When I first read this book last year, it didn’t leave much of an impression. I remembered that it was the only book featuring Luke Skywalker as more than a cameo, and I remember craving noodles while reading for some reason. But other than that I don’t remember enjoying it much. Well, I am here to tell you that after rereading it I can safely say:
This book is an ABSOLUTE DELIGHT. I love it so much. More Star Wars books for adults like this please.
I’ve never actively disliked Luke Skywalker. Watching the movies without any external discourse or opinion, I actually really like him. I find his arc in movies 4-8 compelling (I said what I said, don’t @ me). But the discourse and discussion around his character, the placement on a pedestal by certain fans and creators made me start to resent him in a way that was not the characters fault at all. I haven’t read the Legends books, and I’m not sure that I want to. I never got behind the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful perfect Jedi master Luke, which is why I like his arc in movies 4-8. Because that isn’t who he is there. And that isn’t who he is in this book either. And I LOVED that. So on that note: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
Set in between Episodes 4 and 5, Heir to the Jedi finds Luke a bit lost. With Han Solo gone trying to pay Jabba back, and Leia preoccupied with Alliance top brass, Luke isn’t sure what his place is anymore. Especially since he doesn’t have Obi Wan Kenobi around anymore to train him as a Jedi, either.
The Alliance decide to make use of his flying skills and send him out on a mission. He borrows a ship belonging to Nakari Kelen, a fellow rebel. The two find out they have a lot in common and get along like a house on fire. They are then sent out on a mission together, to recover and relocate a mathematician and slicer currently forced to work for the Empire, but who has expressed a desire to help the Alliance instead.
While on the mission, Luke tells Nakari that he is worried about learning to become a Jedi, that he is concerned that there isn’t anyone around to train him properly. That said, along the way he begins to find the power within himself to get from the farm boy he was to the budding Jedi he is when he first meets Yoda.
Unlike some of the more plot heavy books in the Star Wars canon, this one is less about what is happening and more about how the character involved is reacting to it. And to have that character be Luke of all people, who doesn’t appear in any of the other canon books in any significant way (I haven’t read the comics, to be fair) really sets this apart. I also like that this is set before The Empire Strikes Back, so he hasn’t learned anything about what it means to be a Jedi, he hasn’t struck a groove within the Alliance, he doesn’t know the truth about his father, none of it. This is where we still get to see Luke as the person he thinks he wants to be, rather than the person he thinks the Galaxy wants him to be.
5 Things I Liked (and 1 I Didn’t)
1. First Person Narration
This is, to date, the only Star Wars book I’ve read that is told in first person narration. While it means we don’t get to jump around and get multiple perspectives, this book does not suffer in the slightest for it.
It’s actually one of the things I like so much about this book. We spend a lot of time in Luke’s head and get a pretty clear picture of what his wants and fears are. We see the whole Galaxy through the eyes of a small town boy who is only just now finding his place in a larger world.
Also, the kid is just plain funny.
Some of the lines he drops mid-narration take you by surprise, because they don’t describe the scene in a way any 3rd person narration would. They are the kind of stream of consciousness, offhand commentary on a scene you would give a friend when telling a story. The kind of detail and thought you add to make the story funnier. And that is what makes this book work, and what makes it feel more intimate. I wonder why more Star Wars books don’t take the first person approach.
2. Luke Skywalker is such a sweetie
But actually. Such a sweetheart.
In this book, we get him, as I said, before he really hits his stride and becomes the character we see him as most often, the angsty, confident Jedi. A lot of what makes him so sweet in this book is helped by that first person narration. He observes the world around him in an endearing stream-of-consciousness way. He sounds like such a sweet awkward teenager. He compares the back of a ship to a half eaten cookie. He compares a planet to a scoop of ice cream. He attempts to flirt with Nakari in what he thinks is a smooth, confident way, only to mess it up and spend the next several moments mentally berating himself for how stupid that was.
We also get to see what his various relationships look like at this stage of his life, before they shift into the familiar patterns we see during and after The Empire Strikes Back. Luke still doesn’t know that Vader is his father, so he and Nakari actually bond over the fact that they both lost parents at the hands of the Sith lord. He has Anakin on a pedestal, by his own admission, and seeks to know more about him, hoping that at the very least he was a good man. And while most usually refer to Han Solo as his best friend, we see Luke at a point in his life where he barely knows Han. Where Biggs Darklighter was his best friend. A best friend he lost during the Death Star fight.
He returns to this loss a few times in the book, making offhand mentions to the fact that he lost his best friend and that he will miss him forever. And by the end, when he loses Nakari too, we finally get to see him grieve. Not just her loss, but Biggs, Ben Kenobi and even his aunt and uncle.
Luke is such an endearing, relatable, human character in this book. He has flaws and a personality, and I think that makes him vastly more interesting than a badass hero on a pedestal.
3. Romance subplot y’all
Don’t have much to say about this except that Luke and Nakari’s sweet little flirtation-turned-workplace-romance was a nice surprise. Somehow I missed ALL of it the first time I read the book. I totally forgot that it actually progressed past Luke just kinda thinking she’s pretty.
Also bonus points go to Leia, who cautions Luke not to be too trusting just because she’s pretty. Which is SUCH a sister move. As the sister to a brother, I can confirm that this advice is universal, stretching across galaxies.
Without getting too much into it (because I am extremely not qualified to get into it) I will say that in the movies and the ancillary materials I didn’t really read Luke’s sexual orientation this way. But I also know that my reading of his character, and his relationship in this book are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Plus the book keeps things vague enough that you could read it any which way you choose.
On a final note about this romance though. If I had $1 for every Star Wars romance that ended in tragedy, I would probably have enough money to finance my own Star Wars movie with a happily ever after.
4. Luke’s Jedi Path
There is a slight Jedi skill jump between movies 4 and 5. Where in the first, Luke uses the lightsaber once (poorly), and uses the Force to target the Death Star exhaust port, by the second, he can clear his mind much quicker, actually use the lightsaber, and use the Force to move objects on top of all of it.
While I’m not personally of the belief that I need to see a character practice and train in order to believe they are deserving of their skill level, I didn’t think it was interesting to see what Jedi training looks like when you have absolutely no Jedi around to help you.
He vaguely knows he has to “clear his mind”, but his early attempts at that are just him broadcasting the words “clear your mind” inside his head. Which is essentially what happens in my head when I try to do the same.
He practices moving objects with the Force, referring to it as telekinesis before Drusil, the mathematician they are extracting, points out that it is the Force he is moving rather than the object. Wanting to practice on light objects, he mostly uses cooked noodles when trying to move things with the Force. This happens a lot, and usually ends with him staining his clothing.
When Nakari is killed, he has his first taste of the Dark Side, which he doesn’t quite recognize for what it is. He feels her die, feels her disappear from the Force, and describes her void as being filled with anger, and a “cold sense of raw power and invincibility”, both of which provide him with a new sense of clarity. No wonder the Dark Side is so seductive. If it made him feel that way only briefly before he willed it away, imagine how addictive it would be to someone who didn’t push it away, who thrived in it.
On a final note, for any who decry Rey’s lack of training being incompatible with her skill level I offer you this: Luke says it was easier for him to feel the Force at first when under duress, and it became easier after that. But he had a comfortable, loving home life prior to setting out on adventure. He didn’t need the Force. Rey’s life was nothing but duress, so of course she probably tapped into it when she was young. Fight me.
5. Easter Eggs Done Right
When Easter Eggs are done right, they’re a blink and you miss them kind of thing. A reward for repeated viewers and the unusually perceptive. A movie shouldn’t beat you over the head with it, or keep coming back to it. It’s also hard to do dialogue Easter Eggs in movies, where people repeat lines from an earlier film (see: Palpatine in that one Star Wars movie I won’t stop complaining about). But done right, they are a treat for those paying attention. They also almost never appear in books, because when reading you consume every word on the page. There’s nowhere else for your eyes to go.
This book has them though. They appear in the form of lines from A New Hope either as part of Luke’s thoughts or spoken out loud by Luke. The majority are lines that were originally spoken by Ben Kenobi. You almost don’t pick up on them until you read them and wonder why that one line appeared in your head narrated by Alec Guinness.
My personal favourite (and granted the least subtle) is when Luke is trying to explain to Nakari how mundane his life back on Tatooine is. He tells her that often the only break from monotony he would get was going into Tosche Station for power converters. He then immediately remembers that he never did actually pick up the power converters he wanted, and wonders if the store kept them for him (see what I mean? Sweet boy).
To be fair, if this line had appeared in a movie written in exactly this way, I probably would have rolled my eyes, booed and thrown popcorn at the screen. But it works here. It happens and doesn’t come up again or derail the plot. I cackled out loud at this line, because who among us has not recited the power converters line in the whiniest voice possible?
6. The Skullborers
On their first mission together, Luke and Nakari head out on an errand for her father. They investigate a moon that is home to the skullborers, a nearly invisible creature that bores into its victims skull and eats its brain.
This was so gross. And so scary. It almost seemed more Star Trek than Star Wars.
It was also the kind of thing where if I had seen it in a movie, I probably wouldn’t watch that movie again.
Fortunately it doesn’t take up too much of the book.
They eat a lot of noodles in this book. Like. A lot. I want noodles now…
They even eat said noodles with “disposable eating sticks”
The Rodian weapon dealers marketplace is called Utheel Outfitters, and if you think I didn’t immediately imagine Urban Outfitters every time, you would be wrong
Drusil makes a truly truly awful (read: hilarious) algebra pun that even my Arts-degree holding self could understand. It was one of those puns that made me slam my head on the table, but then laugh for 20 minutes.
Drusil refers to the Jedi as a “fulcrum variable” within the system, and I’m not a mathematician, so I’m just wondering if that’s at all related to why Bail Organa’s spy network uses that name
There is an anti-government song entitled “Vaders Many Prosthetic Parts” and I would really like to hear it
Fun fact: Sabers emit their light in an arc rather than a straight line.