Time to move on to a Star Wars book that isn’t actually terrible, as I take a look at the next Young Jedi Knights anthology.
Young Jedi Knights: Lightsabers
Young Jedi Knights: Darkest Knight
Young Jedi Knights: Jedi Under Siege
Written by Kevin J. Anderson & Rebecca Moesta
Published in March (Sabers), June (Knight), and September (Siege) of 1996.
The collection is available from Amazon.com & Alibris
With the increasing threat of the Shadow Academy, Luke decides that he needs to move up his timeline somewhat, and starts training Jacen & Jaina’s class in making lightsabers. While sparring with their new sabers, a flawed crystal in Tenel Ka’s saber causes it to explode, causing her to lose her arm below the elbow. As Tenel Ka’s parents are off planet at the time, her grandmother uses the opportunity to make a power play and whisk her back to Hapes to end this “silly Jedi Nonsense” (Grandmother Ta’a Chume’s words).
Jacen, Jaina, and Lowbacca go to visit (having learned that their best friend – and Jacen’s crush – is royalty, which shouldn’t be a big deal for two of them, considering their mom is a head of state), only for them to run into a series of political assassination attempts, which the four have to get to the bottom of.
Our four Young Jedi Knights travel to Kashyyyk, where Lowbacca’s younger sister Sirrakuk is going to undergo a coming-of-age ceremony. At the same time, Zekk, of the Shadow Academy, ends up taking part in a Shadow Academy raid on a city on Kashyyyk to steal computer components and weapons for the Shadow Academy’s plans, which the four get caught in the middle of, while also trying to make sure that Sirrakuk completes her trial alive.
Jedi Under Siege
The Shadow Academy launches their attack on the Yavin 4 academy – it will take all of Luke’s students skills to fend off the various Dark Jedi until reinforcements can arrive to fend off the Shadow Academy and their forces.
- We are introduced to the idea that Jedi’s lightsabers are individualized to their own background and personality – Jaina’s lightsaber is based around her mechanical aptitude, her building it out of spare parts she has in her room, and Jacen’s having a more organic feel. By contrast, the Sith’s lightsabers are mass produced.
- We get more examples of how the Wookies have a tremendous tech base, with one of the New Republic’s top chip fabrication facilities.
- We learn that the Emperor’s Imperial Guard are still a going concern, with some influence within the Imperial Remnant, with the Guard having masterminded the Shadow Academy Plan, and are pulling a Wizard of Oz gambit using recordings of Palpatine’s speeches to create a holographic facsimile of him.
- A malfunctioning Lightsaber crystal can explode.
- We get our first mention of Kaiburr Crystals since Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, with mention of the crystals in plural, as opposed to a singular relic, and that they were prized for their use in lightsabers.
- We get to meet a bunch of various other students (including one who is basically an Ent).
The Young Jedi Knights as a whole: All make their own lightsabers, each ends up, at various points, having to take a life, either directly or indirectly, either in single combat or in a fighter dogfight.
Jacen Solo & Tenel Ka: The two become more aware of their feelings for each other, though they aren’t exactly officially a couple yet.
Tenel Ka: Loses an arm due to an overstressed lightsaber crystal – and elects not to get a prosthetic, with the loss of the limb not appearing to hold her back. Is able to persuade her grandmother that no, training to become a Jedi Knight is a big deal, both to her and and in general, while her grandmother also helps to reinforce the importance of some her political training (potentially making her a better diplomat when she goes on missions in the future)
Lowbacca: We meet Lowbacca’s sister and more of his immediate family.
Luke Skywalker: Attempts to turn Brakiss to the Light Side – but ultimately fails, as Brakiss returns to the Shadow Academy, where he learns the truth behind the Academy’s backers and Brakiss is ultimately killed by the Shadow Academy’s self-destruct.
Zekk: After killing one of the lead Nightsister’s chosen apprentices in a duel to the death, ends up co-commander of the Kashyyyk raid – before ultimately turning back to the Light Side when faced by Jaina during the siege of the Yavin Academy – he warns the Jedi of a bomb placed in the main academy building, saving them from the blast, but at the cost of his own life.
This is a solid conclusion of the Shadow Academy arc. I’m impressed by the decision to have Tenel Ka refuse a prosthetic – it’s clearly meant to have her provide representation for people with a physical disability by showing that the loss of a limb does not hold her back – significant considering that Star Wars prosthesis are effectively indistinguishable from a regular limb in terms of their capabilities (as is the case with Luke’s hand).
I also really liked the wide variety of the Academy’s students, and that also that the majority of the students were generally able to avoid taking lives – it makes the moments where our main four protagonists have to directly or directly take a life more significant. It’s also important to mention that generally our protagonists don’t take lives casually – Jaina is horrified when she ultimately ends up killing a Nightsister during the attack on Kashyyyk. Tenel Ka is less upset with the ultimate death of the Nightsister she fights, but there’s also a sense with the Witches of Dathomir that their training is a little more pragmatic – being a warrior means sometimes you kill, and that you shouldn’t revel in it nor is it something to be happy about, but if you have to, then you have to – so do it and move on. You can cope with it and deal with how it feels afterwards, once you’ve survived to do so.
It bears mentioning that the amount of equipment stolen by the Shadow Academy, and the size of the New Republic response were remarkably small – especially considering the size of similar attempted actions by Thrawn and others.
It will be interesting to square the twist of this – the Imperial Guard being behind the Shadow Academy – with the events of Crimson Empire, once we come to that.
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