose Plan Is This?

I’m normally not the kind of guy to make a big thing about “plot holes”, but I do like characters in general, and antagonists in particular, to have a degree of internal consistency. And, unfortunately, this plan doesn’t really fit with any depiction of Palpatine we’ve had in the past. I could see this being thought up by one of the Imperial Admirals or Moffs, but we haven’t had anyone thought up who really worked in that direction. Tarkin would go with the superweapon plan. Thrawn would go with a military assault – but not using a tactic that leaves so much up to chance. Daala would probably split the difference between Thrawn and Tarkin. Vader would want to do it himself. Warlord Zinji wouldn’t care.

Probably the one recurring Imperial antagonist who would come up with a plan like this is one who we haven’t really met yet (but will meet soon) – Ysanne Isard. Even then, she’d have some sort of insurance policy to try make sure the plan went off on schedule, like a skeleton crew of Indoctrinated officers aboard ship or something.

So, in summary, this book is two plot threads that are extremely dependant on each other, but barely make contact, and don’t fit in well with the rest of the universe. Ultimately, this makes the story weaker than the sum of its parts. The whirlwind romance of Luke and Callista is nice, and I’m kind of interested in where that ends up going, but as the structure around it doesn’t hold up.

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