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Palace intrigue, kiddos. Let’s go! This is Jedi Apprentice #4: The Mark of the Crown by Jude Watson.
After their detour on Phindar, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan finally make it to Gala, where elections for a planetary governor are underway. One of the three candidates is the spoiled Prince Beju, who orchestrated a bacta shortage on his homeworld that he could appear to solve in order to generate more votes in his favour.
However, the two Jedi were in fact summoned to Gala by the ailing Queen, who wishes to see things made right before she passes. She reveals to them that before her marriage to the late king, he had married a woman from among the hill people and had a child with her. That child, now a young woman named Elan, is the true heir of Gala, and it is the Queen’s final wish that Elan be brought to the capital to take her place.
While Qui-Gon heads off to the hill people to appeal to Elan. Obi-Wan is tasked with keeping an eye on things in the capital, both in the official arbitration capacity the Jedi have been asked to serve, and in ensuring that there is no foul play, since the Force is currently moving in a strange way.
Thoughts and Impressions
Alright, so 3 books in I had mentally prepared for specific things: teenage angst, reluctant mentorship, some evolving notions of the Force, action scenes and reoccurring antagonists. What I absolutely was not prepared for was palace intrigue? Secret children from secret marriages? Reluctant heirs to the throne? In my Star War? Yes please, sign me right up.
Though this is but one stop on the adventure of our Master and Padawan duo, I found myself hoping for more stories of Gala’s royal family. Maybe something centred on young King Cana and Queen Veda, a marriage of convenience where one party’s heart is already engaged elsewhere, but where both are ready to do their duty and perhaps find love along the way? Or the story of Cana and his first wife? Or Elan, the secret princess growing up in the hills and learning to become a healer? Yes, that’s not exactly the kind of material we usually find in a middle grade action series (except maybe that last one), but can you blame me? It was just that compelling.
Naturally with all this story going on, you’d think there would be less focus on Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon, and in the sense of them reflecting on who they are as individuals and to each other, you’d be right. But Obi-Wan continues to grow as both a character and a Jedi. His blind spot when it comes to the living Force has become more prominent and very nearly proves to be his undoing.
Despite that, and despite him letting himself be fooled by someone he believed was a friend, even at this early age he shows a great capacity for kinship and for forgiveness. Yes, Obi-Wan is rigid and just a touch too attached to the rules, even as a teenager, but his heart is a good one.
Another reoccurring theme among the adults in this book, particularly Veda and Qui-Gon was the question of legacy. What will they leave behind for their children when it’s time? Veda wishes to leave a stable planet for her son and for the step-daughter she’s never known. Qui-Gon’s legacy is more rooted in the Jedi and the Order, and his concerns are now with what Obi-Wan will perceive as his own legacy to leave behind – though we, of course, know that the legacy of this child is going to be love and loss in equally tragic succession.
This poor hopeful boy and his lifetime of heartbreak…
Speaking of Obi-Wan, this book really. sees him flourishing as an active duty Jedi in his own right. While left behind in the city, he begins to – correctly – suspect there’s more to the Queen’s illness than meets the eye. While investigating this, he comes across records that one of the other political candidates on Gala is being funded by the Offworld corporation – aka Xanatos, Qui-Gon’s former apprentice. I didn’t think he was dead, but obviously the troubled young man is going to play a much larger part than originally expected.
This one didn’t leave off on an obvious cliffhanger like the others did, so I expect we’re about to get a whole new mission. But with Xanatos and the Offworld corporation making a sudden reappearance here, my money is on him rearing his broody head again before long.
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