It’s 2015 and we’re in the full swing of of the Star Wars way of the future. We’ve got Rebels on TV, The Force Awakens coming soon, and enough comics and novels to keep us happy!! Del Rey’s newest offering Heir to the Jedi follows Luke Skywalker and his exploits shortly after The Battle of Yavin (Episode IV). It’s the first canon Star Wars story told from a first person narrative. As a first-person connoisseur (see what I did there) I was very interested in reading this book. I enjoyed I, Jedi but I was more intrigued to get inside Luke’s head and hear what was going through his head post farmboy/Death Star/Yavin Ceremony and pre Echo Base/Dagobah/Bespin.
I was and am a fan and admirer of Legends. We got a lot of great stories that took that galaxy far,far away and expanded upon it and gave us so many great characters that will live on forever. But I have to say I’m very happy with what the Story group is accomplishing. We’re going to get new movies/tv shows/novels/comics/games that all connect and weave a much more connected universe than we’ve ever had before and for that I’m thankful. So how is this particular story? Here we go!
We start out with Luke going on a mission to a very familiar place from a very familiar place (only if you’ve stayed current with The Clone Wars.) The Rebel fleet is hiding in a familiar system searching for a planet for a new base. Luke heads to Rodia to make some contacts for the Alliance. Immediately you have to get used to the first person here. Any first person story runs a dangerous line of being so eloquently written it’s hard to relate it to the character that we’ve known and loved for most of our lives. It takes a minute to get used to but beneath the exquisite wordplay of Hearne Luke is definitely there. Not just any Luke though, it’s very much the first Luke we’ve ever met. The true Luke. The young idealistic Luke who has only recently taken his first steps into a larger world. I really love that he’s still very much the farmboy inside his own head. In A New Hope he starts as a whiny kid hungry for adventure and a life outside of his empty farm. As the film progresses he leaves his world behind (or loses it depending on your point of view) and finds the adventure he yearned for. He meets his dreams with a vitality and optimism that no one else quite understands. By the end his life has changed and he’s become the hero he always wished to be. I love that this book reveals that inside he’s really just the farmboy. He’s very socially awkward, naive, and feels out of place in a very real way. If you think of him as a real person all of these quirks make perfect sense. An isolated youth from the Outer Rim who’s never known anything but his tiny life thrust into Galactic Civil War that promises everything he wanted but with very real stakes and responsibilities. Being the Hero of Yavin he’s respected and admired but in his own mind he’s just a lucky kid who made a one in a million shot. He’s glimpsed and felt the Force but has only had brushes with this mysterious power. He constantly second guesses himself but knows he needs to have the courage to push forward. Luke is becoming the man we know he will be.
On Rodia Luke visits a Jedi grave and recovers a lightsaber. He experiments with it and studies it to try to gain some sort of Jedi insight without risking not being able to put together his own lightsaber. By examining the placement of the focusing crystal he realizes that it must be placed into position only by the Force. This is when he realizes he must be able to use the Force to move things. An interesting concept and some might think it’s a bit farfetched but I liked it. I thought it was only logical and more than that I thought it was reasonable that LUKE would make that jump because that’s what’s important.
After making deals on Rodia and securing the Alliance a supply source he returns to another mission. He needs to extract an imperial code breaker named Drusil Bephorin. On this mission with him is the owner of the ship the Desert Jewel named Nakari Kelen. She’s a tough sniper/pilot girl who carries her own weight and can also teach Luke a few things. She makes an interesting foil for Luke because she’s the daughter of a businessman who’s chosen this life for similar reasons but is clearly more versed in the galaxy than our farmboy. I LOVE the chemistry between them. They bounce off of each other in a very fun almost innocent way that is almost lost in most of these Star Wars stories. You can really see them as real people caught up in this galaxy of massive movements and ideals. When so much of our stories decide the fate of the galaxy it’s fun to see moments where people just let go and be themselves within that world. It’s something that the junior novels tend to nail much more often because the bigger novels are always so grand in scale. For me it’s refreshing to see.
In order to get the upgrades necessary for that mission Nakari suggests they take a job for her father (the owner of a biomed research company) for the necessary credits. Fayel Kelen is one of the most enjoyable cameo characters I’ve read in a long time. He orders his subjugates around by yelling the order then paying them a whispered compliment. I actually laughed out loud at a few of his outbursts. It’s great to have characters like this filling out the universe. Nakari and Luke find themselves in an Alien (Xenomorph) type situation that earns them credits to upgrade and a few silly shared moments.
Nakari and Luke embark on their mission together sharing lots of interesting and romantic (!!!!) moments on the ship. We find out a few interesting things. For instance Luke never told anyone about hearing Ben’s voice in the Death Star trench and he doesn’t really know if he imagined it or not. Nakari reveals that her mother was a musician sent to Kessel by writing the wrong song.
Luke’s repeated attempts and determination (and a bit of encouragement by Nakari) yield his first Force move ever…. on a noodle. Silly? Yes. Possible throwing away of what could be an epic moment? Yes. Something real that any of us could relate to taking our first step towards an impossible task? Yes. I accept this as what any of us that practiced in our room for hours on end to accomplish some feat of skill would relate to. I’m for it.
Our Givin codebreaker is liberated and the mission for his extraction truly gets under way. Drusil is a fascinating character and a very Star Wars personality. We learn that Givins are math geniuses and that Drusil is exemplary even by their standards. He is able to break code algorithms, calculate nav coordinates, and calculate probabilities with frightening accuracy and is a fun character for the other “kids” to bounce off of.
There’s more sparks between Luke and Nakari who even share a kiss (that’s canon!) and more action that proves Nakari’s mettle. It’s fun to see Nakari change depending on the situation. during a firefight she’s calm and collected in her element, during a dogfight she’s nervous and jumpy, and with Luke she’s fun and trying to enjoy herself. It’s great to get all these sides of a new character in just one book. Not only that we really see her through Luke’s eyes which means we get to know her as he does.
There are plenty of action set pieces sprinkled throughout that felt almost like separate adventures. Watching Luke learn things about his father or the Jedi is also very fascinating. It’s not until halfway through the book it finally starts to feel like one story. Despite these drawbacks this book is definitely a worthwhile read. Luke learns the cost of adventure and what drives individuals in this war. He also takes a few more steps into that larger world Ben told him of. I enjoyed this story in a very similar way that I enjoy the junior novels. The interaction between the characters unfolded in a very real almost naive way. I enjoyed how much fun the characters were having. It’s a side of the story we pass over all to often in our rush towards EPIC FATES!!!! Luke’s inner monologue really captures the innocence of someone who has only begun his journey. While it’s not a story that affects the canon with any significant repercussions it tells a story of who Luke really is. That in itself to me makes it a great read. We all know the hero he becomes but we too often forget that he was a boy full of dreams just like us.
“I hope my friends know that I would fight and die for them. And I also hope that is enough, though I’m afraid maybe it isn’t. – Luke Skywalker