AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Leia, Princess Of Alderaan
3 BBY. As Princess Leia turns sixteen she begins the ceremonial quest to earn her place as heir to the throne of Alderaan. Joining the Empire's Apprentice Legislature she meets other young people from across the galaxy all intent on being future leaders. However, her rebellious and headstrong nature leads Leia to a shocking discovery; there is an armed insurgency building to oppose the Empire and her parents are deeply involved.
Part of the so-called 'Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi', I avoided this novel for a long time for the dual reasons of having no interest in (evil) Disney's post-RotJ new canon and of having hated 'The Last Jedi' specifically. However, discovering that it's set entirely before 'A New Hope' I decided to give it a go and am very glad that I did.
Leia has never been among my favourite Star Wars characters and the idea of a story about her as a teenager learning to be a leader would once have definitely put me off as well, however E. K. Johnson's 'Queen's Shadow', about young Amidala, showed me that there was definitely some interesting mileage in the concept. It was therefore interesting to see Leia as a young aristocrat raised on principles of service and self-sacrifice but with a strong rebellious streak long before there was such thing as a Rebellion. I particularly liked how she discovers the resistance against the Empire through her own refusal to stay out of trouble and that rather than just inheriting a place with the rebels due to her parents, she actually earns that place despite their efforts to keep her out of it.
I'm also a big fan of stories which deal with the early days of the rebellion before they're an alliance, so it was nice to see more of that, particularly how Leia accidentally gets caught up in some of the extremist activities of Saw Gerrera that later see him ostracised by the other rebels.
Overall a surprisingly enjoyable story about Leia coming into her own as a person, as a leader and as a rebel. I have to say, however, that the book's last line ('My parents. My friends. My world. These are things the Empire can never take away') was way too on-the-nose.
Also, if you're not like me and you actually did enjoy 'The Last Jedi' (seriously, what's wrong with you?), then you might enjoy seeing Leia's growing friendship with young Amilyn Holdo and the appearance of the rebel base on Crait.
4 out of 5
Star Wars: Master & Apprentice
40 BBY. When Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn is offered a seat on the Jedi Council, it throws his mentorship of Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi into question. The two Jedi are sent on one last mission together; to the planet Pijal at the request of Jedi Rael Aveross who, like Qui-Gon, once trained under Master Dooku. Tasked with ratifying a treaty on behalf of the Republic, Qui-Gon is compelled to disobey the orders of the Jedi Council when a vision of the future hints at dangers no-one suspects or believes.
I've made no secret of being a big fan of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe and was thoroughly disgusted when (evil) Disney decided to throw out (or, in some cases, clumsily strip-mine) the EU canon in favour of their Sequel-friendly new canon. Between this, the fact I hated 'The Last Jedi', felt 'The Rise of Skywalker' was a mess and am offended by the very idea of 'Solo' (seriously, he was arbitrarily assigned his iconic name whilst filling in a form!?), it has to be said that the shine has thoroughly worn off the Star Wars franchise for me. Anyone who knows me will know how heartbreaking an admission that is too. So, I went into this book very warily, fearing that at the least it would trample all over the Jedi Apprentice books (by Jude Watson) which were my first love of the Prequel Era of stories (Xanatos was such a great villain).
To my surprise and delight, not only is this a thoroughly enjoyable Star Wars adventure, but it also doesn't feel the need to go out of its way to overwrite the old EU stories. It's a book which can be enjoyed as a stand-alone of the new canon or, as I did, as a continuation of the established tales of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in the run-up to Episode I. Sure, there are some discrepancies but nothing which makes the two canons incompatible.
But, to review this book as if you've not spent the last 23 years collecting Star Wars books, here we get a classic stand-alone tale of Jedi Knights on a mission to bring peace to an isolated world. What makes this story stand out is the development we get to see in the two main Jedi; Qui-Gon in particular. He's always been characterised as a Jedi maverick, but here we get to see him measured against both Obi-Wan, who's something of a stickler for the rules, and Rael Aveross, who's a rag-wearing, planet-ruling, slang-talking Jedi who, in one notable scene, justifies getting laid (he uses that terminology too) when Qui-Gon catches him at it. As the offer of a seat on the Council forces Qui-Gon to contemplate how he can best make the changes he wants to see, we also see him come up against the reality that working within a flawed system like the Republic means compromising his morality.
This is absolutely the sort of Star Wars book I want to read and has managed to reinvigorate my interest in the franchise to a level that it hasn't been at since 'Rogue One' (novelised by Alexander Freed) came out.
4 out of 5