Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi. Kevin Hearne. March 3, 2015. LucasBooks. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
“You know what, Luke? You’re kind of cute when you’re nervous,” said Nakari Kelen, a brand new character introduced in Kevin Hearne’s new novel, Heir to the Jedi, “I also like how you’re completely calm when people are shooting at you but are easily rattled by compliments.” Nakari summarized Luke to a T in that sentence and her interactions with him made for a fun duo in Hearne’s first point of view story. As the reader, you delve deeper into Luke Skywalker’s mind, experiencing everything from his perspective, such as the elation he feels upon meeting someone like Nakari, his genuine lack of knowledge when it comes to the ways of the Jedi, and his downright embarrassing (yet entertaining) moments with women.
Detained by the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) and being exploited by the Empire, an alien cryptographer expresses interest in working with the Rebel Alliance as a way to reunite herself with her family. The mission to extract her and get her to safety lands on Luke and his newfound friend.
The novel felt like a four-episode arc from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and as a dedicated fan to the animated series, that’s a good thing. Luke slips into a series of smaller adventures, the first of which really taps into his growing curiosity about the Jedi. Later on, he visits an unexplored planet and the entire segment read like a horror story due to what he encounters on that planet. Finally, he and Nakari enter the espionage scene, meeting with secret contacts and using secret passcodes to gather necessary information.
Along the way, he has his trusty sidekick, R2-D2. In addition to keeping Luke in character, Hearne makes fantastic use of Artoo. He isn’t just there to perform ordinary astromech droid functions, and instead, he acts as another crucial member of the operation and provides emotional support for Luke when he needs it most.
Luke also has Nakari, a sharpshooter and the daughter of a biotech mastermind. She makes Luke nervous—the “butterflies in my stomach” kind of nervous. Without a doubt, the best dialogue comes from their flirtatious interactions, and as a fangirl with the unhealthy tendency to pair up characters, the moments they share together are my favorite.
Then, there’s the cryptographer herself, Drusil Bephorin, a Givin woman and one hell of a mathematician. Math plays a role throughout the book, and although most of it went past my head, there was one formula that jumped out at me from my high school math days. I managed to get to the punchline before the answer was revealed and it made for a great laugh.
As for Luke himself, his innocence, his humility, and his drive to help others truly shined in this novel. Hearne did an exceptional job in capturing his voice, while also putting him in similar situations as those previously presented to Anakin and proving him to be a good person through and through. The first point of view didn’t take off with many readers, but I found it easier to empathize with Luke because of it. I felt his emotions, his frustrations, and his loneliness in trying to understand a power that was beyond his knowledge.
Heir to the Jedi is a great and entertaining introduction into understanding Luke’s character. He’s not just a farm boy from Tatooine. He’s a person stepping into a larger world—a galaxy—with questions that he needs answered and nobody to turn to. We’ve all been in that kind of situation at one time or another, and seeing him struggle and grow in this novel makes him more real and believable to the audience.
There are moments in The Empire Strikes Back that I now point to and say, “I understand how he got there,” and it’s because of this novel.
He is the heir to the Jedi and what he ultimately accomplishes in this book makes him worthy of the title.
The following section of the review is more informal and contains SPOILERS for parts of the book, including the ending:
To start off, it’s no secret that I haven’t read much of the Expanded Universe (Star Wars Legends). I know of certain characters and relationships, but for the most part, I’m going into this new age of Star Wars books with a clean slate and an open mind.
As previously mentioned, I love pairing up characters. I’m a hopeless romantic, so pairing up Luke and Nakari was going to happen regardless. My favorite part has to be the moment when Luke was being too obvious and Nakari played along and let him in on the fact that she also liked him. My heart melted. I mean, the two characters shared similar backgrounds, both had experienced great loss, and they bonded throughout this period of time.
So imagine my heartbreak when Luke felt her life just extinguish into nothing. I cried, and I cried some more.
When they decided to separate to fight off the group of bounty hunters chasing after them, they did this thing where they stopped and looked at each other for a few silent, awkward moments. I hoped beyond hope that nothing would happen to her.
In addition to crying, I was angry. I was mad that this awesome character had been introduced and she was just taken away. Pretty much how Luke felt.
Part of me dislikes what happened, but the other part of me knew that it had to happen. It was a direct comparison to Anakin Skywalker and his fear of losing his loved ones. Luke proved to be the better man and didn’t lash out in anger. Instead, he used it as a way to better himself because of what that person meant to him and because of what that person wanted him to achieve.
Some will see her death as a plot device, but Major Derlin had also lost men in the process of retrieving Drusil’s family. There are losses in war, and as much as I dislike losing a woman character, especially to cause someone anguish, war doesn’t discriminate. Had the Aqualish bounty captured Nakari, used her to trade for Drusil, and then slit her throat, then I would have put her death in the list of women who have been unnecessarily killed by an antagonist to get at the protagonist. The Aqualish bounty hunter, however, and Hearne, for that matter, took a shot and it landed on Nakari. The result was brutal, but once again, it proved that Luke was the better man. If Anakin had been in that position, he would have lashed out and compromised himself and Drusil.
She also wasn’t the only woman in the story. With Drusil, she and Nakari outnumbered Luke (disregarding R2-D2’s male programming). Star Wars: A New Dawn also featured two strongly written women, and I hope to see more in the future.
That said, her death still tugged at my heart. I cried with Luke. He wanted to tell her how she was more than just good for him. Maybe it was my own personal experiences of inadequacy and regret that affected me more, but his pain still felt real to me. He didn’t have time to grieve for everything else he had lost, and Nakari was that outlet for him.
I do, however, see the other side of the argument. Had Nakari been a man, would he have unleashed those feelings as he did with Nakari? If the man was someone like Biggs, I can see that also taking a toll on him, but if he was just another partner in a mission, I don’t think Luke would have progressed the way he did in that final scene.
At face value, it’s an ending that some will say falls into the fridging trope, but it was so beautifully written and the underlying meaning and result were so much more for me. As difficult as it is to accept, it allowed Luke to grow. Now, when I go back and see The Empire Strikes Back, when he uses the Force to pull the lightsaber towards him before attacking the Wampa, I won’t see it as just another scene of him having matured, but a scene in which Nakari would have been proud of him and how far he’d come.