In Review: Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi

This was a B-level adventure for an A list character. Semi-disappointing.

Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne

Published by Del Rey, March 17, 2015. Hardcover of 288 pages at $28.00.

Note: This edition includes a sixteen page excerpt from the upcoming Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

The cover: Beautiful wraparound cover illustration by Larry Rostant, with jacket design by Scott Biel. Luke and Artoo are in a desert canyon, with three TIE fighters flying above; one even seems close to destruction as it’s touched the side of the walls. Luke is in a black top with his lightsaber ablaze, ready to attack an unseen foe. Poor Artoo looks nervous being in the middle of all the action. Luke is my favorite character from the films, so it’s always a treat to have him be the focus of a novel, let alone a cover. This cover would make an outstanding print. Overall grade: A+

The premise: From the inside front cover, “Luke Skywalker’s game-changing destruction of the Death Star has made him not only a hero of the Rebel Alliance but a valuable asset in the ongoing battle against the Empire. Though he’s a long way from mastering the power of the Force, there’s no denying his phenomenal skills as a pilot–and the eyes of Rebel leaders Princess Leia Organa and Admiral Ackbar, there’s no one better qualified to carry out a daring rescue mission crucial to the Alliance cause. A brilliant alien cryptographer renowned for her ability to breach even the most advanced communications systems is being detained by Imperial agents determined to exploit her exceptional talents for the Empire’s purposes. But the prospective spy’s sympathies lie with the Rebels, and she’s willing to join their effort in exchange for being reunited with her family. It’s an opportunity to gain a critical edge against the Empire that’s too precious to pass up. It’s also a job that demands the element of surprise. So Luke and the ever-resourceful droid R2-D2 swap their trusty X-wing fighter for a sleek space yacht piloted by brash recruit Nakari Kelen, daughter of a biotech mogul, who’s got a score of her own to settle with the Empire. Challenged by ruthless Imperial bodyguards, death-dealing enemy battleships, merciless bounty hunters, and monstrous brain-eating parasites, Luke plunges head-on into a high-stakes espionage operation that will push his abilities as a Rebel fighter and would-be Jedi to the limit. If ever he needed the wisdom of Obi-Wan Kenobi to shepherd him through danger, it’s now. But Luke will have to rely on himself, his friends, and his own burgeoning relationship with the Force to survive.” This spoils only one portion of the story, but it’s not a big one. From reading this one can assume that it takes place between Episodes IV and V, as Luke is hoping to hear more from Ben and learn to use the Force. There seems to be a little bit of everything in this and I’m game to read it. Overall grade: A-

The characters: Luke Skywalker is the lead and he’s wishing he knew more about the Force. It’s repeated often that he has no one to train him, so he’s struggling to find ways to become a Jedi after Ben’s passing. He does exert some Force work in this book, with a silly passage involving noodles, but it’s his pilot skills that save his bacon in this book. There is a repeated gag of him spilling things on himself throughout that could have shown him to be awkward in less cliché ways. Though not a diplomat, Luke handles himself very well when dealing with people as a representative of the Alliance. I was impressed that this side of himself was shown so early in his character’s development. The novel is told entirely from his point of view and it was neat to get into the young Jedi’s head. He’s accompanied through most of this book with Nakari Kelen, a rich young woman who is a crack shot, teaching other rebels her skills. She, like Luke, is from a desert planet, giving the pair an instant connection which leads to a closeness as the book progresses. When these two are talking, author Kevin Hearne was gold. They could have talked about anything and I would have been happy. Their voices were very strong. Artoo is also with them, and is invisible as droids are until they’re needed. It was nice when he and Luke would share scenes. The other major character of the book is Drusil Bephorin, a cadaverous humanoid who wishes to defect to the Alliance. She is all about math, which reveals why the chapter headings have cute little designs. I was glad to see Hearne address her loyalties early in the story. There is no one antagonist of the novel, instead it’s all the forces of the Empire out to get the rebels and their turncoat. This puts readers in a constant state of unease each time a character is introduced, for they could be an Imperial spy. Overall grade: A 

The settings: The book goes to several familiar and new locations. Without revealing the specifics, the book travels to a bog world, the Outer Rim, a forest planet much more modernized than Endor, and a final planet. All fit the Star Wars mold, with the bog world being the most enjoyable world. Overall grade: B

The action: This was the biggest heartache and joy of the novel. This story is only 267 pages. The plot doesn’t begin until Page 94. The first 93 pages are slow going. I was dying for Nakari to appear, and when she does things improve, but then a side trip occurs, featuring the brain-eaters which is more Alien than Star Wars. I found that entire sequence to be painfully dull due to the way the characters must deal with these parasites. However, once the pair begin their real mission, action began in typical Star Wars fashion. I want my heroes, at this point in their lives, to be just one step ahead of being caught, and that’s exactly what Hearne does. They are flying by the seat of their pants into danger constantly. I’ve never been a fan of the previous Star Wars novels that focused on aerial combat (Yes, I know–blaspheme to fans of the Rogue Squadron novels), but this book had the best flying combat sequences of any in this franchise, so that’s saying something for Hearne’s writing. I just wish the real action had begun much, much sooner. Overall grade: B-

The conclusion: The final action sequence, though only two chapters, was a case of trying to fit too many of the Star Wars go-tos into this novel. I wasn’t surprised at the direction taken with one character, but I wanted it to be otherwise. Luke has grown a little in this book, but still remains the untrained youth looking for guidance. Overall grade: B

The final line:  172 pages of good stuff, with 95 pages of fluff before it, that make this an expensive and very short read. This was a B-level adventure for an A list character. Semi-disappointing. Overall grade: B

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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