Waru Express: Young Jedi Knights: Second Imperium

Ohhhh the Young Jedi Knight series.  These were the first Star Wars books I ever read except for the Jedi Prince books and I still enjoy them over a decade later.  While they are clearly written for a younger audience and get cheesy sometimes, they’re still fun reads.  I try to thank Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta every time I see them at Dragon*Con for writing these books and these characters because I love them just that much.  I am also 100% okay with admitting that I wanted to be best friends with Jaina Solo and Tenel Ka as a kid and I still do.  You’ve been warned: these posts will be a fair bit gushing accompanied by some good natured teasing.

Heirs of the Force
First things first: Tenel Ka gets the best character entrance ever.  “Oh don’t mind me.  I’m just going to CLIMB UP THE BACK OF THIS TEMPLE AND POP INTO THE MORNING LESSON.  LIKE A BAMF.”  I love her so much.

Oh!  And I also love that the authors turn a trope on its head at the start of the book because Han brings flowers for Jacen (or rather his pet) and a hyperdrive for Jaina.  The Solos are going to be who they want to be.  Even if it does mean that Jacen has pet snakes.

This book is mostly about introducing us to our four new heroes.  Obviously, we already know Jaina and Jacen Solo who continue with their grand tradition of getting kidnapped.  Good job kids.  At least they’ve learned from experience and don’t actually let Qorl fly off in a TIE fighter with weapons.  We also get to know Tenel Ka and Lowbacca, both young relations to characters we’ve met in the past.  I do think it’s a bit strange that the Solo twins don’t understand Shyriiwook since Chewbacca helped raise them but I can overlook that.  Like I said, this is a set up book and I appreciate it for what it is.

Shadow Academy
I adore this book.  No really.  It’s just… fun.  I mean, it’s not fun for the Solo kids but everyone gets to be awesome which is always cool.  You guys know what I mean by now.  I had fun reading it.

Unfortunately, I had a feeling that these books are just going make me sad about a lot of things from the Legacy of the Force and the Fate of the Jedi books and by things, I mean Jacen going to the Dark Side and Luke turning into a ‘redeem him? lol nope’ sort of guy.  Both of them couldn’t be further from doing that than in this book especially after Luke’s little speech here about not killing unless absolutely necessary.  Ayyyy.

So far, the Solo twins are 2/2 for being kidnapped in these books.  Good job, kids.  Actually, this would be a good time to bring up how deliciously Star Wars these books feel.  It’s a group of friends fighting against the bad guys and Lando Calrissian has yet some other brand new crazy scheme to make money.  I have to say that I really don’t approve of Brakiss and Tamith Kai’s training methods.  Throwing rocks and knives at your students never ends well.

And then, of course, we have Luke and Tenel Ka’s Excellent Adventure.  There really are no words for how much I love this.  Tenel Ka wants to help her friends and Luke accepts that and has her accompany him as a partner on this rescue mission.  He makes sure that she’s absolutely comfortable with going on the mission into a very seedy cantina and then they work together as equals to save the twins and Lowie.  I actually wish that we’d gotten to see more of Luke and Tenel Ka working together in the Expanded Universe.

But hey!  Everyone ended up okay in the end AND the Jedi Academy got a shiny new ship out of the deal.  All’s well that ends well, right?

The Lost Ones
If I thought I could get away with it, I’d spend this entire section making jokes about Zekk eating the garnish because he though it was a salad.  I know it’s mean but I can’t help but laugh hysterically every time I think about it.  It only gets better when you picture him leaving the dinner and finding a rooftop to sing the reprise of One Jump Ahead.

(Editor’s Note: Sorry, Ezra.  Zekk’s the original Space Street Rat.)

At least Tenel Ka saved the day with her excellent diplomatic knowledge.  Well done, Princess.

I’m sorry.  One last joke about Zekk and his garnish.  We can’t take him anywhere without worrying about him trying to eat the flowers.  I’m done now.  I promise.

Credit where credit’s due: even though Brakiss is stupid for failing to realize that the hologram is clearly NOT Palpatine, his plan to recruit from the underworld of Coruscant is actually rather smart.  If you say nice things to the downtrodden and act like you care about them then yeah, they probably will agree to join your cause.  It’s hard to get angry at the Solo twins for not realizing that Zekk had Force potential though because clearly it’s possible to go through some of your life without others figuring it out.

Really, there’s not much else to say here.  It’s another book that sets the stage for the rest of the series.  At least we finally got to see Leia and Anakin!

I can safely say that this book absolutely makes my top 10 list of Expanded Universe novels and I promise you that it’s not completely nostalgia based or a hipster attempt.  It’s not only a good story but it’s a fabulous character arc for Tenel Ka.  And then we FINALLY get to see Hapes.  I freaking LOVE that planet because it’s such a crazy culture.  Plus, any time we get Ta’a Chume on page is always an entertaining one. (Editor’s Note: Y’all, I really love Hapes!)

Obviously, this book is a huge turning point for Tenel Ka.  She loses her arm in a friendly sparring match with a friend, her friends finally find out that she is a bonafide princess, and she finally makes the first steps towards reconciling both her Dathomiri and Hapan heritage.

Above all, I really respect that KJA and Moesta introduce a character with a disability into the Star Wars universe.  Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comics are genres that do not have a ton of main characters with disabilities and even fewer who fall into the hero category.  The book lets us get right into Tenel Ka’s head as she loses a significant portion of her left arm and then has to come to terms with what that means for her future.  While she does have the option of getting a mechanical replacement, she chooses not to because that is simply not who she is.  Instead, she spends the book realizing that the loss does not make her lesser and that she can still be a Jedi.  Throughout the rest of the series, she shows herself to be a very capable young woman and I think she’s an even more wonderful character for it.  I think that some other authors could learn from the character that these two have created.

Really it’s just a solidly good book all around and I always enjoy it.  The schemes of Ambassador Yfra make for good reading and who doesn’t love a good royal assassination attempt plot line?

Darkest Knight
This was actually the very first Expanded Universe book I read.  KJA teases me about this every time I mention it to him.  My only defense is that my grandmother gave it to me and 8 year old Bria wasn’t terribly concerned about not having a clue who most of the characters were because it was more Star Wars.  We’ll get to the part of the story that makes this whole thing worse in the next post.

It was probably about time that Lowbacca got a book.  I can, however, safely say that I would never want to go to Kashyyyk.  It’s a very cool place to look at on screen and in pictures but I prefer to travel to places where I’m not taking my life into my own hands.  Plants that can eat you?  No thanks!  They can eat the Nightsisters instead.  Then again, this is the planet of the wookiees and they aren’t a species I’d like to mess with to start with.

Even though Zekk’s clearly dedicated himself to the Imperial cause, I like that he clearly still cares about the Solo twins.  It makes this all much less of a super dramatic Face Heel Turn.

Can we also take a moment to reflect on how adorable little Anakin Solo is?  I always ‘awww!’ at the part where he sends Tenel Ka a message showing her a method to braid her hair with only one hand because it was a puzzle and he wanted to help.  (Editor’s Note: I really didn’t talk much about this book at all, did I?  I think the problem is that it’s so hard to follow up from Lightsabers which I adore.)

Jedi Under Siege
“Hey, let’s just kill all these Dark Siders because they can never be redeemed!”  …said Luke Skywalker NEVER in this book.  Sorry, apparently I’m still bitter about some recent developments in the Expanded Universe.  I just didn’t realize how bitter until I reread these books.

The book goes exactly how you’d expect it to go and that’s okay.  The Second Imperium and the Shadow Academy attack the Jedi Academy on Yavin 4 and are soundly defeated and the Emperor is dead because he was never alive again in the first place.  Huzzah!

Recruiting street rats to the Empire was probably the only smart thing that Brakiss did.  His battle plan was less than stellar and asking for single combat with Luke Skywalker is never a good idea.  And we can’t forget that he was hoodwinked by four red guards into thinking Palpatine was still alive.  Gold star, Brakiss, you tried.

On the bright side, Jaina and Zekk have a brief duel but no one dies and everyone is happy.  Okay, sort of happy.  Mostly, we’re just happy that Zekk is going to be redeemed from the Dark Side and not die.

And that’s it for the Second Imperium arc!  Next up… Bounty Hunters!  The Diversity Alliance!  Boba Fett!  (If you didn’t say that last one like Han in Return of the Jedi, you said it wrong.)  Plus, I think it’s finally Raynar Thul’s turn to be the object of my mocking.

Originally posted to Tosche Station on March 19, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s